21 Tips and Tactics to Create Effective Content for Your Small Biz

If you feel like you’re struggling in your efforts to produce meaningful content for your small business, you’re not alone. While attending Content Marketing World, we got 21 tips to increase the effectiveness of content marketing for your small business.

If you feel like you’re struggling in your efforts to produce meaningful content for your small business, you’re not alone. 64% of marketers state their biggest challenge is producing enough content, while 52% say their biggest challenge is producing content that engages. While attending the largest in-person content marketing conference in the galaxy, Content Marketing World (CMWorld) in Cleveland last week (with 1700 of our content marketing pals), we joined a Lunch & Learn session with Heidi Cohen, President of Riverside Marketing Strategies who shared 21 tips (in a blazing 45 minutes) that she guaranteed will increase the effectiveness of your content marketing. We took copious notes so you can try them for your own small business content marketing efforts.

Build Your Content Strategy

1. Set Content Marketing Goals: Ask yourself why you’re creating content. What do you want to accomplish? Get more subscribers? More customers?

2. Know Your Specific Audience: Who are your customers? Where do they get your content? What device or on which platform? What content are they most interested in? Cohen suggests building customer personas that you can map your content to and she has a great tool to help.

3. Provide Information Customers Actively Seek: All your content should be so useful people would be willing to pay for it (but you won’t make them). Answer questions, provide how-tos and tips.

4. Plan for different content formats: Blog posts, guides, infographics (83% of learning occurs visually).

5. Use a variety of platforms to publish/promote your content: Facebook, YouTube, etc. – Video is a HUGE opportunity.

6. Build Your Content Assets: Your email list, website, blog, video, podcast, mobile app, events.

7. Consider ALL Your Resources : Leverage other people’s resources/content , but always provide source credit.

Create Content

8. Offer Useful Content at Every Purchase Step and Beyond: Make sure you have content that can help prospects all the way through to repeat customers.

9. Tell Stories People Relate to: What is your “once upon a time?” Tell engaging stories about your founder, a customer, maybe even your location.

10. Crowd Source Content:  You can have customers create content by sharing stories about themselves and your product. The band The Grateful Dead encouraged people who attended their concerts to record and create bootleg tapes – this helped spread the Dead’s music. The Lululemon blog has guest authors that contribute content. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

11. Curate Content with Care: If you use content from other sources, make sure you give credit where credit is due. Also add your own take on it. Introduce the content with your own spin on it for your audience and include takeaways that pertain to your readers.

12. Brand Your Content: Make sure your content ties back to your voice and tone and look and feel.

Execute Content

13. Don’t Wing Content Creation: Two-thirds of businesses develop content without a plan. Create an editorial calendar and use it – plan to publish 2-3 times a week

14. Plan Content Reuse in Advance: You can easily turn a blog post into an infographic, or a series of posts into a guide. If you plan this in advance it’ll make your content creation do twice the work for the same amount of effort.

15. Avoid THDR (Too Hard, Didn’t Read) & TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read): Did you know that 94% of your blog readers may leave without reading one word of your posts? Heidi advises to dress your content for success by using an attention getting title – David Ogilvy said only 20% of people will read past your headline. Make it count.

16. Optimize for Findability: Almost half of your content (47%) will be found by organic search, followed by direct visits (29%). Social only makes up about 2% of traffic right now – Help readers find your content by creating multiple paths to your content.

Distribute Content

17. Plan Content Distribution: You may have the best content in the world, but if no one sees it then who cares? Promote your content on your social networks, on your website and even in your email newsletter. Remove any obstacles for people to get your content, like making them fill out a form to get it. Give it away. They’ll come back again and again.

18. Encourage Social Sharing:  Use social sharing icons in every piece of content you create. Make it easy for people to share with their social networks.

19. Promote Your Content: Leverage your resources and connections. Don’t be shy when it comes to your content. Ask your followers and fans to spread the word.

20. Motivate Readers to Respond: Always include a call to action and ask for the action you want your readers to take. Examples include, sign up for our newsletter, take a free test drive of our new product, learn more.

21. Measure Results (leads, sales, costs, profits, brand impact): You can produce content all day long, but you’ve got to measure and track it against your business objectives to ensure it is helping move your business forward.

These 21 tips should get you off to a great start with creating effective content marketing for your biz. If you want to learn even more, visit the VR Marketing Blog where we share tips, how-tos and more to help your small business grow.

verticalresponseKim Stiglitz is the Content Marketing Director at VerticalResponse. VerticalResponse Inc. provides a full suite of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses including email marketingsocial mediaonline event marketingpostcard marketing and online surveys.

How Blogging Can Help Your Small Business

Blogging can seem daunting for small business owners, but it doesn’t have to be time consuming. Also, you likely have more to blog about than you may think. Read on to find out how blogging can help grow your small business.

As a small business owner you may think to yourself, “Who has the time to blog – and what the heck would I blog about anyway?” Those are two great questions with simple answers. Blogging doesn’t have to be time consuming, and you have more to blog about than you can imagine– you own and run a business, and there’s a ton of awesome information you have right at your fingertips. Blogging is big business for small businesses so let’s dive in and see how it can help yours.

Be Authentic and Your Fans Will Follow

Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse, shares her experience about how she started blogging, “ I started the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog back in 2005 after I attended a Blogging for Business conference and got inspired. I was a little nervous because I really wanted to ‘write like I speak.’ I thought I had to be super professional in how I wrote. One of my first posts was titled How Often Should You Email? I wrote it the way I would give advice to a friend with a small business and it just clicked!” Popick goes on to say, “It actually felt liberating to be myself and not try to be some stodgy, tech-speak, brochure-like writer. After that, all of our marketing materials started to relax a bit, from our website to the datasheets we produce and everything in between.”

When you embrace who you are and provide a unique point of view in an authentic way, you can set yourself apart from the masses and begin to develop a loyal fan base.

Add Value/Provide Utility

When we attended New Media Expo this year, we had the opportunity to hear Jay Baer, a social media strategist, author, speaker and President of Convince and Convert. Baer presented Youtility: How Smart Companies Are Helping, Not Selling.

Baer explained that “Youtility” is the concept of providing valuable content for your readers and customers, to the point where your company becomes valued, trusted and synonymous with being useful. So when the time comes to make a purchase, your company is the obvious choice.

You can discover your customers’ needs in a number of ways, one of which includes discovering what your current or potential customers may be searching for online. Use a keyword search tool, such as Google Keyword Tool, and uncover terms or words that people most commonly search for that are related to your business. This will help you determine what people need, what challenges they may be facing, or what they’re looking for specifically.

Also, observe conversations happening on social media, like Twitter, Facebook and Quora. Follow hashtags related to your business or industry on Twitter and see what sort of questions people are asking. What kind of content gets shared, commented on and retweeted? Quora is also super-useful since it’s a question-and-answer social media site and community, entirely made up of questions people have on a variety of topics. Search and follow topics that relate to your business, and discover what people are asking so you can create content around those topics on your blog.

Your blog can become the go-to resource for your industry, the products you sell, or even your community if your business is more service-based. Providing tips, how-tos and practical advice has never been easier or more useful.

Drive Traffic

Businesses of any size need to drive traffic to their website and can use a variety of tactics, but one of the best and least expensive ways is using killer content like blog posts. Popick shares, “Content is a huge driver for acquiring and keeping customers these days, especially in the B2B world. The ability to be a thought leader, to write or shoot a video and get it out to the shareable world is all businesses are thinking about. The more content you publish, the more you help your customers, the more the search engines will pick you up and, in the end, hopefully the more business you’ll get.”

When you create valuable content on your blog, it’s more likely to be shared by your readers with their social networks, opening the door to lots of new prospects and customers.

You can monitor visits to your site and where they are coming from by using a free tool like Google Analytics, which provides a wealth of information and can help you figure out what content resonates most with your visitors.

Get Found By People and Search Engines

You don’t set out to create content for search engines, of course. You create content that helps, answers questions and provides utility as we’ve said. Remember though, you can create all the amazing content you want, but if people and search engines can’t find it, you may have a ghost town on your blog.

Use relevant keywords within your blog posts, but keep your focus on the message, because the more people find the message useful, the more people will visit the page and that’s golden to the search engines.

There you have four ways that blogging can help your business. Ready to take the plunge?

verticalresponseKim Stiglitz is the Content Marketing Director at VerticalResponse. VerticalResponse provides a full suite of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses including email marketing, social media, online event marketing, postcard marketing and online surveys.