Content offers small and medium-sized businesses with an exciting opportunity to reach and engage the prospects they need to fuel their fast growth.
But getting content right with limited time, heads, and budget? As someone who spent years in a one-man content band, I hear you.
'Timely’ and ‘efficient’ are not two words that come to this process naturally, especially during the early stages. To make the process to make it more productive, cost-effective, and scalable, here are my content marketing tips for small businesses looking to grow.
Not quite here yet? Discover how to build an effective content strategy in 40 steps.
Content marketing tips for small businesses looking to grow
The biggest challenge many businesses face when implementing or scaling their inbound marketing strategy is the content development process. By this, I mean the editorial process steps of getting articles and other assets reviewed, edited, uploaded and either scheduled or published in a timely and efficient way.
When implemented correctly, an editorial process is the lubrication in the content marketing machine, ensuring the stories and videos you need to attract and close those leads are produced efficiently and consistently, even with a small headcount.
Organise your plan with an editorial calendar
In order to keep up with their fast-paced publishing cycles, newspapers and magazines keep an editorial calendar or a schedule of who is writing what—and when.
Using this editorial calendar, editors can keep track of what’s coming up well in advance, ensuring a smoother and more organised publishing process. Imagine how chaotic everything would be without it: a scramble for subject matter, editorial approval, missed deadlines, and late or poorly written articles. It's an editor's—and a content manager’s—nightmare.
A clear, easy-to-use content marketing calendar works in the same way. Here's how to create one.
How to create a content calendar
- Start with your end goal in mind
Whether this is driving blog subscriptions, capturing personal details, or something else besides, this should be the point you are working towards.
- Align the goal with your buyer personas and where they are on the buyer's journey
This will provide strong indicators of the form you should be writing in—articles, case studies, how-to guides, listicles, and so on—or whether or not you should be writing anything at all (do they respond better to video and infographics, for example?).
If your goal is lead capture, it will also reveal the kinds of resources you could test as hooks. Work these into the content marketing calendar to give a comprehensive overview of the content that needs to be created, by whom, and when.
- What topics are your buyer personas interested in (content they will value)
And how can you align these with your value propositions and company stories to create more engaging, personalised narrative content? This is an effective way of writing about the subjects your audience is interested in, in a distinctive way that will help to elevate your content above that of your competitors.
Read this to find out how to create topic clusters that boost your organic ranking. Remember, organic means sustainable! No more ploughing budget into ad spend.
Note: At this stage, it is important to be self-critical. It is easy to create a calendar that 'sounds right' or that you can imagine being effective. Cross-reference this against the personas. Better yet, put yourself in your personas' shoes. Would that article benefit you? Does the story resonate? Why would you read it over the millions of similar articles already published?
- Don't forget to research suitable keywords to support your content
While your priority should be to create content that will engage your readers, offer them value, or encourage deeper thinking, keywords are still relevant and should be used where natural and appropriate to provide greater organic visibility and search relevancy to the content in your calendar.
Find out how to master search trends and rank higher on Google.
- Input all of this information into a calendar format
The editorial calendar should be clearly set out and easy to access so that the team has no excuse to disregard it. Depending on the calendar software you use, tasks can often be synced between calendars and your project management platform of choice.
Consider when the articles will need to be published, as well as the dates by which first drafts should be completed. Who will be responsible for creating the content? When will they need to be briefed? What form will the content take? Have you linked to any important resources, and does the calendar state the aim (how the content should help the reader) and objective (what you want the content to achieve) of each entry?
- Implement activity
Once the content marketing calendar is up and running, you will find yourself in a much stronger position to start researching and writing those stories. And if you're a one-man band or you're the kind of content manager who still likes to get their hands dirty (and so you should), the calendar will become your lifeboat.
Developing the content calendar in the future
Adjust or reschedule proposed titles based on resources, feedback and, hopefully, growth. Our ongoing content development process looks a little like this:
- Brainstorm new story ideas (internally and with the client)
- Write (or assign a story to a writer)
- The approval stage: edit and edit some more
- Publish the article and share socially
- Analyse performance results
Need help brainstorming new story ideas? Assume the journalist position.
Content calendar example
Content approval workflow: the editing and approval stage
This is an important stage in any content marketing process. Content should always be reviewed before going live. Even the most stringent copywriters will make mistakes from time to time, and while editors are often described as being eagle-eyed, this is, in fact, just a metaphor. (Eagles don’t have much of an eye for typos anyway.) As a result, establishing an approval stage between content production and publication helps to maximise accuracy and maintain a healthy working relationship between all parties involved.
To make this stage as efficient and painless as possible, we recommend the following.
- Define the content approval workflow
Establish who will be writing or creating content and who will be reviewing it. When multiple parties begin editing a piece of work, feedback can get complicated and publication can be unduly delayed, with repercussions as far up as engagement. Too many chefs, as they say. In extreme cases, content production can grind to a halt, limiting the company’s ability to engage with the leads it needs to grow.
- Work to a common goal
A small but important point. Make sure the person editing the content is familiar with the campaign and its goals. These factors will often influence the way a piece of content grows out, so the more familiar that the editor is with these elements, the fewer questions they should have with the content.
I hope these tips help you to get a firmer grasp of your content activities going forwards. It really is an exciting area to be involved in.
Taking steps to document and define your editorial process is just one example of how you can improve the smooth implementation of your content strategies and wider inbound marketing strategies, fuelling your business growth at this all-important time.
I'm a content marketer who loves language, storytelling, and lizards.
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