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Content Marketing For Small Businesses Made Simple

Content marketing can be a powerful tool to drive customers, but many business owners find that their content earns little traffic and engagement. 

Over time, many small business owners give up on content marketing as it simply doesn’t drive enough business to justify the investment. 

Yet content marketing can be one of the most effective methods to drive new customers at minimal cost. Underwhelming results are almost always the result of a few subtle issues within the content strategy. 

In this post, we’ll outline a framework for an effective content marketing strategy for small businesses and address common mistakes to avoid.   

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Step 1: Identify Your Ideal Customer

You probably already have a general idea of who your target audience is, but the more specific you define your ideal customer, the more effectively your marketing will attract that customer.

For example, a newborn photographer is obviously targeting local moms. 

However, if you want to be a premium newborn photographer, your target audience probably isn’t all moms in your city. 

Instead, it’s likely wealthy moms who can afford a luxury experience. Furthermore, you might discover that your ideal audience is typically first time moms.

This insight is helpful for your content marketing strategy because it will tell you where to publish your content, how to word the copywriting, and even how to structure the experience. 

To dial in your audience avatar, write out a list of specific characteristics. Include not only demographic information like age and gender but also characteristics of the ideal buyer, such as status, interests, beliefs, and pain points.

Here’s an example of a target audience avatar for a premium newborn photographer:

Once you define who your ideal customer is, connect with these people by joining online groups and talking to them in person. 

For example, a newborn photographer could connect with these people by joining local Facebook groups for new moms:

Once you join these groups, take notes on where these people hang out, their interests, their pain points, and even the language they tend to use. 

You can also engage in the conversations, which is a great way to build genuine relationships with potential customers. 

Even if they don’t buy from you, they may give you helpful insights on how to find customers or even refer your business to friends. 

Step 2: Identify The Best Content Channels

Your content won’t bring customers if you publish it on channels your ideal customers don’t use when researching your products or services. 

For example, someone looking for a plumber probably doesn’t use LinkedIn to find a plumber. 

So how do you figure out the best channels to invest in?

Most people use Google, Yelp, Nextdoor, and (occasionally) Facebook to research local businesses.

Experiential local businesses, like photographers, dance studios, spas, and restaurants will likely also see a positive ROI from more visual social media platforms, like Instagram, Facebook, and even TikTok. 

Google and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are often great channels for ecommerce businesses.

However, each business is slightly different, so the best way to determine which channels are best for your business is to look at your competitors. 

Which channels are they most heavily investing in?

Better yet, which channels are they running ads on?

Your competitors are likely only spending money on platforms that drive sales.

To determine which channels your competitors are running ads on, you can start by viewing their paid search ads using a tool like Similarweb or Spyfu

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You can also use the Meta Ad Library to see if they’re running Facebook or Instagram ads:

Unfortunately, not all platforms offer ad transparency, so you might have to manually search for your competitor’s brand on the other platforms.

You can also gauge the efficacy of each channel based on your competitors’ organic publishing consistency. If you see that competitors are publishing a lot of content on those platforms, there’s a good chance  they strongly believe it’s driving a positive ROI.

Step 3: Create A Content Publishing Calendar

Now that you’ve created a list of potential platforms to publish content on, how many of them should you include in your content marketing strategy?

Obviously, the more content you publish across more channels, the better.

The problem is that you can easily spread yourself too thin and ultimately fall into the trap of either:

  1. Publish content too sporadically to build a loyal following across any of the channels
  2. Burning out after a few weeks in and giving up on your content marketing strategy entirely.

To give you a baseline of approximately how often you should publish content to be competitive on each platform, here are some general guidelines:

You can then order this list of channels from most to least valuable to your business (based on the research you did in step two). 

Then, start at the top of the list and ask yourself: Can I realistically publish content at this frequency?

You can even use a content calendar and plan out when each post will go live throughout the week/month to visually gauge whether or not your content publishing calendar is realistic. 

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If you’re creating the content yourself, you can go one step further by blocking off time in your calendar for content creation. If you can’t find time for content creation, your content calendar is overly ambitious, and you might want to cut one or two channels.

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How To Scale Your Content Strategy With Content Repurposing

While it’s important to avoid spreading yourself too thin and publishing across too many platforms, there is a caveat to this rule – you can probably post the same social media content across multiple platforms. 

For example, an Instagram reel could also be reposted on TikTok or YouTube Shorts.

This strategy of reposting a single piece of content across multiple platforms is known as content repurposing, and it allows you to significantly increase your total following with minimal additional effort.

However, each channel is slightly different and has its own nuances, so you might have to tweak each piece of content slightly to perform well on the various platforms. 

For example, this influencer posted two of the same short-form videos on Instagram and TikTok. 

While both videos are essentially the same, each is optimized for its respective platform with slightly different subtitles, and the hashtags and captions are optimized for the two different platforms. 

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If you don’t have the bandwidth to optimize each piece of content for the various platforms, you can either hire someone on Upwork to manage content repurposing for you or use a service like Repurpose House

Step 4: Create Relevant Content

A mistake many small business owners make when starting a content marketing program is that they optimize for engagement rather than sales.

For example, a funny cat video might earn thousands of likes but that video won’t help a plumbing company earn customers.

If the goal of your content marketing program is to bring more customers, your content should answer questions that prospects ask when resesarching a small business. 

Here are three content ideas that bring customers to small businesses.

Answer FAQs

First, look at the most commonly asked questions from customers. Then, create content answering those questions.

For example, if you own a restaurant and many parents ask about kids’ options, create content discussing the best kids’ options.

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If you offer a home remodeling service, people might ask what the process looks like when they work with you. Therefore, create a piece of content that provides a step by step overview of the remodeling process. 

Explain Your Business’s Key Differentiators

Another way to generate content ideas is to read your business’s reviews as well as your competitors’ reviews to understand what customers look for when selecting a small business.

For example, a key pain point many people hiring plumbers face is that it takes too long for a plumber to arrive at the property. 

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If you have a policy that customers don’t pay if the issue isn’t fixed in 24 hours from the time they call, that’s an excellent differentiator you could highlight in your content. 

Yet sometimes, potential customers don’t know what to look for in a business or what makes one business better.

Therefore, they usually do some research before selecting a business, so getting your brand in front of them during the research phase and teaching them about pitfalls to avoid and what makes your product or service better/higher quality is a great way to build a relationship with prospective customers.

For example, customers might not know what to look for in a home builder, so create a piece of content that explains what to look for in a home builder and include some key points about how your home building service is unique.

This video is a great example of how to do this:

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Highlight Current And Past Projects 

Customers also often choose small businesses based on prior examples or experience, so create content highlighting examples of current and past projects your business has completed.

For example, Golden Eagle Log Homes often creates tour videos of homes they’ve built.

Judging by the comments, this is an effective way to build trust with customers:

Here’s another example of how a wedding planner created content showcasing some of the weddings this person planned:

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Note: Highlighting case studies and projects is ideal for companies that deliver services that can be evaluated aesthetically. For example, it works well for wedding planners, home builders, and perhaps a custom furniture company, whereas it might not be as effective for a plumbing company.

Bonus: Create Personal Content

Many customers choose small businesses based on trust. One way to build trust with your audience is through sharing your personal life. 

Not every business owner needs to become a vlogger, but sharing some of your own personality can be a great way to build trust and relationships with prospective customers at scale. 

For example, this donut shop owner regularly vlogs about her life as a baker, and her shop has gone viral multiple times:

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This is also a great strategy for service based businesses where trust is a primary factor customers consider when choosing a provider.

Step 5: Collaborate With Other Local Businesses and Influencers

Many small business owners give up on content marketing too soon because they don’t see any traffic or engagement when they start posting content. 

Unfortunately, content marketing takes a long time to drive results because social media and search engine algorithms tend to favor showing content published by established brands that have a track record of earning high engagement.

This creates a vicious cycle – you must have engagement to earn more engagement.

So how can you get initial engagement so that algorithms show your content to more people?

A simple solution to break out of this cycle and generate engagement on your first few pieces of content is collaborating with other local businesses and influencers who already have a large following of your ideal audience.

There is one caveat to this – most influencers and businesses prefer to collaborate with other large influencers/businesses. 

So you must find an alternative method to make the collaboration mutually beneficial.

There are a few solutions to this problem:

  1. Pay for the collaboration: Most influencers will agree to a collaboration if you pay them a fee to review or share your product or business. You could also work out an affiliate partnership by giving any business or influencer who promotes your business a percentage of the sales they drive.
  2. Provide free marketing: This applies more to businesses, but if you provide a review or some other positive content for that business, they’re more likely to share your content. For example, if you’re a wedding planner, you could post content about the best wedding venues. As a result, those wedding venues would be more likely to share your content. 

As you evaluate different potential partners to collaborate with, consider not only the size of their audience but also:

  1. Is their audience your target audience? If your target audience is a mom with a newborn, how many people in that influencer’s audience are moms with a newborn? 
  2. How loyal is their audience? For example, some Instagram influencers have thousands of followers, but those followers might not trust the recommendations they provide. You can gauge trust based on the quality of comments. Here’s a great example of commenters who clearly trust and love this influencer:

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  1. If you’re a local business: Are their followers local? A major influencer with thousands of followers could help your brand earn millions of impressions, and while the exposure might increase the credibility of your brand, it likely won’t increase sales if those followers don’t live locally. 

To give you an example of an ideal content collaboration, a real estate agent could collaborate with other service providers involved in the home buying process and even home builders and/or contractors. 

A yoga studio could also do a content collaboration with a local health and wellness focused restaurant.  

Another example of a great collaboration could be a furniture store and a moving company. 

If you’re not sure how to find other businesses to collaborate with, ask yourself: What adjacent products or services does my audience buy?

You can also talk to your customers and ask who they enjoy following or where they enjoy shopping.

If you’re looking for social media influencers, you can use a tool like AI Influencer to find influencers located in your area.

Alternatively, you can search for local influencers by searching for your city’s hashtag and viewing which creators generate the most engagement.

Collaborating with a charity is another way to generate more attention and awareness. For example, you can ask the charity to post your content on their social media channels and offer to give 20% of the profits from any purchases made from those social media posts to that charity. 

Another creative strategy to earn more promotion is to reach out to local blogs and publications.

One of the best ways to find these local blogs and publications is to search for terms like “best restaurants in (city).”

These searches usually reveal a handful of local publications:

Many local publications offer paid promotions, though you could also contact the editor and offer a free experience at your local business. 

Finally, list your business in as many relevant business directories as possible. This is a great way to earn backlinks, which can help boost your website’s authority and help your content rank higher in Google. 

You can use a tool like Bright Local to find the best directories to add your business to, but some of the most common ones include Yelp, Nextdoor, and Angi.

Step 6: Measure Results and Double Down On What Works

Guides like this one give you a framework to build an effective content marketing strategy, but every business is slightly different, and what works for one small business might not work for another. The best way to build an effective content marketing strategy is to experiment and invest more in what’s working.

The only problem is that content marketing efforts are notoriously difficult to track because, as discussed earlier, engagement and traffic aren’t equally valuable. 

In fact, traffic and engagement rarely correlate with sales. 

This is because interest-based content appeals to a wide audience that often doesn’t contain your ideal customer. Additionally, interest based content is often irrelevant to a prospective customer researching a product or service.

To illustrate this, consider a real estate agent.

A blog post about the most expensive celebrity homes will likely earn more traffic and engagement than a blog post about how to budget for a down payment. Yet the person researching down payments is in market and a great potential customer, whereas many of the people reading the celebrity home blog post might be high school students who will never buy from you.

The logical solution to this problem is to track the number of sales each piece of content drives and double down on the content that drives the most sales.

Yet it’s very difficult to attribute a sale to a particular piece of content because people usually view multiple pieces of content before making a purchase, and tracking a customer journey across multiple platforms is very difficult, if not impossible.

For example, you can’t track how many TikTok videos a customer viewed before purchasing. Or if customers walk into your store to purchase something, there isn’t really any way to track their customer journey. 

So how should you track your content marketing efforts?

If you’re publishing blog posts, refer to the three content ideas mentioned in step three and then track your keyword rankings for the keywords those blog posts are targeting. You already know that people searching for those keywords are your ideal customers actively researching the problem your business solves, so ranking higher for those terms will help you drive more traffic.

As for social media posts, look at who is commenting on your posts. Are those your ideal target audience?  

For example, this influencer could click on the social media profiles of each of these commenters to learn more about who is interacting with their content.

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As you’re analyzing your social media content, here are a few specific things to take note of:

  1. The most effective channels and platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc.) 
  2. The most effective content topics 
  3. The most effective content formats (e.g., short form video, long form video, text, etc.)

Partnerships and collaborations are a little easier to track because most of them are time bound, so you can easily notice if there was an uptick in sales during the time period of that collaboration.

Finally, you can also survey customers to ask them how they found you. This can help you discover which channels were most effective at driving sales, though you’ll still have to manually comb through each channel’s comments to determine which content ideas drove the most sales.

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Once you determine which content channels, topics, and formats drive the most sales, focus on them and eliminate what isn’t working.

How To Take Your Content Marketing To The Next Level

This framework will help you kickstart a content marketing strategy, but refining your copywriting and content takes years of practice and experimentation.

One of the most effective ways to speed up your rate of learning is by surrounding yourself with peers at and above your level and getting feedback on your content.

That’s why we built the Copyblogger Academy, a community of marketers and entrepreneurs. In addition to networking with like-minded people, you’ll also be able to ask seven-figure entrepreneurs Tim Stoddart, and Charles Miller for direct feedback on your marketing. You’ll also have access to nine different marketing courses covering topics like copywriting, content marketing, SEO, and more. You can try it out today, and if you aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll give you a full refund in the first 30 days.

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