As a digital business consultant, I encounter many small business owners who struggle to create content or market the content they already have. Either they feel they don’t have the time or ability, or they just don’t see the value in it. But creating content is vital for your business. Prospects view businesses that publish content–whether blog posts or podcasts–as more trustworthy. Also, your current clients need to hear from you regularly in order to keep your brand top of mind. Content creation allows you to promote your business in a purely helpful, non-salesy way, while still winning new clients.
On the other hand, you don’t want to be creating content simply for its own sake, nor do you want to spend all your time writing new articles or making new videos. After all, you have a business to run! That’s why it’s important to be efficient in your content creation. If you can create a handful of very valuable pieces of content, you can promote them long after their “expiration date” and still generate solid traffic and leads. In fact, you can develop an entire marketing strategy around only three blog posts. Am I crazy? No, I just think Thoreau had the right idea when he wrote “Simplify, simplify, simplify!”
Ready? Let’s get started.
Identify Your Target Audience
Before you can develop any kind of marketing strategy, you need to make sure you have a clear idea of your audience. Naturally, your prospective clients will make up a large portion of this audience, but we often struggle to articulate who these people are.
In identifying your ideal prospect, start with what you bring to the table. Remember that your greatest asset is your unique brand and voice, which will attract like-minded people. Look at testimonials you have received from past clients. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients to fill out a post-project survey, where you can collect feedback on their experience working with you, what they loved and what they wished they had known beforehand.
Then go deeper into what your ideal client is like. Answer the following questions:
- What kind of person do you want to work with? Give them a name, occupation and physical description.
- What do they want? What are they trying to achieve?
- What is their biggest road block?
- How are they most comfortable buying and what price points will they buy at?
- How do they prefer to communicate and consume information?
- Where do they hang out online?
- What are their interests in TV shows, movies, hobbies, travel, etc.? (This may require stalking them on social media)
Organize these answers into a paragraph describing your ideal client and write it on a notecard or sticky note.
Pick Your Topics
All right, you know who you want to talk to. Now it’s time to decide what to say to them. Remember that you are in business first and foremost to help people. Your ideal client doesn’t want to hear you talk about yourself all the time. They want to know that you care about their needs and interests, even if those are not always directly related to your work.
Start with three topics from your niche. If you are a wedding photographer, these could be “Destination weddings”, “Wedding vendors”, and “Photo shoot prep”. As a graphic designer, you might pick “Logos,” “Social media”, and “Print design”.
For each topic, think of the most important question people ask about it. Then turn that question into a killer blog post title that promises to answer the question definitively and comprehensively. For instance, people may be looking for “The definitive guide to planning a destination wedding on a budget” or “The total beginners guide to social media marketing (even if you only have a few followers)”.
Next think of the most common question people ask about each topic. For example, “How do I look my best in wedding photos?”, “Why isn’t my website No. 1 on Google?”, or “What colors should I choose for my brand?”. Make sure you answer that question in the blog post.
Lastly, consider what your audience really needs to know about each topic, such as “Why the venue can make or break your wedding photos” or “What you need to know before submitting your manuscript to an editor.” You can then turn this into a worksheet, PDF, video, or other free product which will serve as your “lead magnet” to collect email addresses (more on this later).
Need help creating your 3 killer blog posts?
Don’t Start from Scratch
So you have your content topics. The next step is often the most difficult: creating the content itself. You could waste a lot of time trying to write three blog posts from scratch…or you could leverage your existing content. You might think, “I don’t have any existing content!” That’s rarely the case. If you’ve ever written a long email to a client, replied to a message on social media, or recorded a client meeting, chances are you have some useful content. It’s simply a matter of collecting and organizing it.
For every content idea, ask yourself, “Did I…”
- Write a blog post about it?
- Create a PDF or eBook about it?
- Talk about it in an email with a client or colleague?
- Publish a post or video on social media about it?
- Answer a question on social media about it?
- Discuss it during a client meeting?
Your existing meeting notes, blog posts, social media feeds, and email correspondence can be a virtual gold mine for content, which you can then transform into different formats and distribute on different channels.
You’ll recall I mentioned something called a “lead magnet” earlier. It sounds scary, but it does just what it says: attract prospects like a magnet. If you’ve written a killer blog post called “The total beginners guide to social media marketing (even if you only have a few followers)”, you need a way for people to take the desired action, in this case to give you their email address so that you can continue to nurture them into a paying customer. To get people to take action, you must give them something in return and it must be valuable enough that they will trust you with their email address.
At the end of your “definitive guide” post, introduce your lead magnet, which is the free product that you created based on what people really need to know about your topic. To access the product, people will need to click a button or link and fill out a form with their name and email address.
A quick word on the importance of email…With the popularity of social media, email sometimes gets forgotten. Yet email is so powerful! Once a prospective client trusts you enough to give you their email address, you can build a very intimate relationship with them. Unlike social media, with email you truly own the audience, the platform and the engagement. It allows you to tailor content to specific groups of people as well as individuals (even address them by name).
There are many tools available to help you create an email capture form on your website and automate the process of delivering the product to the person and adding their email to your list. On my WordPress site, I use a combination of the Gravity Forms plugin and MailChimp, but you should use whatever is the most affordable and comfortable for you. I’ve listed a few tools below that offer free versions or at least a money-back guarantee.
After someone submits their email address, your system will automatically send them an email thanking them for their interest and including a link to download the product. You can store your product in a variety of ways, such as by hosting it on your email marketing platform or sharing it via Google Drive, Dropbox, or Amazon S3.
However, even if you have your blog post and lead magnet ready, you still need to figure out how to get people to click that button: in other words, convert them from reader to lead. I’m afraid there is no magic formula to achieve conversion, so you may need to try a few different methods until you find one that works for you and your audience. For the example above, we could say “If you’re serious about increasing your followers on social media, get our free template for writing social media posts to triple your engagement.” Another example could be “Is your manuscript ready for editing? Download our free checklist to find out.”
No matter what language you use to advertise your lead magnet, make sure you have a way of tracking performance. You can do this via Google Analytics or via your email marketing platform.
Now that you have created a helpful, valuable piece of content, you need to get the word out.
Note that you don’t have to “sell” the content. For your email subscribers, you can send the content along with a regular newsletter. With prospects, you can simply recommend it, e.g. “I remember you were asking about [topic]. This [article, video] might help answer those questions for you [or your customers].” With influencers in your market, make sure you have cultivated a relationship with them over time. Don’t ask them to view your content or provide feedback. Just tell them about the content and say you thought they, their clients, or their online followers might find it helpful.
Also share the content with your network, such as the other entrepreneurs in your area. Encourage your peers to share your content with their audience, so that they will be seen as providing more value to their customers.
Post a link to your content on social media and share it up to three times a day for a couple of weeks. If you have the budget, consider boosting a Facebook post to help drive more traffic to your website.
Bottom line: Exhaust all your options. Spend weeks, even months, promoting your content. Of course you should continue to generate new content, but don’t feel you have to stop promoting an older piece of content just because you’ve created something new. Otherwise you will be playing catch-up with creating and promoting your content, and you won’t be doing either very well. Such a scenario is toxic for your business and personal life.
If You Still Struggle
In speaking to fellow entrepreneurs, especially those who are wives and mothers, who may have a “day job”, or who battle physical or mental illnesses, I understand that creating content for your business often just doesn’t happen. Already overwhelmed with work and family responsibilities, you don’t have the energy or the time. Perhaps you don’t enjoy writing or don’t feel comfortable making videos. Maybe your brain won’t allow you to focus in peace on one thing before it moves on to the next shiny thing. Another possibility is that you would like to create content, but you can’t seem to define your target audience and ideal client.
If this describes your situation, I have a few recommendations. First of all, make sure you are part of some kind of community, whether it’s a local meetup, networking group, or Facebook group. Not only will such a group provide you support and encouragement, but it can help you overcome your content marketing struggles.
Second, think outside the box. Blogging doesn’t have to involve writing a long article with perfect grammar, transitions, and logical flow. You could pick a question from a customer and answer it in writing or with a video. You could interview another entrepreneur in a podcast. If you’re more artistically inclined, you could create an infographic and just explain it with a short blurb. Maybe your thoughts come to you in random places, like when you’re in the shower or working out. In that case, consider recording yourself and transcribing it later. Or you might find that social media, not email, is attracting the best clients. If so, don’t worry about writing whole articles. Simply pick your topics and questions and address them on Facebook or with an Instagram story.
Whether you realize it or not, you are a producer. In addition to your paid work, any content that you create is a product. If you treat your blog posts, videos, social media posts, and lead magnets like products, you will want to put more effort into them and you will start seeing tangible results for your business.
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