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As the 2018 begins, it's time to dust off the tinsel in your office and get back to work.


If you’re a small business owner or if you manage marketing, one of the most important steps that you will take is to set your plans for the next year.


While you have plans for almost every aspect of your business, content strategy is often overlooked by many small businesses and individuals.

Why do you need a content strategy

 In 2017, according to data from Impact - 89% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers were using content marketing. 


But only 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers had a documented content marketing strategy.


As a small business owner or an individual in business you’re probably thinking that those numbers have nothing to do with you and that when it comes to content you really don’t need to strategize over it.


But past trends and numbers are showing that high-quality content marketing continues to be the main source of digital marketing success.


Joe Lazauskas, director of content strategy at Contently aptly announces, “Content marketing will cease to be thought of as just a top-of-funnel activity for building an audience. Instead, marketers will realize content is the golden thread that connects every experience in the customer journey. Great stories aren’t just crucial for articles and videos; they’ll be necessary for case studies and sales decks as well. “


As your business moves into 2018, more businesses will refine their content strategies and plans focussing on content which will support their customers through every stage of the buyer’s journey till it culminates into the conversion stage and beyond while they build meaningful relationships with their customers who will then act as vocal brands of their business. 


For your business to attain the success it deserves from all the content you create, it stands to reason that having a well-planned content strategy will serve you well.


After all the effort you put into creating a blog post or an eBook, you would want that piece of content to continue generating leads, increase website traffics and contribute to larger conversions (into paying customers). 


Besides creating leads, your content will also continue to educate your audience and improve brand awareness by providing valuable content which they can associate with your business.

How to create a content plan for your business

1. Define your goals

At the heart of a content strategy are your goals for creating content. The most important question that you will answer is “why am I creating content?”


Small businesses will typically have one or more of these goals to achieve:


  • Build brand awareness
  • Drive traffic to website
  • Generate leads
  • Increase conversions into customers
  • Increase business
  • Reduce costs
  • Improve customer retention
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Once you have your goals laid out, planning a content strategy gets easier.


But it’s not enough to just have goals.


Make your objectives SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound


Specific – Be specific about what you want to achieve. So if your goal is to increase business in 2018 then that is a very generic goal. Make a short simple statement of what exactly you want to achieve to increase business. Is it more sales? More customers? Or more traffic to your website?


Measurable – Measurable goals will help you track your how far you are in achieving your goal. So if you say that your goal is to increase sales by 25 % then this can be tracked over the months to see how you are progressing and if your content is achieving the results you set out to achieve.


Attainable – SMART goals should be attainable. Don’t aim for something you know is not realistically possible. For example if you’ve been getting 5 leads a month from your website, don’t aim to get 1000 leads per month as you know this sounds unrealistic and just puts the pressure on you.


Realistic – Be aware of your capabilities and resources. Do you have the money, workforce or the time to achieve a particular objective? Make your goals count by making them relevant to your business. So if you’re making 100 sales per month on home-made candles, your goal should not be to increase sales to 1000 a month if you don’t have the capacity to make more.


Time-bound – Ensure when you want to achieve this goal so you can start on other goals attached to this goal – for example hire two more employees in three months to assist in making more candles which will help you achieve the goal of increasing sales to 200 per month. 

2. research your buyer personas

Knowing who your target audience is helps you shape your content and develop marketing plans for that particular audience group.


As you know, having a broad audience profile does not help marketing and you often land up wasting resources on content that misses its target.


This is one of the most important steps for any new business.


Start by defining your target audience, your dream clients - also known as buyer persona. Delve deep into every aspect of this persona from demographics, their likes and dislikes along with their challenges and pain points.

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

If you’ve already been in business for a while, you will already know who your target audience is. Build your content to target your buyer personas.


Perhaps your audience has changed over the years or you want to target another audience group – then use market research to develop your new buyer personas.


This will help your content marketing in many ways. 


You can now create the right content which resonates with your audience. 


You can address their pain points and needs and be a source of valuable and helpful information leading to brand loyalty and you can now increase conversions as your audience develops trust and familiarity with your content.

3. conduct a content audit - yours and your competitors

If you’ve already been creating content for a while, you will have a stockpile of content stored up somewhere which you can be reused again or create new content from them.


It’s a good idea to conduct a content audit of all the content you have.


Perhaps you have created content which is unfinished or published somewhere else or in other formats – make a note of all of these.


You can repurpose all the content you have into other formats or add something new to them to create something different and refreshing.


Perhaps you want to create other types of content and not just blogs - like EBooks or videos from existing content or  perhaps some content may need updating with the latest information.


Review your content marketing efforts and see where you succeeded and where you failed. Work on what you can do differently to achieve your content strategy goals.


Conduct a content audit of your competitors and see what content they are creating and how successful their content is with their audience on social media.


A content audit should answer questions like:


  • What content do I have and can I use it again?
  • What kind of content gets more likes and shares?
  • What kind of content does my buyer persona prefer ( in-depth long form blog posts or more news about your products) and how do they consume this content eg blog posts, video or podcasts?
  • Where does my audience prefer to consume their content – for example in trade magazines, on social media, on your website, YouTube etc?
  • How can I repurpose this content to create something different?
  • Why am I creating/repurposing this content? What is my goal?

4. brainstorm content ideas


Based on your goals and buyer persona's needs, decide what kind of content you will create. 


There is a variety of content that you can work on - from popular ones like blog posts, videos, podcasts, eBooks, and infographics to others such as reviews, business news, white papers, email newsletters, courses, vlogs, slides and more. 


Now that you have all the information from your content audit, generate content topic ideas and important keywords to use in your content. 


Use popular tools such as Moz Keyword Explorer, Answer the Public, Content Ideator, Google Keyword Planner, HubSpot Blog Topic Generator and more to help you discover content topics and keywords.


Look for gaps in content and use these opportunities to create new, valuable and insightful content to fill those gaps as this is what people are looking for and your business can provide the information they need.


Take stock of all events you will be conducting in the course of your business and create content around that. For example if you are hosting a workshop which is location based, you can create content relevant to the workshop and the location starting with the lead up to the workshop, then create content about the workshop and other activities and more content after the workshop is finished with an offer to create more business and customers for you.


Make a note of all other special days on your calendar so that you can generate more purposeful content for your target audience. For example, with Valentine’s day coming up you may want to start creating content that is relevant to that day for your candle-making business to increase sales - like a blog post on how to create a romantic evening with homemade candles.


Knowing where your buyer persona is on their buyer’s journey also helps you create more targeted content which delivers results because your buyer is at that point in his journey where he is looking for particular answers and you deliver it at the right time.


The buyer’s journey is made up of three stages:


Awareness – The buyer is aware they have a problem and are trying to define it

Consideration – The buyer now knows his problem and understands it while seeking a solution

Decision – The buyer has researched all the solutions available and is now ready to choose a solution (or make a purchase).


By mapping content to the buyer’s journey you are now in the position to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time. This means that your target audience receives the content that he is looking for at a particular time in his buyer’s journey.


The process of mapping a buyer persona to the buyer journey can be difficult and time-consuming task and it’s hard to ascertain what type of content to create at a particular stage.


HubSpot has created a simple graphic which maps types of content to every stage of the buyer’s journey making it easier for you.

Screenshot: HubSpot
Screenshot: HubSpot

5. create a content schedule and content calendar


Now that you have all the information, it’s time to put it all together in an organised content plan and editorial calendar.


Although planning content for the whole year can be quite overwhelming and that is why its a good idea to tackle three months worth of planning at a time.


Look through your Content Audit sheet and look for those pieces of content that are evergreen and can be used again whether as it is or repurposed into another format.


Check to see if you have any events, workshops or webinars planned as you may want to create content around this.


Holidays and special days are often used by businesses to promote special deals, offers or content, so check your holiday calendar or a social media calendar.


Remember to incorporate your goals and objectives when planning content along any themes you might have for that month or for the first three months. For example – your theme may be based around food for great skin in that quarter as you want to attract more customers to your range of natural skincare.


Also make a note of relevant keywords you want to use for SEO purposes and to make your content visible on search.

6. create a social media CALENDAR

An important aspect of content marketing is getting your content out to your audience. 


While you may have email subscribers, you also want to attract new interest in your business and services and social media provides you with the opportunity to disperse and distribute your content.


Create a social media content calendar that maps the content you create to your social media channels. This step is as important as the others as it will help you build your social media schedule in advance.


Here you will add information about what type of content is promoted, which social media platforms will be targeted and at what times the social media posts are scheduled for.


Now that you have all your schedules and a content plan ready, it time to start creating content in an organised manner which helps you build a successful content strategy this year.

Need help creating your content plan or just want to chat about content for your business? Contact me

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