Making things is hard. Writing blogs, creating newsletters, developing direct mail pieces and more all take a considerable amount of creative energy. Effort which, if not repaid by a high enough level of engagement, can be incredibly demoralizing.
In my last post I wrote about how important it is to set proper marketing expectations when it comes to your content. Today, I’m going to share a content checklist for thinking through which content you should invest in so you can avoid these energy sucking lower returns entirely, and instead focus your efforts on developing content that will only fuel your creativity instead.
While you’re going through this list, remember: it may seem like a lot of work to create content like this, but it will make a huge difference with your audience. The higher the quality of your content, the more likely it is to resonate with your audience, and the more leads you’ll likely end up with.
Before getting started, take a look at the size of your targeted audience. This will have a far reaching effect on what tactics you should choose to employ.
When developing your audience list, I encourage you to keep it as small as possible. This may seem counterintuitive, but creating content for as broad a base as possible ultimately dilutes your message and lessens the authority of your brand. Large media companies and brands – things like Coca Cola or the Tribune Companies – have large budgets and can afford to have multiple ads and content pieces targeting different segments of the population. Smaller businesses do not have this same flexibility. Instead you need to focus in on who really needs your products and target your content toward them. Your returns will be greater.
With that being said, here’s a checklist of things to consider when running through your content options.
What networks is your audience on, and is it worth targeting them there?
Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter or a combination of them, it’s important to see where your audience is.
Imagine you blindly sign up for one network with little thought and begin posting. Only your audience isn’t there. You receive little engagement and become discouraged. You’d probably wonder why you even bothered in the first place.
To avoid this scenario, figure out what networks have a plurality of your audience. Then you’ll know where you spend your time and efforts.
Whichever platform you choose, know you will face some apathy right off the bat. With the proliferation of brands and companies on social media, you’re not likely to stand out unless you have excellent content.
Therefore, this technique also necessitates the creation of regular content like a blog or videos to normalize your posting and help your targets get past the initial cynicism of a brand or company posting. They’ll see the value instead.
Can you maintain a regular posting schedule and interact with your audience?
To be a success on social media, you need to post often. Every day. Even weekends. Now you can schedule this in advance through applications like Hootsuite, but there still has to be some level of organic reactions so that people get the sense they’re reading things that come from a human.
For more information on how you can tailor your social for a small business, click here to read a Q&A with social media expert Tara Hunt.
And perhaps most importantly, remember to respond to everyone who interacts with. This shows that there are real people behind the social account and they care about their customers.
How frequently can you publish to your blog?
As with social media, to run a successful blog you have to regularly write posts. Depending on your industry your frequency can vary, but a schedule of anything less frequent than once every two weeks will not work.
There’s just simply too much space between blogs for you to build an audience and encourage return visitors. It is also important to regularly post so that you increase your SEO visibility.
Similarly, if you don’t have a designated writer on staff (if you aren’t outsourcing to a marketing company), then it will be very difficult to adhere to your set schedule and to develop a unique voice.
To overcome this, make an editorial calendar and, if possible, work ahead. Assign blogs to multiple writers, set hard deadlines and schedule regular meetings to keep up on the blog progress and swap out writers if someone doesn’t have capacity to complete their assigned blog due to other work commitments or if they are having trouble completing their blog.
Does your field allow you to write about varying topics?
Look, some industries have simply more to discuss than others. Think through the topics and posts you’d like to write and then Google them. If you see an abundance of posts on your topics, or find your angle isn’t as original as you originally thought, reconsider the effort you’d put into creating a blog.
But if you think you can add something new, whether it be through a different perspective or writing more in-depth posts, then create a calendar of blog topics quarterly. It will help save you time down the road and properly order your content for maximum impact.
Do you have a built-in network that can share and pass around your posts?
Getting people to read blogs is hard. As a small business, you’ll likely never make the first page of Google’s search results, for example. What you can do, however, is use your network of influencers, whether they be clients respected in their industry or perhaps your personal network, to share this information and help you build your following.
More so than paid social promotion or mailing to a marketing list where people may not click to even open your email, organic promotion and outreach by a respected and knowledgeable person with their own following is the key to increasing your blog views.
Email and Newsletter
Are you comfortable with sending regular offers?
For someone to open your email, you’re going to have to give them a reason to do so.
Simply sending emails listing your services won’t work. Free trials or consultations, or even asking them to take a survey to receive something like a Starbucks card will make your email messages more impactful.
You can also offer free content downloads that are not available anywhere else. Whatever you choose, make sure that your offer amplifies the value of your messaging.
Do you regularly attend events or host them yourself?
Email is a great way to encourage people to attend trade shows or your events. If you already do this regularly, then this should be a no-brainer.
Do you have enough content to regularly promote?
For a monthly newsletter, you should have at least four pieces of content to promote. Not all of them have to be original content; you could, for example, have an “in the news” section where you aggregate content that you think would be beneficial for your subscribers.
These should be pieces that are deep and informative, along with not being found in obvious places, like the homepage of a popular online publication.
Do you have a visual message?
If the message you want to communicate does not easily lend itself to a visual format – not “how to” or just boring visually – then video is likely not a for you.
However, if you can show steps for how to solve common problems (think changing a tire on a car) or convey a complex message more easily through graphics or images, then video could be a successful way to present your information.
Will you outsource?
Unless you happen to have someone internally who creates videos as a hobby or feels comfortable taking it on yourself, you’ll likely have to outsource this work, which can be expensive.For more info on what to expect working with video professionals, click here, and for more on how to make DIY video, click here.
Have you tried any of these previous options with limited success?
Of course, actually printing messaging and mailing it out can be much more expensive than sending an email. Make sure you have the budget to do it and try, if possible, to print a batch of direct mail with different messages and designs in one go. This will save you money and time, while also allowing you to plan a direct mail marketing campaign.
Picking the right channels for your message so that you can connect with your audience takes effort and time. Though I feel these are some key things to consider before embarking on either any new content endeavor or just simply reviewing what you currently have in place, they’re by no means comprehensive.
It’s likely as you go through these you’ll have issues unique to your business pop up. Don’t ignore them. Dive into what makes your business different and unique and always focus on your audience. Remember, that is who this is all for.
If you shape your content around them, you increase your odds of successfully providing value to your audience, thus improving your brand’s reputation and increasing the likelihood of generating new leads.