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Cindy Bates

Vice President, US Small and Midsized Business & Distribution of Microsoft

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How to Create Content – 3 Rules for Small Businesses

June 23, 2017

These three steps are guideposts to a successful content marketing strategy.

Publishing has now become essential to the future growth of every business—whatever size—and critical to the job of every CMO. Publishing has emerged as a management competency critical to the success of the digital marketing, social media and sales enablement programs that drive growth.

But most business owners and marketing executives don’t know how to apply the principles of publishing to their marketing operations—and they want help. So an expert team commissioned by Forbes surveyed 380 global marketing executives and 50 subject matter experts to explore the problems involved—and the solutions. The report that emerged from this, Publish or Perish, recommends a systematic approach.

Of the executives surveyed, 96% agree that the quality and structure of their marketing content is essential to achieving their growth goals. Over 70% believe the effectiveness of their marketing content directly impacts their ability to drive top-line growth with digital, social and mobile technologies and supports core branding, demand generation and value-selling programs. For example, compelling and actionable content is important to getting responses from earned, owned and paid media investments. The quality of content—thought leadership or entertainment value—is now critical to differentiating the brand and driving engagement.

Yet producing—or finding and curating—appropriate content and using it effectively is a major problem for businesses, especially small ones, which may be strapped for resources to devote to this. Among the common issues:

  • Low content usage. Executives expressed their frustration that customers, prospects or influencers do not open or consume much of their content.
  • Producing high-quality, emotionally engaging content requires labor and creativity. This may be the central challenge for many small businesses whose owners/leaders feel they are stretched enough just running the business.

So how can small businesses resolve these issues and create relevant and impactful content? Start by following these three steps.

  • Put someone in charge of content. This could be one person or a small marketing team, yourself—as owner of the business—or the best writer on your staff. If your business is small enough, this will probably make up only a fraction of this person’s duties. But simply asking all your employees to post positive things about the company on Facebook tends to be ineffective. If one person or team controls content, they are more likely to publish regularly, avoid duplication, develop a consistent “voice of the company” and, over time, gain a sense of what sort of content is most effective in engaging potential customers.
  • Do your homework. Presumably, you have a pretty good idea who your target customer is, whether your business is B2C (women? men? young? old? luxury? bargain? hip?) or B2B (other small businesses? large ones? a range of industries? a particular sector?). So approach this as if you were doing customer development for a product. Spend time on whatever social media your customers favor, whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Ask questions. Do quick, informal surveys. Get a sense of your customers’ preoccupations, concerns, unfulfilled needs. What sort of content would help or engage them?
  • Harvest ideas from your customers—and serve that market. This just expands on the previous point about homework in an even more targeted way, because it focuses specifically on your customers and prospects. When you receive an order, send an email confirmation that includes a single question. This could be anything from “What’s your single biggest concern in growing your business?” to “Describe your ultimate fantasy footwear.” It all depends on the nature of your business and customers. Or send your entire email list a Question of the Week. Open a Topic Suggestion Box email address and include a link with every blog, post and tweet. Then write about the most frequently suggested topics. Offer useful advice about your customers’ actual worries. Give them hope—but never false hope—that you may fulfill their relevant needs or desires. You will find yourself with a growing, engaged fan base.

These three steps are guideposts to a successful content marketing strategy, which is no longer a nice-to-have for businesses, but a must-have. See how small businesses are putting these practices in play by reading Publish or Perish.

This article originally appeared on the Microsoft US Small and Midsize Business Blog.

Photo via Visual hunt

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