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In the digital world, content reigns supreme. That’s because content is a free way to serve your customers, add value and position yourself as an authority.

Content is simply information that provides a benefit to the person who consumes it. It comes in the form of blog posts, videos, social media posts and so much more.

But writing blog posts doesn’t mean you have a strategy. Knowing how to get the right content, to the right people, in the right place, at the right time — that’s strategic.

Content planning strategy

Before hitting publish on your latest post, consider these four steps to implementing a thoughtful content planning strategy.

Defining your audience

Appealing to the masses might feel like the most profitable way to go. More potential customers mean more sales, right? Not quite. Taking some time to brainstorm your audience, also known as an ideal customer avatar, can help your dream customers feel like you created your content just for them. To start, list out their age range, profession, interests and hobbies, and where they spend time online (Instagram, Facebook, Medium, etc.).

Defining audience needs

Now that you know who you’re talking to, you need to determine what their biggest challenge is as it relates to your service or product. What is their struggle, and how can your expertise help solve it? Create a list of objections they might have, and then how you can handle them. For example, a personal trainer might hear the objection, “I don’t have time to exercise!” and solve it with a video series called ‘20 Workouts Under 20 Minutes.’ Now it’s your turn. Spend time brainstorming all the challenges and objections your customer avatar faces on a daily basis.

Creating a content calendar Consistency is imperative to blog and social media success. That means you need to map out a posting schedule and add to it on a regular basis. First, use your ideal customer avatar to decide what type of content best fits your offering and pair it with where your customers spend time online. Once you’ve determined your channels, sketch out your next two to four weeks of content, asking yourself: How often can you realistically post? What promotions or holidays are coming up? Can you batch content creation, such as shooting four videos in one day? We’ll cover types of content in the following section.

Keyword research

While exhaustive keyword research is a large undertaking, it’s important to at least have a basic understanding of what your audience is searching when they want to learn more about your topic. This will not only help you find favor with the search engines but can also give you more content ideas.

First, brainstorm general topics that relate to your service or offering. For example, if you own a dog grooming service, your topics might be: 

  • pet friendly
  • dog breeds
  • dog training
  • dog grooming

Then, put yourself in your customer avatar’s shoes: What do they struggle with in relation to your general topics? And what are they searching in order to find the answer? You might then come up with:

  • Best dog-friendly businesses near me
  • Best dog breeds for kids
  • Best dog breeds for allergies
  • How do I train my dog to sit?
  • How do you groom dogs with long hair?

Finally, using a tool such as UberSuggest can help to validate your ideas and come up with additional keywords.

Content creation strategy

Refer to your draft content calendar and keyword research to flesh out what kind of content you’ll create from the following list of content types.

1. Long-form content

Long-form content, that is, in-depth content that exceeds 4,000 words, is excellent for building authority and trust with your customers; is something you can share and promote long term; and is easy to repurpose into smaller pieces of content (such as a social media graphic). Long-form content is usually published as an eBook or white paper and is a great way to start building your email list. Brainstorm ideas such as ‘The Art of [Your Industry],’ ‘The Beginners Guide to [Your Industry]’, or ‘Everything You Need to Know About [Your Offering].’

2. Short-form content

Short-form content is quick and easy to consume, such as blog posts and social media. To squeeze as much content out of one piece as possible, consider starting with a blog post and then breaking it down into smaller pieces for different channels. For example, a real estate agent could write a blog post called ‘10 Secrets for Staging a Home that Sells.’ Then, share behind-the-scenes looks at homes for sale on Instagram stories, and create a stand-alone Reel for each tip.

3. Video content

There are so many effective (and surprisingly easy) ways to shoot and post video content in today’s digital world. If you think video isn’t for you, consider some of these ideas: A meal prep service might shoot recipe videos for YouTube, a personal trainer might do live workouts on IGTV, or a nanny service could share homeschooling tips on TikTok.

4. User generated content

User-generated content (or UGC) is a quick and effective way to post fresh content. Look for posts that your business is tagged in or that use a branded hashtag, and then repost to your social media channels with permission. This not only keeps your feeds fresh, but also displays authentic social proof that your product or service works.

5. Subject matter expert content

Partner with an expert in your industry to create true value and tap into their audience. You could put on a free webinar together or interview them for a blog post and ask them to share it with their audience too. For example, a fitness apparel retailer could interview a nutritionist to talk about healthy eating tips.

Content distribution strategy

Where will your content live online? Choose a couple channels, and make sure all your information is up to date and ladders up to the keyword research you performed. The point is not to spread yourself thin by trying to be everywhere all at once, but rather to make sure that you’re being intentional about where you do show up. Here are some options to consider:

1. Company blog

A company blog will likely be a go-to, as you can use it to promote many forms of content. Write and publish helpful blog posts, embed your latest YouTube video and include a transcript, or tease your latest eBook and include a form to download it.

2. Industry publications

Look at industry publications with engaged social media followings and email lists. Engage with them online to build rapport, and then pitch a guest post idea that will genuinely serve their audience.

3. Social media

Where does your ideal customer consume content? Consider everything from long-form articles on Medium, short-form content on Instagram, videos on YouTube to livestreaming on Twitch. Pick just a couple. Remember, you don’t need to be everywhere; only where your customers are.

4. Gated content

Gated content, like an eBook, online course or PDF download, lives behind a form or paywall. Gated content is an excellent way to build your email list and generate leads. Since visitors often have to provide their email in exchange for the content, you can consider them a warm lead and nurture them with an email campaign.

The importance and impact of a solid content marketing strategy can’t be overstated, especially for a small business. Start small with just a couple platforms, and then go all in serving your ideal customers. They’ll keep coming back for your expertise and generosity as you work to convert them into happy customers.

Make sure to visit the Nationwide Business Solutions Center to find more resources on starting or running your business..

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