1) For small business owners, what is the first step for putting a content marketing strategy in place?
There are a couple very important points when starting your content marketing strategy. First, define the niche you can truly be an expert in. That means really thinking small. For example, instead of pet supplies, which is very broad, as your target topic, think pet supplies for elderly Americans who like to travel. You need to think about what topic you can be the leading expert in the world at. Remember, there is a lot of content out there, so you have to be the best. Second, start thinking of your customers as readers. What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? Those are the types of things you'll be communicating in your blog posts, white papers, ebooks, videos and more.
2) Taking into account a limited budget, how should small business owners approach the development of a long-term content marketing plan?
For those on a limited budget, the blog as the center of your content marketing strategy probably works best. That way, the blog can feed your social media, your enewsletter and really fuel your search engine program. Think about what you really do well and what you should outsource. Some business owners aren't great content creators, so find a writer to interview you and start putting content together. If you do create the content, hire a great editor and proofreader. Finally, don't expect much in the first six months. Your content is an asset...start thinking like it's own and plan for the long-term (here's a good post to link to http://blog.junta42.com/2011/11/content-asset-expense/)
3) What kinds of content can small businesses produce and publish as a part of their marketing plan?
We've identified 42 different forms of content that are all available for small businesses in this content marketing playbook (http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2011/08/content-marketing-playbook/), from blog posts to print newsletters. I believe that any small business, no matter the size, can afford to do the majority of these if it makes sense in the context of their marketing.
4) Small businesses tend to have limited resources (time and money). How can this content be easily and cheaply produced?
Content marketing is not like paid media. Depending on what you are trying to do, content marketing can be affordable, even if completely outsourced. If you are unsure of where to start, blogging a couple times a week is a great start. That way, it gives your social media some meat and interest and you can start building your search engine traffic.
5) What tactics are most valuable to be outsourced and what should stay in-house - considering both time and costs?
Keep the strategy inhouse. Your story is too important to you to oursource. After that, keep what you enjoy and are good at and outsource everything else. According to our latest research, over 50% of businesses outsource some part of their content marketing, be it content development, design, technology or distribution. ( http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/research/)
6) Where should this content be published to ensure the greatest visibility?
Before you start a content program, you want to identify where your customers are hanging out AND who the influencers are in your market that will help share your content. Here are 10 points to getting started that all small businesses should consider ( http://blog.junta42.com/2011/02/finding-social-media-influencers-market/).
7) How can SEO tactics be implemented throughout the process?
Honestly, great content marketing doesn't need much SEO help. If you are focusing on the problems of your customers, using tools like Wordtracker and Google's External Tool to identify the right keywords, using proper titles (with keywords) and proper URLS, you are all set. Then, all it takes is great content spread around to where your customers are at (see the previous question). Well, that, and a lot of patience.
8) What about monitoring and analyzing results?
For a small business, you need a few things.
1. Use Google Alerts to monitor your keyword phrases
2. Use Google Analytics to monitor your visitors and what they are finding interesting...AND, what pieces of content are leading to leads.
3. A service like Dlvr.it, Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to monitor your social media.
9) What is the best way to determine conversions from content efforts?
You can track all your conversions using Google Analytics Goals. If you don't want to spend money on a fancy system, no need to at this point.
10) How can small businesses most efficiently support tactics through social media?
The key to social media working is content marketing. Why would anyone want to follow you or fan your company unless you are giving them tremendous value. That value can be the content you share. Then, once you start spreading your content, you can begin to build brand subscribers through your own assets, like an enewsletter subscription, and then social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
One important way to increase your social media following is to train and encourage your employees to share the great content you are creating. Your employees can be your secret weapon...just make sure to train them well and explain the importance of your content plan.
11) While the social media provides free exposure, it can require time to maintain - do you have tips on how to leverage social channels?
The most important thing is to have someone in your organization be your CLO (Chief Listening Officer). That person will be in charge of listening to everything related to your business going on in social media and how you can react. That person can be the air-traffic control person for your organization. Set up your social media so someone internally has that role and make it at least 25% of their job. This process has worked tremendously well for us.
12) It's no secret that the use of multimedia is on the rise and drives engagement. How can small businesses incorporate the use of multimedia without breaking the bank?
Read this post by Content Marketing Institute contributor Nate Riggs on the best equipment to use to make an impact on your video content marketing. It can make all the difference. http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2011/02/media-equipment/
Joe Pulizzi is a leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing. Joe is first and foremost a content marketing evangelist, and founded the Content Marketing Institute, which includes client-vendor matching site Junta42 as well as the premier international content marketing event Content Marketing World and Chief Content Officer magazine.
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