“I should start blogging. I want to create a podcast. I’ve thought about posting some videos on YouTube.” You’ve said this to yourself time and again. But as a small business owner, the urgent demands of the day distract you. Another day goes by, a month goes by, and you still haven’t written one word, or even thought about what you would say.
You have a business to run. Time is money.
Is creating content really worth the time? Advertising has worked well for you, and you’re skeptical that blogging would even work for your business. Creating free content seems like more time than it’s worth.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Why? Because it’s free. And in 5 years, you’ll wish you did.
The only cost is your time. With your own sweat equity, you can build something valuable. That’s why it’s so important to use your time efficiently.
In a Sydney 2019 keynote address, digital marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuck said: “We are sitting in the easiest time to become a successful entrepreneur.”
He says creating content the SINGLE most important activity a business should be doing today to build a brand. He also says the time is NOW. It’s so important he says that if you have employees with any downtime, they should be creating content for your brand.
Podcasting Packs a 1-2-3 Punch For Creating Content
“Podcasts are being consumed at a remarkable rate… If you can start a podcast around the thing you do, I highly recommend you get started. Even if you have 1,000 people listening — you don’t have to be a top 100 podcast — you just need the people you’re trying to reach.”
“Podcasting is The New Blogging”Seth Godin
Gary Vee’s advice is backed by data from Edison Research. Their study, The Podcast Consumer 2019, uncovered that podcasts are now being adopted by the majority of Americans:
- 51% reported they have ever listened to a podcast
- 32% had listened in the past month
- nearly 1/4 of Americans listen to podcasts weekly
- 40% of Americans age 54 or younger listen to podcasts monthly
- 54% of podcast listeners said they were more likely to consider the brands they hear about on podcasts
Perhaps even more telling is that these numbers are up significantly from one year ago. In 2018, Seth Godin said “Podcasting is the new blogging,” and it looks like it’s here to stay. In the past year alone, 64% more Americans have discovered podcasts. Once a majority adopts something, it’s popularity ramps up. Podcasting is now becoming mainstream.
So if you weren’t one of the blogging pioneers of 2002-2006, there’s still time to jump on the podcasting bandwagon.
Another benefit of podcasting: You can repurpose it to create two more types of content. You get three pieces of content for the price of one. You can film your podcast to create video content for YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Then you can transcribe your podcast to use as a blog post.
Here’s a quick and easy way to use Google Docs to transcribe your podcast into a blog post:
Open Google docs and create a new document. Turn on the voice recognition microphone. Play your recording, and it will start transcribing your podcast or video. You’ll need to go through the document and clean it up, but you’ll have a written document you can transform into a blog post.
Why Blogging, White Papers, and Ebooks Are Good For Your Business
Here are some statistics that prove a blog for your small business is a wise move, no matter what industry you’re in.
- Websites that have a blog tend to have 434% more indexed pages. When your website has a lot of content, search engines will recognize it as a resource.
- 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post.
- 82% of consumers enjoy reading relevant content from brands
- 70% of consumers learn about a company through articles rather than ads
- Blogs influence purchase decisions even more than social media
As a small business owner, you need to decide what you could accomplish with a blog. Business building content comes in many shapes and sizes, depending on your industry. The purpose of one piece of content can be different than another. If you sell a complex product that requires explanation, you need a white paper to explain it in a way that helps your customer make a decision. Maybe you need to help your audience understand an issue in a new way that helps them discover a solution.
Some examples of how to narrow a content topic for your small business
Joe sells an epoxy for factory room floors. This product looks very similar to its competitors, but he has case studies that show his product is more durable than any other epoxy on the market. A white paper or blog post that explains the case studies would help Joe prove the advantages of his product over the competitors. Informative articles on topics around factory room safety would enhance his brand authority. Because his product is unique in his industry, free content would help Joe provide more information to his ideal customer.
Susan owns a local dog training service. She has a unique approach to training and has had very successful results. Her private service is highly personalized and is more expensive than the group classes offered at local pet stores. Blog posts would allow Susan to engage and connect with local dog owners on a more personal level, educate them on her training methods, and build her credibility. An ebook that highlights success stories from graduates of her program, and offers training advice and tips on handling common behavior problems would help her audience get to know her and what makes her unique.
Do you want more people visiting your site? Calling your office, or walking through your doors? Then, yes, you should start blogging. Yes, you should have a free e-book available for download on your website.
By themselves, free content doesn’t convert visitors into customers, but they provide a lot of value by driving traffic to your website, improving your authority and building your credibility.
Yes, creating free content is worth your time.
You just need to do it efficiently.
Decide On Your Content Goals
You’ll want to determine both your qualitative and quantitative goals for your content. This will help you track the return on the investment of your time. Are you primarily interested in driving more traffic to your site? Are you looking to grow an online following that’s engaged with you or your brand? Do you want to convert more customers? You can measure:
- the percentage increase in web traffic
- the percentage increase in social media followers
- the number of leads each month
- the increase in sales each month
Your goals will help you determine what type of content you will create. You should always be asking, “Will it help achieve my business goals?” If the answer is no, you need to re-think the idea.
But no matter what, you need to create content.
“If you do not produce words, pictures, and videos for a mobile device, you are fundamentally irrelevant, and you’re declining in your business opportunity on a second by second basis.”Gary Vaynerchuk
Understand What You’re Best At
How do you communicate best? You may be a good writer, but you might be a better speaker. Are you less comfortable on camera, but you can communicate well on audio? Once you discover the best form of communication for you, do that first and repurpose into the other forms.
Create a Content Calendar
So how do you get started planning content that helps you achieve your business goals?
It starts with a content calendar.
A content calendar, or editorial calendar, is a schedule of what content you will publish and when. It’s a plan that keeps you on track so that you can actually follow through.
It’s the key to consistently creating new content, posting to your blog and staying in touch with your ideal customers. It helps you consistently deliver a variety of content to your audience. Without a thoughtful content calendar, you create random content without purpose.
Your Content Calendar Is Your Brand’s Programming
Think of your content calendar as your brand’s programming. If you think of it as a broadcasting network thinks of their programming, it will force you to plan ahead. It will help you focus on quality, not quantity. It will give you an overview of everything you’re producing, so you can seek stay relevant to the needs of your audience.
Most importantly, it will save you time, keep you organized and is the vehicle that keeps your team on the same page.
You can set up your content calendar in a variety of ways. It can be as simple as a paper calendar, Google Doc or spreadsheet, or you can use tools such as:
If you take the time to develop your calendar for 6-12 months in advance, you can plan your podcasts, write articles, create guides or any other content ahead of time, so that you’re maximizing your time. Once it’s published, the cost of your content is zero, and it works for you 24/7.
How to Innovate Your Message and Find Relevant Content Ideas
The most valuable content fills a vacuum that’s missing in the market. You can cover a topic that nobody else has written about, or you can cover it more thoroughly than anything else that’s already out there. So don’t focus on what your competitors are talking about; focus on what they’re not talking about. Bring your brand to life with its own, unique personality. Build trust by staying in front of your ideal customers. People are willing to support smaller brands as long as they feel they can trust them.
Step 1: Brainstorm a List of Customer Questions
Think about the questions that your customer may be asking and how you can answer those questions. You may have a great idea in mind, but if nobody wants to know about the topic, it doesn’t make sense to add it to your calendar. What is your audience most interested in? What is their most acute pain point? What are the most frequently asked questions? Make a list of everything you can think of.
Write down these topics and build your content calendar around these ideas. Think about rotating the subjects around different products or services.
For example, a Med Spa may cover topics such as:
Is Botox safe? Is Coolsculpting painful?
How long do the results of Microneedling last? How much do Hydrafacials cost?
Step 2: Ask for Input From Sales and Customer Service Staff
There may be questions your customers are asking that nobody is answering. Sales and customer service team members are interacting with your clients regularly. They may be coming across repeated problems or answering the same questions all the time. They hear customer concerns and fears. What are the biggest sales obstacles they encounter? What is the most common reason potential clients hesitate on purchasing the product or service? Listening to your customer is one of the most important content generating tools you can use. More importantly, it’s just good business.
Step 3: Ask Your Customers
Along those same lines, foster community among your clients. Whether it’s through social media, or on your blog, ask them what they would like to see you write about next. People love to be a part of the process, and involving them along the way ensures they will be interested when you publish it. By connecting with them in a new way, they’ll be more enthusiastic about your blog post and will be more likely to share it. This can help attract new customers and generate interest in working with you.
Step 4: Do a Google Crosscheck
Next, Do a Google search to discover what might already be out there on the topic. How are others currently addressing an issue? How might you answer it differently? How can you cover it in a more complete way?
Step 5: Let Your Competitors Inspire You
A competitor may discuss an idea that could be elaborated on more fully. You could then talk about that same topic in a more in-depth way. Visit your competitors’ YouTube channels and look for videos that had a lot of views or comments. Read the viewers comments.
Again, what are they not talking about?
Were there any questions you could answer? Were there any other discussion topics that emerged?
Step 6: Cover Many Perspectives of One Topic
Look for topics that have varying perspectives. By addressing several sub-topics in addition to the original topic, you increase your level expertise and improve your credibility.
Step 7: Find Your Reader First
Research articles from your industry that people share the most. There are several tools to help you do this. You can use:
Using these tools, you enter a search term and they show you what content was shared the most around this topic. You can see the popularity of a given topic before you ever write one word. Knowing what topics already have an audience makes the time you spend creating content worth your time. There’s no benefit in writing to an audience that doesn’t exist.
One of my favorite tools is Answer the Public. You type in a keyword and it gives you the questions most people are asking around popular search topics. You can come up with countless articles just by answering these questions.
Step 8: Do Keyword Research
Keyword research is one of your first activities for SEO. Investing the time to find the best keywords will help make your blog more likely to appear in Google search results which in turn helps generate more traffic to your website.
You want to identify keywords that have the best opportunity without being too competitive. They are usually specific topics within a larger topic and are known as “longtail” keywords.
Here is an example of a long-tail keyword for a Nutritionist: If you were to write about “Healthy Eating,” you would be competing with authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control, or Healthline. However, you can aim to rank for long-tail keywords such as, “Healthy Eating for Single Moms” or “Healthy Eating for Single Moms on a Budget.”
Some tools you can use for keyword research are:
Create Cornerstone Content
By creating various forms of content around related, long-tail keywords, Google will see that your website offers high quality, specialized knowledge on a given subject. Eventually, you can combine all of these specialized pieces of content into one larger piece of content, such as one long blog post. This is called “cornerstone content.” When you consistently focus on a large number of highly specialized topics, it becomes more likely to rank on Google’s page one for the larger, more competitive keyword. So, fill your editorial calendar with content around similar long-tail keywords!
Keyword research tools will help you identify long-tail keywords. You can also use Google Related Searches for clues. If you type in a keyword in the Google search bar, you’ll notice related searches below. Google Trends will also show you if a topic is increasing or decreasing in search volume.
You’ll want to set up an area on your content calendar that includes your chosen topic and the keywords you’ll be targeting.
Step 9: Set Your Schedule and Stick To It!
One of the most important pieces of your content calendar is setting a regular schedule for publishing your content. Even if it’s only once a month, publishing needs to be consistent. You can “batch” the work by creating each form of content ahead of time and schedule them to publish on a regular day – it can be every week, twice a month, or once a month. Your content calendar will help keep you on track. Choose what is realistic for you to do consistently. Quality is more important than quantity.
Step 10: Decide Where You’ll Share Your Content
Once you publish your content, it’s time to share it. Which social media account should you share to? It depends on where your customers are. Here are some examples:
If you offer a B2B Service, share your articles on LinkedIn. You can syndicate your articles on your LinkedIn profile and gain a subscriber base there. (Key tip: In this video Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how LinkedIn is like Facebook was in 2011 — it’s no longer just for business content. So don’t miss out on the rewards that exist on LinkedIn today.)
Join Facebook groups related to your business or industry and contribute to the group whenever you can. In order for your articles to be well-received, you need to be an active member of the group. That means you answer questions and contribute to discussions in a genuine way. Otherwise, you’ll come across as self-serving and spammy.
Serve Your Audience Instead of Yourself
Don’t forget your email list. You can send your blog posts as a newsletter to your email list, send a link to your latest video tutorial. The main point is to serve your audience, rather than focus on serving yourself.
Also, remember some of your content can be short and simple — your thoughts and observations you share on Twitter and replying to comments on your Instagram posts. Interacting on social media enhances and builds your brand.
Creating Content Is All About Efficiency
Time and money. Yes, they are limited resources for small businesses. That’s why you must use every resource at your disposal to stay relevant in today’s rapidly changing economy. As with every other aspect of running a small business, creating content is all about being efficient. That means you should have a plan, delegate where you need to, outsource where you need to, and use the right tools.
Create Content Now: In 3 Years, Your Future Self Will Thank You
While you may think of creating content as a non-core business activity, it creates enormous value in building a brand. Content rewards you on a compound basis and is one of the most powerful assets you can create — essentially for free.
“The answer to your biggest upside or ambition is to make content. As much of it as humanly possible. And make it where people actually pay attention so they become aware of what you want them to know.”
I talk more about content writing fundamentals for small businesses here.