An Essential Content Marketing Checklist for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, it is very likely that you have already discovered the power of social media as a marketing tactic. Social media marketing generally costs more time than it does financial investment while having the potential to reach a large number of people, making it the perfect marketing activity for the budget-conscious small business owner. Based on that and many other factors, we know why social media is a staple for any small business owner who wants to reach current and prospective customers and forge relationships that (hopefully) lead to increased sales. 

But social media on its own isn't very effective without a second marketing tactic to back it up. If you don't have a consistent amount of relevant, unique, interesting and useful content to share on your social media profiles, you are missing the boat, and very likely to revert to a stream of sales messages, which is sure to turn off your social followers. This is where content marketing comes in. 

1
Learn What Content Marketing Is All About

content marketing
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The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as: "A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action." So what does that mean? It means that content marketing is all about knowing who you are trying to reach (target audience), what you want them to do (goals), and creating content that guides them to take action (content strategy).

There are two key elements that make content marketing the effective marketing tool that it is: unique content and the strategy you develop for getting your content in front of as many people in your target audience as possible. If this is a new concept for you, take some time to read through this excellent primer on content marketing published on Forbes. It will give you the foundation you need to follow the rest of this checklist successfully. 

2
Outline Your Content Marketing Goals

marketing goals
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In the section above, we mentioned that part of content marketing is knowing what you want your audience to do after they read the content you are presenting to them. These are your content marketing goals and you need to identify them before you even start to create content. Why? Because without a solid idea of why you are using content marketing and the results you want to see in the end, you are simply wasting your time.

Your goals for your content marketing efforts will specific to your business and what you want to accomplish. You may be looking for a method to communicate with your existing customers or forge relationships with prospective customers. Perhaps you are using content marketing to build up your email marketing list. Perhaps you are using content marketing to build up your email marketing list. Or, maybe you plan to use content marketing to boost the credibility of your company. Use these goal setting resources to identify your goals effectively. 

3
Plan a Steady Flow of Good Content

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Now that you know what you are trying to accomplish with content marketing, it's time to talk about the type of content you will create. There are many types of content that can be used to reach different audiences. Here are a few to consider:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Podcasts
  • Images
  • Email messages
  • Press releases

As you can see from the list, your content can take many forms. Keep in mind that you certainly don't need to create content in all of these categories. Try out one or two to get started.

Regardless of the type of content you choose, remember that all of your content should be relevant, interesting, actionable and informative. And it should be consistent. That means you need to set a schedule for creating new content on a regular basis and stick with it. For some businesses and some types of content, this may mean every day, while for others it may mean once a week or even once a month. Take time to figure out what is realistic early in the process. 

4
Don't Forget About SEO

SEO
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When it comes to creating content that reaches your audience successfully, search engine optimization (SEO) plays an important role. In its simplest form, SEO is the process of using keywords in your content that will help search engines find it when those keywords and entered into a search. Each piece of content you create should target a specific keyword. This article in Inc. explains how to pick the best SEO keywords.

While you want your content to be keyword-focused and found in searches, you should not let the SEO side of the equation trump the usefulness of your content. If you are creating content that incorporates your selected keywords as your primary objective, it will likely not meet the other necessary criteria of content marketing. Make sure you are creating content that will be relevant, interesting, actionable and informative for your target audience first, then you can optimize it for SEO after that has been accomplished.  

5
Pick the Right Social Channels for Distribution

social media
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Social media should be on the top of your list when it comes to sharing your content. This doesn't mean, however, that you need a presence on every single social network out there. Get to know what each social platform offers and choose only the networks that fit your business and your content. This article on Buffer will help you choose the best social platform for your business.

One way to chose the best social platform is to consider your content. Content like images and infographics that is highly visual is a great fit for networks like Pinterest and Instagram. Links to blog posts are excellent content to share on Twitter, while white papers and case studies are perfect for sharing on LinkedIn. Include the breakdown of what pieces of content will be shared where when you begin to plan for distribution. 

6
Create an Email Marketing Strategy

email marketing
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Email marketing is not a quick-fix method of sharing your content because it takes time to build a quality email marketing list, but it can be highly effective over time.

Beyond social media and email marketing, don't forget about other ways to share your content such as posting in niche communities and advertising. Avoid thinking about ​your content as "one-time use." You can share your content multiple times in different ways on multiple channels over a long period of time. In fact, the more often you share it, the more effective it will become. 

7
Use Time-Saving Content Marketing Tools

productivity tools
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Productivity is essential for small business owners, and luckily, there are many tools available that will help you streamline your content marketing efforts. There are tools for planning content, researching content, measuring your content and sharing content. There are even tools that will help you write your content. Check out this list of content marketing tools from Curata to see what's out there to help.

At a minimum, here are a few content marketing tools you should start with:

  • Content organization: Evernote or Trello
  • Content development: Contently or Skyword
  • Social distribution: HootSuite or Buffer
  • Email marketing: MailChimp or Constant Contact

One warning when it comes to tools is not to get too caught up with the hype around all of the latest and greatest tools. This is the fast path to "productivity tool burnout." Stick with the tools that have been around a while and provide the most benefit to your specific needs, and give the new and shiny tools some time to prove their effectiveness with other users before you dive in. 

8
Measure the Effectiveness of Your Content

metrics
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Once you have your content engine in place, there is one very important step left that is often forgotten about: evaluating your content and its effectiveness. This means you need to collect metrics from a variety of sources so you can begin to understand how many people viewed your content, shared your content, engaged with your content (i.e., clicking a link), and made a purchase.

The process of analyzing your metrics can be time-consuming if you start from scratch each time you want a report, so I recommend using a systemized plan that you repeat every month to see how your content is performing. This will also help you compare your results over time. This guide to content marketing metrics is a great place to start. 

The next step is putting together a content marketing plan that incorporates all of these steps. Explore this list of 17 content marketing templates to get started. Then, for more tips and tools, and check out the 150 content marketing tips from Contently.