You've dreamed of making a real difference in the world for as long as you can remember. That's why you started your small business in the first place — to contribute to the local economy, give back to the community, and more.
And it feels great to finally be where you are... in a place where you can see your hard work paying off. Your business is growing. And it's exciting!
The only real problem is that the load you're carrying is also growing. Like a typical small business owner, you're wearing all the hats: CEO, CFO, CMO... every single one of them! But they don't all fit you so well...
Especially the marketing one. Sure, you can create some social media posts and jot down some ideas for an e-newsletter, but the real work of planning the content, being sure it's on target, and understanding if it's really working for you? You don't have time for all that! And maybe you're not sure if it even matters enough to spend time on it.
I'm here to tell you that it does matter, and it's definitely worth your time. (And I'm not just saying that because I'm a content writer either! HubSpot agrees!)
Content marketing has been proven to deliver resounding success. As one of the most effective methods of growing audience engagement, developing your brand presence, and driving sales, content marketing is a mission-critical growth method for most businesses." - HubSpot
Whether you're just starting to really work on creating content for your growing business or you're ready to finally nail down your messaging, let's talk about some common content mistakes small business owners make and what you can do to avoid them so you can get the results you want with your content.
Just as a reminder, the results you're aiming for with strong content marketing are:
And here's what to watch out for so you can accomplish all those things:
Mistake #1 —Not having a content strategy
Not having a plan for your content means you're posting whatever you feel like posting whenever you feel like it, and you may or may not be presenting your business all that well. You're also likely wringing your hands feeling all stressed out trying to figure out the next topic for your blog and the social media posts for the week.
Without a content plan, creating content is hard.
When you haven't thought ahead and put a strategy in place, it's hard to have clarity and confidence in what you're posting and nearly impossible to attract the customers you're hoping to attract.
The solution for this challenge is content strategy. Plain and simple. Just like a builder has an architect draft plans for a house before one slab of concrete gets poured, your small business needs a content architect to come up with a plan for what you'll be posting so your content stays true to your brand, presents your company well, and starts attracting your ideal customers.
Content strategy is a plan for creating and distributing content. It's partly about the content itself — the types of content, topics you'll cover, and other similar content-related stuff. It's also partly about how you'll distribute it — videos, infographics, blog posts, ebooks — and the tactics you'll use to reach your audience: a newsletter directly to their inbox, a postcard mailed to their businesses, social media posts driving traffic to your monthly blog posts.
A content strategy is carefully planned and executed for a specific audience. It's based on key factors of the audience such as their interests, demographics, challenges, pain points, and more.
The content plan outlines how you will create, publish, and optimize content to achieve your business goals. And again, without a strategy, you may produce content, but it won't be as effective.
Not having a content strategy is one of several content mistakes small business owners make. Don't let that be you!
Mistake #2 — Not creating content for your target audience
Your content strategy hinges on your ideal customers. They're your target audience, and when you're a small business, you can't afford to make the mistake of not creating content that speaks directly to them. But first, to create content for your ideal customers, you've got to know who they are and what they want.
Do you know who your ideal customers are? If not, how do you start to identify them?
I've often heard business owners who sell skin care products smile and say "anyone with skin!" when asked about their target audience. But the truth is not everyone with skin will buy what they're selling. So that's not really an accurate picture of their best customers.
Instead of painting such a broad picture, they'd do much better to narrow their niche. And I know that sounds counterintuitive, but the more you can hone in on one target audience, the more likely you can talk to that audience through the content you're producing.
Think about the products or services you're offering.
If you've ever participated in a right-fit client exercise, some of the specific descriptions you may have used to describe your target audience may have been demographic information:
You might've also added psychographic information, such as:
Hopefully, you also identified their pain points and the solutions you provide to resolve that pain.
I have a right-fit client exercise I like to do with my clients based who they've already served and how well they fit together. Did you know our best clients give us some of the best insight into our ideal customers? When we understand who our products and services serve best, we can start to paint a more accurate picture of our target audience and start to address them more effectively with our content.
Bottom line. Knowing your best-fit client is a key to your content. Not knowing who that is means your content is likely to fall flat time and again... and not get you the results you're looking for. Don't make that mistake!
What should you do instead?
Create content that's relevant and interesting to your target audience so your current and future customers want to read it. Answer their questions. Solve their problems. Talk to them through your blog posts, social media feeds, and other content. Talk just as if you were standing face to face with them. That's what it means to create content that's relevant to your target audience.
The better you can get at speaking directly to your best-fit customers, the better results you'll have with your content.
Mistake #3 — Not posting consistently
Another mistake that's easy for busy business owners to make is posting content inconsistently. It's understandable!
When you've got clients who need your attention and leads to follow up on... who has time to sit down and write a blog post or newsletter?
But not posting consistently means you risk losing customers. Even when your business is busting at the seams, it's important to keep posting consistently so you stay in front of your target audience and keep your customers and potential customers engaged and coming back for more.
One mistake many new business owners make on social media is they don't post content consistently. You'll see a flurry of posts one week and then nothing for the rest of the month. This type of unreliable schedule will lead to people ignoring your profile until new content pops up in their feed. However, if you upload posts at the same time every day, people will start to notice the pattern and check in with you instead of waiting for your posts to appear on their social media wall."
When it comes to creating and posting content, one question owners of small businesses always ask me is how often is often enough? And it's a great question. As entrepreneurs, we're wearing all those hats we mentioned earlier, and our time is incredibly valuable.
So creating new content — whether blog posts, e-newsletters, social media posts, or something else altogether— can feel like one more thing on a to-do list that never ends! And, a never ending to-do list is just one of the many challenges small business owners face.
What's an entrepreneur to do? It's easy to feel overwhelmed with the idea of creating your own content. Some of us just stop posting when we start feeling that way. But I like to tell business owners to start small so you can be consistent.
Ask yourself, "How much content can I create and still get enough sleep at night and have time to enjoy family and friends on the weekend?" If the answer is one blog post per month and one social media post per week, then start there. If it's one e-newsletter a quarter and one social media post per week, start there.
Start where you are and be consistent.
You can always increase the content you're producing as you get faster with practice or you can outsource and let someone else spend the time posting as often as you'd like them to.
If you're creating the content on your own, block off a few hours each month just for creating content. Maybe that's during the last week of the month so you can schedule everything and have it ready for the following month. Or maybe it's the first day of a new month. Pick what works for you and be consistent.
The consistency is what matters. Content marketing is a long game. Think of it as an investment with consistency being the key to its success.
Mistake #4 — Not tracking results
A lot of small business owners don't track their results. Maybe they're not sure how or feel like they don't have time. No matter the reasoning, not tracking the results of the content you're posting makes it difficult to know what is and what isn't working.
So without tracking results, you won't know what marketing campaigns are bringing in customers and which ones are not.
How can you track results of your content?
Are you making any of the not-so-small content mistakes small business owners make too often? Reach out to content architect Julie J. Novara when you're not sure where to start with planning and creating content for your small business.
Julie J. Novara
Julie's a copy and content writer for small businesses making a big difference!