Many business owners find themselves strapped for time or cash or both. So the need to engage in content marketing to promote products and services can be pretty daunting.
Small businesses aren't alone when it comes to this problem, either. Some of the biggest companies and brands have teams hard at work trying to get their content marketing figured out.
The good news is that many small businesses are actually halfway there because, unlike big companies, they don't need marketing pros to know their audience and understand content that will appeal to them (and, by association, make products and services more appealing).
If you're a small business owner, you already know who your customers are. What you need to do is figure out how to efficiently incorporate content into your marketing mix.
Here are three tips that should help:
1. Make time, fast.
First and foremost, you do need to make time to incorporate content into your marketing arsenal. However content can quickly consume your day, if you let it. That's why there are so many magazines, newspapers and websites out there, right? Since content is not your day job, though, you need to schedule it into your day in an efficient and effective way.
If you've opted to focus on social media as your primary delivery channel, it is a good idea to set aside 15 to 30 minutes every morning for sharing. It is also optimal to post or tweet periodically throughout the day and even on weekends--yet you need to be able to limit the time you invest. HootSuite and Buffer are handy tools that allow you to schedule tweets and posts throughout the day based upon your daily finds.
If you plan to create original content, it is best to set a schedule for writing and posting. Buffer recently provided a great analysis of the best times to post (and tweet, and send email etc.), so consider tailoring your schedule to achieve your goals (shares, undivided attention, open rates, etc.).
The main thing, though, is to find a time during the week when you feel you can commit to producing one or two posts. Then schedule it on your calendar. It is also a good idea to keep an ongoing idea file of current news you might discuss or evergreen topics that you could write about at any time. There's nothing more time-consuming than facing a blank screen from which scintillating prose won't magically appear.
2. Find valuable content fast.
In lieu of writing yourself, or just to increase the volume of content you share on your site or through social channels, you'll want to curate information. In the course of maintaining your own subject-matter expertise, you have likely identified a number of trusted sources of information that publish content you can share with your audience (aka: potential or existing customers). Ideally, this should reinforce the value of what you do and your expertise, but it should be useful to them above all.
If hitting 10 trusted media sites every morning to find valuable content worth sharing seems too time consuming, there are a number of tools that can speed things up: RSS Readers (such as Feedly, FeedDemon, or even Flipboard) allow you to build collections based upon these sources, which you can quickly skim to identify useful information.
Another approach is to let your network find the information for you with Nuzzle, which combs your Twitter feed or Facebook friends for the most popular items being shared and discussed.
If you need to cast a wider net than a few sources you can readily identify, content discovery tools such as iFlow or Scoop.it can help. They comb a wide range of sources to locate content based upon custom keywords and make it easy to share them via social channels.
And if you are among the lucky readers who have decided to invest a bit of money into your content marketing efforts, take a look at PublishThis--which builds aggregating, commenting and blogging features into a workflow that includes social and email distribution; Curata which is an all-in-one content marketing "engine;" or even FirstRain, which is part aggregator and part Business Intelligence tool and can be integrated into Salesforce.
3. Add value fast.
If you think about it, the act of curating great information is pretty valuable in itself. However, given that you know your industry and your customers, there are ways to quickly enhance the value of the content that will make it even more useful (and you, your products and services even more trusted and appreciated).
When you were thinking about the types of content that would be useful for your customers, you were probably already identifying categories or "buckets" that useful content can fall into. (For example, safety or recalls for a toy store or tips on nutrition and optimizing performance from a gym.)
In the professional content world, we call this a "taxonomy," with which our various content management systems allow us to tag content and then offer it as organized collections for our readers. You can accomplish much the same effect by using keywords in most blogging platforms. This organization is one way to quickly and easily add value to content you've curated: Tagging it makes it more readily findable via search engines or for those who've come to trust you as a business partner and ally.
If you have more time, provide your own personal article summary or comment about the usefulness of the content you collect. This information can be included on your site, shared in social channels and/or delivered by email newsletter. And, for those with just a bit more time to invest, consider building topic- or interest-based pages where you include informational headers or custom content that frames the topic, which adds a lot of SEO juice as well.
Given the power of content to attract and engage audiences--your customers and prospects--and that it is the foundation of the social media ecosystem, it is worth finding the time. So figure out how to make the most of it.