I’ve seen it happen a million times. A headstrong innovator with a natural entrepreneurial spirit has a great idea, and thus a business is born. That’s the lovely thing about the age of the internet. You can just slap a website or Instagram page up and watch the money start rolling in. Right? No, not without a digital content strategy.
If this is you, don’t take offense. This was me too. Three websites later, I’m networking with bloggers in my niche and pulling in relevant traffic.
That’s exactly why every small business, blogger, freelancer, or anybody looking to create an online presence needs a content strategy. Not just to build traffic, but to build traffic that converts into sales.
How do you go about doing that? Here’s how:
1. Identify Your Goal
If you’re a smart entrepreneur, you should have multiple streams of income, but that doesn’t mean you should just turn a blind eye to what’s coming from where.
Ideally, you should have at least 2-3 revenues to start out with, each of which coming with their own actionable plan and goals. For example:
- Affiliate Marketing — 50% of income
- Drive 1000 monthly pageviews to [post advertising affiliate product] to convert at 5% for 50 sales
- Services — 30% of income
- Collect 100 monthly leads to convert at 2% for 2 clients
- Products — 20% of income
- Get 20 course sales through affiliate influencers (more on this later)
I know this might seem scarily specific if you’re just starting out, but goals are adjustable. You can start with small goals like 50 sales per month or 2,000 monthly pageviews to a certain landing page. When reviewing your Google Analytics, you can start to see how they are converting, and then create more specific goals.
Don’t forget to constantly analyze and adjust your goals. If you set out for 50 sales and you ended the month with 75, you shouldn’t aim for 50 sales again. Reward yourself for a job well done with a specialized professional training program that’ll boost your business, or whatever you think you deserve.
2. Niche Down
If you’re running a small business with little to no funding, you won’t be able to compete with big companies from the beginning, so you want to be specific with your target audience.
To do this, think about a specific subdivision of your following. If you’re a food blogger, consider specializing in vegan or gluten free recipes. Sure, your audience will be smaller, but you’ll have a better relationship with them.
There are two ways to niche down your target market: Create a client avatar, or get to know your existing clients. Obviously, the second option is preferred.
Go on social media and interact with your followers. You specifically want to pay attention to the following:
- The questions they’re asking. This is a gold mine. Your clients are telling you exactly what they don’t know. From here, you can teach them (make a course), do it for them (freelance services), assist them (consulting), or create a product that does it for them (product sales).
- Their goals. As a content marketer who writes about content marketing, I noticed that content marketing for blogs and content marketing for small service-based businesses aren’t very different, but the courses I might advertise to each audience should be. Be mindful of the end objective of your audience and how you can help them get there.
- Their budget. You can be the greatest life coach in the world, but your $2,000/month retainer still won’t pay your bills if you’re attracting leads who only make $40,000 annually. Set your prices so that you’re being fairly compensated for services rendered, but still affordable to your target audience.
3. Understand Your Brand
When someone’s interacting with your brand, it should feel just as predictable as talking to a friend or colleague. Make sure that the tone you write your copy with is consistent across all channels, especially if you outsource content creation.
For example, I run a language blog from the perspective of a language learner who shares tips and resources. If I were to suddenly start selling a German course that promised fluency, it would confuse my readers a bit since I don’t study German and they know that. To please my German learning audience, I’d be better suited to find a good German course with good ratings to recommend.
Another huge part of branding is social media, but just because your audience is everywhere doesn’t mean you have to be. Instead of overwhelming yourself with every new social site that comes out, pick two or three to focus on and expand as needed.
Decide on a color palette using a tool like Coolors to use across your website, digital products, email blasts, and social media sites.
You should also have a short elevator pitch or mission statement prepared in a pinch for selling your services, networking, or media quotes. It should include you or your company’s name, what you offer and who can benefit from it. Here’s mine:
Nailah Saleem is a content strategist that helps freelancers, service based businesses, and bloggers generate more leads through content marketing.
The exact wording and length can be tweaked, but this should be easy to find on your website and all of your social media pages. If a client doesn’t know what you do, why should they hire you?
4. Create a Calendar
Now it’s time to sit down an plan out the content. I’ll talk more about the scheduling aspect of content strategy, and I’ll save the content planning for another post.
When it’s time to take all of my post ideas and put them on a calendar, there are a few things to consider:
- When and how often to post. This really depends on a lot of factors, but for any industry bloggers, I’d say posting twice per week should give you the opportunity to bring in more clients while not dipping into your other responsibilities. I try to avoid posting on weekends because Saturday’s and Sunday’s have the lowest email open rates in my experience, but you should do some A/B testing with your audience.
- Holidays and events related to your niche. If you’re a game developer, you’re missing an opportunity by not mentioning National Video Game Day, but you might be able to let it slide. Or if you sell Portuguese lessons, keep Rio’s Carnival in mind and start amping up promotion in preparation.
- Launches. Planning your product and service launches ahead of time can help keep you accountable to actually launching them, but you can also generate buzz ahead of time. Wouldn’t you rather launch a course with 100 eager customers than launch a course and have to find the customers after the fact?
- Promotions and Discounts. You can plan your promotions and discounts around holidays or right before launches to generate buzz and create brand awareness.
- Anniversaries. Celebrate the 1-year anniversary of your small business with your clients through a flash sale, a cute video on social media, or something else that humanizes your brand. This will get them more involved in the brand as a journey rather than just an expense.
- Seasonal Trends. While all businesses love the fourth quarter because of all of the holiday sales, many new businesses forget about the almost inevitable dip in economic stimulation that happens in the first quarter. Be aware of these trends and how you might accommodate for them.
Content Strategy Tools
Here are the main five tools I use to maintain my content strategy, but I’ll keep updating this list as I discover more resources. Leave a note in the comments with your favorite content strategy tools!
- Airtable – Create your own content calendar or download mine. Share with your team and integrate with slack for seamless communication.
- Trello – Create task lists and track your assignments with Trello. Add collaborators to boards for team projects if necessary.
- Tailwind – Schedule your Pinterest and Instagram content with Tailwind and join Pinterest communities full of influencers in your niche.
- Mailchimp – Automate your email marketing and set up sales funnels to your services. Create email templates to batch your content, and landing pages to capture new leads.
- Google Analytics – Track your daily traffic, popular pages, sales conversions, and more. Get your Google Analytics certification in a just few hours to learn how to best use it to your advantage.
Having a website and a Facebook page isn’t enough anymore. The ambiguous and ever changing algorithm doesn’t care about getting you business, just about getting your business. Developing a digital content strategy is the best way to keep up with bigger brands with bigger advertising budgets.