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Digital content is the first product you provide to your customers, make it stellar!

Every business needs strong online presence—not just ecommerce companies: 87% of in-store shoppers look for information online before they ever come into your store.  The content you serve those prospective customers online is the first taste they will get of your product. Make a good impression online and you can increase sales in your store.

But you are a small business owner who already has too much on your plate. How can you add in a digital marketing strategy in minimal time?

Even a small sole proprietorship can implement basic content marketing (the practice of creating and sharing content in order to attract customers) and reap the rewards of happy customers. The following is a simple strategy that you can implement in just 2.5 hours each week.

Laying Your Content Foundation

Before you can implement any of these techniques you need to setup a solid foundation. Your content foundation includes:

Basic Website—Invest in a good basic website. Like signage on your physical store front, it is a beacon to your customers. Unless you are an ecommerce company, a straightforward, 5 page website is all most local business a need: home page, about page, contact page, product/services page, and a blog/article page. Find a professional to help you create it.

Email Sign Up— Your email list is your most powerful marketing tool.  Make it easy for website visitors to sign up for your email and start collecting email address from your customers. But don’t expect them to sign up for no reason. Provide an incentive for them to sign up for email—a coupon, a free guide, or an ebook. Make sure that all of those email address go into an email marketing tool like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp.

Write a Really Strong Profile—Create a profile of your business to use across all media—on your about page, local listings, social media profiles, etc. Create a rock solid profile that you can reuse.  Keep it short and focused on your customers. This isn’t your personal biography; highlight WHY a customer should choose you and how you will help your customer. What value will they receive from you?

Claim Your Local Listings—Your listing is the information that customers will see when they Google you, search on their map app, etc. You need to claim your listing on the top search engines so that you control what is presented to your potential customers. The basic local listings you need to claim are Google My Business, Bing Places, and Apple Maps. Depending on your business, you may also want to claim your Yelp! listing.

Create Your Social Accounts—Where are your customers online? You don’t need to be active on every social media channel. Find out where your customers are and be active there. For most businesses that is going to be Facebook and maybe Twitter for B2B. But if your customers are primarily younger, Instagram and You Tube might be important for you. Pick one or two social media platforms to use and go create your accounts. Remember to use your profile that you created earlier.

Basic Content Marketing in 2.5 Hours a Week

Now that you have a foundation laid, you are ready to start your 2.5 hour per week content marketing plan. Here we go:

30 minutes: Research Industry Trends and Topics—Spend a little time each week keeping up with your industry. But don’t let this consume your valuable time! Find 1 great website or news source that is about your industry and follow it. Follow the best and don’t waste time on the rest. Set aside 15 minutes twice a week to catch up on all the news.

45 minutes: Write an Article—Your article will serve 2 purposes: It is new content on your site which will help build your websites authority. And you can use this article as a foundation for an email to your customers.

What should you write about? Answer questions that you get from customers, share your perspective on industry news, or write about an event that has impacted your customers. Just remember to stay focused on your industry.

15 minutes: Email Your Customers—Use your email marketing tool to send a short, sincere email to your customers on a weekly or biweekly basis. Use the article you wrote as part of the content and share the link to the article. If it works with your business model, you can also offer occasional discounts or promotions to your email subscribers. Also use this email to share new product offerings or special events.

30 minutes: Post to Social Media—The best way to post to social media is to write all of your posts for the week at one time. With a simple tool like HootSuite, you can write all of your social content at once and then schedule it to go out during the week (the HootSuite free account is perfect for small businesses).

Social media is a place to build relationships—not just sell, sell, sell. Aim for 80% of your posts to be informative, inspirational, or funny content about topics related to your industry. The remaining 20% should focus on you and your products.  For Facebook, aim to post at least twice per day. For Twitter, you should be posting 5 or more times a day. If you need ideas for what to post, Post Planner is a great resource (and it is only $7 a month).

And don’t forget to post the link to your latest article and post occasional links to old articles—your new followers haven’t seen them yet.

30 minutes: Monitor Social Media—You might be able to create all of your social media posts at one time but you still need to check in on your social accounts every day. Check for comments and then respond. Also, take a few minutes to look at your stats—what posts were seen and liked the most. Make a mental note of what worked the best so that you can post more content like that.

And there you go…You are going to look like a content guru in just 2.5 hours a week. Content marketing can be a great way to spread the word about your business and grow your reputation as an industry leader.