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Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: February 13, 2014

While some of online marketing is trendy and will inevitably fade away, there’s no disputing that content marketing is here to stay. If you’ve heard this buzzword, but aren’t really clear on what it includes, that’s probably because its definition is expanding as marketers find new ways to provide content to their audience.

In general, content marketing includes:

  • Blogs

  • Videos

  • Infographics

  • Whitepapers/Ebooks

How to Get More Readers (and Thereby Customers)

 

The point of content marketing is to attract new potential customers to your site. You’re providing useful information to them (in whatever format you choose), and ultimately, you’re working to build trust. Once they feel they can trust you, that relationship moves into the sales funnel.

 

But first you want to get as many readers or viewers of your content as possible, since they won’t all buy from you. Here’s how.

 

Share Content on Social Media

 

Each blog post, video, infographic or ebook you create should be trumpeted through your social network. And not just once! Schedule several updates -- across all channels -- encouraging your followers to click to view the content you have created. Ask your followers to also share the update with their followers to reach a wider audience.

 

So what’s the ideal number of times to share? There is none. Just be mindful of your audience, and don’t alienate them by posting multiple updates every day begging them to read your content. A few times a week is a good place to start.

 

Post Content to Bookmarking Sites

 

For many people, social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon and BizSugar are where they get their content. The benefit of doing so is that the content has already been vetted, so to speak. The most popular content has the most votes, so a quick skim through the top links should net the best content.

 

For you, social bookmarking sites offer fabulous opportunity to connect to readers you wouldn’t otherwise have found. The more places you can pick up new readers, the more customers you’ll get.

 

Set Up an RSS Feed

 

It needs to be stupidly simple for visitors to your blog to easily get updates every time you post a new article. That’s where RSS feeds come into play. When a visitor signs up to get your blog updates, she can either read them in an RSS feeder with her other favorite blogs, or get your updates via email. That way, she doesn’t have to remember to check back on your blog for new content.

 

Set Up a Success Measurement Plan

 

All this hard work in developing and sharing your content will be for naught if you don’t measure results! Paying attention to how many visitors you’re attracting with your content can help you know if you’re doing a good enough job in marketing and sharing that content. And knowing which topics people are reading or viewing the most can help you generate future content ideas.

 

Google Analytics is the easiest tool to provide data on all of this. Plus, it’s free to use. With Analytics, you can also look at traffic over time and make sure it’s steadily rising the way you want it to. You can also look at conversions, if you sell products online. In other words: is the traffic that’s arriving on your blog converting into paying customers? If not, you should analyze your site to determine the disconnect.

 

These days, it's not enough to throw blog content out into cyberspace. You need a plan for your content marketing strategy so you draw in the right people with your content and turn them into loyal customers.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

How Your Small Business Can Spread the Love to Your Community

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: February 10, 2014

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and we know that businesses large and small incorporate this holiday of love into sales and marketing efforts with the hope that customers will spread a little more love their way. But another great way to acknowledge this amorous day is to spread a little love yourself – back to the community that supports your business. Read on for insight about making the most of your volunteer efforts.

Giving back through volunteering is a great way to show the value you place on your community – and your business can benefit as well. Alyssa Gregory, an entrepreneur and small business expert, points out a few potential returns when you lend a hand to others:

  • Networking: Getting out into your community gives you the chance to develop new relationships and strengthen existing ones.
  • Marketing: Representing your business is a surefire way to send a message about what you’re all about. You have the opportunity to make a positive, memorable impression that will stay with people.
  • Skill development: If you’re volunteering services that are a regular part of your offerings, you may have a unique opportunity to strengthen them in a different context. If you’re giving your time for a different activity, it’s a chance to learn something new and potentially translate those lessons into your business practices.

So, how can you make the most of your efforts to spread the love this Valentine’s Day – and beyond?

  • Find a cause that speaks to your passion! We all want to spend time doing what we love. And as a small business owner, you may not think you have much time to spare – that’s why you should find something that complements your existing business efforts or draws on a passion for you and your team. VolunteerMatch can help you find opportunities specific to your interests – from animals to board development ­– and your availability.
  • Pump up your team! Are you hoping to get others to join you? Get them excited and make it easy for them to participate. If you can afford it, order matching t-shirts or gather everyone for a meal afterward to discuss. It’ll serve as a great team-building activity and provide an opportunity for conversation about future efforts.
  • Get the word out! Press releases, Facebook updates, tweets and more. Let people know that you’re getting out there to help your community. If the organization you’re volunteering with also has a social media presence, don’t forget to tag them or use their handle – they’ll appreciate the additional publicity as well.  

Lending a hand to the less fortunate or providing your product or service to an organization in need are great ways to show you care about the community that makes it possible for you to do business. And the support you’re able to show for your community is sure to be appreciated.

So this Valentine’s Day, skip the box of chocolates and share the sweetness of the holiday with the deserving people and causes in your neighborhood. 

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Use Your Sales Forecast and Expense Budget to Define your Startup

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: January 29, 2014

I’ve been working on a new startup with some long-time friends and just discovered – again, for the umpteenth time – how the interaction between words, concepts, and numbers often demands the concrete logic of core business plan numbers.

Specifically, a sales forecast and an expense budget can do wonders for early start-up discussions. Putting specific numbers to things forces definitions and decisions. For the record, our new plan isn’t a restaurant; it’s a high-tech web-based offering. But it’s still confidential. So I’m using examples here from a business everybody can understand: a restaurant business.

1. The Sales Forecast Defines the Offering

I just saw it again but I’ve seen it before many times. The co-founders get together and share ideas. If it were a restaurant, it would be about things we could do for breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner; it would be about price points, cuisines, menus, reservations and so on. And these general discussions become specific when you get to the forecast. They have to get specific about units and prices. That forces founders to focus in on realistic plans we can actually execute.

Not that we’d define every menu option – absolutely not. But a good forecast has to summarize at least on average revenue and average cost per meal, and that leads to defining whether meals are breakfasts, lunches, dinners or drinks, etc. The numbers move the general ideas forward.

2. An Expense Budget Defines Tasks and People

We need to focus practically on what and when we can afford to spend. For a restaurant, we’d need to start paying two or three people and we need to pay contractors for remodeling the location, developing the branding, doing menus, and people to start developing the kitchen and such. All of that takes deciding on priorities.

The way we do that, in practical terms, is to look at our expense budget. We develop it together step by step: From the first to the twelfth month, how much do we need to pay out, and to whom? We all have different ideas on this, so when we get together, the actual expense budget—which we can all see and agree on—helpfully steers us back to the plan.

Conclusion: Numbers Define Concepts

Particularly when the startup founders—such as in our case—all have a lot of experience, love the topic area and are full of ideas, it’s really hard to make progress moving from brainstorming to execution. My experience with the sales forecast and expense budget reminds me, once again, how much I like planning as a vital part of the process of starting a business.

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

Optimism Runs High for the Independent Workforce

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 16, 2014

2013 was a good year for independent workers – and the future looks even brighter. Self-described contractors, freelancers, consultants, temps, “solopreneurs,” and microbusiness owners surveyed for MBO’s Third Annual Independent Workforce Report are feeling optimistic about their employment status. Check out these positive figures if you’re thinking about joining their ranks.

Independents have a positive impact on the economy

The MBO study reports a 5% increase in independent workers when compared to 2012 – up to 17.7 million. And with these numbers comes a noteworthy contribution to the economy. Independents generated nearly $1.2 trillion in total income both globally and locally, up a whopping 20% from 2012. They also spent over $150 billion on non-payroll/contractor expenses.

Independents hire other independents

The vast majority of independent workers are “solopreneurs” and don’t have traditional employees, but that doesn’t mean they work alone. Through contract hiring over the past year, 26% of independent workers spent a total of $96 billion to hire the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers.

Independents want to grow their businesses

One in seven independents plan on building a bigger business, which means that close to 2.5 million independent workers will launch businesses that will create additional traditional jobs and ignite even greater economic activity.

Independents are feeling less burdened

As it becomes more conventional to have an independent work style, independents are finding more tools and solutions to overcome challenges they face. Concerns over retirement, project pipelines, benefits, self-marketing and job security all fell slightly from the 2011 base year.

Independents are happy in their work

Job satisfaction remains strong among independent workers, with 64% reporting that they are highly satisfied with their work style. Most plan to continue as independent workers, with 77% saying they will either continue as “solopreneurs” (63%) or grow a larger business (14%).

These independents – representative of all ages, professions, educational levels and geography – are part of a workforce that’s predicted to grow to 24 million workers by 2018. Will you be a part of it?

If you’re thinking about starting your own small business, check out our resources to get you started. SBA is here to help you succeed – so let us know how we can do just that.

Related Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

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