Developing an SMB Content Marketing Strategy

According to a recent Adobe survey, content marketing is CMOs’ highest marketing priority this year (tied with social media), and the “single most exciting opportunity” for most B2B CMOs. Small and medium business (SMB) owners are particularly good candidates for content marketing, since they have high needs – and look to vendors like you – for business management advice.

Given that content marketing is important, how can you make it most effective? By having a strategy, for two reasons:

  1. Content marketing is not just posting content. It is a means to achieve your marketing goals – and to align with how SMBs conduct research and buy today. A content marketing strategy enables your team to make content work more holistically (and effectively).
  2. A strategy also lays the groundwork within your organization for the long-term support your program will require. Having a documented strategy turns your pitch internally from, for example, “Let’s get some writers to create articles for our site, blog, etc.” to “Let’s use this proven tool for acquisition and/or retention.”
Here are the key elements of an SMB content strategy:

1. Audience

Taking a strategic approach to content starts with clearly defining your audience, for example by:

  • Industry. This can be as broad as retail, or as narrow as CPAs. This focus enables you to choose topics, formats, and distribution channels that are most likely to work with your target.
  • Hot buttons. What keeps your audience up at night? Demonstrating your understanding of their concerns improves your content relevance and thus engagement. The topics you choose may be applicable to all SMBs, such as customer acquisition or service; or narrow like industry-specific regulations, or the sale of their business.
  • Size. There are challenges unique to each size on the SMB continuum, from sole proprietor to midsized business.

2. Objectives

To turn your content into a true marketing tool, each piece of content should map to a stage of the sales cycle, and move the reader to the next stage.

Our research has found that email newsletters, for example, are surprisingly effective for awareness, while resource centers are surprisingly effective for product purchase.

3. Differentiation

For content to work as a marketing tool it has to provide unique value, and make sense coming from your company.

  • SMBs are savvy content consumers and will not be particularly engaged by content that they can find elsewhere. We recommend creating original content wherever possible (we are not huge fans of syndicated content, although we understand the budget rationale).
  • Demonstrating your company’s expertise is a great way to reinforce the unique value you provide. Blogs, Q&As with executives, and tip sheets from experts on your team are great tactics.
  • One great way to create truly unique content is by conducting a survey, and using the data to develop infographics and other content elements.

4. Distribution

Before you make any decisions about formats and topics, think about how your content will be promoted. For example:

  • If content will only reside on your site, our research shows that articles, Q&As, worksheets/checklists, and social graphics work best.
  • If, on the other hand, you are creating content to be emailed, the most effective formats are whitepapers, peer-intensive content such as a peer roundup featuring advice, and social graphics.

5. Content Management

To pull it all together, we recommend developing a content planning document, which we typically create as an Excel worksheet with each content element in column A and additional columns for the topic, format, source / author, audience / persona, call to action, gated vs. open-access, post date, stage in sales cycle, product focus, promotion, metrics and expiration date (your headings may vary). This spreadsheet becomes a working document; it can track the performance of each piece, and can be updated on a rolling basis with new content.

This kind of approach:

  • Ensures holistic use of content. This format ensures that you think about each of your target audiences, and moving them along the sales cycle. It also forces your team to think about supporting key products, and cross-promoting all content elements.
  • Encourages efficient reuse of content. To maximize content value, content elements should be repurposed. For example, videos can be made into articles and tip sheets, and blog posts can be turned into articles for your newsletter.
  • Disciplines your content team to think about keeping content fresh, differentiated and relevant. This integrated approach helps you get the most from your SMB content marketing efforts.

Let Bredin help you develop an effective content strategy, and maximize the payback of your SMB content marketing program.

About Stu Richards

Stu is responsible for setting Bredin strategy, as well as day-to-day management of company operations including marketing and business development, partnerships and alliances, product development, finance, operations and HR. A frequent speaker on marketing to SMBs, Stu has more than a decade of technology sales and brand marketing experience at IBM and Nabisco Brands. Stu holds an MBA from the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College.