:Marketing / Marketing best practices

Content marketing roadmap: 4 keys to creating on your own terms

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Creating content is a lot like driving a car. With so many other cars on the road, it’s easy to get stuck in traffic and feel like you’re not getting anywhere. How do you deliver quality content when there are so many routes (strategies) you can take and vehicles (platforms) to consider? Meanwhile, content marketing for small business is a two-way street. It can offer tremendous value to both you and your target market, making the journey worthwhile.

In addition to educating others about your offerings, you also get to engage with your audience. This is a great way to better understand their wants and needs. Meanwhile, it is an opportunity to build trust, create community, stay relevant, and be top of mind when your students are ready to make a purchase.

You’re in the driver’s seat

As with any journey, there may be some roadblocks to content creation. Perhaps you feel like you don’t have the time or aren’t creative enoug. Maybe you think you can only create content when you’re feeling inspired. Or you worry it will be a constant uphill climb and are overwhelmed by all the different options—analysis paralysis, a phenomenon that involves freezing due to overthinking and is often brought about by having too many choices, is very real.

Fortunately, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to a content marketing strategy for your small business. And we’ve got the roadmap to help get you there. 

Map it out 

Before you get behind the wheel, it’s important to decide where you want to go. What are your goals? Here are some possible ideas to help you brainstorm

  • Generate new sales leads
  • Sell a product or service
  • Grow your audience, following, or mailing list
  • Get people to sign up for your new course
  • Build your brand

Take this a step further: For each of your goals, ask yourself why it’s important. How does it connect back to your overarching vision, mission, or purpose? How will it help you serve your audience?

It’s easy to skip this step, but it is crucial as it will keep you on track (your navigation system, if you will), especially when unexpected detours arise. Once you determine your content marketing goals and the “why” behind them, you can decide which avenue will help get you there. 

Take a test drive

Once you’re clear on where you want to go, you get to decide how you want to get there. Take a moment to check in with what exactly you’re marketing. Is it a product or service? A new course, your expertise through coaching? Both?

There are many different forms of content marketing: podcast episodes, blog posts, guest blog posts, newsletters, YouTube videos, social media posts, to name a few. There are also many different reasons to approach content creation, for instance: 

  • Tell a story 
  • Share resources 
  • Inspire audience 
  • Make audience laugh 
  • Connect with audience, perhaps through a vulnerable share

First, assess your audience. Who exactly are you speaking to? How can you best reach them, and what kind of content do they want or need? Then, consider what an easy or natural extension of something you already offer might be. This could be podcast sound-bites, video clips, blog post quotes, or chapter excerpts. This could also be a resource list or a behind-the-scenes look at your own process.

What have you already created that can be repurposed and/or optimized for your small business’s content marketing strategy?

Stay in your lane

There’s a myth that in order to be successful, creators need to have an online presence across all platforms. Just as students have different learning styles (i.e. visual, audio, kinesthetic), creators also have different types of content that are best aligned with their skills and strengths. Rather than trying to do everything all at once, focus your attention on one or two outlets. These should be platforms that you can realistically commit to and feel excited about creating content for.

Take public speaking for instance. While it’s undoubtedly a useful skill to cultivate, it’s not something everyone needs to master—and could be a huge waste of energy for introverts. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of big (or even small) groups or being on camera, perhaps TikTok, Instagram Live, or YouTube series aren’t the outlets for you.

Think about where you already spend your time and/or what you’re drawn to. Maybe you love visually-pleasing images, creating mood boards, or composing long-form prose; in that case, skip the noise, and focus on your Instagram feed, Pinterest boards, or (guest) blog posts, respectively.

Yield for comparison traps

Be cautious of falling into a comparison trap when building your small business’s content marketing strategy. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s easy to get distracted by what a competitor is doing. Just because everyone else is on Facebook does not mean you have to jump on the private group bandwagon.

If Tweeting out witty one-liners isn’t your jam, don’t waste your time trying to build a Twitter following. It’s OK to take risks and feel out of your comfort zone—in fact, it’s unavoidable. Just don’t let others’ success stories become backseat drivers that ultimately get you lost (or worse: in a total wreck). 

It all starts with a to-do list

Ready to take your new content marketing roadmap for a spin? No matter what stage your business is in, we have a “course creator’s checklist” to make sure your business is ready for action.

A to-do list you'll want to check off

Not everyone has the same needs when just getting started launching an online course. This list is designed to help you find out exactly where you are in your journey, so you’ll know exactly what to do next.

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A to-do list you'll want to check off

Rest and refuel

Consistency is key here. It’s easy to put off content creation until we’re “feeling inspired,” but the truth is we’ll be waiting awhile and riding those waves can lead to burning out. Instead, making content creation part of your routine is a much more effective strategy. Set aside consistent time for creativity, whether putting it in your calendar once a week or even making a little time each day. Keep yourself accountable by enlisting the help of co-working buddies. 

The same is true for publishing content: Staying consistent will help build trust with your audience. Find a sweet spot between regular content that’s not stretching yourself too thin. For instance, rather than putting pressure on yourself to post on social media multiple times daily, can you start with once three days a week? 

It’s equally important to rest. Take time away from content creation, social media, and work in general to recharge. Think about creation as a cycle; there needs to be phases of dissolution, or letting go of what isn’t working, as well as emptiness before something new can emerge.

Todd Henry, author of Louder than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, refers to this as “white space”: “Innovation happens in the white space. When we squeeze all of the white space out of our lives, we’re not allowing our ideas to marinate, breathe, or emerge into their full potential… Stepping back sometimes to breathe, to create some space around that project, can allow us to make the project exactly what it needs to be to resonate.” 

What can also help with cultivating more rest is leaning on content automation, which is kinda like cruise control: spend one to two days a month scheduling out content, so you can focus on other things the rest of the month. 

The road ahead

The fun thing about content marketing for small business is that you get to create your own owner’s manual. You get to chart your course, take your business and creative projects wherever you want to go, or even go off-roading into uncharted territory. Whether you’re just starting to think about it or testing out new strategies, these are steps you can turn to again and again.

Know that it’s OK to get lost or veer off course sometimes; it’s how we hone our instincts. Returning to our roadmap, the bones of our business, is what matters. As Henry says, “It’s all part of the process, and it’s never ending. However, the key is to remain focused on your vision and embrace the journey.” 

Author: Katie Davidson, Katie is a freelance writer, copy coach, and certified yoga teacher currently based in California. Her work has been published on ELLE.com, InStyle.com, StyleCaster.com, and more. She has also been featured as a yoga expert on POPSUGAR Fitness. When she's not writing (or practicing her handstands), you can find her somewhere on a beach, cacao-chai latte in hand, with her beloved pup Toby.

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