These days, everybody’s talking about content marketing. And for small firms with limited time and resources (like me… and probably you), figuring out how to build a content marketing strategy from scratch can seem overwhelming.
When I first started looking at content marketing, I felt like I was at the base camp of Mt. Everest. I looked around and everybody was gearing up for the climb, but I didn’t even know where to start. Why? Because there are so many types of content and marketing channels out there that it literally makes my brain feel oxygen-deprived just thinking about them.
There are articles, blogs, white papers, tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn Publishing, Instagram, review sites, webinars, YouTube videos, newsletters, e-books and email campaigns. Which ones would work for me?
Also, I’m a social media abstainer (by choice), which means all that stuff is doubly overwhelming for me. So as I stood there looking at this large, daunting mountain with an increasingly painful “content management” headache, I basically decided I had two choices:
- Option 1: Feel paralyzed and do nothing. Just turn around and start walking back toward Kathmandu. Who needs to climb Everest, anyway — I’ve already been there with John Krakauer.
- Option 2: Lower my sights and stop thinking about the whole mountain. Admit that I’m fascinated with climbing and that I want to start moving in an upward direction, but accept that this is a huge project that’s going to take a long time and a lot of grueling work. And right now, I’m just a beginner.
If you’re in the same tent as me, feeling attracted to the idea of content marketing but confused about where to start, I’d suggest that you consider scaling back your ambitions… a lot. In other words, forget about the 27 different content types and social media channels that the world is hurling at you, and the crazy idea that you have to do them all at once or you’ll be a marketing loser.
Instead, pick a few things you think you’ll be good at, give them your best effort, and ignore the rest. In my case, I decided to pull back and start my climb by focusing on three pieces of content:
1. My Website. I don’t know if everybody considers their website to be content marketing, but I sure do. Your website is all-important — not just the look and feel, but your copy and your your message. I want my website to make a good first impression, strike the right chord, and hit my target customers right between the eyes.
2. “Advice” Articles on My Website. These days, I think the best companies give away their best ideas for free. They share their knowledge and put it out in the open, right on their website — not behind some firewall. This is the essence of content marketing: creating useful resources that address your customers’ problems and draw them toward you, like a magnet.
Lots of people create blogs for this purpose. However, I grew tired of blogs a long time ago because it seemed like most of them were churning out useless ideas and rehashed, keyword-stuffed content. “The last thing the world needs is another bad blog,” I thought.
Instead, I committed myself to a simpler — yet still very demanding — strategy. I decided I’d write a collection of short, easy-to-read articles about everyday accounting topics that I felt most SMB owners would be interested in learning more about.
I started with a list of about 20 topics (which I pulled out of thin air, based purely on intuition), and then I wrote and re-wrote those pieces over and over again. It was arduous work — lots of my efforts were horrible and had to be completely trash-canned. But I eventually finalized nine articles and posted them on my website.
I view these articles as my “foundation content,” so to speak. I read and update them from time to time, but my goal is for them to be permanent content that will stay on my website for a long time.
And personally, I think this is the type of content people would like to see if they’re visiting your website for the first time: a small, coherent series of articles rather than a long, rambling company blog with superficial posts that will be gone next month. But hey, that’s just my opinion.
3. A Short e-Book. In addition to nailing down the above articles, I decided to aim high and try something that I never thought I’d do in a million years: write an e-book.
Of course, I’m using the term e-book rather loosely here. My e-book is an eight-page document that I wrote on my laptop, dropped on to my letterhead, and then exported to PDF format. Presto: my first e-book!
Nevertheless, it was still tons of work coming up with a decent concept, sifting through all my bad ideas (which tend to outnumber the good ones by about a 2:1 ratio), and then boiling my thoughts down into eight readable, semi-entertaining pages that wouldn’t put most business owners to sleep.
After all, this is accounting we’re talking about — not some fun-filled topic like ‘How Rolling Stone Magazine Got Started’ or ‘The Best Scuba Diving Spots in Belize.’
Anyway, the concept I came up with was pretty straightforward — essentially, my top five accounting tips for small businesses — and I give the e-book away to anyone who opts in and provides their email address on my website. This is the “give-something-away-to get-something-back” marketing strategy, which I personally believe in a lot (it works on me all the time).
And there you go — my first three content marketing efforts. Of course, my high-altitude headache hasn’t disappeared entirely (they never do) and I still get dizzy when I think about all the content types and channels out there. But at least I’ve ignited my stove and put some basic food on the table.
At the end of the day, I’d say that building a strong content marketing strategy is a heck of a lot harder than it looks. Finding the time and creative energy — and stamina— to come up with good, original content ideas isn’t easy when your plate is already loaded down with client accounting and financial statements and tax returns.
It’s definitely a long-term, one-step-at-a-time commitment. However, the underlying philosophy is truly compelling, and I believe in it wholeheartedly.
It’s not about “selling” or pushing unwanted marketing messages at your audience. It’s about building trust by opening your kimono and giving people genuinely helpful ideas and content. And if they like what you give them, they might consider working with you. That’s why I didn’t walk away from the mountain, and neither should you.