So, you’ve got your own business. It’s a small business, of course, because that’s how almost every business starts out. And most stay that way. Small businesses hold the economy together.
But holding your business together isn’t that easy.
Depending on the type of business you have, you might need to hire one or two – or dozens – of staff. You need to master strategy, accounting, human relations, legal this, and legal that.
And these days, you have to master digital. Most people begin most transactions online. Sometimes, they just compare prices, then go to a store. Or make a call. Or send a recommendation to a friend.
But much of the time, they search, find and buy online, without ever visiting a physical location to say “Hi!”
You need content, and that’s why you need to know all about content creation for small businesses.
This is the hardest part for some budding entrepreneurs or even older ones who are just now getting digital, to understand.
“I run a store, not a magazine.”
“I provide services, not articles.”
“I heal people, not entertain them.”
If you run a business online, you need a way to draw in customers. There are many ways to do this, including radio ads, sidewalk sandwich boards, magazine ads, flyers, and billboards. But most people begin their buying journey on Google or some other search engine.
And that buying journey often does not begin with buying. It begins with a problem, a need, or a desire. And that’s what people search for.
So, you need content that solves the problem, fills the need, or satisfies their desire.
In this day and age, you simply cannot rank for any competitive search without content. You need a digital content strategy.
Here’s the deal: Google sends people to your small business website for your amazing content. While they are there, you sell them your amazing product or service. Keep feeding Google the content, Google keeps feeding you leads. You just have to get started with content writing at some point.
How to get started with content creation for small businesses
1. Start with a topic
This is where writer’s block sets in. But even if you hire a writer, even if you delegate this task, you should have strong input into the topics of your content.
How you choose a topic will depend in large part on the nature of your business. There are a few basic types of businesses:
- You make a single product or a fairly homogenous line of related products.
- You sell products that others make, likely a pretty wide range of products.
- You sell a service, likely a fairly narrow range (dental, financial, consulting, cleaning, trades, etc.)
If you sell a wide variety of items, your range of topics is almost limitless. If you sell a very small range of items – a single type of water filter or the bamboo car you’ve just invented – your options for topics are more limited.
Of course, you could always create content about your cat, but that would not attract the customers you want.
Have you done your market research? Have you discovered that cat owners are 362% more likely to want your bamboo car than non-cat owners? In that case, create content about your cat. Ideally, that content will also link to your product, but not necessarily.
2. Set goals for your small business content creation
Before you get started with content writing for your business, you need to set some goals, to know what you would like to achieve through it.
These are the top three goals of your content, no matter what type of business you run.
- Attract prospective customers.
- Create a favorable impression of you and/or your product or service, expressing your brand.
- Make it a no-brainer for them to continue on from your content to your sales page or call to action (CTA).
3. Create a big list of topic ideas
How do you find topics? There are dozens of time-honored ways.
The best ways are to tell stories that draw people in emotionally while demonstrating (often subtly) the value or benefits of your product or service.
Here are some ideas based on selling a single product, which becomes easier the more products or services you sell:
- Interview or profile a customer.
- Interview or profile a supplier.
- Interview or profile an employee.
- Present a before and after case study.
- Tell the story of how a product is made.
- Create the ultimate guide on any topic related to your product.
- Create a beginner’s guide on any topic related to the product.
- Ask customers to write or record their own reviews or unboxings.
- Ask customers for the most creative way they’ve used the product.
- Ask an influencer or related expert to write a guest post – they could provide expert advice or insider secrets of the trade.
- Describe new, creative ways to use the product.
- Give tips on how to use the product.
- Give tips indirectly related to the product.
- Give tips not related to the product that the target audience seeks.
On this last point, you might be confused. How about some examples?
Let’s say you sell musical instruments.
Your audience is obviously musicians – amateurs, professionals, or both.
Depending on your audience, some of your topics might relate to other aspects of performing than just the instrument: how to cope with lights, how to whip up the audience, how to land gigs, how to negotiate a fee higher than free beer, etc.
- Create top 10 (or top 20 or top any number) lists about anything related to your product. These are called listicles.
- Create lists themed on your product. For instance, a list of related songs. Or movies. Or foods. Or art, or musicals, or books, or celebrities, or…anything.
- Create jokes about your product.
- Give a tour of your facilities.
- Give a tour of a supplier’s facilities.
- Run a giveaway contest.
- Run a photo or video contest involving your product.
- Create a quiz.
- Run a poll about a related product.
- Write about mistakes you’ve made with the product and how you’ve overcome them.
- Create wish lists for your customers.
- Curate content from around the Internet in regular roundup posts, such as top news of the week or top articles of the month.
- Curate social media posts related to your product.
- Comment on other blogs, then build your own article based on your comment.
- Create infographics on specific topics related to the product.
- Create graphs of interesting statistics. One graph can be the basis for an entire article.
- Dig into history – how was your product used, what did people do before your product existed, etc.
- Talk about yourself. Tell stories that are personal, but include some element that builds confidence or trust in you or your product.
- Report on a conference. You might even live blog on location.
- Provide public commentary on political or social issues related to your product.
Now let’s say you sell bicycles.
Then you can post updates on public reports related to bicycle safety, cycling costs, bike path improvements, pending by-law changes, pro- and anti-cycling protests, etc.
- Create a glossary of related terms.
- Write a book, and give away an electronic version.
- Create “cheat sheets” or “crib notes” related to your product for free download.
- Run a feature on a charity you support or that is related to your product.
- Deliver a speech, such as at the local Rotary Club. Post the video and/or publish your speaking notes.
- Try a myth-busting, fact-versus-fiction article.
- Take your product into a historical setting. What would happen if it suddenly appeared in the Colosseum of Rome or if Marco Polo ran into it along his cross-continent trek?
- Write about what you wish you’d known before you started offering your service or selling your product.
- Write a letter to your grandmother about something related to your product.
- Write an open letter to a public figure.
- Create whiteboard animations to help your customers troubleshoot their problems.
- Report on the seven deadly sins related to your product.
- Report on the seven wonders of your product’s world.
- Suggest some sketches of a possible postage stamp related to your product.
- Show how your product would look if painted by Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso or Emily Carr (or any artist other than Jean-Paul Riopelle).
- Write about commemorative dates and awareness weeks/months that relate to your products.
- A GIF collection is always fun.
- So is a meme collection.
- Why not talk about the science behind your product – there is science behind everything.
- Discuss education and training as it relates to your product.
- Offer related online courses or training manuals.
- Poetry! Yes, any topic is fair game for haikus and limericks.
- Offer recommended reading.
- Tips, tips, and more tips. People love tips. They search for them, and they will trust you as a supplier if you give good tips.
- Write useful articles for other people’s blogs to show your expertise to a wider audience.
- Create a photo essay about your product.
- Show your product in the context of different geography, culture or other situations.
- Create a list of fails or things not to do related to your product.
- Do something a little bit crazy– like Elon Musk brought the sink into Twitter headquarters – and report on it.
- Offer live demonstrations, and post the video to your website.
- Run webinars, and post the video to your website.
- Explainer videos are always popular, too. They help answer questions and make people comfortable with the idea of using your product.
- Make an A-Z list related to the product.
- You can always provide money-saving tips related to the product. People love to save money.
And once you’ve been around for a while:
- Update old content with new information.
- Create an eBook from your best content.
- Create slideshows from some of your more useful or popular blog posts.
These are just a few – yes, I said “few” – of the myriad ways to come up with great content ideas for your website. If you don’t have the time, skill, or attention span to do this yourself, you can always use an SEO tool to get content topics, hire a writer, artist, or videographer to create the content for you.
But what do you do with this content once you’ve created it?
3. Promote your content
If you’ve gotten this far, you have probably realized that building a better mousetrap does not bring crowds to your door. You need to promote your product.
And you need to promote your content, too.
Social media is great for promoting interesting content. Get out there in front of the world on Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook. Don’t ignore lesser-known platforms like BizSugar and Snapzu. Use services to amplify your content, like Viral Content Bee.
If you have an audience identifiable by industry or by interest, there might be great forums where you can share your content – but be careful not to violate the letter or the spirit of the forum. Just like at a cocktail reception, nobody likes the constant self-promoter.
If your content is infographics or slideshows, look for websites that invite you to submit those types of content.
Building your own list is also a great way to reach an eager audience. Invite your customers to sign up. Invite your readers to sign up. Invite your social media followers to sign up.
You might also want to outsource promotion. It takes a lot of effort to push your content across social media, or to find homes for your content around the Web.
So much content!
The Internet is cluttered with too much content already. And I have just counseled you to create more.
The world is cluttered with way too much grass. Yet people still go hungry.
So, my final word is to choose quality over quantity. Most of the content on the Internet sucks. It’s like grass. Yuck.
And it’s often wrong.
Don’t create content that sucks.
Create truly amazing content that makes your brain feel like you’re eating a yummy cheesecake or a tasty curry. Don’t create more and more grass.
People and search engines love the really good stuff. They don’t have time to feed on grass. Make a cheesecake. Make a curry. Just don’t make a curry cheesecake.