I am not a natural chef. Come dinner time and you will often find me staring blankly into a cupboard wondering what MasterChef meal can be made from a tin of anchovies circa 1980, a jar of capers and a bottle of red cordial. My cooking life is a permanent mystery box, with the results definitely on the mysterious end of the spectrum.
However, I adore cookbooks. I look in awe at all of those sumptuous pictures and enticing recipes, vowing to pick up the ingredients at the next shopping expedition, only to forget to add them to my list in my race to get around the shops in 3 minutes flat.
When I remember to buy both the ingredients and the right kitchen gadgets to prepare them, I often end up so exhausted by life that baked beans on toast suddenly seem desirable and the coriander silently melts into green goo after crestfallenly being ignored.
What does this have to do with content marketing (… or any small business marketing?)
You see, many small businesses have similar problems with their content marketing.
Content marketing is where businesses freely share tasty and filling information to meet the needs of their clients, with the hope that they will be top of mind when it comes time for clients to buy their product or service.
They share visual, text or auditory content to Facebook, Twitter, their blog, business websites, up and coming social media sites in order to get in front of their clients and potential clients.
Read more about content marketing:
The Trouble With Content Marketing
Businesses know that content marketing is something that has to be done regularly and repeatedly in order to make it work (a bit like feeding teenagers).
The trouble is, they wait for marketing inspiration to strike, and when they have the time, they don’t have the right ingredients or know-how to act.
They can have great intentions, and add marketing to their To Do list, but then something urgent comes up, so their good intentions disappear like New Year’s resolutions.
They can even buy the right tools and ingredients but still fall at the last hurdle – with owners not having the energy to take things to completion.
This is where a little bit of insider know-how can make the difference. I may not be a MasterChef for food, but I am a dab hand at content marketing for small businesses.
Here are 10 Small Business Content Marketing Essential Ingredients
Start with a stocktake
Before you create or buy any new ingredients, take a good look through everything you currently have in your content cupboard. Go through and toss out anything that is past its use-by-date, is not something that you would yourself personally consume or is something that was a fad years ago but is now outdated.
Identify your signature dishes
Every chef (even bad ones like me) has a signature dish that universally gets praised. The same thing happens with content. Some pieces of content your business creates will be more popular than others. For some businesses these pages can be one of their core pages, for others it’s a blog page known as a hero post.
Check out your Google Analytics to find out which are your top performing pieces of content and then try to work out what is making them so effective. Is it the topic, your particular take on the topic, the design or something else?
Can you add value?
For your most popular pieces of content, can you go back and add even more value to them?
Can you add in extra content that requires people to share their email in order to download the additional material – serving to extend your contact database and add potential pre-qualified clients to your list?
Can you add sharing options or codes embedded in the content to make it easy for people to share your content with their friends?
Other ways to add value include inter-linking content across your website, to help people discover other pieces of useful content they may be interested in.
Find what you can repurpose
Leftovers can be brilliant when prepared in different and creative ways. The same with content.
Look with a creative eye over your existing content ingredients. Can some of the items be turned into checklists, SlideShares, infographics or used as a base for more complex content?
Don’t create content once and then head straight into the treadmill of creating something new. Aim to create a number of dishes from the one base.
Work out which pieces are essential but not tasty
Some pieces of content you create are good for your business, but may not be met with universal joy (a bit like broccoli). These are pieces such as corporate profiles, pieces for SEO purposes and transactional pieces highlighting changes to your business. You still need to create them anyway, but try to create them with a little bit of zing and flair.
Test new dishes
If you only eat tuna casserole day in day out, you soon get bored with it. If you eat filet mignon day in day out, you have the same problem. It doesn’t matter what the dish is, unless you deliver variety people will get bored and go somewhere else to eat. (Of course, if you are two years old and fixated on peanut butter sandwiches then all bets are off.)
If you already create short blog posts, add in some epic blogs or infographics. If you are great at talking, test out Periscope, Facebook Livestreaming or podcasting. If you read a lot relating to your business, test content curation. Test out different content strategies that play to your strengths.
Use the right tools
In the kitchen, you need the right tools to deliver the right outcome.
One year I decided to try to make scones in an electric frypan and waited until the top was nice and brown before removing them. They made a great border for the garden and broke some of the other rocks when I dropped one. Who knew scones needed an oven and not a frypan?
Content creation also needs the right tools. Use tools to help manage and automate the preparation, presentation and distribution of your content.
Take care of presentation
How you present your content makes a difference in how it is consumed and how much it is enjoyed.
One year I decided to try and turn sausages and mash into a deep red coloured dish to approximate an Italian dish, so added in Cochineal rather than tomatoes. No matter how it tasted, the hot pink mash was very disconcerting.
If you are expecting a fancy meal, wrapping your meal in takeaway food wrappers will not win you any points.
Many scientific studies show if people think they are drinking an expensive bottle of wine, they enjoy it more than when they know it is a cheap bottle of wine. Present your content in the most enticing way possible with high quality graphics and great design. Content marketing is not just about brilliant copywriting – it is everything that goes with it.
Present your story on a plate
Good cooking comes from the heart and is not a rote copying of a recipe, but a sharing of the unique elements of your story.
You can taste when a meal is prepared with care and love. Your content needs also to be prepared with love. I always say great copywriting comes from the heart.
Prepare in bulk
Busy people know the value of preparing double or triple quantities and then freezing the leftovers. This works really well for visual pieces of content. Rather than trying to prepare something each day, prepare 20 pieces of visual content at a time and schedule the content to be delivered at the appropriate time.