Part 4 of The Digital Content Strategy Series on BusinessTown
There are four essential platforms in any good content strategy: Web, blog, social, email. I call these the “four pillars,” because they really are the foundation of your online business.
Let’s get back to basics for a moment.
I get questions in the form of subtle resistance from small business owners, solo entrepreneurs, and especially authors and other creatives:
- Do I really need to blog?
- Do I really have to be on social media?
- Do I really need an email newsletter?
I get it – you’re busy. You can’t imagine adding yet another thing into your jam-packed day. But what you’re really asking is, “will any of these things actually help move my business forward?” That’s fair. You should be asking that about anything you do in your business.
Let me help answer these questions for you – or really, to help you answer them for yourself. I don’t run your business – you do. Only you can make the right decision for yourself and your customers.
Do I really need a website?
In short, yes. Your website is the hub of your digital presence. Do not outsource this to a Facebook Business Page. You want to own your own property – not build on someone else’s land. This is your business, and you want to have full control over your virtual storefront.
If you’re just starting out, get your site up with these very basic elements:
- Front page. A site title and tag line, with an attractive front cover image.
- About page. This is the second most visited page on a new site, so it’s required.
- Blog page. You need a place to publish medium-form content – that’s your blog.
- Contact info. Make it easy for people to get in contact with you.
Do I really need a blog?
To answer this, let me start by saying that blogs often have a bad connotation. People think of them as online diaries or journals – that’s not the way we are going to blog. Instead, we’re going to produce short, shareable pieces that deliver immediate value to your intended audience. Each piece is going to be focused on a narrow topic, and those pieces are going to work together in an orthogonal way.
Publishing regularly is going to help your site “refresh” with every new piece, which is really good for SEO. Google likes to see a live, active site with frequent updates and really valuable content for those who are searching.
Where do you start? What do you write about? Start with the most common customer questions you get. Especially when you are starting out, seek opportunities to create cornerstone content – pieces that will have “durable” value to your business. What you’ll have is a set of content that you can point people to over and over again – and it will be you clearest articulation of each topic. This alone will add a ton of long term value to your business.
Do I really need social media?
Yes, you need social media. The resistance to this that I hear from the business community baffles me. This resistance comes in two forms: They either 1) don’t take it seriously or 2) they do it and then seek to minimize all effort around it.
Social media offers the chance to connect directly with your customers. If you’re not up for doing that, then why are you in business? You’ve been given the gift of opportunity – equal access to customers. You can reach them just as well (I would argue, maybe even better) than competitors 10 times your size. Why would you squander that by resisting this opportunity?
But you have to do it right. Just because you’re on Facebook doesn’t mean that you’ll succeed on Facebook. Every channel is different and not every one is going to be right for your business. Each social platform is its own community, and each has its own rules and norms. You have to get the nuances right, or you’ll be seen as an impostor.
I have some free resources to help you with this:
- Using Social Media for Business: Strategies for Long-Term Success. It has an overview of getting past the resistance to social media, and a strategy for picking the right channels.
- The Social Media Strategy Series. This is a 16-part podcast series that goes platform by platform, one at a time, to help you quickly decide which one is right for your business.
I hope that these resources help you cut right to it and save you time and headaches.
Do I really need an email strategy?
Email is 40 times more effective than social in converting customers. Yes, you read that right: Not 40% more, but 40 times the power of social media. [Source: The New Rules of Email Marketing, published by Campaign Monitor, with data from McKinsey].
I’m not saying that social media’s not important – it is. But when it comes time to convert, email is where the power lies.
And why not? An email subscriber has given you high-level permission as a show of trust. Most people treat their inbox as a to-do list, so they are literally giving you access to be on their to-do list. This is immensely powerful – don’t abuse the privilege. Serve them only content that they will find valuable. It’s not about your priorities, it’s about theirs.
Plus, email affords you the opportunity to get into marketing automation, which can really help you take your business to the next level. You have to do this all with a light touch, but it can make you so much more efficient, and manage your “funnel” at scale.
The Four Pillars: An Integrated Strategy
Let’s break this down to its simplest components, in the context of the customer journey:
- Social media is for the “awareness stage” and basic bi-directional correspondence.
- Your blog is to draw your audience back to your site to serve them in some way.
- Your website is your online hub for prospects to learn about you, contact you, or subscribe.
- Email automation is about nurturing the relationship until – and after – the point of conversion.
At base, it’s that simple. But as you might imagine, how you do it makes all the difference. There are so many “fail points” along the way, and I feel like I’ve seen them all in my own strategy – and in my work with clients. There’s no guarantee that it will work, but I also believe that it can work for anyone. It doesn’t matter what your business is – because content strategy is about serving customers, which is the goal of any successful business.
If you want to skip past some of the “fail points” and learn this stuff rapidly, there are two resources that I have.
- Podcast. I publish a weekly podcast called Marketing Without the Marketing, which is filled with practitioner strategies for how to do everything that I mentioned in this post, and more. I also have a set of free downloads on my site that accompany the podcast – templates, checklists, and tracking sheets.
- Course. I just launched a new online course called CreateBiz, and it covers all nuances of how to build your online platform around these Four Pillars. The primary audience is writers, musicians, and visual artists, and it seeks to help them build a business around their creative work, focused on the most difficult part – marketing.
The course is 42 video modules, with dozens of worksheets, templates, and guided assignments. I’m offering a 20% discount for subscribers to my podcast. Use this link to get the special price: controlmousemedia.com/mwm.
Your Content Strategy Starting Point
If you’re new to content marketing, , I compiled these lessons into a convenient – and free – online course:
Content Strategy Basics: An Overview
Marketing is nothing without a content strategy behind it. This free online course introduces you to the principles and practices of content strategy – using content to find and connect with an audience, build trust, and ultimately, earn paying customers.
It’s for small business owners of all types, including solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, writers, musicians, and other creatives.
The course content is open to the public – you do not need to register.
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Also published on Medium.