If you’re creating content for small business (I am! I am!) you may have experienced one of those massive gear shifts that sets the world a little off-kilter at times. It’s tough to avoid since small businesses are nimble enough to make such changes.

Maybe you have a fickle relationship with a particular audience, where it can be a challenge to create a sustained marketing effort. Or maybe your organization is completely on the reactive side to massive demand for their product that they have no real time to create a viable communications or marketing strategy. That’s okay.

The purpose of this article is a way to generate a little peace of mind in the hectic world of small business marketing. No really, it can be hectic if you haven’t been here before. You should try it sometime.

Anyways, the slightest effort at creating a content strategy model for these channels can make all the difference.

They must have been moving targets that put their Nikes on this morning. Geez.

Abrupt changes in plans are bound to happen, especially in places that have their marketing or communications ways set. Catching up to 2011 by uprooting old communications models and strategies may be considered dissonant by superiors eager to just “keep moving.” Ironically, as new and exciting information zooms through the office and to the ears of the brass faster than the Deliverator through a burbclave, there’s bound to be a hype-based reaction that all of a sudden causes the ranks to shift gears into tactics new and buzzing, rather than staying their previous course.

Emphasis on content, usability, and defining an exact user experience and buying pathway become conversations unheard. It’s too bad.

However, you, as the resilient small business communications expert/company journalist/content guru/whatever you may be, can take control of the process in your own way to decide and shape how effective you want your content to be.

I like these three at a minimum, but you can do much more if you want.

The most frustrating thing I’ve experienced is when a content project gets dropped because of a sudden change in objective. All the planning done to execute within a specific scenario are all of a sudden null and void because the stakes changed and you, as the content wrangler, were the last one to get the memo.

Once you deliver content to the new crowd, you may realize that your metrics are all off because you’re trying to gage the effectiveness of two or three different efforts within a tiny timeline. Before you have a chance to dig into the statistics, you’re off on your next task. Yikes. It’s difficult to measure the campaign’s effectiveness. Scary.

It is also difficult to measure your effectiveness. Scarier.

I’m betting this happens mostly to content models that revolve around the scenario and not necessarily around the user. Basing a communications or content campaign on the user with a little content strategy is the trick to an internal win, if not, something more.

The tiniest model for the biggest bang (in most hectic cases).
  • Content Inventory (with some metrics bolted onto it)
  • Editorial Strategy
  • A Model Based on Making “Them” Do Something

These sound rudimentary and extremely basic, but seriously—sit down one afternoon and go through your emails, snail mail, and even listen to a few radio or cable TV spots. There’s a high chance that there are plenty of entities out there trying to sell stuff to you, and most likely don’t care about nurturing you toward making your own decision (other than to kill ads on sight).

Flip it. Create a mini model that serves the audience and not just delivering as much as you can to them as possible, which your superiors may want you to do. It’s a little marketing-esque, but hey—that’s what brings in leads and ultimately sales, allowing you to keep your job, right?

I’ve noticed that if I even incorporate three of those content strategy elements into a given project, I am suddenly blessed with:

  • A means of shaping a user path toward an ultimate goal.
  • A way to organize messaging to avoid being repetitive or completely blowing the conversation with the audience.
  • A benchmark to determine whether or not the content is doing its job.

Say you have a weekly company email sent out to a particular audience. One week, it’s pitching widget A to the hardest of cores. The company decides that it needs to pitch widget B instead to the same folks. Abruptly changing the content without consideration to the audience can wreck a lot of conversations and conversions.

Consider reshaping the email. Maybe the email becomes a wealth of knowledge for a would-be customer, rather than a pitch-fest. You can house the widget pitches, but the actual content serves a higher purpose—an education of your product.

Like Bill Bernbach said,

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgerize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

I say we lift it onto a higher level. These three elements tend to do me a huge favor:

With a content inventory, you can take stock of what you’ve communicated with your audience. If you’ve taken the care to mod it with a little metrics lovin’, you can see which content or messages were more effective.

An editorial strategy keeps you on track for your future pieces. Since the content is based on the user and not on the email, you have a little more leeway to implement sudden shifts in messaging that may occur under the hypothesized small-business-love-hectic-shotgun-marketing approach.

The previous two fuel your overall content model. Perhaps the model has a rule that the content delivered doesn’t just sell. It instead educates or informs the audience about the widgets.

It sounds difficult…

…but we can do it.

Create the model. Give it a shot. Enjoy that peace of mind that comes with such organization.

Then, when the metrics come in, you can attest it to the model, and not five different marketing approaches.

Speaking of which, I can already feel the criticism of whether or not this is marketing or a content strategy. Does it matter?

I use content strategy to empower marketing to either persuade buyers to buy, or to satisfy a bigger objective for my employer. In the end, each successful project based off of a content strategy is just another case of why content strategy is so effective in communications.

Sounds like a lot of win, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

What do you think? What have your experiences been like?