how to build a sustainable content creation process for your small business

Anyone can create mediocre content. Creating content that has been published, republished, reworked, and repurposed a million times is easy.

But creating valuable, relevant, quality content is hard. It takes time, effort, energy, resources, and knowledge. Most of this—in small businesses—is wrapped up in the expert owners who are also tasked with running the business, serving the clients, and managing the marketing and outreach.

Plus, let’s face it. Just the thought of content creation can make many business owners cringe in horror, and they’d rather make that extra cocktail.

Writing and content creation, especially if you’re out of practice, is not fun. Then when you add on the pressure of making it something your audience will drool over and share on social media—it can be incredibly intimidating.

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If You’re Not Using Content Marketing As A Primary Strategy To Reach Your Audience, You’re Already Behind

Take a look at these stats:

content marketing stats proving worth of a content creation process

Your audience and prospects are using social media, they click links, read blogs, watch videos, listen to podcasts, subscribe to newsletters—and they share the high-quality, high-value content with their friends.

Consumers buy when they’re ready to buy, not when you’re ready for them to buy.

If you’re not there, top of mind, when your prospects are ready to buy, know that your competitors will be.

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The Problem Most Small Businesses Face Isn’t Creating Amazing Content

It’s creating amazing content consistently and sustaining it over time.

The most common complaints and excuses I hear from business owners avoiding content marketing are:

  • I have no time left in my schedule for one more task.
  • I have other internal items that I need to create and focus on before I create extra marketing content.
  • I need to shore up my business systems and processes before I invest even more in my marketing.
  • I don’t know what to even write about or what people would care about.

How do you overcome these beliefs? How do you create valuable content and do everything else you have to do, let alone sustain it over time?

Here’s the bad news: If you want a quick, easy solution—and you don’t want to do any work—you aren’t going to like anything I have to say.

Here’s the good news: Creating a sustainable content creation process will elevate your business and build your expert status—and it’s easier than you think.

There are systems and tactics you can employ to drastically increase the results gained from your investment in content creation. It just takes some planning…

Step 1: Assess Where Content Creation Could Improve Experiences, Value, Profitability, And Systems

the first step in a content creation process is finding areas needing content

Before you start creating content, you need to know why you are creating content. This is where we do a deep dive with clients into the inner-workings of their business, identifying all areas that could benefit from content creation.

The most common areas needing content creation include:

  • Customer education
  • Client onboarding
  • Client training
  • List building offers
  • Income stream diversification (information products and courses)
  • Marketing and blogging efforts
  • Speaking/presentations
  • Creating systems and processes
  • Employee training

When looking at this list, most business owners realize they are severely lacking in the content department. They see that they don’t have any client educational materials or they have no processes for their services, and they start to feel very overwhelmed.

If this is you right now, it’s okay. Hang in there with me and I promise I’m going to make this seem much easier and much more doable.

Step 2: Brainstorm Types Of Content And Topics For Each Category Identified In Step 1

find content types and topics in your content creation process

Once you have list of each category or area in your business that could benefit from content creation, brainstorm every bit of content that could be created to reach your goals.

Let’s use list building offers and client onboarding as examples.

Here are several ideas for new list building opt-in offers:

  • Checklist or tips sheet (for general interest and expert positioning)
  • Whitepaper on what prospects should do before hiring you (to create more qualified prospects and expert positioning)
  • Industry-targeted done-for-you tool or resource (for expert positioning)
  • A special report teaching people about what you do (to create more qualified prospects and expert positioning)
  • Other educational materials

Here are several different pieces of content that could be created to improve your client onboarding process:

  • Welcome email/message/video
  • What to expect email/message
  • Overview of your process
  • Tips for getting the most out of their investment with you and having success
  • Things you need from your client/things you need them to do
  • New client questionnaire with instructions and an overview of why you’re asking these questions
  • Overview of what will happen next
  • Glossary of industry terms or guidebook
  • Educational materials like e-books, whitepapers, or simple checklists that will help them work with you and communicate more clearly

Step 3: Identify Content Overlap Between Categories And Content That You Can Repurpose

identify ways to repurpose your content in your content creation process

Now here’s where the magic starts to happen.

Now we examine the list building offers list, which contains mostly marketing-related content, and the client onboarding list, which contains mostly business building, internal content.

It’s easy to see that focusing on the client onboarding content will positively impact your business, improve client experience, and streamline your process (say hello to automation). It’s doable.

But when you add the content that needs to created for marketing and list-building purposes, things start to feel overwhelming and definitely not doable.

Here’s the thing.

It only feels overwhelming because you’re looking at them as two separate areas of content—when they really are the same. Yes! You can create the content needed to run your business and the content you need to market your business at the same time!

For example:

  • You could turn your list of tips for getting the most out of their investment with you and having success that you create for your onboarding process into a list-building tips sheet or checklist.
  • You could repurpose your list of things you need from your client/things you need them to do before you get started into a whitepaper on what people should do before investing in the service you provide.
  • You could turn your new client questionnaire into a done-for-you industry resource that others in your industry would opt-in for (making you a leader).
  • You could turn the overview of your process that you give to new clients into a special report teaching people about the service you provide, how it works, and what they should expect.
  • The glossary of terms or any other educational resource that will help your clients will also help your audience, so publish that content on your blog, too.

In each of these scenarios, you’re moving your business forward, adding value for your clients, providing helpful resources to your audience, and positioning yourself as an expert in your industry.

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I know you’re thinking that clients won’t see the value in paying you for content that already exists for free on your blog or in an opt-in offer. But you’re wrong.

The magic comes when you put your content in front of your audience or clients at the right time—exactly when they need it.

A new client who needs to know more about topic XYZ will be frustrated if they have to search through your blog archives for each individual blog post on the topic. But if you combined the blog posts into one special report and provided it to them at the exact time they need that information, your content immediately becomes more valuable.

Step 4: Map Out Your Content Creation Plan

map out your content creation plan

Many business owners have great intentions. They want to blog once a week or twice a week, they start out strong, then slowly fade away. Or they start tons of content pre-scheduled and when it runs out, they completely disappear.

A content creation plan is the key to ensuring your efforts are sustainable and not a “blitz and disappear” act.

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Success requires focus, resources, and commitment for the long haul. The idea is to base it on the core content you need to improve your business and then repurpose the content so you get the biggest returns on your efforts.

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Here’s what you need to do:

  • Identify what content is your top priority (make it one that will help improve your business, like creating your onboarding process)
  • Write down how much time you’ll need to create, proof, and design each piece of content needed
  • Decide how you will repurpose the content you’re creating (like turning the overview of your process into a special report teaching people about the service you provide, how it works, and what they should expect)
  • Write down how much time you’ll need to create, proof, and design the new items
  • Write down any other ways you can repurpose the same content (like turning it into a blog post)
  • Get a blank month-at-a-glance calendar
  • Review all of the content you want to create and how long each piece will take. Give yourself deadlines and write them in your calendar.

Some tips to make this process easier:

  • Don’t bit off more than you can chew! Be realistic with your deadlines and timelines. Don’t base your milestones on the requirement that you work nights and weekends to get it done, because chance are you won’t. Trying to do everything at once will cause stress, frustration, and burnout.
  • Make quality the priority! It’s better to produce content less frequently and ensure it’s awesome, than publish mediocre content often
  • Consider the order in which you create content. For example, instead of creating all of the content for a new on boarding sequence first then repurposing it, create once piece of the process, repurpose it into a list building offer, then publish a portion of it as a blog post that promotes the list building offer.
  • Consider tackling one “chunk” of content each month, so one piece of the onboarding process, one list building offer, and one blog post gets done each month.

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Step 5: Include Supplemental Marketing Content In Your Creation Process

include supplemental content in your content creation process

With your marketing calendar and content creation plan in hand, it’s time to add some supplemental content. After all, publishing one blog post a month isn’t going to get you very far if your competitors are posting two, three, four, or more times every month.

The supplemental content could be articles, videos, or audios. It could be commentary of current events or another article you read, or a recap or review of a tool or resource you found.

First, choose two pieces of supplemental content to add to your marketing calendar for each month. Consider choosing one quick easy post type and one more involved, like an article and a review, or an article and a commentary piece.

Second, reach out to podcast hosts, radio shows, event hosts, and entrepreneurs who host teleclasses and webinars about being a guest. Set a goal to do one interview or speaking engagement per month, then write a blog post promoting it.

Wrap Up: You’ve Got A Sustainable Content Creation Process

commit to your content creation process

Once you complete these exercises, you’ll have a marketing calendar with a sustainable content creation plan in place—one that guarantees each month you’ll have:

  • One piece of content to move your business forward
  • One free resource or list building free offer
  • Three blog posts (one repurposed from the content above, one article, and one short-form post)
  • One interview recap, positioning you as an expert
  • Plus, numerous social media posts can be created from the content, too

That’s one blog post each week! Considering business-to-business companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don’t blog, the argument for content marketing is pretty much a no-brainer.

Stay Focused, Stay Committed, And Stay Consistent

It’s true that the more content you publish, the more traffic you’ll enjoy and the more leads you’ll receive.

But don’t get swept up in the need to blog every day. Unless blogging is your business, daily blogging isn’t a must.

And don’t get sucked in by the claims that quantity is better than quality. Publishing something awesome once a week will trump publishing lots of mediocre crap.

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Content creation isn’t just about long-form articles. It can mean video, audio, articles, interviews, infographics, slide decks, commentary, reviews, and more.

Mixing up the type of content you share makes it easy to share more often and makes it more fun for your audience to engage with your content, too.

Focus on creating content that will not only make an immediate difference in your business, your systems and processes, and your profitability, but also your marketing and expert positioning.

Commit to your marketing calendar and content creation plan, making sure it is achievable and realistic—otherwise you risk falling behind your goals, getting frustrated, feeling overwhelmed, and abandoning it.

Stay consistent in your efforts. Again, content creation is a marathon not a sprint. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

  • Hire a content manager
  • Leverage a transcription service and speak your content
  • Hire an editor to clean up and finesse your rough drafts
  • Hire a copywriter
  • Create an evergreen content bank to pull from in a pinch
  • Ask your assistant to interview you about a topic and write you up a recap—it’s easier to edit than start from scratch

When it comes to content creation, it’s easy to start and stop, to get motivated, write a bunch, then get busy and publish nothing for weeks or months at a time.

Creating a sustainable content creation process that you can stick to over time is harder. It requires work and effort, but the rewards far exceed the effort.

Remember—if it was easy, everyone would do it. All you need to worry about it doing it more than your competitors.

How will you build a sustainable content creation process for your small business?