This sponsored post is produced by Salesforce.

Not long ago, it was acceptable to refer to content marketing as a buzzword. It has since acquired its own subset of buzzwords (as outlined in this LOL-able post by Contently Editor-in-Chief Joe Lazauskas). But businesses are increasingly making content marketing a core tenet of their marketing strategies — and for small businesses especially, this is good news.

Why? Content marketing is cheap, and it’s relatively easy. Sure, there are plenty of ways to overcomplicate it. But the premise is simple: create great content, promote it in the right places, and you’ll reach the audience you want…and eventually turn them into loyal customers.

And why does that matter? In May of last year, Eric Garland wrote in Harvard Business Review about how the consolidation of smaller businesses into mega-firms has made it more difficult for entrepreneurs and small businesses to gain a foothold in many markets. “Trying to sell into a world of enormous corporate cartels is considerably more difficult than it was forty years ago,” Garland wrote. That means that for small businesses, educating current and future customers about your products and services is even more critical to success. In order to give you the tools to do just that, we’ve collected these tips for building a content marketing strategy that will get you noticed (without stressing you out).

Step 1: Why?

First of all, consider your overall goal. Do you want to generate sales leads to grow your customer base? Or are you more focused on engaging customers in order to ensure you retain them?

Once you know your overall goal, dig deeper. For example, if your goal is to generate sales leads, think about whether quantity or quality matters more to your business. If your sales team is small and already overworked, go for quality. If they’re sitting around with nothing to do (yes, we know that’s highly unlikely), go for quantity.

Step 2: What?

The definition of “content” is amorphous and broad. Ask yourself what you mean by “content,” and what your target audience will find most valuable. Let’s say you’ve decided that you want to target business decision-makers in the I.T. field. If you’re not sure what these kinds of prospects are interested in, there’s a lot of content out there to help you get ideas — not to mention plenty of easy ways to run a quick user survey on your website.

Once you get a broad sense of direction, hold a casual brainstorm with everyone in your office to generate ideas. Encourage creativity — no ideas are bad ideas — and see what you can come up with. (Check out these brainstorm guidelines from Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design for inspiration.) Remember, almost anything is within reach: short videos shot on your iPhone, guest-authored blog posts, customer interviews, or bigger projects like infographics, slide decks about beer, ebooks about whatever you want…the list goes on. You don’t have to create everything from scratch, either; curating content created by others can be just as effective (consider Flipboard).

Step 3: Where?

Creating the content your target audience wants is only half the battle — you also have to put it out into the world in such a way that the right people find it. Experts divide your options into three categories: paid, owned, and earned media. Paid media is (obviously) anything you pay for — advertising, sponsored content, paid promotion on social media, etc. Owned media is what you control: your website, your blog, and your social media accounts. Earned media is coverage you earn through outreach to news organizations and partner companies via public relations work. Depending on your goals and your budget, your content distribution should include a mix of these types of channels.

Step 4: Who?

Next, decide who will own your content marketing efforts. When you’re first starting, odds are you won’t have a dedicated content marketing team (or even a dedicated content marketing person). Many small businesses hire someone to manage both content marketing and social media — a very busy person who handles writing, creating, curating, and distributing content through various channels. Who runs your content marketing efforts — and what their other job responsibilities are — will determine how much content you have capacity to create and distribute.

Step 5: How?

Content marketing is nothing without measurement. Before you start producing content, consider how you’ll measure success. Do you have a way to track content marketing efforts all the way through to sales metrics like leads, opportunities, and revenue? Or, if your goal is to engage existing customers, do you have a web tracking system in place that will enable you to see how your target customers are interacting with your content? While metrics like traffic and page views can be seductive — they’re so big! — avoid placing too much value on information that doesn’t give you real insights on how you’re doing, and how you can keep improving.

Alexa Schirtzinger is Director of Content Marketing at Salesforce.

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