Content strategy for SMEs: Why it matters

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Lizzie Hodgson
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Lizzie Hodgson

These days, most SMEs understand the power of content to both develop a tone of voice as a brand influencer and engaging users or customers. But the challenge is pretty basic: actually designing and implementing a meaningful content strategy in the first place is a huge barrier. We at Five Mile see this time and time again. So here are a few pointers on how to break this frustrating cycle.

What is a content strategy?

Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content, written or in other media. This is also about storytelling: identifying engaging and relevant ways to reach your audience. But, as with any strategy, the foundations need to be established from the start. And this is where a lot of SMEs fall short.

Getting the basic structure of your content strategy means you need to know the “why, how, when, for whom and with what”. In other words you can’t just cobble together a blog and push it out in isolation. And you certainly can’t take a general scatter gun approach, hoping something will eventually work. Instead a content strategy takes effort, and the content itself certainly isn’t an afterthought.

Here are a few reasons why a content strategy is so important to SME’s:

  • It provides a live plan - from inspiration to deletion - for all your content

  • It establishes benchmarks: what’s working, what’s failing

  • It fits into your overall business aims

Content is your business

If you think about it, content really is your business. Every touchpoint, every word, every item that is associated with your SME is likely to be content of one sort or another. That means if you’re about to build a site, create a campaign, start something, you have to get the content strategy right from the start. It must to align to your business needs and as such, it needs to be taken seriously and must be planned.

Discovery stage

A content strategy must be part of your discovery stage of your site, campaign or other. You might want to consider the following basic tasks:

  1. Define goals and objectives of the content - aligning to your business needs

  2. Carry out a FULL and detailed content audit of all your collateral - from buttons on the site to case studies.

  3. Analyse your digital/web metrics

  4. Carry out a user/audience audit

  5. Carry out an internal comms audit - find those advocates and accelerators from within

  6. Carry out a competitor audit

  7. Carry out an influencers audit

Not the same way of thinking

One of the biggest barriers for SME’s embracing a content strategy is seeing content as a ringfenced element of their organisational structure. Not only is this further from the truth, it’s also potentially highly damaging.

Instead, SME’s can create meaningful, engaging content in different ways simply by identifying and exploiting pre-existing opportunities such as conferences, meetings, seminars, training days.

You must also empower your staff to share their stories: from sales staff to developers.

This is about breaking down comms silos. Everyone in an organisation has something to contribute to a content strategy. Cross-organisational workshops - crucially facilitated by someone not in your organisation - are often the best way to kickstart this approach. Yes, it takes effort but by taking a systematic and strategic approach, diverse voices will add authenticity. And don’t forget guest bloggers and case studies. All of these elements help define you/your SME as thought leaders plus gives your users reason to engage with you.

The effort will be worth it

Putting a content strategy in place isn’t something that can be done in a matter of hours. It takes effort, focus, planning and never stops evolving. The discovery stage will be critical to how the plan pans out in terms of:

  • Identifying your niche: What are you - or your team/people in your org - expert at?

  • Identifying your goals: What are your business needs?

  • Identifying your audience: Who is the content targeted at?

  • Identifying the content you will produce: Blog? Case Study? Video? FAQs? Social?

  • Identifying who's responsible: Date vs events/need vs content vs where vs who

So there you have it: A snapshot guide to getting your content strategy up and running. But if you need help in getting the foundations in place let us know. We’re here to help.

About Lizzie

As a strategist Lizzie's experience bridges both public and private sectors including work for Civil Service College, CAPITA, Comic Relief, Drupal Association, Pride London and Charity Commission. An ex-speechwriter and communications manager at Department of Health, she is also founder and director of ThinkNation, where young people, creatives and thought leaders articulate their insights and ideas about tech developments that will frame the future.