How to Start a Business After 50 (Part 5): The Power of Content
If you have gone through steps 1-4 in my “How to Build a Business After 50” series, you already have a good idea of your strengths and skills. You have probably settled on your profitable business idea. You may have even set up your website. Now what? How can you get the information you need to decide exactly what to build? Equally important, how can you market it to your prospective customers? One way to do both is with content marketing.
What is Content Marketing and Why is it Important?
There is an important reason to start using content marketing before you build your first product. Engaging with your potential customers is the best way to test your assumptions and avoid costly mistakes. It can also help you to build a foundation for your marketing activities in the future. This is especially important if you are trying to start a services business (accounting, copywriting, programming, marketing, gardening, etc.)
So what is content marketing? Basically, content marketing is the process of developing content that is useful for your potential customers. It usually involves creating articles, videos, social media posts and other content for people you eventually want to sell to.
One of the obvious reasons that content marketing is a great place to start is that it is relatively inexpensive. Yes, your time is valuable. But, at least you won’t be spending thousands of dollars on advertising “blindly.”
Let’s look at the two main reasons that you should consider doing content marketing. Then, we’ll go through some specific tips for building a content marketing strategy.
Getting to Know Your Customers and Avoiding Costly Product Mistakes
If you are passionate about a particular product or business idea, you probably think you know how it will do in the market. You may have even sketched out your business plan.
The truth is, no matter how much of an expert you are, if you don’t talk with your customers, you are missing out. For starters, many business ideas seem great in theory, but, fail because of a lack of demand. Producing content and engaging in conversations is one of the best ways to refine your ideas.
For example, every article that you write is an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with your potential customers. Through these conversations, you can find out:
- What are their biggest pain-points with similar products or services?
- What questions do they have that you could answer?
- What competitive products are they using?
- What problems do they wish someone would solve?
Producing content is also one of the best ways to clarify your thoughts and build your sales pitch. You may not need to “sell” your product or service to anyone for a while, but, engaging in conversations is a low-stress way to build your story.
Building a Strong Foundation for Your Business
When you work for a large company, it’s easy to throw money around as if there’s no tomorrow. When every expense comes directly from your own bank account, the dynamic changes. Of course, you could go out and spend thousands of dollars on Google advertising, take out magazine ads and pay a sales person to sell your product, but, you would probably waste your money.
Developing a content marketing strategy can help you to build a strong foundation for your future marketing and sales efforts in several ways.
First, the more you help other people, through your content, the stronger your reputation will become. It’s much easier to sell to someone who has heard of you than to a complete stranger.
Second, if you are willing to stick with your content strategy over the long-term, you will likely start to generate free traffic from people searching in Google for topics that you have written about. This is known as “organic” traffic.
Finally, by engaging with your customers through content marketing, you will gain valuable insights that you can use when you eventually have to develop a marketing plan. For example, you will learn:
- Where do your potential customers go for information?
- What words of phrases do they use to describe their problems?
- How do they describe your competitors?
- Where do they go to buy similar products (if you have a product)?
- Where do they go to hire someone (if you have a service)?
Where to Start with Your Content Marketing Strategy
One of the most common complaints that people have when they are first introduced to concept marketing is that they don’t know what to write. Other people complain that they are “not writers” and that they just want to get on with selling their product.
The truth is that content marketing is a broad topic. There is more than enough room for customizing your strategy to your skills and personal style. Don’t like writing articles? Why not try producing short “how-to” videos? Don’t like how you appear on camera? Why not start a podcast instead?
When it comes to deciding which topics to focus on, it pays to break the process into pieces. Instead of sitting down with your computer and staring at a blank screen, I recommend the following.
First, before you write a single word, spend a few hours, every day, for a week, gathering information and immersing yourself in your chosen topic. Visit your competitors’ blogs and YouTube channels. Go to popular forums in your chosen area. Talk with friends and ex-colleagues. Binge-listen to podcasts on your chosen topic. Use Google AdWords to see what people are searching for. Take plenty of notes and enjoy the experience. Make sure that you write down any questions that your potential customers have.
Second, focus on brainstorming before writing. Sit down and write as many topics that you can think of in your chosen area. Use the research that you did during the first phase of this process to guide your thinking, but, be careful not to copy anyone’s words directly. Here are a few questions that you can use to guide your brainstorming process:
- What questions are people asking about my topic?
- What problems are they having?
- What topics are only being covered at a surface level? Could I go deeper?
- Who could I interview that might have valuable insights?
- What problems or questions do I have about this topic?
- What are people searching for in Google?
- Are there topics that are covered by lots of articles that I could create videos around?
- What interesting personal stories can I share from my past?
- What news stories are currently developing in my niche?
- What tools or processes have I learned? Could I teach them?
Finally, when you have done your research and brainstormed ideas, sit down to produce your first piece of content. Don’t worry about whether your first article or video is a masterpiece. The chances are high that only you and your cat will see it.
Over time, your practical content development skills will improve and you will become more confident. For now, just get into a rhythm of producing something every single day. In my experience, the people that succeed with content marketing are the ones that are consistent.
Tools for Making Your Content Development Painless
Content marketing takes a considerable amount of time and effort. The good news is that there are tons of tools available to help you make the most of your time. Here are a few of the tools that I use every single day:
Google AdWords – Google’s free keyword tool is still one of the best ways to get data about what your potential customers are searching for. Once you have set up a free account, go to “Tools” –> “Keyword Planner” to start your research.
Grammarly – Writing in a conversational tone is almost always the best approach. At the same time, it’s essential to make sure that your grammar, punctuation and spelling are perfect. Grammarly is a tool that can help you to find grammar mistakes in your articles before you post them.
AddThis – One of the easiest ways to increase the virality of your articles is to make it easy for people to share them. If you are using WordPress for your blog, there are many free social plugins out there. Feel free to experiment with these. That said, when you are ready to take things to the next level, AddThis is by far the best social plugin on the market.
Thinkstock – They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and this is definitely true when it comes to content marketing. Once again, there are plenty of places to get free images for your website. For example, Dreamstime offers a collection of free images as does Freeimages.com. I use Thinkstock.com, which is a paid service, but, if offers a much wider selection of high-quality images.
Get Started Today!
The most common reason that people fail with their content marketing strategy is that they never get started. The second most common reason is that they quit too early. Developing content for your chosen market shouldn’t be stressful. Try to see it as a conversation. Especially in the beginning, your goal should not be to generate sales. It should be to listen, add value and build your reputation. Only then will you be ready to start selling your product or service.
Have you started a business after 50? What was your experience? Do you produce articles, videos or other content in your chosen niche? What have you learned through this process? Please join the conversation.