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As 2014 draws near, small to medium-sized businesses need to take content development more seriously. It's becoming increasingly critical to their lead generation efforts.

They must act like publishing firms, generating endless amounts of content for a variety of audiences who might be at different stages in their levels of engagement with companies.

Marketing is all about communication and if you aren't developing content – articles, blogs, webinars, presentations, reports, infographics – your message is not getting out there. When there's no message, there's no communication, which means no responses and no leads.

The problem with building content is that it's really hard to do. Creating a lot of it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, and it can be so intimidating, marketing professionals and entrepreneurs often never get started.

These strategies can help get you on the right path to developing more content on a consistent basis.

Start with what you know

One of the biggest objections I hear about developing content is: "I don't know what to write about." The thing is, every person who says it is sitting on a massive amount of content without even knowing it.

Entrepreneurs and marketers have listened to all kinds of business hurdles from clients, and this is where everyone needs to start. Build a list of problems you have helped your customers or prospects solve, then think of mistakes your clients have made, questions they have asked, or common trends you see. Once you have that list, begin to answer or communicate your findings in a form that is easily digestible for your market.

Consider using this approach for blog posts, articles, infographics, presentations and case studies.

Build a framework for consistency

Frameworks make your life easier by giving you a road map. When it comes to content, more often than not clients will follow the same six-step framework when developing an assortment of posts.

  • Tell the reader who the content is built for.
  • Communicate a problem or a challenge the reader has or is likely facing.
  • Provide a remedy to the problem.
  • Tell the reader why your answer is important and how it benefits them.
  • Summarize the content and include a call to action to contact you for more information.
  • Include a short bio on yourself and your company.

While fairly straight-forward, this will help guide a great deal of the content you are developing and focus your thoughts on central themes that offer immediate value.

Use stories to get your point across

Entrepreneurs often think this is the hardest thing to do – come up with engaging stories to tell. Nothing could not be further from the truth.

Once you start using your own experiences to drive content and you have the six-step formula, take it one step further and tell a story. It will be far more memorable than a concept and it tends to solidify the ideas you are trying to communicate.

Stories are a bit more fluid, so it's best to tell them in presentations, webinars or videos. It's easier to just talk about something that really happened instead of using a structured script.

Creative writing 101

For anyone who took a creative writing course in high school or post-secondary, one of the first things you were instructed to do was to write without stopping for five to 10 minutes. Just keep that pen to the paper and write whatever comes to mind.

The same idea applies to content development.

Far too many entrepreneurs and marketers are writers and instant reviewers looking over what they just wrote and they start tinkering to make it better. This is a great process if you plan to waste the entire day developing a piece of content.

Instead, take a moment to think about what you are going to write about, and once you have that general idea in mind, begin writing and do not stop until you have all of your thoughts out of your head and on paper. That's when you can begin to ruthlessly edit your work numerous times over.

The challenge

Armed with those four approaches, push yourself to develop more case studies, blog posts, webinars, articles and any other form of content that will help drive awareness and leads for your organization in 2014. Content is not going away – it is only becoming more critical to the marketing function, so you need to find ways to be efficient at developing it.

Ryan Caligiuri is the founder of Ryan Caligiuri International, a growth consultancy focused on developing programs that generate credibility, competitive advantages, leads/demand and new revenue streams for small to medium-sized enterprises. Mr. Caligiuri is also the founder of The Growth Network, a mentoring program that teaches entrepreneurs and marketers best practices, frameworks and strategies to become business growth generators.

Engage with Mr. Caligiuri on Twitter.

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