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From blogging to expanding your social media reach, content creation can be done in a variety of ways. — Getty Images

Small businesses need to work hard to establish themselves as reliable experts and value-added enterprises — especially online. If you want to position yourself and your company as a subject matter expert and provider of valuable information, advice and resources — which can, in turn, generate leads and spur sales — it pays to get into the content creation business.

Offering free, original and useful content on your website, blog, email campaigns and social media platforms is a great way for prospective customers to find and trust you. It’s also a big reason why 64% of B2C marketers indicate that their organization is extremely or very committed to content marketing. Yet only 37% of businesses have a documented content marketing strategy.

When striving for content marketing success, you need to be sure to pursue the right plans. For help, we reached out to a few specialists and asked for their best content creation advice.

Figure out what kind of content your customers crave

Any industrious entrepreneur can create articles, videos, podcasts, infographics and social media posts. The catch is making sure the topics you cover are relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach. To do this, first consider what your customers ask you about.

“Most small business owners handle questions from their customers, either by phone or email. I encourage them to give detailed responses and then take those frequently asked questions and answers and convert them into useful content—like a blog post, e-newsletter, podcast, or website article shared on social media,” said Dave Charest, director of content marketing for Constant Contact. “If one customer has a question on something, chances are lots of customers have that very same question.”

Another tactic to gauge subjects of interest to your audience is to Google search-related terms.

“You can research what people are searching for in your area of expertise, product or service,” Charest added. “A simple way to get at this information is to use a free SEO tool like the Conductor Insights app, which can yield ideas based on what people are searching for online. I use this app regularly to identify a series of content marketing-related topics to write about on my own site.”

Many sites will accept a guest blogger to write an article if the content is useful for their target audience.

Charles Corsello Jr., president of TaxDebtHelp

Become a guest blogger

Publishing and sharing material on your own sites and platforms isn’t the only way to boost engagement and grow your clientele. You can generate fresh content for highly relevant and trafficked sites that relate to your business.

“Many sites will accept a guest blogger to write an article if the content is useful for their target audience,” suggested Charles Corsello Jr., president of TaxDebtHelp. “Normally, the accepting website will allow the guest writer to mention their company at the end of the article or allow a backlink, which will drive some traffic from that website back to your site.”

This maneuver may also improve Google search result rankings for your name and company name.

For best results, identify a segment of your target audience; then, find relevant websites this audience visits regularly and that may also be amenable to guest blog posts.

[See more: 5 Best Ways to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.]

“Contact the site or blog owner with a pitch about what content you feel would be useful for their audience,” Corsello said. “You may want to attach a pre-written article to your initial email or ask for various topics they’d love to have content written about.”

One your post publishes, be sure to measure the results.

“Learn how much traffic your post generated and what percentage of those new referral visitors became leads or customers,” he said.

Partner with a digital native

You and your internal team don’t have to produce or package all this content yourself. In fact, there can be benefits to enlisting the aid of an expert outsider like a digital native — a content producer who intrinsically knows trending topics and online language and can use them in ways that inspire audiences.

“Working with a digital native can be essential to ensuring that language and content elements used are effective at motivating consumers,” Eric Leland, partner at FivePaths LLC, said.

Think about how consumers are routinely bombarded with dry, brand-based appeals to get their business.

“But savvy small businesses that use humorous, informal, trendy and authentic language to gain the trust of customers will have a leg up over the competition. A digital native can provide that repertoire.”

Leland added that digital natives are often recruited from social media platforms; or you may find one from within your own ranks — perhaps an employee with online and social media expertise.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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