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Content Marketing for Small Businesses in 2024: A How-to Guide

When creating a marketing plan for your new business, content marketing plays an essential role. Think of it as a form of digital storytelling that connects with your audience through the creation and distribution of online content, whether in the form of blog articles, video content, or social media posts. In this guide, we’ll delve into the various types of content marketing for small businesses, how the technique can benefit your business, and the importance of developing a defined content strategy. We’ll also provide a step-by-step guide to designing your first campaign with ease.

What is content marketing?

In simple terms, content marketing is a strategy that involves creating, publishing, and sharing content with your desired audience. The content should be valuable and relevant in nature to retain customers’ attention and address their needs.

The purpose of this marketing technique is to build authority within your niche and raise brand awareness (or interest in your product or service) in a digestible format.

You’re likely already familiar with many of the mediums that fall under the content marketing bucket. Examples include publishing regular blog posts, developing tutorial-style YouTube videos, or creating visual content for your Instagram page.

This marketing approach has also become more valuable in the digital age as people consume more content online than ever before. Compared to more traditional forms of marketing (like a pop-up window or radio advertisement) content marketing is something long-lasting that consumers choose to engage with because they find it useful or inspiring, and may even choose to share it with friends.

Types of content marketing

There are a number of content marketing formats you can leverage to set your business apart. Below are six of the most common types, along with examples of how each can be employed in your own promotional efforts. 

Blog posts

A company blog can focus on virtually any topic, but with millions of blog-style websites out there, consider a niche that isn’t oversaturated and supports your business goals. A blog should be updated regularly with original and compelling content that meets the needs of your audience and ideally helps them solve a problem.

Example: A tech blog that highlights a new founder each week with tips and advice for budding entrepreneurs. 

Social media posts

Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn are effective platforms for publishing content that is more shareable than conventional blog posts. However, each offers different best practices, content formats, and audience demographics, so determine which channel(s) best suit your business needs.

Example: A LinkedIn article that highlights tips from your company founder with an eye-catching infographic. Repurpose the infographic as an Instagram post that links back to the original story.

Video content

Creating video content doesn’t need to dry up your marketing budget. Videos can be short- or long-form, either shot on your smartphone for social media use or taken with a DSLR camera for your website or YouTube page. Either way, the footage should be high-quality and contain a narrative that aims to entertain or educate. 

Example: A behind-the-scenes look at how your product is made. Publish the video on YouTube and embed it into a related blog post to maximize reach. 


This long-form audio content typically takes the form of interviews, educational discussions or non-fiction storytelling. One of the most appealing aspects of podcasting is that listeners can tune in online or on-the-go via their smartphone. 

Example: A weekly series dedicated to debunking misconceptions in your field, featuring humorous anecdotes and expert guests.


An online broadcast that is typically hosted live to share insightful and engaging content with your desired audience. The most popular formats include seminars, panel discussions, and Q&As with a featured guest.

Example: A virtual panel discussion on a hot-button issue where attendees have the opportunity to ask questions and engage with panelists.

White papers and ebooks

These comprehensive guides serve to inform readers on a more complex topic to aid their level of understanding. Creating these data-backed reports can position your company as an authority and build trust with your readership.

Example: A research-backed document that forecasts industry trends for the year ahead.

No matter which content formats you choose, be strategic and create assets that can be leveraged across multiple channels. This will help ensure you maximize your time and budget all while keeping your customers’ needs at centre stage.

Benefits of content marketing for your small business

Before we delve into the how-to of creating a content strategy and setting up your first ad campaign, it’s important to understand why content marketing matters. Below are the top advantages to investing time and budget into this marketing approach.

1) Distinguish your business from competitors

Setting your business apart online is not an easy feat. Content marketing is one of the most effective methods for standing out since it has the potential to foster a sense of community with your readership. This also means producing content on unique topics or in formats that customers haven’t experienced before.

2) Build brand recognition and authority

When you devote time and resources to this form of digital storytelling, you become a thought leader in your industry. For this to happen, your content should be useful, meaningful, and accurate—otherwise your brand credibility could be jeopardized. 

3) Connect with customers

Whether you develop organic content (which refers to content without marketing dollars behind it) or have the advertising budget to run ad campaigns, both afford you the opportunity to reach a wide audience and create moments of connection.

4) Boost website traffic

Search engines like Google tend to favour websites with useful content at the helm. High-quality content is one of the most important factors that search engines use in their algorithm to rank a website’s relevance. This ultimately determines where a content piece appears on the search engine results pages and how easily a user can find it. See here for our complete SEO checklist for entrepreneurs.

5) Increase sales potential

Written pieces, videos, and social media posts offer multiple touchpoints to reach people throughout various stages of the consumer journey. And once your brand or product becomes a trustworthy resource, there is more opportunity for lead generation.

 How to develop a successful content marketing strategy

Ahead of creating content or launching your first ad campaign, it’s important to develop a larger framework from which you can achieve your marketing objectives. In fact, according to Semrush’s State of Content Marketing 2023 Global Report, more than three-quarters of companies who saw success in their content marketing endeavours had a documented strategy in place. Here’s a brief overview on how to create a successful content strategy for your small business.

Define your audience

Establishing who your business is trying to reach is step number one: Does your brand appeal to a specific demographic? Where does your target audience live? Which industry do they work in? What are their interests? How do they tend to consume content? Asking these types of questions and backing them up with data will help form what is often referred to as a marketing persona (a fictional representation of your target market that acts as a point of reference).

Drill down your niche

Content can take many forms and subject matters. While topics like travel, food, health, and technology are all popular verticals, be as specific as possible when establishing your niche. For instance, if you’re in the health and fitness space and your target demographic is Canadian females between the ages of 20 and 35, you may want to focus on  content that celebrates the Canadian wilderness and lean into health tips for long winters. Recognizing that Millennials and Gen Zers often seek wellness inspiration from Instagram, you may want to start there  with a short-form video series that feels more relatable than aspirational.

Run a content audit

If you have an existing blog or website, set a plan in motion to systematically review each content piece to ensure it suits your audience and area of focus. Many companies perform annual content audits (since strategies can develop and change over time) which also help improve content quality, identify content gaps and flag pieces that could be deleted or repurposed. This process is not a quick fix: it’s a continual effort to elevate your website and improve the overall user experience.

Develop a content plan

It’s not wise to publish content on a whim without having a documented process in place for planning and managing it. A content plan outlines what you’re publishing when and can help define key moments of opportunity (such as holidays or events) while also ensuring you post on a consistent schedule. Think about how far ahead you want to plan: each year, each month, each season? An editorial calendar is an effective tool for mapping out content. Once you solidify a process, you can start asking questions like: Which existing content of ours performed well this time last year, and should we repurpose it? And what timely content should we start planning now for the months ahead?

Create a distribution strategy

It’s one thing to create meaningful content, but it won’t have a lasting impact if people aren’t able to find it. Developing a distribution strategy for sharing and promoting your material will help your brand reach the right people and generate more leads. Distribution strategies are a multi-pronged approach that can benefit from both organic and paid methods. Organic tactics include showcasing your content in an email newsletter, running an online contest, or improving your search engine optimization. Paid forms of distribution include Google ads or social media campaigns, which we break down below.

How to create a content marketing campaign for your small business 

Now that you’re familiar with the fundamentals of content marketing, you have the building blocks to create your first campaign. This is a short-term method for promoting your brand or product with a specific objective in mind. A content campaign typically takes the form of paid advertising on social media platforms or search engines but can also refer to tactics like launching a contest or sending targeted emails to consumers over a specific time period. Read on for our step-by-step guide on planning your first content marketing campaign for your small business.

Step 1: Set your business objective

The most important first step to launching a successful campaign is defining your ideal outcome or goal. The strongest objectives are measurable, relevant, and specific. Below are a few examples that may apply to your business:

  • Boost traffic to your website by X per cent
  • Raise brand awareness over a specific time period
  • Generate more leads for a new product or service
  • Increase positive reviews for a specific product
  • Grow your email subscriber list 
  • Reach a new market (like a different location or age group)

Once a clear campaign goal has been set you can then determine which content platforms and budget will help you reach it.

Step 2: Identify your target audience

As discussed in the above content strategy section, it’s essential to pinpoint your ideal customer to achieve your business goals. Your main target audience could be identical to the one you create for a campaign, though it doesn’t have to be. This might sound counterintuitive, but there are two big reasons for this:

  1. Audience targeting for campaign purposes should be specific. For example, if your desired customer is between the ages of 25-50 and resides in Canada, you might want to target a subset of that age group and location for a short-term campaign. This enables you to gather more detailed insights on a specific consumer type and test different ad formats to see what sticks. 
  2. You can identify new opportunities for growth. Instead of exclusively targeting a demographic that already connects with your product or service, you might want to test a different market that you haven’t yet pursued and experiment with content types to see what resonates.

Step 3: Create a budget

Determining an ad budget might seem daunting, but keep in mind that launching a marketing campaign is an opportunity to test and learn (to see what works and what doesn’t), so it’s okay to start small. Below are a few factors to consider when mapping out the total cost of your ad campaign:

  • Content creation: What content will you be including in your campaign? Does it already exist? If not, can it be created in-house or do you require freelancers (such as videographers or content writers) to produce it? Or maybe you want to bolster existing content with an embedded illustration or interactive quiz to increase engagement. The fees will depend on the assets required but, as a rule of thumb, video footage and photography is generally a larger investment than written copy.
  • Branding and creative: Once you establish the content you’re promoting, think about how you plan to advertise it. Will you hire a graphic designer to create the visual ad elements? Outsourcing the design work can be on the pricier side, so if you hire externally, consider bundling the design work for multiple campaigns.
  • Promotional dollars: It can be tricky to decide how much budget to reserve for ad spend. Generally, the more ads per campaign, the greater the budget should be to ensure the dollars aren’t spread too thin between ads. Factors like campaign duration and target audience will also affect spend (the larger the audience the more competition and the higher the price). On average, consider a minimum budget of $1K per month per campaign. But remember that this is an opportunity to test the waters, so only spend what you’re comfortable with in case the campaign outcome isn’t what you hope.
  • External resources: Lastly, consider who will oversee the campaign strategy and deployment. Do you have an in-house team who can plan and launch your campaigns as well as monitor and refine them, as needed, once they’re live? If not, it might be wise to hire a campaign specialist on a contract basis or create a full-time role if you know this will be an ongoing priority for your business.

Step 4: Determine your campaign channel(s)

Now it’s time to decide which campaign channels will help reach your ideal customer. Below are the biggest digital marketing platforms from which to promote your content.

  • Social media ads: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn
    Each social platform boasts its own Ads Manager tool that provides step-by-step guidance on launching a campaign from scratch. There is an array of ad formats and objectives to select together with built-in analytics and audience insights to measure the success of your campaign. Read our guide on how to advertise your small business to learn more about some of these ad platforms.
  • Paid search: Google Ads
    Google also has a popular advertising platform in which paid search ads appear on the top or bottom of its search engine results page. This method is known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which means you pay whenever someone clicks on your ad. The ad platform is more complicated to set up than its social counterparts so you may consider hiring a specialist to help launch your first one. Learn how to get started on Google Ads.
  • Video advertising: YouTube
    While you can create video ads on the above mentioned social platforms, YouTube is specifically designed for video content and boasts over two billion monthly active users. This means its search algorithm is also optimized for video, as are the ad formats. Get set up with YouTube Ads.
  • Email marketing
    Email marketing can be a powerful (and budget-friendly) tool to integrate into your content campaign to drive traffic and sales. Build an email subscriber list and send a series of targeted emails over a specific time period with a clear call-to-action to meet your desired result. Learn more about how to use email marketing to grow your business.

A content campaign can prioritize one channel or feature multiple. Just ensure your objective remains clear and you don’t stretch your budget or resources too thin which could compromise the quality and effectiveness of the ads.

Step 5: Content selection and asset creation

Once you establish the platforms on which you’re running your campaign you can then select the content pieces and create corresponding assets that conform to the correct specs and ad formats. For instance, Pinterest recommends vertical images (2:3 ratio) as best practice and Instagram suggests square images (1:1 ratio). This means if you’re funneling your campaign through multiple social channels you’ll need to alter the ad formats to suit each platform. 

Once the planning phase is complete, you’re ready to execute your first campaign! From there you can measure and track performance and gather key takeaways to help inform future campaigns as well as future business decisions.

Reach customers in novel ways

Content marketing for your small business can be an incredibly effective tactic that can do everything from increase brand recognition and drive sales to differentiate your company from competitors. So long as you create original and meaningful content coupled with a well-planned content strategy, you have the potential to reach customers in novel ways and grow your business as a result.

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