By now, you have heard all the hype about content marketing.  Although this powerful marketing strategy is one of today’s biggest buzzwords, many brands are still hesitant to jump into the mix.  Have you designed a content marketing plan for your brand in order to seize opportunities in the current economic climate? Enter the Content Marketing Blueprint.  This model can help small businesses impact customers across multiple touch points to engage buyers at every stage in the buying process—whether that content is a helpful how-to video, a sleek infographic or a well-crafted blog post.  The heart of content marketing is storytelling that engages customers more effectively.

Effective content marketing efforts help communicate what you do, not what you sell.  When your brand story engages your audience, you gain their attention and create positive interactions with your brand.  In the process, you become top-of-mind with your customers the next time they seek a solution for a problem related to your area of expertise.

How can you make content marketing work for your small business?

Below is a blueprint for developing a content marketing strategy that fits your brand.

 10 Steps to Create A Content Marketing Blueprint For Small Business

Follow these 10 steps to create your personal blueprint

1. Start with your brand value proposition.  What makes your business different or interesting?  Your brand story depends on an understanding of why people buy from you.

2. Listen to conversations about your brand in social media; it’s better than a focus group.  Check the comments on your blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page.  Send periodic customer satisfaction surveys and ask why they purchase from you.  Identify the elements of your DNA that keep them coming back.  Use this information to discover how to set the direction and focus of your small business brand.  What is your brand’s North Star?

3. Once you understand why your customers choose your business over your competition, you are ready to establish a story platform.

4.Storytelling is a creative launch pad for your brand.  Effective businesses link their stories back to their brand’s goals and objectives to help their prospects better identify with them.

5. A well-orchestrated brand story will help create conversations with your audience.

6. Once you’ve engaged your audience, you are ready to publish content to all touch points.  This may mean a combination of online and offline locations.

7. Channels: Make sure your story plays consistently well in each channel, and that your brand voice stands out.

8. Syndicate your blog content with relevant content providers.  This will take some time, but it won’t cost you any money.  Syndication means re-posting your blog to other “super blogs” that can extend your message’s reach and bring new customers to your business.  Learn more about content distribution.

9. Triberr:  this is the social content distribution platform that connects communities of bloggers who will read and share content distributed by members of their “tribes.”

10. Shares: The beauty of social media is that readers who like your blog posts or tweets will share this content with their network, adding exponentially to your message’s reach.

As a small business working to leverage social media, focus on communicating what you do, not what you sell.  Social media forces you to think differently.  This isn’t about pitching products and product details.  Engaging content works like the North Star, guiding your audience toward your brand.  Remember: a good story points customers to your business.

Mark is a digital marketer, social brand strategist, speaker, blogger and educator. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.