Lee Odden

17 Lessons About Content Marketing for Small Business


For my first liveblogged session at Content Marketing World, C.C. Chapman opened things up with a warning that this is 101 level content and to leave if you know what you’re doing. I think that’s a bit subjective, because the thing most companies suck at is the basics.

While the official CMI session title is: Transforming Your Small Business Into a Content Powerhouse, I’m going to make up my own for the purposes of this blog post:

17 Lessons About Content Marketing for Small Business

1. Whether you’re a big or small business, content is content. Many of the same rules apply. Content is essential for growing your company whether it’s a big brand or a mom and pop looking to expand.

2. If you’re not creating content on the web, you don’t exist. Consumers expect to find information about the things they need online and when they already know about a company, it’s even more important to provide useful content to answer questions.

3. (Content) Silver bullets don’t exist. Everyone is looking for a silver bullet content marketing solution. There are also a lot of people are trying to sell silver bullet solutions to small businesses. There is no such thing so be cautious.

4. Embrace that you’re a publisher. Have an editorial calendar so you know what you’re publishing next. Be strategic and plan it out.

5. Get your house in order. Make sure you have a website. Every social network is rented land and you’ll need somewhere to send people. Also have a social media presence – Facebook is a necessity.

6. What’s your story? Everyone has a story. Whether it’s about logging equipment or chemicals, there’s a story. Think about what your company stands for. What is your business passionate about? How does your story fit within all the content you’re planning and publishing for your company?

7. No one has enough time or money. At least that’s what most people say about content. Baloney! Content is instrumental for growing your business. Be smart about your time and find some for content creation.

8. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln.  Answer “why” you’re going to be creating content. Have a strategy.

9. Play to your strengths. As a small business owner or marketer, find out what you really enjoy as it relates to content creation and focus on that – whether it’s creating videos, writing articles or developing interactive experiences. Everyone is pressed for time, so find something you enjoy and you’ll be more likely to do it. Even when you don’t want to.

10. What is unique about you?  Radio Ruck & Java the dog. Look at your employees for interesting and unique characteristics about your company.

11. Think visually. You have to use images, especially when you share on social networks. Think about what visual images will help you tell your story. Use stock photos on your blog, but not on your website.

12. Things you can write about: People, Places, Passions. Start with the people that work for and buy from your company. Someone else saying you’re awesome is a lot more effective than you saying you’re awesome. What can you say that’s locally focused? What are you excited about?

13. Develop an editorial calendar. Understand what is important to your audience and plan your content. Make sure you talk about what’s important to your customers. You are the best source of content for your company.

14. Keep an eye on what others are doing. Look at what other companies your space are doing. Learn from others. If you don’t have direct competitors, that spells opportunity for you. Look at other information sources that are related.

15. Think long term. An acorn takes time to become a tree. Be wary of big promises made by consultants. This stuff takes time. Focus on getting better every day and do it for the long run.

16. Always be consuming. If you only focus on creating and not consuming content, you’ll miss out on great insights, competitive information and learning. (I’d also add “always be interacting” because participation is a great inspiration for content ideas and engagement to grow your social network)

17. Never stop listening. Use persistent search on Twitter or at least Google Alerts. When someone asks a question on social media where you could be the answer, it could be an opportunity to interact. Those interactions can turn into business.

Overall this was a great collection of basic tips as C.C. warned at the beginning of the presentation. He really made an effort to see things from a small business owners’ point of view and for anyone that owns or sells to small businesses, every lesson was useful.

If you’re a small business using content to market your company, what tips would you share? What would you add to this list?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.


  1. Well done Lee. Listening is critical!

  2. I love these tips. I can put several to use immediately. Thanks. Retweeting!

  3. I like the “always be interacting” part of # 16! I would also add don’t be afraid to ask your audience to share your content, give them as many avenues as possible

  4. Debz Dakeyne says:

    Love it – perfect blog and tips! toons great too, will be retweeting and using 🙂

  5. Lee, thanks for sharing this great tips. We’re currently working on our content marketing strategy and these are some awesome ideas that I will definitely be using. Have you talked much about curation?( I know it’s relatively new, but it’s all over my community as I work for a curation company, Scoop.it! ;)) I think curation is a cool way to put out tons of relevant content in context without spending all of the time of creating every piece of content that you share. I would love to discuss these benefits further or hear your thoughts on it..

    • Hi Ally, I have heard of Scoopit. I was talking with a few fellow authors yesterday at Content Marketing World when a fellow from your company approached and gave an unsolicited pitch. One of my friends walked away (he gave the opening keynote to the conference) and the other had no interest. It wasn’t a relevant time or approach.

      If you’re working on your content marketing strategy, I’d recommend finding what your customers are in need of and then create some content to solve those problems. That will probably get more people genuinely interested than unsolicited and unqualified pitches that leave people thinking, “What the hell was that?”.

  6. Kim_MeredithSmith says:

    I appreciate your insights as well, about starting with small steps,
    then expanding from there. It’s a great approach and a lot less
    intimidating, especially for small businesses that may be just starting out.

  7. Thanks for doing such an amazing write up of my session Lee. You certainly captured the main points.

    You are right that even with the basics, everyone needs a refresher on them. I wanted to warn the audience so that no one could later say “well it wasn’t what I wanted since it was too basic.” *grin*

  8. I’d add that you need to be consistent. Publishing content every once in awhile really isn’t going to cut it. To be able to compete and to be found these days you need to publish content online on a regular basis. If you own a blog, posting daily is ideal, but a few times a week is necessary.

  9. thanks this point.

  10. Thanks for the article Lee and C.C. As a small business ourselves it is key for us to be smart when it comes to content creation. Having a editorial calendar is instrumental in making the best use of our time. I also loved point number 7 – it’s amazing how many people still make this excuse, if you haven’t got the time then outsource it somewhere else (although I don’t always think this is the answer as somebody from outside of your business isn’t always able stay “on brand”) Regards Steve (Coup Media)

  11. Steve Smith says:

    You need to stop asking Google ‘how to make online money’ because the answers you will find will see to it that you don’t make money at all, in fact you will lose money doing things this way! It’s a bit like asking a competitor how you can be as good as he is… And what’s more the information you need is free and you should never pay for it. If anyone tries to charge you for showing how to put together an e-book or manual for sale don’t take it.