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Ozone Coffee sells coffee at two cafes – one in London and one in New Plymouth, New Zealand – as well as wholesale. They also sell all sorts of gear for coffee lovers to use at home, not necessarily all to do with coffee, run training days for making great coffee, sell subscriptions to their journal and publish a load of the printed journal’s content on their site.

Wait, what?

This isn’t your corner cafe, with old stacks of Vogue, Monocle and Smith Journal. This is a coffee powerhouse built on content marketing. They use their content to give their brand personality, as well as to provide useful information to their retail and wholesale customers – information on their coffee’s origins and growers, on the real-life experiences of opening a coffee shop, on what to wear to work, and so much more.

Sure, they’re selling coffee, but to sell more of it they’re showing how passionate they are about making sure their coffee is the best their customers will taste and that they can feel good about its fair-trade credentials. They’re making sure that their customers have a relationship with the brand. And they aren’t wheeling out George Clooney and paying for primetime advertising to do it.

It’s a wonderful example of content marketing.

Why content marketing is taking off right now

According to the Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2016, Australians glanced at their mobile devices more than 440 million times per day in 2016 – a 40 million increase from 2015. People are looking at content when they wake up and before they go to sleep, listening to podcasts in their cars, scanning social media, and constantly searching for information that interests or enriches them.

This behavioural change makes content a fantastic marketing opportunity.

For small businesses this is exciting because, even without astronomical advertising budgets, there is an opportunity to have a voice in that stream of content flowing around potential customers.

Ozone Coffee is a great illustration of this. There are so many ways that businesses without an enormous marketing budget or a heap of time can do content marketing really well. They can give customers what they want or need – whether it’s a how-to guide for making coffee or opening a coffee shop, it’s information about how to tell if your house has termites, it’s an app that shows you what specific furniture would look like in your house, or one of a million other things.

However, not spending loads of money doesn’t mean you don’t need to put some brain-power behind getting a content program spot-on. Before launching into creating videos, blogs, infographics, ebooks or a magazine, asking these six questions will help you succeed.

1. What do you want your brand to look like?

Content marketing presents an amazing opportunity to create a relationships between your brand and your customers and prospects – aka your audience – and build trust. But you have to work out who your brand is before you can start.

Begin by becoming intimately familiar with your own brand’s personality. What is your mission and your vision? What are your goals? What do you want to give your customers, every day?

2. Who is your audience and what do they want?

Keep that idea of your brand in mind as you move on to understanding the audience you want to reach. Who are they, what do you want them to think about you, and what do they need to know about you?

Next, move into a strategic phase where you ask, "Okay then, if that's what my audience wants, how can I deliver that in content?". The beautiful thing about content is that it's relatively easy and cheap to deliver insights and knowledge that help people, in the form of blog posts and social posts.

The downside of this is that there is a lot of content out there and a lot of it isn’t delivering the goods.

3. Where is your audience?

The next phase is about figuring out how and where to share information – it should be in places your audience is already used to consuming and sharing content. Where are your customers online? Where do they hang out? Are they on Facebook or LinkedIn? Are they reading restaurant reviews or sports reports? Of course, the place your content is published also needs to align with your brand.

4. Will I be too busy for good content marketing?

Get systematic about what you want to tell your audience, then create a plan to tell them. You’re not just planning what you will create and when, you’re planning ahead to make sure that over a specific period of time, you’re creating content relevant to your different audience segments and addressing the various goals you have set for your content program. You are unlikely to succeed if you don’t plan your content and map how each piece helps you achieve your business objectives – even if the rationale for some pieces is ‘customer engagement’ or ‘brand awareness’.

Planning in advance also means you can give your audience a far better experience – they will hear from you right when they expect to – and means you can set it up so that it doesn’t wear you down. The internet is littered with blogs that lasted just a few months, as the original motivation wore off after a promising start.

If you have time to write one blog each month, or each quarter, that’s okay. Do it well rather than doing it randomly – don’t publish five blogs this month, immediately send an EDM packed with content, and then go silent for the next five months. This will do nothing for your customers’ journeys.

And keep in mind that a really good, useful article will live on, and you’ll be able to use parts of it over and over, as well as refer back to it later, but a poor-quality article will die a thousand deaths the minute you hit ‘publish’.

5. Do I have the right tools?

Look out for free or affordable tools you can use to schedule various social media posts from one place, or simple, online graphic design software. This will take the hard work out of the content production and delivery process.

If you don’t have the time or budget to create high-end video, don’t try to do it on the cheap. Get the best equipment and editing expertise you can afford with the budget you have assigned, and let the video be what it is. As long as the content is worthwhile your audience will still appreciate your video.

If your budget allows for almost no production, go to Facebook Live or Instagram’s Live Stories – both are so immediate, don’t require expensive equipment or editing, and you can use them for free, offering customers a real behind-the-curtains look at your culture.

6. Is my content marketing trying to sell?

One more thing. There will be a temptation to sell via your content channels. Don’t do it. Don't hop on your channel and say, "We're the best plumbers in Melbourne! Look at our special rates! Book now".

Instead, develop a piece of content that says, "Winter is on the way and these are the common plumbing problems this season. Here’s how to avoid them".

In other words, give your audience something that will help them, rather than asking them to do something that will help you. This will build a relationship between the customer and your company – who will they think of and trust when they do need a plumber?

Download the State of the Connected Customer to learn how to win the loyalty of today’s discerning, empowered customers.