A flower with five petals

Most articles about the first five years in business focus on the high risk of failure and what can be done to mitigate those risks. We’re turning that on its head! Here’s how content can support the fledgling years of a business and guide the way to success.

If you’ve read anything about starting a business, you know the risks – the main one being failure to plan and therefore planning to fail. Forbes and Bloomberg reported a few years ago that eight out of ten entrepreneurs fail in their first 18 months of business. There are other statistics that put the failure (or should that be success) rate at about fifty per cent.

The numbers don’t really matter, we can all relate to the nervousness of stepping out on our own and putting our money where our mouth is. And if we’re not sure, our friends and family will congratulate us on our bravery if we’re lucky and warn us of the potential pitfalls if we’re not.

The Gig Economy is making us all entrepreneurs

The Gig Economy, or freelancers for hire, is growing with more of us hanging out a shingle every day. And why not? Consultants and freelancers make life for other businesses easy because they have a lot of experience, can start immediately and they can be hired only for the time required – saving a lot of money. It’s a good deal for entrepreneurs too, as they have more control over their working environment.

The challenge consultants and freelancers often face, when compared with being an employee, is a lack of familiarity. Would you hire somebody you’ve never heard of, whose work you’ve never seen, even if they were recommended to you? If you’re anything like me you’d nervously book them for a job and then watch them like a hawk to make sure they don’t let you down.

Content is your calling card and CV

In many ways, the content in your blog is like your business’s diary and it’s always on display for the public. A friend of Written & Recorded sees the blogroll as their number one destination when he meets a new business. Whether a business card is handed over or not, he’ll head straight to their website to see their blog.

But that’s not the only advantage of adding regular content to your website. Of course, the main advantage is SEO and you can rank higher on search engines, simply by blogging regularly and answering the questions of your potential clients.

Blogging during your first year of business can seem like an unfair and unnecessary burden or cost – especially when those SEO benefits can take six months to kick in. Luckily, there’s even more that regular content can do for you and your business success.

The phases of the first five years of business

Like anything, the first five years of a business involve a lot of learning, development, changes and challenges. Accountants Mason Lloyd recently categorised the first five years in business as:

Year 1 – The Start: It’s harder and more expensive than you thought, with a steep learning curve.

Years 2 & 3 – Make It Work: systems and processes are falling into place and repeat customers hopefully appear.

Year 4 – The Epiphany: you can see what is and isn’t working and make corrections to make running the business easier.

Year 5 – Life As Normal: At this stage a lot of SMEs feel like they’ve made it and things become a bit less frantic.

Not every entrepreneur or business is going to experience this trajectory, but as far as broad brush-strokes go, it’s an excellent base on which to build a content calendar. And obviously at Year 5 you don’t put your feet up and rest on your laurels, simply alter your content strategy to suit your comfortable environment.

A Content strategy for the first five years of business

There’s a blissful moment before any business begins – the planning stage. It can be as short as a night out for a drink after work, or it can take as long as a career to come to fruition. Either way, it’s at this stage where anything is possible. And it’s at this stage that you should begin your content strategy.

It’s the easiest content strategy to create because it holds the information that you’ll be sharing with the world to tell them about your business and why they need it. Every conversation about your business will reveal a new element that needs explaining or introducing to your potential clients. So take note!

Even before you start talking about your business with others, the notes you take for yourself can be a guide to content that can help prospective customers. What are the reasons you want to establish your business? What are you Googling and reading? If you’re not taking notes, start now! You might need to dive into your web browser history to recapture some of those nuggets of ideas, or references which will be valuable to your content strategy.

As you put together your business plan, whether it’s mapped out on a napkin, or developed through some amazing software, gather your notes and ideas. Organise keywords and topics into a logical order alongside your business plan. This will help you engage your potential clients and bring them along on your journey as the business develops.

Year 1 – The Start: it’s a steep learning curve

As soon as you hang out your shingle and open your doors for business, your business idea is no longer yours – it belongs to the world. You’re still in control of your business, but now you have to respond to your customers wants and needs. So your business idea might change – a little, or a lot – and your content strategy will change with it.

One of the great things about blogging and creating content from the outset of your business is that it can give a nebulous idea a body, something tangible to work with. Without seeing, trying or using your product, potential customers can get a good understanding of it. Then they can do the most valuable thing that customers do – give you feedback (okay second most valuable after actually paying you!).

It’s important to remember that a content strategy and the content itself is not set in stone. You should adapt your strategy to respond to feedback from customers and the business environment itself. If your business changes so that original content is no longer relevant, you can update it. It’s a steep learning curve for you, the business and your content strategy.

Year 2 & 3 – Make It Work: that includes your content

As your systems and processes find their feet in years 2 & 3, so should your content strategy. However, it’s at this point that many businesses wonder what content they need as they’ve already answered most of their customers questions. There’s two things you can do to avoid content strategy stasis.

Firstly, go back and audit all of your existing content. Is it still relevant? Does it need an update? Google loves updated content and you can give your SEO a boost by editing existing content to include updated data, or to reflect changing business environments.

Secondly, talk more with your customers. What are their challenges? There may be more value you can provide customers through your content. It’s also likely to be of benefit to potential clients. Remember, if it answers specific questions, it’s going to be appealing to search engines.

Year 4 – The Epiphany: Contentment

By year 4 you should know what works and doesn’t work for your business. So you can apply that to your content strategy and put more resources into what gets the best results.

As your business moves forward, it’s important to continually review and update old content, but continue to create new content. And create great content.

After all, year 5 is just around the corner and all that content will come in handy when you write the book about your success.

As your content grows throughout the first five years of your business, be sure to share it widely and check out this guide to getting more out of your content by repurposing.

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