by Barry Moltz

It may be strange, but in sales, you actually don’t sell anything. You only need to be there when customers are ready to buy.

This is why content marketing that features your company as an expert is so critical to growing your spa. It is the single best way to stay in front of small business prospects to showcase your expertise. As spa owners, you are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this type of specialized marketing.

In a nutshell, content marketing is the practice of creating free, valuable content to connect to your customers and, therefore, market your spa. This content—such as articles, blog posts, white papers, videos and social media posts—can help your small business build brand awareness, attract qualified leads and increase sales. It can also establish your reputation as an industry expert and a place that a customer contacts when they have a problem to solve.

While content really is king, you must carefully integrate it into your marketing strategy.

Here are the steps to help you develop a content marketing plan:

1. Define your goals.
Before creating content, you should set measurable goals so you know what you’re trying to achieve. You’ll likely have different targets for different types of content. For instance, you might use Twitter to increase awareness of your small business among new customers, while Linkedin posts may help you reach existing customers to sell them additional services.

2. Customize your content.
Tailor content marketing to your specific audience. What social platforms, industry websites and other online venues do your target customers frequent? What common questions do they have about your type of service? What problems can you help them solve? For example, if you sell spa services, thoughtful articles on Facebook on how massage can improve your health would be effective. Alternately, photos of relaxing spa treatments on instagram can also work to attract new clients.

3. Vary your content.
How-to content, visual content and online video are among the top content marketing trends, according to the content marketing institute. You don’t have to create multiple forms of content every time, but instead try repurposing the same information in different formats. Remember, this is not the same as infrequently creating a blog and posting it on your website (which few people will see). Content marketing can start by compiling your blog posts into a white paper or e-book, pulling out interesting facts to share as tweets, and using statistics to create an infographic. Emphasize quick advice on Twitter. Use pictures or video on Facebook. highlight the post‘s educational nature on Linkedin. Show it in a series of pictures on Pinterest.

4. Create a content marketing plan.
Your plan should specify what types of content you will share, where you will share it, when and how often, and your goals for each piece. Assign responsibility for creating content. If you don’t have the staff or talent in-house, look for freelance copywriters and designers at sites like upwork or freelancer. If you’re going to do it yourself, Canva is a great resource for creating infographics, charts and other visuals.

5. Keep it short.
Forget the long, involved newsletters. Not only do they take longer to write (delaying sending them out), no one reads them anymore. Send one-subject emails to highlight one relevant piece of advice. In this way, the customer will read it quickly and the company will get the brand reinforcement they want. In my experience, it now takes 21 brand reminders for a prospect to remember you.

6. Optimize for mobile.
Especially if you are serving consumers directly, people are looking at email, social media and websites on their mobile devices. Every piece of your content must be readable on smartphones and tablets. check how mobile-friendly your website is for users. If your website is not able to pass the test, work with a developer to use “hamburger menus”, larger fonts and compressed images.

7. Include a call-to-action.
You cannot achieve the goals you set in step one if you don’t include a clear call-to-action (CTA) with each piece of content you post. Your CTA might be, “contact us for ten tips on how to relax in ten minutes or less” or “set an appointment now”. Each CTA should link to a relevant (and mobile-friendly) landing page where viewers can take the next step, such as providing their contact information, making a reservation or filling out a form.

8. Always be selling.
It is acceptable to mix educational messages with sales ones. Over time, condition the audience to always be expecting offers from the company while they are being educated. This will increase your “at ready” prospects and eventually your sales.

9. Share your content.
Of course, you should post your content on your own website, but sharing it on social media is the key. If you can, budget for some social media advertising to make your content stand out in viewers’ crowded feeds. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are popular tools to help you manage content on social media. It can make sense to automatically pre-program posts, but monitor them carefully so they are not seen as irrelevant or insensitive If there is a big, new current event that everyone is talking about. and don’t ignore email; a recent content marketing institute study of B2B marketers ranked email as the most effective channel for content marketing.

10. Be part of the conversation.
Participate on social media by contributing something valuable to the conversation. While this should be consistent, a company does not need to be part of every conversation on every platform and website. Trying to accomplish this can be too overwhelming.

11. Measure results.
All marketing needs to be measured for results. If there are no results, do not invest in it. Think of what success looks like before starting a content marketing strategy. With digital content marketing, you can see exactly how every piece of content performs. Use social media analytics that are associated with most tools and Google Web analytics tools to track how many people interact with each piece of content and what they do afterwards. Also test different elements (headlines, images and keywords) to see which get the best response from your audience. This is called “A/B testing” and is a great way to discover small tweaks that can make a big impact on data points like click rate, likes and conversion rate.

12. Get reviews.
User-generated content is an important part of a content marketing strategy. Some customers will naturally post comments on social media sites. Other customers need to be solicited by the company to encourage reviews and references. Don’t be afraid to just ask. Remember, content marketing is a long-term strategy and needs to be executed for at least six months consistently to show results.

Barry Moltz is an author, speaker and small business consultant with over two decades of success helping small businesses grow and overcome challenges.