If you have searched for ‘marketing trends’ recently, chances are you have stumbled across the term content marketing. Content marketing is currently red-hot – so much so that you’ve likely been told how important it is that you build a blog and start producing content.
Content marketing can also be challenging for a variety of reasons. Business owners already have enough on their plate, and it can be time-consuming or expensive to dedicate resources to content marketing. Despite this, content marketing needs to be prioritized by any business that is looking to establish brand awareness and build their customer pipeline.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content Marketing can be defined as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action” (definition from The Content Marketing Institute).
Let us look at one aspect of that statement: “Relevant and consistent content”.
This means that the material you produce should matter – both to your audience and to your brand. This is not to say that the material you produce is solely focused on you. However, it ought to be connected to your brand and your audience’s requirements.
Content Marketing Metrics
For smaller companies that are just getting started in content marketing, the goal must remain business growth. The objective behind content marketing should ultimately be greater exposure and thus, the opportunity to drive profits.
When it comes to content marketing, some business owners get tied down with certain metrics. Whilst it can be helpful to know how many people visit your website, it is more important to connect that metric to the bigger goal of growing a business.
By tracking the right content marketing metrics, business owners can ensure they are working towards the objective of growing their business.
Content Marketing vs. Conventional Marketing: What’s the Difference?
With conventional marketing, the goal is to convince people to buy. This is also applicable to long-term, brand-building campaigns that do not press for a sale right away. In this case, the goal of marketing is still to put a service in front of customers.
Although this analogy can be applied – somewhat – to content marketing, the method of obtaining customer exposure differs.
Instead of promoting the benefits of a service, product, or company, content marketing is focused on solving issues. The reasoning is simple: If you solve people’s problems, you build trust and a long-lasting relationship. People will then turn to a brand when they are ready to make a buying decision. Why? Because the brand has previously assisted them with their queries or problems.
What Are the Advantages of Content Marketing?
Whilst the primary objective of content marketing is to grow a business, there are several other advantages worth noting:
- Building broad awareness of your service
- Increasing traffic to your site
- Growing your email list
- Obtaining a following on social media
- Increasing sales
- Improving client retention rates
- Increasing the number of client referrals
- Strengthening professional networks
Content marketing is such an effective tool because it legitimately raises the profile of a brand. By regularly producing relevant, valuable content for a defined audience, businesses are more likely to be viewed as knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Content Marketing & Small Business
Does content marketing work for small businesses? The answer is YES.
Small businesses can tailor more personal and meaningful conversations with their audience. This means they can generate compelling content without the need to appease upper management or shareholders (as would be the case for a larger business). This allows small businesses to more easily convey their personality and distribute more personal messages to their audience.
Content Marketing Statistics
If you are still wondering whether content marketing is a viable opportunity to develop your brand, here are several statistics to keep in mind:
- 86% of B2C and 91% of B2B online marketers used content marketing in 2018.
- In terms of dollar investment, content marketing creates three times the amount of leads as traditional marketing.
- Over half of consumers say that blogs influence their buying decisions.
Content marketing is especially relevant for small businesses because it relies on what they are already proficient at – Having an intimate knowledge of their clients.
By understanding their clients better than larger organizations, a small business can incorporate more warmth and personality into their content marketing. And best of all, content marketing is cheaper than just about every other form of marketing.
The Birth of Content Marketing
Before the internet, most marketing could be defined as ‘disruptive’. This was evident in the way that brands directly reached out to people and disrupted them with a message.
A perfect example of disruptive marketing is a television commercial. People are sitting in their lounge rooms watching a television program and this is interrupted by periodic commercials.
This form of advertising can be effective when consumers are only focused on one thing – such as watching TV – but it becomes problematic when consumers are exposed to a multitude of messages at once – such as when browsing online.
Content marketing solves this dilemma because the messages that businesses convey are now valued by an audience. Therefore, any marketing is far more likely to resonate with an audience.
By providing tangible value, it’s as though businesses have gained permission to send their ‘personalized’ messages to consumers.
This is not to suggest that there is no value to other forms of marketing. Pay-Per-Click, banner ads, traditional advertising, and other offline marketing strategies still have value– when used correctly.
However, the dramatic shift towards content marketing must be recognized. And it grew from this idea of building an audience that wants to hear from you.
Starting Content Marketing for Your Small Business
It is one thing to recognize the benefits of content marketing. But how do you get started with content marketing for your own small business?
One advantage of content marketing is that it can be achieved with little or no investment. However, just like other forms of marketing, it still requires time. And for business owners to spend their time effectively, it is necessary to first determine their content strategy.
The following questions need to be answered:
- What should you blog about?
- What type of content should you produce?
- How regularly should you produce it?
- How should you distribute material?
What Type of Content Should You Produce?
Everybody– from solo entrepreneurs to massive brand names – must begin with this question. And it is often one of the most difficult questions to answer. This is because the possibilities of what to write about are essentially limitless.
You may find yourself starting with the following points:
- You might look at what competitors are doing.
- You could see what’s trending in your market.
- You might compose how-to guides or research studies.
Whilst these are all good choices, I’d like to highlight three points that are sure to work well for small businesses:
Answer Typical Questions from Your Audience
If you have been with a company for any length of time, chances are you have seen similar questions posed by your customers. These questions are the perfect foundation for your content marketing.
As an example, if you find yourself answering similar questions from people, why not send all your contacts a link that contains the answer? Even better, why not send the link automatically – via email automation – before people need to ask the question?
Developing material that answers your audience’s concerns is paramount to content marketing. Here is why:
- You can focus on your prospective customers’ questions and turn more opportunities into sales.
- You can address existing customers’ questions and increase retention.
- You are speaking directly to your audience – so there is no need to compete with big brand names.
You can begin by examining the ‘sent’ folder of your email today. This can be an excellent source of content marketing concepts.
By responding to concerns straight from your audience, you are better placed to compose blogs that people will derive value from. This is because you already know that people have a ‘real’ interest in the topics that you are discussing.
Showcase Your Personality
Small businesses have another advantage when it comes to content marketing: They can more easily showcase their personality.
Solo operators and other small business owners can embrace their quirks and habits more easily than a large business. This is because it is easier for individuals – when compared to multinational brand names – to come across as unique.
As you are planning your content marketing, ask yourself: What distinct viewpoint do you have on your audience’s concerns?
Here is one question that can assist you to produce content AND let your personality shine:
- What does your brand value that your competitors do not?
What Content Formats Can You Utilize?
The basics of content marketing extend beyond content formats. This means that small businesses do not always need a blog to begin content marketing.
Whilst written content is still the most frequently used method for content marketing, other types of audio and visual content can also be effective.
Blog posts are the most common and versatile form of content marketing. They can range in length, be published at various frequencies, and be published through a range of channels.
Blogs are also extremely easy to produce. In fact, it is no more difficult than putting down your thoughts on a page.
There are even expert bloggers that make cash blogging – so much that it is their full-time job.
Emails can be classified as a type of content AND a way to disperse content.
Many online marketers create email content simply by copying and pasting their blogs into an email template.
What sets emails apart from blogs is their built-in distribution. With email content material, there is an understanding that your content is being sent directly to private contacts.
It’s also possible to target the delivery of content through marketing automation. Delivery is based on factors that include audience activity, your type of promotions, and specific timing.
eBooks are longer than blogs and typically have at least some visual elements. What makes an eBook differ from an article is generally its format and content. In most cases, an eBook will discuss a single topic with greater detail than a typical article. As a result, an eBook can answer more questions posed by prospective customers.
eBooks can act as an effective lead magnet by allowing audience members to exchange their contact details in exchange for the information they need.
Checklists are effective due to the fact they are an easy, simple-glance description of a certain topic. Your audience might not require an in-depth evaluation of a topic. Instead, they might wish to find short, concise information that confirms if they are on the right path.
It is worth noting that checklists can also be valuable lead magnets with the potential to increase conversion rates.
You might be asking yourself the following questions:
- How do I compose an email asking to be considered for an event?
- How do I write a news release?
- How do I visually design an eBook?
- How do I build email automation?
Each of the above concerns can be addressed by a template. Because in some cases, your audience will have a simple question that you can instantly answer.
As an example, if you run a cookware company, you may not have the time to create tailored recipes. However, you might design a template that features a collection of your most popular recipes.
Design templates are generally a bit harder to develop than checklists, although it must be said they make powerful lead magnets.
Podcasts are not particularly easy to produce or get an audience for. However, they are growing in popularity and can be a great means of building rapport with your audience.
Podcasts can vary anywhere from 10 minutes to over 3 hours long. As a marketing tool, they are best suited to your existing clients.
Video is increasing in popularity as an effective content marketing tool. And more than any other format, video lets you showcase your brand’s personality.
Videos can be used for a range of different marketing functions – from spreading awareness to conversion. Businesses can embed videos on their website, add them to websites like YouTube, or share them on social media to increase reach.
If you are worried about producing high-quality video material, don’t be. Whilst some videos may require more technical skills – and a bigger budget – a basic smartphone is normally all the equipment that you will need.
Audience Research & Content Marketing
All content marketing should start with sufficient audience research. To develop content that satisfies your audience, fulfils your material marketing objectives, and grows your business, you need a firm understanding of your audience’s ‘wants and needs’.
When beginning content marketing, many small businesses make the mistake of jumping straight into content production without spending the necessary time getting to know their audience.
If you interact with customers or clients regularly, you should already understand a great deal of what they care about. This should form the core of your audience research.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Who is my audience?
- What do they care about?
- Why are they different from other consumers?
Even if your product or service can be applied to a wide range of people, it is worth narrowing in on a single, specific niche. If you can own that niche and speak a language that consumers can understand, your small business is more likely to be successful.
How To Showcase Your Content
Content distribution is an often-overlooked piece of content marketing strategy.
Before you distribute your content, it is necessary to ask:
- Who is this content for?
- What is the objective of this content?
By answering these questions, this should give you an idea of the best format for each piece of content.
Some marketing channels appeal to different demographics. By understanding which channels fit which audience; this can assist you to make the right choices.
Small business owners need to be aware of their content marketing goals. After someone reads a blog post, what action do you want them to take next? If someone clicks to your site from a Facebook post, what would you like their next action to be?
The logical answer is that you want your audience to become customers. Whilst it would be ideal if every site visitor turned into a customer, this is unrealistic.
Some other common objectives of content marketing could be:
- Social media shares
- Email newsletter subscriptions
- Contact form submissions
Here is the thing: Not everybody is ready to purchase from you. However, by setting other content marketing objectives – that help you remain in touch with someone or reach new audience members – you can move closer to an eventual sale.
Email Marketing & Marketing Automation
Even though it is one of the oldest marketing channels, email remains one of the most effective.
The power of email lies in its direct contact with your audience. It is the only online channel that lets you have a personal, direct interaction with your audience. This makes email such an effective tool for small businesses.
By using marketing automation, you can also choose to send emails at the right time to maximize conversions. An example of effective marketing automation could be sending an email as soon as an audience member clicks on a page of your website.
This can drastically enhance the way prospects engage with your content.
Different social media platforms have different uses, although they collectively remain a great way to get your brand in front of an audience.
It is impossible to discuss social media without mentioning Facebook. And these days, it appears that just about everyone is on Facebook. This has created a plethora of opportunities for small businesses.
At the most basic level, creating a company Facebook page and sharing your content can help you develop an online audience. As you become more established, taking part in Facebook groups, sponsoring posts, and producing targeted Facebook advertising can assist you to engage with a larger audience.
Initially billed as a ‘microblogging’ platform, Twitter has rapidly grown into one of the most popular social media formats.
Whilst many small businesses use Twitter to publish links to their material, one of its best uses is engaging with influencers. Unlike Facebook and numerous other channels, you can tag influencers even if they do not follow you – which creates more opportunities to promote your brand.
LinkedIn is now regarded as the premier ‘professional’ social network. Initially, a networking site, LinkedIn has grown into an optimum channel for distributing professional content.
Mostly popular with young people, Instagram is a social media platform with the premise of distributing eye-catching, visual content.
If you have products that lend themselves well to images or graphics, Instagram can be a powerful tool to utilize.
Pinterest is another ‘visual’ social media platform. Its primary use is to allow people to collect and organize photos from the online world.
Marketing on Pinterest requires the use of strong visual elements. It is also worth bearing in mind that demographics on Pinterest are quite different from other forms of social media. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Pinterest users are women.
Content Marketing & SEO
Search engine optimization is the practice of getting your content to appear in Google searches. SEO is incredibly powerful due to the following reasons:
- Your brand becomes front and centre when users are asking a question.
- You can enjoy free, targeted traffic for a prolonged time.
When people utilize search engines, they are essentially looking for an answer to their questions. And If you can place your businesses on – or near – the first page of search results, imagine the degree of free traffic you could receive. You will essentially be appearing in every search for related search queries.
Whilst the process of SEO is multi-layered, one of the best tools that you can utilize is the consistent production and distribution of high-quality content.
How Your Business Can Start Content Marketing
If you have made it this far, you should have all the info you need to start content marketing for your small business. To begin with, you should have a thorough understanding of how to determine your target market and how to distribute content once you have created it.
Content marketing is proven to benefit small businesses. It allows small businesses to build their brand by developing trust and long-term relationships with their audience.
Now that you have the resources, it’s time to start producing content.
This article was contributed by Jacob Gregory. Jacob is a Digital Marketer and Content Marketing Specialist from Australia. He assists businesses to create a unique and engaging public profile. His expertise includes web design, website copy, content strategy, SEO, and digital marketing.