It is no secret that small businesses have less revenue, less manpower, and often simply less experience when it comes to executing a marketing campaign. Even so, content marketing can be successfully implemented by small companies -not just their larger counterparts. While dedicating resources to content creation and promotion may seem counterproductive, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Creating and promoting the right content will allow you to build rapport with and educate potential clients long before they call a sales rep. This will save the valuable time of your smaller team, ensuring sales calls are scheduled with the most qualified prospects first.
Long story short: content marketing will allow you to leverage systems and automation, enabling your small team to close sales on a large scale by creating “one to many” sales scenarios. Think of this as the online version of speaking at a lawyer convention if you specialized in accounting for attorneys.
What is Content Marketing?
As defined by the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is 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.”
It is a form of online marketing (videos, blogs, and social media are all examples) that promotes interest in what a brand has to offer the consumer without actually directly referencing the brand itself.
Before You Begin…
Content marketing can be a successful strategy for your small business’s marketing efforts. It has the ability to reach a large audience and can really engage those with whom it comes into contact. Before you set out to generate a content marketing campaign for your small business though, make certain you know all that one entails in order to be most effective.
Do the Proper Research
Before actually developing your media for content marketing purposes, you need to gather all the information you can regarding your target audience and your competitors. Conduct market research to gain insight into who exactly makes up the target market of your small business. Learn who they are, what they are interested in, how they most often access and engage with online media, and what their needs are. Without this data, you will be blindly assuming whose attention it is that your content marketing should attract and in what ways you should attempt to do so.
Take a look also into what marketing efforts your competitors are making and how specifically they are failing or succeeding. (If they currently are not putting forth any marketing efforts, than that is a huge advantage for your business!) Capitalize on what they may be failing at and learn from what they are succeeding with. This will help you stand out amongst your competitors in your marketing, which is a goal you should always keep in mind.
In your planning and research phase, it is also important that you make decisions about what exactly it is that you are willing and able to invest in your business’s content marketing. Have a specific monetary amount set as your budget for the campaign that you and whoever else it may apply to knows not to go over. In addition to just knowing what you are willing to invest into your small business’s content marketing in terms of money though, you need to also make decisions about how much time and how much of your staff resources you are willing to contribute. The creation and implementation of any marketing efforts can quickly run away with your time and resources if you do not set standards for what you are willing to contribute to it beforehand.
Know What You are Trying to Achieve
In any campaign or development of strategy, you need to have clearly defined (S.M.A.R.T) goals for it in place. Set goals provide clarity and motivation to a task, especially when the task was undertaken in order to achieve something (in the case of content marketing, to market a business). Are you wanting to improve your brand’s SEO? Or gain more social media followers? Boost your online sales? Or lead one-time customers to a second purchase from you?
Make decisions both on what your goals are and what the time-frames for your business to achieve them through its content marketing will be. Think through what your content marketing could have the potential to do for your small business and decide which of those possibilities is most important to you at the time. Then, with a more narrow focus and set of goals, you can tailor your content marketing to achieving the specific things you want it to achieve rather than simply creating something and hoping for the best.
Goals Your Small Business Should Have for its Content Marketing
Once you have narrowed your focus on the idea of what it is you want your small business to achieve with its content marketing efforts and started to make set goals, you will definitely want to make sure that these comprehensive goals make it on the list and set out to reach them by employing the following tactics:
- Gain Exposure For and Build Awareness of Your Brand
- Give an answer to a problem your target market is having.
- Generate content on an area of interest.
- Grab attention (and then trust) with quality content.
- Convert Visitors/Views to Clients.
- Have a way to track from where it is people are getting to your content marketing. (If the majority of the viewers of your content marketing are getting there through a link on Facebook, you will know in the future to reach more interested people you should utilize Facebook.)
- Give the option to subscribe to your small business’s blog or email list somewhere within your content marketing so that you have a way to capture valuable contact information.
Map Out Your Content Marketing Plan
After you have conducted research on your audience and your competitors, have made decisions pertaining to resource allocation, and have set clear and attainable goals, it is time for you to put together a draft of your small business’s plan for content marketing. Map out not only what your content marketing will be about and how it will communicate the message you choose for it, but also think of things like what channels you will distribute your content through and with what tools you will track the performance of the marketing efforts. Having a detailed roadmap for how your content marketing plan will be executed will help your small business to stay on target and manage the duration of the campaign with more ease and less stress.
Developing Content Marketing
After all the tedious research and goal-setting and planning has been completed, you are on to the fun part — creating the media that will make up your small business’s content marketing! When developing the content marketing for your small business, you will need to think about how it can be shared both within the confines of the channels owned by your small business, like on your website, and within public channels not directly under the control of your small business, such as across various social media networks and potentially even through news outlets. If you are able to create a piece of content marketing that can be shared both on your company’s own website as well as on other sites, your content marketing can make a positive contribution to both your on-page and off page SEO (aka link building).
On-page vs. Off-page SEO
The content of your small business’s website and blog is a key ingredient to your on-page SEO. One of the most common ways that search engine sites rank websites is according to the frequency of use and the distinction of particular keywords and phrases throughout the pages of your website. From the search engines’ evaluation of your site’s keywords and phrases, they can then designate the importance and relevance of your site as they see fit to best help their users in their searches.
In addition to just making smart decisions on which keywords to use on your site, you must also make smart decisions regarding where you will feature these keywords within your site. Keywords garner more weight on the search engines’ scales when they appear in prominent places of your site, like in the titles of pages, or in headings, the domain name, or images. When posting your content marketing, think through what words in its description and text will best attract attention and help your on-page SEO. Be careful not to over-use keywords though, or it could have a negative effect on your visibility.
Off-page SEO is a vote of credibility coming from other sites that are not controlled by your small business. Any mention of your website (such as through blogger outreach) or the name of your business by others online is used by search engines to further help them in their ranking of your business in their search results pages. Incoming links have consistently been one of the most important ranking factors used by Google for the past 10 years (or more!) and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
If you are new to the concept, check out: “What is SEO and Why Do You Need It?”
Make Your Content Marketing Different
When developing the content marketing for your small business, you must make it different than everything else that is already out there! It takes a lot of time and the expense of many other resources to create original content over spending a little bit of money to plaster advertisements wherever you so choose (especially for a small business with limited amounts of cash and manpower!).
If you are putting in the effort to develop original content for a content marketing campaign, you need to be certain that what you are creating will actually be noticed by your intended audience. If the content generated and published by your small business looks exactly the same as that of your competitors, no one will pay it any attention and it therefore will not lead you to any conversions.
A Few Examples of Content Distribution Channels
Social Media Accounts
Crafting beautiful images of your product in use and posting them on Instagram or maintaining a Tumblr account that posts humorous photos pertaining to your industry are both ways you can use social media for content marketing. By generating content for social media that does not shout your company name at the consumer but that is able to put what you do or have to offer before their eyes, you are able to stimulate interest in your brand by way of teaching or entertaining the consumer.
With an e-newsletter for your small business that is sent out to a list of subscribers, you can share content that provides information to its readers on the areas in which your business has expertise. If you own a lawn service company, email your subscribers “10 Ways to Keep Your Grass Healthy in the Heat” when the summer season approaches. Or, if you are the owner of a hair salon, put together an e-newsletter to be sent to your subscribers on the “Top Hair Color Trends You’ll be Seeing in 2018.” Give your audience information on topics you have knowledge about and you can better market your brand, both by boosting your credibility and showing them that you care.
With a blog, your small business can create informational content for readers as you would with an email newsletter. What you can also do with a blog however is have guest authors write posts to be featured on your company’s blog. Having a guest author write for your blog builds interest and who it is that you choose will convey more of your brand’s personality. In addition to these things though, a blog for your small business can serve as content marketing, providing original content to your audience that will lead them to your small business.
Examples of Successful Content Marketing
Although it is certainly true that content marketing for a small business can in many ways be different than content marketing for a large corporation, inspiration can often be gained from the content that big brands put out to the world in their marketing efforts.
Sporting goods giant Adidas is using content marketing to its advantage with its adidas GamePlan A blog. On the blog, the brand posts content pertaining to the happenings in the business of sports and the balancing act of a life with one foot in the working world and the other in the world of athletics. Its slogan is, “Tackle work life with an athlete’s heart.” Through this blog and the content shared through it, Adidas is able to reach a specific target market of nonprofessional (but no less passionate) athletes and create a strong connection to them. By engaging an audience with content that expresses knowledge and care, the brand is able to draw people in and help give its brand a lasting identity with the consumer.
The monthly subscription service that sends its customers boxes of beauty samples does content marketing well through The Magazine of its brand. This online magazine that Birchbox has created contains original content that gives information on beauty trends and how-tos. By sharing fun, helpful information that relates back to the product it offers, Birchbox is able to attract its audience, engage them with its content, and build a strong connection to its brand in the minds of the viewers of the content.
Benefits of Content Marketing for Your Small Business
By creating original marketing content, you are doing much more than simply hoping people stumble upon your small business’s website during a Google search or that people will in some way just happen to make a connection with your brand. In distributing original content that informs and entertains without explicitly trying to make a hard sale, your small business is able to create interest and catch the attention of its target market, and therefore drive traffic to its website and social media accounts.
Improve your search engine rankings
As discussed earlier, content marketing, if done right, will improve the search engine rankings of your small business’s website both through on-page SEO and off-page SEO. When search engine users are searching for local businesses in your industry, you want your business’s name to appear as one at the top of the list of results. By properly utilizing keywords and phrases with your content marketing, you can ensure that your SEO will be helped and that more people will be led to your company’s website. It gives you the additional content your site might need to perform well in the online searches of internet users.
Increase sales by generating leads
The more quality content your small business is able to create and make public to be seen, the more opportunities it has to make sales. Content marketing generates leads by reaching out to your target market in a welcomed way, and those leads can go on to become more sales for your small business.
Enjoy a great ROI
Although it can absolutely take a good deal of time and effort to produce high-quality content marketing, it can be done on a small budget (which is often what first attracts small business owners and marketing teams to the concept in the first place). To give you a piece of hard evidence, the Content Marketing Institute discovered that, “While content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates more than three times as many leads.”
Promotion of brand recall
Content that is done well and that gives a person what they want (be it more information or a way to be entertained or both) prompts them to remember the brand with which the content is associated. Content marketing that is personalized to reach its target market helps the consumer to remember the brand. The personalization also prompts the consumer to engage with the content and the brand, and from there goes on to form a positive feedback loop that benefits both the consumer’s needs and the needs of the small business.
Reach people you may not reach otherwise
Being that so many people today spend so much of their time connected to the internet for work or pleasure or both, it gets annoying when their user experience is interrupted by advertisements. To combat this particular annoyance, many make use of ad blockers on the devices through which they access the internet. Content marketing allows a business to distribute its original content directly through social media accounts and on websites, so it shows up for more viewers to organically see on their social media feeds and internet browsing.
Closing Thoughts on Content Marketing…
Taking the leap to committing to produce quality, original content for your small business’s content marketing efforts is the first step. Know that content marketing takes hard work and an investment of your time, but that when done in the correct way for your business, it will end up paying off. The generation of original content that indirectly markets your brand is what will really reach large audiences and engage them with your brand as opposed to hard selling through advertisements. On the front end of developing the content marketing for your small business, make sure to do the necessary planning and research. Know your target market, how your competitors are marketing themselves, and make decisions on budgetary and other resource restrictions that you will abide by. Set clear, attainable goals for your content marketing and have an idea of how exactly it is that you will be able to achieve them by mapping out a detailed roadmap of how you see your business’s content marketing being initiated, executed, and tracked.
Keep SEO (both on-page and off-page) in mind as you include keywords and phrases in your content and how they can help your intended audience to be reached. Also, do your small business the ultimate favor by setting it apart from its competitors! If your content is too similar to the content of your competitors, your target market will have no reason to remember your particular brand in the sea of those that serve your industry. Choose which type of content marketing will work best for your small business and get to work. If you need inspiration, there are plenty of brands who have gone before you in the world of content marketing that you can look to. Develop original content to help market your small business and reap the many potential benefits.