Content marketing is all around us. Big businesses spend a lot of time and effort developing content marketing strategies, and there’s good reason: it works. But even if you’re a small business with a tight budget, you can participate and even excel in this area.
Many small businesses tend to shy away from content marketing because it is seen as more of a long-term marketing strategy, and indeed it is a strategy that is built over time. But it’s worth the effort because effective content marketing strategies have the potential to establish you and your brand as a leader in your industry or market, and for that reason it is a powerful tool for connecting and building stronger relationships with potential and existing customers.
What is Content Marketing?
Before we get too far into this article, let’s clarify this term. Content marketing is a strategy that focuses on consistently creating and distributing valuable content that is relevant to your business. This strategy, when executed successfully, helps to attract a very specific audience — one that is motivated to buy your product or service.
Content marketing appeals to many of us who truly want to provide value to our customers, not just make a quick buck, and it is a great way to grow rapport and instill loyalty in your customer base.
It’s Not Just About Sharing
As your marketing channels mature it becomes essential to develop your own quality content. Social media allows you to grow your community, and easily keep your followers updated; however, as the market continues to expand, it becomes increasingly important for you to do more than share…in order to stand out you need to create your own content.
Why? If a potential customer can read the content you provide anywhere, it becomes less likely that they will make the effort to get to your site or social media channel. You need to provide people with content that pulls them to your brand. This doesn’t mean it is all about you and your content, but rather a balance between industry news and branded information so that people not only understand what you and your brand are all about, but also understand and appreciate that you are unique, and have something different to say.
The more comfortable your followers are with you, and the more respect they have for your expertise, methodology, approach and business practices, the easier it will be to drive future sales.
Breaking The Ice
Content marketing can be a great ice-breaker for people who are discovering your brand for the first time. In a traditional sales cycle, your goal is simple: find customers and sell to them. By adding content marketing to your approach, you offer something prior to the sale. Instead of asking customers to make a commitment right off the bat, you give them a chance to get to know what you are all about, extending an olive branch and giving them the chance to benefit from your content or information without any pressure to buy.
The advantage of this approach is that it’s about more than one sale. This is the way to encourage people to become fans and supporters of your brand. It’s likely that they will also become customers, but as supporters and fans they are far more valuable to you and your business over the long term.
Is It Worth The Effort?
Marketing can be one of the largest expenses in your budget, and sometimes it can be hard to know if you are reaching the right potential customers. The benefit of content marketing is that it gives you the ability to tailor your marketing very specifically.
Yes, it might take longer to develop a video than a banner ad, but if it’s more effective at attracting your ideal customer, is it worth the effort? A content approach often gives you a larger canvas to work with, so it’s easier for potential customers to know who you are and what you represent.
When your content is designed with the services and products you offer in mind, it should feel like a purchase is the next logical step. For example, if someone reads an article on your site that inspires them to go vegan, and then they complete your 7-day free plant-based kitchen transformation course, signing up for your paid 30-day online course seems like a logical next step. This is an example of how content marketing naturally flows from providing information to creating sales opportunities.
Because of the increased ability powerful tools provide to track behaviors in email campaigns and website visits, you can track easily who is using the content you are providing. If you see that potential customers are visiting certain pages or downloading certain content, this gives you the opportunity to provide them with follow-up information on applicable services they might be interested in. For example, if they are downloading recipes for kids, you know they would be a good match for your plant-based kids’ cookbook, or if they read articles about vegan fashion you might offer them tickets to your next fashion show.
What Type Of Content Should You Create?
There are lots of different types of content marketing. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. The key is deciding the type of content you can create on a consistent basis. If it is weekly or monthly, think about what information you can share in a highly visual way.
Some people supersize their blog, providing more interactive data, graphics or case studies. Others create videos that include strategies like storytelling or “how-to” advice, or insider access to the brand or industry. And an increasing number of people are using live video as a way to connect with their audiences in real-time. These are all great options — the only thing for you to do is decide which works best for you, your budget and your audience.
In the beginning you might want to try some different formats, like infographics, memes, 60-second videos, articles or even a podcast series. If you aren’t sure where to start, review your existing blog, site or social media reporting to see what content gets the greatest response or readship, and start by expanding on that. Another idea is to develop a survey to take the pulse of your audience.
If you are starting from scratch, benchmark other leaders in your industry and see what’s popular on their sites. This might give you an idea of a starting point as you build your own audience.
Scrap The So-So Content
Valuable and relevant are really keywords here. It’s easy (and it may even be tempting) to bombard your customer base or followers with mediocre content. But it’s far better, and more effective, to create really great content that they will appreciate, use and remember. When customers actually look forward to receiving your marketing because it’s useful to them, you are doing it right. High engagement leads to better sales and more referrals.
Tips to Get You Started
- Find a way to tell your story. Done right storytelling is one of the most powerful ways you can connect with your audience. Everyone has a story to tell. What’s a story about your business/startup/challenges that might resonate and help you connect with your audience? Once you figure that out, find a way to tell it that will make them want to listen (hint: keeping it relaxed and authentic will make it more appealing to your followers, and it may make it cheaper to produce too).
- Think of your audience. Always. Where do “your people” gather online? How are they likely to access your content, and what type of content are they most likely to find valuable? When you have answers to these questions, you will be well on your way to developing a great content marketing strategy.
- Don’t take existing customers for granted. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that when someone is on board with your business, they’re on board for good. But experienced business owners know that keeping those bonds with existing customers strong is a key way to improve revenue growth. You probably already know a lot about your existing customers, so make sure your existing customer base is included in your content marketing strategy.
Successful content marketing has helped many businesses take flight, and it can help yours too! The best part is that wherever you’re at you can take steps to build your own unique offering…remember quality and consistency over quantity, and just get started!
Spend 30 minutes brainstorming and recording who your audience is, where they gather online, and what kind of content they would love to receive from you. Then choose one that seems doable, and do it!