There is something that can be rather daunting about marketing your business. Where do you start? What works? What doesn’t? These, and questions like these, can leave you feeling like your head is going to explode. If you’re a small business with a corresponding website, then the questions that you’ll undoubtably have won’t end there.
Somewhere along your journey as a business and website owner, you are going to hear or read this phrase: Content Marketing. Sure, it may not be a new tactic in terms of marketing in the online world, however it may well be a new idea to you. You’ll quickly wonder, “What in the blue-blazes is Content Marketing? Is that even something worth exploring?”
If Content Marketing and the idea of building a Content Marketing Strategy for your small business has you scratching your head, then this article should help clear the air a bit.
What Is Content Marketing?
People define Content Marketing a few different ways, but the core idea of their explanations are always the same. Joe Pulizzi over at Content Marketing Institute wrote a great article regarding this question and summed it up rather nicely:
“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” — (Source)
Essentially, the idea behind Content Marketing is that you create content for your business’s audience that helps to either push a purchase or a lead; that content always relates to your business (or niche, if you will). This may sound confusing, but you likely encounter a similar sales approach on a regular basis without realizing the tactic being employed.
For instance, if you go a shoe store, your objective is obvious to everyone: you’re there to buy shoes. Therefore, the people working in the store are not going to try and sell you a suit or dress. Instead, they’ll focus on your objective, namely, helping you find the right pair of shoes.
Content Marketing takes a similar approach. You create content (written, visual, or audible) that will be focused on your audience’s interest and is relevant to your business — whatever that may be.
What Are The Benefits Of Content Marketing For A Small Business?
So can a small business really benefit from Content Marketing? In short, yes, they can. Though the approach to your strategy will likely be different than that of a large company like Apple or Microsoft, there are 3 major benefits that both small and large businesses can achieve if done right.
Getting Your Business Out There
No doubt all business owners would agree that we would like at least some notoriety for our businesses and the dedication we put into them. Even for a small business, Content Marketing can help you gain some of that notice that we so often crave, and more than likely deserve.
Building A Reputation As A Reliable Business
Depending the type of business you run, your initial contact with a potential customer is likely not face to face. Even if it is, having relevant informative content on your website’s blog is going to help your visitors trust you.
One thing we often forget about online marketing is that we are promoting to real people with busy lives and multiple interests, just like us. In fact, no matter what your business size, content has been proven to be a crucial aspect in building trust with the ones who don’t know your business quite yet. Need proof? Check out this statistic:
Because 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content, they are also more likely to buy from that company. — (Source)
Why do so many people feel this way? Because they’re human. They feel, they’re curious, and they want to trust businesses, but they can’t do that if they don’t have a foundation to build that trust on.
Custom content based around your business is going to build your authority and reliability in your audience — both locally, and elsewhere. And your audience — a.k.a your potential clients — will more than likely repay you by becoming a loyal customer.
SEO and Social Engagement
If you’re a local based business (that is, your business is derived from your local area), then you are sure to be aware of just how full local web searches can be. Getting to page one under the keywords you think people will search for can be difficult in a crowded market, but it’s nearly impossible without regular content posted to your site. Consistent, high-quality content published to your website and blog, when done correctly, can increase your rankings in Google, and thus, the traffic to your site which can result in leads for your business.
This isn’t an overnight accomplishment, but even Google wants to know if the content for your business is trustworthy before they reward you with better rankings. Google’s SEO rules are bound to change, but rich, valuable content seems to be the one thing that they’ll never shut out.
The other plus to Content Marketing is that it gives you the chance to take advantage of Social Media power. While you’re building your Content, you are also building your brand and people want to be a part of brands they like.
Interesting content is a top 3 reason people follow brands on social media. — (Source)
Regardless of the type of business you run, Social Media can be a benefit to your company. Couple that power with a well thought out Content Marketing Strategy, and you’re well on your way to a successful campaign. One way to harness this power is to make it easy for people to share your content by adding social media share buttons on your site. If they like it, they’ll share it and that could mean more traffic, which is always a good thing.
An Example Of How Content Marketing Benefited A Small Local Business
It’s one thing to read about how small businesses can benefit from Content Marketing, but it’s another thing when you read about someone who actually saw results from their efforts. If you’re someone who likes these types of stories, then you’ll love this one. It’s a personal favorite of mine. Why, you may ask? Because it’s mine.
Back in 2011, my husband decided to quit his 9-5 job and start his own locally based property maintenance company. Back then, I knew almost nothing about online marketing, SEO, or how to write web content. In fact, neither of us knew how important that would be for the business. However, we eventually realized that the best way to get more business with less effort was to better our rankings in Google’s local search. Once we figured that out, I dove right in.
I learned a little bit about keyword research, and optimizing WordPress posts for SEO along with the importance of connecting Google + to our website and encouraging Likes on that platform. Our goal was to create content that educated our site’s visitors on the type of work we did, how we differed from the competition, and we appealed to the people in our area since that was our audience.
The screenshot above is of one month worth of pageviews from September through October of this year. Here are the numbers the site has seen in the past month:
- Sessions: 240 (90% of this number is from brand-new leads to the site)
- Users: 223
- Pageviews: 510
Thanks to our Content Marketing Strategy, our site is now ranked on page 1 (and even in the first spot, in some cases) in Local Google Search for more than 6 of our main competitive keywords and over 80% of the work that comes to the business is from leads based solely off organic web searches — that’s all brand new business, and not return customers. Though the numbers above aren’t what some would call jaw-dropping, for a small local business like this one, these numbers are great because they are genuine, solid leads that equal real money.
Since all our Content Marketing was done in house, all it cost us was time in research and content creation, and even though we knew little about Content Marketing at the time, our efforts have paid off. Obviously, your results and that of others will vary, but it’s always encouraging to see how other small businesses managed to pull it off. (*wink*)
How To Get Started With Your Content Marketing Strategy
Figure Out Your Audience
Defining your audience will immensely help you define the goals of your content creation. It’s important to remember that the content you will be creating should be specifically for your business’s particular audience and not for everyone in the world.
If you’re currently unaware of who would be interested in what you do and your business, don’t panic. Below are a couple of really great articles that can help you decypher your audience:
- Content Strategy: How to Find Your Target Audience
- 5 Methods and 15 Tools To Find Your Audience and Build a Community
Define Your Goals
Creating and distributing content should never be a shot in the dark — that would just be a waste of time. Instead, you should spend time defining the goals of your content. The goal you set is entirely up to you, but it should take into consideration your audience and be based around your business.
For example, a local painting company may decide to build content that educates people on how to find a properly licensed contractor, and places calls to action in their posts to prompt a lead for their business.
On the other hand, a freelance illustrator may decide to create content that shows off his or her skills and talents in order to gain recognition. Though their goals are different, each business creates content based around what they do and keep in mind their defined goals while creating said content. Whatever your goals are, just remember to make them.
Research Your Competition
If you find yourself at a crossroads when trying to come up with content ideas, then your best bet is to research what your competitors are doing.
What are they writing about? Who is their audience? What are they posting on Social Media? What are their best and most popular posts? Do they find success from using Podcasts or YouTube videos?
You should never steal the content from another site, but you can use the content your competitors create as inspiration for your own content creation process.
Doing this type of research is always good, so why not see what they other guys are doing?
Try To Keep It Simple
Much of what you’ll read online (not all, but quite a bit) about how to get started in Content Marketing is often tailored toward bigger or commercial type businesses. Therefore, a lot of the information that you’ll read won’t always apply to a smaller business model and can leave you wondering if you can even do this.
When you start to question yourself and your marketing strategy, just remember to keep it simple. Often times, a small business doesn’t need all the bells and whistles, and when you’re developing the content yourself, keeping things simple is going to help you retain your sanity.
Building content isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. If you keep in mind your audience and your goals, and you check back in every once and awhile to see how things are going, then you’re going to see results compared to doing nothing.
Don’t Be Afraid To Learn
Online Marketing is a tough cookie to crack and few will instinctively know how to navigate that winding road. If Online and Content Marketing are new to you, then you should do your best to learn the ropes.
Yes, it will take some time. Yes, it can be hard. But, it’s worth it. Below are some great online resources that can help you get started on the right path. Just remember one size doesn’t fit all, so take what you learn and apply the bits that you feel best fit your business.
- Copyblogger’s Free Content Marketing Course | This course is chock-full of all the best Content Marketing goodness. It comes with 7 e-books on the topic, an additional 9 e-books (in case the first 7 weren’t enough), and a huge 20-part internet marketing course — all delivered right to your inbox and 100% free. If you’re going to start anywhere, I suggest starting here.
- The Advanced Marketing Guide from QuickSprout | As soon as you start to browse the web for information about Online Marketing, you’re bound to come across the ever amazing, Neil Patel (founder of QuickSprout). This free marketing e-book is a concentrated version of the fantastic content that you’ll find about Content Marketing on his blog. Be sure to download a copy and sign up for the newsletter. You’ll be happy you did.
- Getting Started With Content Marketing from Content Marketing Institute | As the name would suggest, Content Marketing Institute is a blog that focuses on, wait for it… Content Marketing! (Big surprise there.) All jokes aside, the information you’ll find on the “Getting Started” series is sure to help more than a few.
What To Do When You Need Help
Executing you Content Marketing Strategy isn’t always going to be easy — at the very least, it’s time consuming. Not everyone has the time to create the content that they need for their business. If you’re looking for help in your content creation, then consider hiring a freelancer.
If you’re looking for help to create written content, then your best to hire a seasoned blogger who can produce the content you need. There are plenty of places to go to find a professional blogger:
- Blogging Pro Job Board | Posting on this site free, and you’ll be sure to get a flood of people applying for the position. In order to weed through a lot of the emails you’re going to receive, you should be sure to layout exactly what you want the applicant to do in order to qualify for the position. It is very common for those who post ads to ask applicants to include a random phrase in the post to ensure that those worth considering actually took the time to thoroughly read the ad. It may also be beneficial to list your price per post, or monthly budget along with the average word count that you wish each post to have.
- ProBlogger Job Board | Similar to Blogging Pro, only you pay $50 to have your ad posted for 30 days.
- Be A Freelance Blogger | Sophie Lizard is the wonderfully brilliant blogger behind the scenes at the ever popular blog, Be A Freelance Blogger. She is well known in professional blogging circles and offers to help people find the right blogger for the job. Her process is impressive and less of a hassle than what you would find if you used an ad on one of the sites above.
All three options above are great places to start when looking for someone to create content for your blog. If you’re looking for content outside of just regular written content, then there are sites like Fiverr and Freelancer available where you can go to find someone who can create videos, infographics and much more.
To Wrap It Up
So can a Content Marketing Strategy benefit your small business? Well, if done right, there’s no reason it can’t. Obviously, what you decide to do with your business is, well… your business, but it’s always good to explore your marketing options.
If you have yet to incorporate Content Marketing into your business, then take now as the opportunity to consider it. And if you do, then I highly recommend taking the time to learn the ropes via the links above. Either way, best of luck in your business!