This article introduces the concept of content marketing to small businesses and provides some actionable advice on getting started. It covers types of content and how they are used, how content marketing differs from traditional advertising, how to target specific groups of customers and more.
The internet is full to the brim with competitors and distractions. Content marketing is a means for small businesses to stand out and to level the playing field.
Content marketing is a type of indirect marketing. You don’t usually use it to directly sell your product, as you would with traditional advertising. Instead, it’s about building your brand and your reputation organically and getting people to notice you.
So how much can content marketing do for you? Ask Dollar Shave Club, which started as a two-man operation with a $4,000 budget in 2011 and garnered an initial following thanks to clever blog posts and videos. That momentum built to a $1 billion buyout by Unilever just five years later.
Or Kissmetrics, which went from unknown to marketing thought leader in about a year thanks primarily to their insightful blog posts. Not every business will experience these roaring levels of success, of course, but content marketing clearly has amazing potential to boost any business.
What is Content?
Let’s start with the absolute basics. What exactly is this “content” you’ll be using to build your business?
Content is any material that your visitors might find interesting, informative or entertaining. Some popular categories include:
• Blog posts
• Social media posts
• White papers
• Online Courses
• Slideshow presentations
• Case studies
• How-to guides and tutorials
What’s the Point of Content Marketing?
The point is to get people interested in your company and your products. You want to give them a reason to engage with and return to your web presence. Ideally, you also want them organically sharing your content marketing efforts with their personal networks on social media.
So here’s a fair question at this point: how does this translate into increased revenue? It boosts your sales by increasing public awareness and trust, positioning your brand as an authority in your area of business, and boosting both the quantity and quality of online traffic to your site.
How do Small Businesses Deploy Content Marketing?
Your content marketing efforts are centered on your area of business. However, instead of directly pitching your products, you’re creating content that is of interest to your target demographics.
For example, let’s say you run a brewing supply business. You might start out by creating a series of videos or written tutorials on home-brewing your own small-batch craft beers. Or let’s say you have a wedding photography service. You might consider regularly blogging about celebrity weddings and the unique things seen at them.
The good news is, you don’t have to guess at what your visitors want. You probably already have a good idea of who your core demographics are and what is sending them your way. That’s what you center your content marketing efforts on. Think about the problems that your products can solve for them and work from there.
Content Marketing vs. Traditional Advertising
Content marketing isn’t like advertising copywriting. The goal isn’t to directly promote or sell your product. In some circumstances, it’s OK to do a little overt marketing or to include a call to action related to your services, but that’s never the central thrust of the effort.
The goal is to provide your visitors with content that is helpful and/or entertaining. You want to anticipate questions they will have and provide them with the answers they are looking for. You also want to do this in a way that gives them a reason to come back and stay engaged with you.
You also want to meet your audience on their terms. You’re having a natural, two-way conversation with regular people. Unless your customers are other businesses, content marketing is usually not the place for industry or business administration jargon.
How Can You Get Started With Content Marketing?
If your business is entirely new to content marketing, a great place to start is your “about us” page. If you don’t have one, you should as it’s a fundamental cornerstone of any business website. If you do have one, odds are it hasn’t had the attention paid to it that it really should.
The “about us” page not only provides customers with some information about who you are but also serves as an opportunity to let visitors know what kind of content they can expect from you. Coming up with a concise statement about the content you are going to deliver can really help you to focus in on your most valuable demographics.
Getting Granular With Customer Demographics
Online tools offer an unprecedented opportunity to identify and understand customers. The more you can refine your target demographics by their traits, needs, and preferences, the more successful your content marketing campaign will be.
You don’t want to simply target everyone interested in your business category, because that’s too broad of a field to cover adequately. You want to cater to the needs of the people who are most interested in your specific products.
Let’s say that you have a business that sells meal kits.
What groups are most interested in your particular kits? Is it busy professionals who don’t have time to make a meal? Or perhaps it’s people who want to impress guests with a nice dinner but don’t have much ability to cook from scratch? People, who want a simple healthy solution delivered to them? People on a particular diet?
The group (or groups) that you sell the most to will inform your content marketing strategy.
Demographic information also helps you to determine what social media and publishing platforms are best for you to use. If your demographic likes photos, then you’re looking at Pinterest or Tumblr. If they’re fans of video, then YouTube or Vimeo are big targets. If they like long-form articles, consider a publishing platform like Medium in addition to placing them on your own site.
Getting It All Together
The first step in your content marketing plan is to know your audience in as much detail as possible. That tells you which specific groups to target and the best ways of reaching them. You then come up with some good content ideas and put them on a regular update schedule to make sure you don’t have any long dry spells without updates.
And as you publish your content, don’t forget to promote it through means such as social media and paid advertising.
An Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses