One of today’s fastest growing marketing strategies is content marketing. In fact, 78% of CMO’s think that content is the future of marketing. In this article we will explore what content marketing is, why it is important for small businesses and how you can get started with content marketing today. But first, what is content marketing anyway?
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a marketing strategy centred around creating, publishing and promoting valuable, relevant content to consumers. This content commonly includes a mixture of blog posts, photos, e-books, guides, videos, webinars and infographics.
The key difference between content marketing and advertising is the concept of “valuable” content. A valuable piece of content is one that consumers are searching for. They want to consume the content. Traditional advertising content needs to be promoted. Consumers are not actively searching for it.
Successful content marketing combines exceptional content with SEO, social media marketing, e-mail marketing and analytics to create a complete marketing strategy. SEO must be considered when creating content to ensure it can be seen. Social media and e-mail marketing are then used to help promote content to existing customers. Analytics data is used to check results and improve future content.
For consumers, the benefits of content marketing are easy to understand. They have a need and require information to solve this need. Your content provides these consumers with enough information to make an educated decision and solve their need.
The real question is why so many small business owners are going through the effort of creating this content in the first place. Why aren’t they charging the customer to fix the problem or having them talk to a salesperson that can sell them a new product? What’s in it for small business owners?
How Content Marketing Benefits Small Businesses
To really see the benefits of content marketing for small businesses we first need to look at the four steps of a typical buying process.
In the first stage, awareness, consumers become aware of a need. Although they are now aware of the need, they are not yet aware of the solution to it.
Next comes research. Once a need is recognized, consumers will begin searching for a solution to it. They will often turn to their peers or look to search engines to provide them with information on the many solutions available to them.
Once they have enough information, consumers begin to evaluate the different solutions presented to them. They evaluate each option by looking at their perceived value.
Value is defined as the difference between the benefits and cost of a solution. The greater the difference between the benefits and the cost, the greater the perceived value.
In the final stage consumers choose the solution with the highest perceived value and make a purchase.
Content Marketing Vs. Traditional Advertising
Traditional advertising is generally geared to catch consumers at the third stage of the buying process. They explain benefits and demonstrate value to consumers. They are designed to sell consumers products or services that they are already researching.
Content marketing, on the other hand, catches consumers in one of the first two stages. It is aimed at giving consumers information about how to solve their existing needs and raising awareness for needs that they had not yet considered.
The reality is that consumers are going to search for ways to solve their needs whether or not you publish content. If your brand and your message don’t get in front of customers and your competition’s does, you will have a much harder time selling them later in the buying process.
Beyond that, content marketing offers many benefits to small business owners.
Indirect Benefits Of Content Marketing
Increased Visibility / Brand Awareness – As we mentioned earlier, once consumers recognize a need of theirs, they will begin searching for solutions. By offering valuable content that helps to solve their need you bring consumers to your website. Those consumers become more aware of your brand, and more importantly, your message.
Increased Brand Authority – If your content is very good, consumers keep coming back when seeking answers for related questions. These consumers begin to see your brand as an authority in your industry. People want to deal with experts, it adds perceived value to your business because they know you know what you’re talking about. This increased value means that your business will now be first on their minds when these begin trying to solve needs they know you can fill.
Indirect Conversions – When consumers land on your website, even if it’s just to read a blog post, the distance between them and your products becomes smaller. Some consumers will come to your website looking to solve one need and notice that you also have products that solve a different need of theirs. Others will discover a need later and remember that your company has a solution.
Direct Benefits Of Content Marketing
Improved SEO – Content marketing helps to improve your SEO in many ways. Here are just a few.
- Having more content gives search engines more content to crawl, giving you a better chance of ranking for long-tail keywords.
- Search engines want to show consumers the most relevant content possible. An increase in website traffic acts as an endorsement from consumers that your website has relevant and valuable content. Search engines will therefore begin to rank your website higher.
- Consumers love to share great content. Every time someone shares a piece of your content, a link is created that points to your website. These links also indicate relevancy and quality. The more links your website has, the higher it will rank in search engines.
Lead Generation – As we mentioned earlier, once consumers are finished researching solutions to their need they will begin evaluating products that can solve their need. If you’ve written compelling enough content and demonstrated expertise in your field, your name should now be on their list of companies to contact. This is the primary focus of content marketing.
Leads from content marketing are typically better qualified than other leads. They come from consumers that have completed the researching step of the buying cycle and have already been exposed to your business and your message.
Getting Started With Content Marketing – The Basics
So how can you get started with content marketing? First you need great content! Start by researching your customers and what they are searching for. Once you know what consumers are searching for, you can begin writing content that they will find valuable.
Once you know what to write about it’s time to start writing. Focus each piece of content on one specific topic. Give your readers specific advice and actionable suggestions for how they can solve their need. Write for the reader’s benefit and keep product promotion to a minimum. Many small business owners getting started with content marketing make the mistake of only writing about their business. Remember that at this stage consumers are only in the information gathering stage. They’re not ready to purchase. Focusing too much on yourself and your products will turn a lot of readers off of what you’re saying.
Once your piece of content is finished, it’s time to start promoting it. If you’ve done your job well the SEO of your article will be good and it will start showing up in search engines results. It can take time for this to happen though and there is no guarantee that the right consumers will be able to see it right away.
This is where you can leverage your existing customers. Consumers love to share great content. In fact, they currently share around 27 million pieces of it every day! Social media and e-mail are the fastest way to spread your new content to the masses. Let all of your social media followers know when new content is posted and put it in your next e-mail blast. As your existing customers begin liking and sharing your new content it begins to spread to their friends and beyond.
Now that every thing is done it is time to look back and see how you did. Check your analytics data to see how people are responding to your content. Which posts get the most traffic? How many times was each post liked or shared on social media? How many readers turned into leads? Use this data to see how each piece of content performed and use these insights to create better, more engaging content in the future.
Content marketing is a long-term strategy. It requires a lot of time and effort to do properly and can take a while before you start to see results. While at first you may go months with nothing to show for it, keep at it. If your content is good enough, consumers will start to find it. When they do you will start reaping the rewards of better SEO, more website traffic, better brand recognition, and more qualified leads for your business.
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