When it comes to digital marketing for businesses, as the saying goes: content is king.
Content marketing, that is. That's why a whopping70% of marketers are currently investing in content strategies, and 72% cite having a good content strategy as a major key to their success.
For small businesses, content marketing is arguably even more vital. That's because smaller companies often don't have the marketing resources that larger firms do, and content marketing delivers some of the highest overall ROI for every marketing dollar spent. It's also a long-term strategy that can continue to pay dividends for a long time after it's put into effect.
To illustrate the point, here's everything you need to know about content marketing, and why it's an absolute must-have for small businesses.
What is the purpose of content marketing for small businesses?
The goal of all small business marketing efforts is to build a customer base and engage with them to create brand loyalty and drive sales. One of the most effective and inexpensive ways to do that in today's multi-channel environment is throughcontent marketing.
That's because unlike paid advertising, content marketing provides the audience with something of value – which goes a long way toward building trust with any customer or prospect.
It's a far more effective marketing strategy than you might imagine. In fact, survey data has indicated that70% of people would rather learn about a business via an article. And that's just one type of content marketing. Small businesses can avail themselves of countless forms of content creation to fuel their content marketing strategy, spread across a variety of channels. Along the way, they'll help establish themselves as an expert voice in their field, raise their public profile, and gain exposure for their products and services. It's a strategy that checks every imaginable box.
How to build a small business content marketing strategy
Before beginning the process of building a small business content marketing strategy, it's important to first prepare your existing digital assets to support it. To get started, you have to conduct some in-depth research to better understand the audience you're targeting.
To do this, you'll have to:
Field preference questionnaires with existing customers
Analyze the social media presence of key competitors
Examine the content profile of other industry leaders
Doing all of that will give you the data needed to create a well-targeted content marketing strategy that's likely to connect with the right audience. That's not all there is to prepare, though.
It's also necessary to get your business website and social media accounts ready to host and promote the content you're going to create. That meansoptimizing the site for conversions to maximize the effect of the traffic your content will drive. It also means seeding your social media audience to let them know that they should expect some high-value content to be coming their way shortly. That way the audience will be pre-primed to consume the content and it'll be far easier to kick-start your first content campaign.
With the preparations made, the next step is to craft a content marketing strategy, keeping the following things in mind.
Content marketing can help a small business gain familiarity
As you decide on the types of content to create and the topics that your content will cover, keep in mind that the overarching point is that you're trying to establish a relationship with your customers. That means it's critical to make sure that the content always represents your small business in the brand voice you're trying to establish. It's important to focus on creating a consistent tone and level of quality because your audience will be identifying your business by every piece of content you produce.
Remember that this is one of the ways that content marketing can be a double-edged sword. A single instance of poorly thought out or badly executed content can set the whole strategy back. It's a good idea to consider a plan toscale up content creation in advance of putting any new content strategy in place so you'll be capable of executing it without growing pains, missteps, and interruptions. Doing so can help to guarantee high performance and excellent brand-building results over the long term.
Show your expertise on specific topics/niches
When you create content for your audience, it gives you the chance to demonstrate your expertise on subjects related to your core business, products, or services. By providing comprehensive and in-depth information within your content topics, it becomes possible to establish the business as a thought leader in its industry. That makes your small business website a destination for anyone looking for reliable knowledge about the things you do best.
That has ramifications that will extend well beyond your content strategy. It will also feed positive word-of-mouth among your target audience, and encourage them to evangelize your brand's identity far and wide. It's an outcome whose value and importance simply can't be overstated.
Create share-worthy content to amplify your social presence
Another key aspect of a successful content marketing strategy is to aim tocreate share-worthy content that social media followers will want to spread to everyone they connect with. Doing so not only amplifies your small business's own social media presence by attracting new followers but also helps your future content succeed by creating a built-in promotional network for each new piece.
Again, this is a function of building a trust relationship with the audience you're hoping to attract. Once it's in place, your small business's social media accounts can function as a brand-promotion machine with feeds that are always chock-full of useful, engaging content tailor-made for audience needs and tastes. That helps to ensure a steady stream of valuable traffic coming to your small business website while extending your reach well beyond your business's core customers and followers.
Generate leads to identify potential customers or subscribers
That additional reach makes it possible to cast a far wider net to attract new sales leads or subscribers than would ordinarily be possible. Creating high-quality, useful content that solves problems for those who consume it dramatically increases your odds of converting a visitor into a customer. When you're doing that, new leads will arrive at your site who are:
Already interested in the topic, which relates to your product, service, or area of expertise
Primed to convert because they've already received something of value from your business
It's a perfecttop-of-funnel strategy because it brings leads to your site who are already interested in what your business has to offer. It's like a shortcut that accelerates your conversions by increasing the share of incoming visitors who are ready to jump right to the middle of your sales funnel.
Surpass your competition by providing value-added content for your readers
Since your content strategy won't be happening in a vacuum, it's also worth noting that creating plenty of high-value content gives you an edge over competitors who aren't offering the same to their audience. It allows you to flip the typical business-customer dynamic on its head by beginning each new customer relationship by establishing the business as a helpful force in the customer's life.
Instead of trying to simply compel them to make purchases, you can instead be positioned as a trusted advisor to the customer. In that type of relationship, the customer is far more receptive to further brand messaging and efforts at getting them to convert. After all, you've given them something, so they'll be more apt to engage and remain loyal.
3 tips for crafting quality content for your small business niche
Just because you know the goals you're trying to achieve with your content marketing strategy, doesn't mean you know the exact types and formats of the content you need to achieve them. In fact, some marketers cite as many as105 types of content your small business can use to fill up a marketing release calendar.
Depending on the type of small business, you may find yourself building a content strategy that includes a great many of those types, or focusing more on long-form blog posts to establish the business as a thought leader. There's no single right way to do it.
What's most important is to do your homework to understand the common problems experienced by your target market and what pain points you might be able to alleviate for them. Then, make sure every piece of content you create is laser-focused on the audience's needs. That's the most important guideline to follow. Doing so guarantees that you'll create nothing but high-value material that will keep targeted traffic coming in all times.
Overall, you should follow these three tips to make sure that the content you're creating performs well and satisfies all of the goals outlined in your content strategy.
1. Create original content
The first and most important tip to follow to create quality content is to make sure that every piece you create is completely original. Google's ranking algorithmis designed to punish any content that appears to be a duplicate of anything it has encountered previously. They made that change several years back to cut down on low-quality marketing content that sought to game the system by mirroring content that had already ranked well on search results pages.
Plus, to set your small business apart from the competition, it's critical to offer them content they can't find elsewhere. If you don't, there's no compelling reason that they should reward you with their loyalty and patronage.
When looking for ways to keep the useful and original content flowing, consider the following content types, which are hard for others to duplicate, and which promote social sharing within your target market:
Real-world case studiesfeaturing actual customers that demonstrate the specific benefits of your small business's products and services
Useful and visually-pleasing infographics that customers (and other content creators) can cite when looking for industry-specific data
Original videos featuring staff experts who can share their wealth of knowledge and experience with the audience
Podcasts to discuss issues relevant to the customer, or to provide useful guidance in an easy-to-digest format
Content originality can make or break your entire content marketing strategy, and so creating nothing but original content is as close to an immutable law as you'll find in the endeavor.
2. Showcase your brand as an expert resource
If you want your leads and customers to come to trust your small business as their go-to source of knowledge in the field you specialize in, you have to create in-depth content that covers every base. That means all of the content that you create should have a specific purpose or question it seeks to answer, or it shouldn't exist at all. That will help establish your brand as an expert voice that customers can trust to give them reliable information, and not waste their time.
You should always make sure to demonstrate to your audience that you have the knowledge and the data to back up anything you're telling them. For that reason, content featuring expert staff members makes an excellent addition to your content schedule. Generally speaking, your in-depth articles should be rich with citations to demonstrate your points, much like you'd do whenwriting a research paper.
Also, putting together content that features recognized external experts and quotes from others in the know helps to lend your small business additional credibility with its audience. They'll recognize that you've done your homework.
For that reason, it's also important to prioritize quality over quantity in your content creation process. Don't try to fill up a release calendar with more content than you can reliably produce while upholding a high quality standard. If you do, your lower-quality content will damage the performance of your high-quality content and can undermine the brand's expert image in the eyes of the audience.
3. Reference external resources (and let them know you used their content)
Another way to create effective content is to reference other well-known brands wherever possible (not competitors, unless you have a compelling reason to do so). Then, make sure to alert them that they're being mentioned. Doing so increases the odds that they'll share your content with their own audience, which will raise your small business's profile and hopefully attract additional followers that may have otherwise been inaccessible.
Establishing that kind of reciprocity with more established brands and sites will also boost the SEO value of the content that you're creating. Search engines like Google prioritize content that has links coming from other high-authority sites and pages since it demonstrates that other valuable content creators found your business's content compelling enough to mention. As it's been said for decades, flattery will get you everywhere – so be strategic with your brand mentions.
Now that you know the why and how of creating a content marketing strategy for your small business, it should also be obvious why you need to do so. For a small business, a content marketing strategy holds the promise of creating a self-sustaining marketing ecosystem that helps you to increase your business's visibility and punch above your weight. It's the kind of thing that can establish your brand in the minds of the right audience to guarantee a steady flow of leads and prospects.
There's no better way to grow your business and its bottom line. So, all that's left to do is go out there and put a content marketing strategy to work for your small business!
To help you get started, find the best content marketing software on the market to help you create unmatched content that outpaces your competition.
Andrej is a digital marketing expert, editor at TechLoot, and a contributing writer for a variety of other technology-focused online publications. He has covered the intersection of marketing and technology for several years and is pursuing an ongoing mission to share his expertise with business leaders and marketing professionals everywhere.