What the heck is content marketing and why should I care: the small business guide

Hey! If you’re reading this, you’re interested in content marketing, one of the biggest trends in recent marketing history. So give yourself a pat on the back. Yes, content is king.

Here are a few stats to support that statement:

Why does content marketing work so well? Because we live in a world where a couple of things are increasingly happening. First, we’re absolutely inundated with ads. Experts estimate that most people in this country see between 4,000 and 10,000 ads each day. The result of that deluge runs from mere ad blindness (“tuning” them out) to taking active steps to remove them; in 2018, one in four US internet users reported having an ad blocker installed.  Second, we’re increasingly getting our news from the internet, and not always from legit sources. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2018 almost two-thirds of people got their news and information through social media.

Now, combine those two things together: people who don’t like ads plus people who consume online information voraciously.  You can understand why content marketing works as well as it does, right? It breaks through the ad noise and gives people the information they want, when and where they want it.

Plus, when done well, content marketing costs very little to produce and continues to work hard for you long after you first put it out on the internet (and, in fact, often gains steam as people like and share it)—while traditional ads need a continuous supply of money to keep running.

But what, you ask, exactly IS content marketing?

In a nutshell, content marketing is any material you share with potential (and current) customers that gives them information they need or want…BUT ISN’T ABOUT A CALL TO ACTION OR ASKING FOR A SALE. Also called inbound marketing (as opposed to outbound) or pull marketing (as opposed to push), great content marketing makes your target audience’s life better, makes them think of you as an authority in your area of expertise, and builds their trust in you. This leads to them ultimately reaching out to buy your product or service. It’s also a great way to stay top-of-mind if you have a longer sell cycle. You’ll usually see content marketing in the form of:

  • Blogs 
  • Vlogs (video blogs) 
  • Listicles (you’ve seem ‘em: those “top six ways you can…” articles) 
  • Photo galleries 
  • Informational videos 
  • Podcasts 
  • Webinars 
  • Speaking Engagements 
  • Infographics

Basically, any format through which you can transmit valuable information can be used for content marketing. Heck, if you don’t have much time, try just sharing individual tips and tricks as separate posts on social media, like Facebook. Say you are a kids’ dentist. You could do a series of posts, each with a different tip for helping kids prepare for, and enjoy, their next dentist visit. By providing really helpful information to parents you build a rapport with them that will keep you in mind when they are looking for a new dentist for Junior.

Of course, careful readers will have noticed that I said, “when done well”. Here’s how to put together a good content marketing program:

  • Provide information that your target customers actually want or need, NOT what you care about. This is a mistake that even seasoned marketers can make if they are too “deep” into a subject. Do your best to put yourself in your customer’s mindset. 
  • It’s good to include a little blurb about your company, but never do a hard “sell”. People are turned off by being sold to, and you’ll disengage your audience before you ever engage them. 
  • Don’t bother with boring content. Your goal is to add value to potential customers’ lives, and in order to do that, you must provide interesting information. There is a LOT of crappy content out there, but remember, the ultimate dream goal of content marketing is to be shared organically by your followers because they think it’s so dang cool, or so helpful. Other than as an SEO boost, content marketing for content’s sake is a waste of money and time. 
  • Promote your content to new audiences. Social media is a particularly good place to share your content through promoted posts. Don’t rely on people finding it on your website, because they won’t. There are also other content-sharing platforms like Outbrain, if you’re willing to spend a little more money. 
  • If video is your content of choice, make sure you include a shortish description of what is in the video when you post it to your website. This will help you with your search engine optimization (Google doesn’t scan videos for search terms), and allow people with just a bit of time the chance to scan the content without committing to watching the full video. Read our rant on using too much video here.
  • Keep it short. People (myself included) have the attention span of gnats these days.

Now, to follow my own advice, it’s time to sign off. This thing has gotten long enough!

Happy small business marketing,

Katie & Theron

At Urban Sherpa Marketing Co. we offer marketing advisory, strategic planning, and services for small business and startups, including content marketing. Our goal is to make high-quality marketing possible for every business, no matter the size. Think of us as your outsourced marketing department, strategic marketing adviser, or even your phone-a-friend marketing lifeline. We specialize in building efficient marketing programs to grow your business without blowing the bank.

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