Take a short cruise through the interwebs and you’ll come away with the idea that content marketing is pretty darn near magic.
It works three times as well as traditional “push” marketing! It costs 62% less! In fact, the language is so glowing, if you’re anything like me (with my highly-developed “you must be selling me a bridge” syndrome), it is pretty easy to assume that it can’t possibly be as good as they say.
But… Content marketing really does work. And it can be inexpensive as well—the double whammy of goodness for small businesses. This is especially true for B2B companies that have trouble reaching decisions makers, or businesses with long sales cycles, or a product or service that people use only once in a while, like real estate.
Why does it work?
- It helps you cut through the noise. We live in a world that is inundated with ads. Something like 5,000 a day. Content marketing provides value to the user, so they actually want you to send it to them. Imagine someone voluntarily signing up to get ads in their inbox every week. The mind boggles. But people do that with content!
- It demonstrates your expertise and thought leadership. It’s especially important for businesses that are hired because they know what they’re doing. Thoughtful content proves you’re good (without having to say so).
- It’s great for SEO (usually; see rule #3, below). SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is how you make your website easier to find in organic (as opposed to paid) searches. A blog that is chock full of keywords does wonders for your organic ranking, especially because writing a blog on a regular basis keeps your website constantly updated as well.
- People share it. People beyond your normal reach will see it-—and possibly share it in their turn—which means that it keeps spreading without any more budget behind it.
- It’s the perfect excuse to get in front of people again and again (with their permission) which is, in turn, a really helpful way to remind people to refer you to their friends.
So what exactly is content marketing?
Content marketing is the technique of creating helpful or informational content in the form of blogs, short (or long) articles, vlogs, videos, speaking engagements, infographics, podcasts, memes, etc (the list of possible content forms is long), and then sharing this content out to current and potential customers. This can be anything from five ways to winter-proof your garden (assuming you’re, say, a garden center or nursery), to a thoughtful rant on the newest HR trend (if that’s your field). If there is anything to do with your business that people need help figuring out, you have a content topic. Heck, you can even just interview interesting people in your field. Great content 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 so that they ultimately reach out to you to buy your product or service.
Making content marketing work
- Make sure the subject adds value, and is interesting, to your target market. Don’t rant about stuff that only matters to you. If you’re an architect who serves couples that are building their dream home, don’t write about the technicalities of joist supports—instead, give them some insights on how to really decide what is a must-have and what is a nice-to-have in their new home. Pro tip: boring content will get you nowhere, so make sure you provide enough “meat” for people to chew on. Many people new to content marketing are worried about giving away too many trade secrets and will keep their information too vague. Or people write something so obvious that nobody will read it at all. Resist both temptations, unless your sole goal is SEO.
- This is not an ad. DO NOT SELL. The whole point of content marketing is that it is “pull” marketing, not “push” marketing. Nobody is going to sign up to read about you bragging about your business every month. Instead, provide great information and show your expertise. People will make the connection.
- Think keywords. Content is great for SEO… as long as you’re actually including the keywords your customers are looking for. Pro tip: make a list of the two or three keywords you want to hit on each piece of content and mark how many times you use them. If your content is in the form of a blog, vlog, or video, try adding a transcript (or at least a long intro) on your webpage to make sure that our friendly Google Bots are catching those keywords. A video, by itself, is pretty useless for SEO.
- Don’t expect immediate results. This is a biggie. Content marketing is a long-term marketing strategy. Don’t expect the phone to ring off the hook the second you drop your first podcast and assume it’s not working if it doesn’t. Instead, your goal is to gather more and more followers who think of you first when they need your product or service. And that can take time.
- Promote it! Many people make the mistake of creating really great content, then simply putting it up on their website and posting it to their social media page(s) and hoping people read it. This isn’t empirically bad; after all, you’re reminding your followers that you exist, but it sure as heck isn’t getting your name in front of new potential customers. Instead, increase the power of your content by promoting it to targeted audiences on social media. If you have the budget there are also platforms, like Outbrain, that will spread your word even further.
- Embrace the popup: make sure you add a popup on your content pages that encourages people to subscribe. This will increase your signups dramatically. Homespun is OK. If you’re a small company, it’s often perfectly fine to create vlogs with your iPhone or make a podcast that’s not pro-quality. Just make sure your content is interesting and makes people’s lives better (see rule #1)
As to what form of content is best, well, that depends. If you’re creating your content yourself, I always suggest doing whatever interests you most or you’re most comfortable with. If you really hate being in front of the camera, you’re not going to do a great vlog, for example. If, on the other hand, you’re having a friendly marketing company create your content for you, it will depend mostly on who your customer is and what form they are most likely to engage with. In a perfect world, you’d do multiple forms.
Now, one last thought as we sign off: unlike an ad that goes away when you stop paying for it, content is out there forever, reaping benefits for years. Some continue to compound (the search traffic to them increases over time). Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
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 advisor, 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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