HOW SMALL BUSINESSES CAN SUCCEED AT CONTENT MARKETING

 

While I have mentioned the use of content marketing strategies by major brands, let’s not forget the small business owner can also take advantage of the distribution power of the web to create powerful campaigns that drive eyeballs and potential new customers. The Internet has made it easier than ever to create and share content. This means small businesses can more effectively communicate and engage with their followers or customers. However, there is a catch – because of the low barrier of entry to create and share content, it also means that businesses who fail to properly plan and execute a professional strategy will quickly get left behind.

With technology constantly evolving, the rate at which content is created and shared is alarming. Indeed, it is true that anyone with access to a computer and the web can create a company blog, for free, and start typing away.

However, creating content for “content’s sake” doesn’t create value.

In order to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace, businesses must develop and implement a robust content marketing strategy that takes advantage of various available channels in unique ways. While the tools available make it easy for us to communicate and distribute our message to potential customers, creating and maintaining that message is more important than ever before.

The benefit for a small businesses is technologies like social media create a better opportunity to connect with an interested audience. This gives marketers the ability to share more about their product or service and really tell their story. Businesses need to utilize modern content marketing techniques to connect individually and intimately with their fans and develop long and fruitful relationships.

These relationships are not forged over night or by simply slapping an advertisement on a billboard; they have to be fostered over time, through well crafted content, and reinforced consistently.

Content marketing is not a one-time effort, and those who have the ability to create an endless stream of this engagement are the brands who will ultimately reap its rewards. Every successful business owner will tell you that a key element to their long-term success is being able to connect with their audience. Understanding how this is done on an emotional level is the highest prize in marketing. This not achieved by bombarding an audience with TV or print advertisements, but rather strategically educating or entertaining them, consistently, until your brand equates to a positive feeling for them over time.

Successful content marketers will tell you that establishing this connection with an audience at the right time and place is equally important, and is one of the true awesome opportunities social media provides. By engaging with an audience and becoming a trusted source of information, you now open the door to communicate with them with an actual offer to purchase a product or service exactly when they are in “buy now” mode.

This process also empowers the customer. They get to support a brand they have grown to adore, which makes their purchase a much more powerful one by creating a feeling of individuality; instead of purchasing a product everyone has seen (and probably owns), the customer who was “wooed” by engaging content and has become brand loyal. They will feel more “special” because of their educated decision-making and will likely become a customer for life. Thus, the long-term ROI for implementing successful content marketing strategies is one any business should be hoping to achieve.

Content marketing will help accomplish this goal, but there are also many other immediate and short-term benefits of utilizing content marketing.

Word-of-Mouth Recommendations—In 2013, market researcher Nielsen released a report comparing consumer trust in advertising today to 2007. What was interesting about this report is that consumer trust increased in both online advertising and traditional outlets like TV and radio. For example, online banner ads trust skyrocketed from 26% to 42%. However, the most influential factor in establishing trust was word-of-mouth recommendations. In fact, 84% of people surveyed stated word-of-mouth is the most important determination in establishing trust with a brand. Since content is considered a form of word-ofmouth marketing, a successful content marketing campaign is exactly the direction you want your brand to go to create discussion and recommendations about your products and services.

Quality Lead Generation — According to Marketing Sherpa, content marketing has the ability to convert 29 percent more organic traffic into high quality sales leads. This means targeted content marketing will drive high value customers – creating that awesome long-term ROI I mentioned before. High value customers are those who become repeat customers, as well as those who purchase more, and also become your brand advocates in the process, continuing the cycle of word-ofmouth and creating new customers in the long run.

Creating Smarter Consumers — With technology constantly at our fingertips, consumer behaviour has radically changed. In fact, it’s changed in only a matter of years. For example, only around one-third of consumers had smartphones in 2011. During this time, users searched roughly 7.9 sources of information before finalizing a purchase decision. However, by 2014, over half of consumers owned a smart phone. This resulted in consumers seeking out 10.4 sources of information before making a purchase. With content marketing, you can create content consumers can use to educate themselves. The more they learn about your business, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

Establishes Authority — One of the best ways to earn the trust of potential customers is to establish yourself as a brand leader and expert in your field or industry. When you generate quality and useful content, you’re illustrating to visitors that you should be taken seriously. While this may take some time to develop, it will benefit your content marketing strategy in the long run. The moment a brand crosses the into becoming a well-respected and established authority in their industry is game-changing.

Persuade Consumer’s Decision Making — One of the appealing factors of content marketing is that brands aren’t really selling a product or service. Instead, they are providing an engaging source of material that gives consumers information. Why is this important? A survey conducted by Roper Public Affairs discovered that 80% of business decision makers prefer getting their information through articles rather than advertisements. Furthermore, 60% of decision makers claimed that content marketing helped them make better purchasing decisions. It all comes back to educating your user base and empowering them to learn as much about your business and industry as possible.

Content Marketing Assists in Native Advertising — One of the most effective ways content can reach its target audience is for it to be distributed as seeded content. This is done by utilizing paid advertising products for something called native advertising. Native advertising is a trending topic and is establishing itself as the replacement for banner advertising. It’s also one of the most misunderstood concepts you find in marketing meetings! Native advertising is simply content that is placed in a newsfeed on a social media outlet or published on relevant partner websites as a “suggested post” – this can either be a short description and link to content hosted elsewhere or can be the full content itself. For example, Dell paid for an ad in The New York Times that resembled a typical New York Times article, as opposed to a generic ad (something more and more consumers are ignoring). Chances are if it looks like an ad, people are going to completely skip over it. The native ad approach takes the content marketing blueprint and wraps it into a more formal sales pitch for an idea. Native advertising should be engaging, authentic, inspiring, and educational, just as with all of your content marketing material. It should also relate to the interests and values of your audience. Effective native ads will drive new traffic back to your content marketing inventory and the cycle of engagement begins.

Strong ROI — Since content marketing is intended to be a long-term strategy, the investment will remain relevant for the long haul. When compared to a very expensive paid advertising campaign that may last for a limited amount of time, the content you’ve created will continue to be shared and discussed for years. Basically, content marketing is free brand exposure. Studies have proven that per dollar, content marketing produces three times more leads than SEM and cost 30% less. Once an article is published, you may put effort (both paid and organic) into increasing its exposure. This short-term boost drives initial traffic that you calculate a ROI on. However, after that initial push is over, the article is still there. It continues to “do its job” every day for as long as it is there. When you take all of this into consideration, you can see how it changes the ROI of your efforts and ad spend.

The Social Media Effect — This buzzword is thrown around quite often these days, and at its core social media is just a tool in a much larger content marketing strategy, so when people are talk about a social media strategy, they should also be talking about their content marketing plan. After all, what’s the point of having people visit and interact with your social media profiles when there’s nothing to share or discuss? When creating content marketing materials, you should have social sharing and engagement planned out. In fact, social media user behavior needs to be priority when creating content streams and strategy. Social media can also assist in gaining positive word-of-mouth feedback and constructing a fan/ advocate community. For example, consider the possibilities of the hashtag. It’s an incredible tool for indexing and starting conversations with consumers. Content is the tool that educates and turns users into customers, and social media is the tool they use to share this with their circles and becomes influencers of the community.

“Youtility” — The content you’re producing or sharing should be informative, helpful, or entertaining to your target audience, so it won’t be perceived as an annoying sales pitch. In order to achieve this though, you must first establish a connection between your brand and your audience. Place the customer first by helping them, not just selling them a product or service. This tactic has been named ‘Youtility’ by marketing thought leader Jay Baer. This establishes trust between you and the consumer, which in time, can create repeat customers and even brand advocates. Consistently providing value through content is the fundamental step in establishing a rapport with a user. Too many brand don’t understand their strategies must focus on the user and not call as much attention to their product or service. Build a bond first, and you’ll reap the rewards of those efforts later.

Being at the Right Place at the Right Time — If you are producing and sharing timely content on a regular basis, you have a better chance of connecting with people at the right time. Again, establishing that connection and building a community is one of the main purposes of content marketing. But what does timing have to with it? A lot. What would people be more likely to search for— cassettes, CDs, or digital recordings? Most likely anything digital. So, why would you invest resources in creating content that dealt with cassettes when people are discussing the future of audio? That’s just one example of how content plays a huge role in the consumer purchase cycle. Consider how mobile users now use technology to find additional information about products. When Apple announces a new iPhone, the viewer then goes online to find additional information. If you’re a resource for Apple products and publish content regarding this news, you now have an opportunity to educate the consumer further, and expose them to Applerelated products or services.

concepts you find in marketing meetings! Native advertising is simply content that is placed in a newsfeed on a social media outlet or published on relevant partner websites as a “suggested post” – this can either be a short description and link to content hosted elsewhere or can be the full content itself. For example, Dell paid for an ad in The New York Times that resembled a typical New York Times article, as opposed to a generic ad (something more and more consumers are ignoring). Chances are if it looks like an ad, people are going to completely skip over it. The native ad approach takes the content marketing blueprint and wraps it into a more formal sales pitch for an idea. Native advertising should be engaging, authentic, inspiring, and educational, just as with all of your content marketing material. It should also relate to the interests and values of your audience. Effective native ads will drive new traffic back to your content marketing inventory and the cycle of engagement begins.