Creating an incredible product is meaningless unless people know about it. To help improve the chances of success as a start-up or small business in today's highly competitive, digital-first world, business owners generally need strategic marketing plans that can attract, convert, and retain a loyal customer base that continues to grow over time. That's where content marketing can come in.
So what is content marketing, and how does it help you define, attract, and grow your customer base? I'll help you understand the basics so you can start building a strategic content plan that is designed to help you meet your goals.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a strategic approach to online marketing that focuses on the customer, rather than the company. Instead of using marketing copy to sell your products like a traditional marketer would, content marketing provides customers with useful, interesting or entertaining info in a range of formats to keep them engaged and foster trust in your brand over time.
Producing quality content on a regular basis keeps you front-of-mind so when a customer is ready to purchase your product or service, they may think of you first. Because the consumer trusts and feels familiar with you already, they may be more likely to buy. When employed effectively, content marketing is proven to drive more leads and a better ROI than other forms of digital marketing.
Here are 4 concrete ways content marketing can help benefit your small business:
1. Build Trust and Expertise
When you're a small business in a sea of competitors, standing out from the crowd is key. To help effectively position your company and establish credibility within the community, your content marketing should be informative, thought-provoking, and helpful without the expectation of financial profit.
For instance, a plumbing company could offer educational blog posts about the potential causes of water leaks or pipe blockages, along with precautionary measures homeowners can take to avoid these scenarios. A home goods store could post design tips or inspirational galleries, while a hair salon could post how-to videos for easy up-dos. While it may seem counter-intuitive to provide potential customers with this kind of information, being helpful can make you the go-to source for information when that same customer has a plumbing issue, wants to remodel a room in their home, or needs that bad haircut fixed asap.
2. Create Shareable Content
By creating dynamic, engaging content and publishing it across a range of digital channels, you're giving current and future customers the chance to share your content and discover your brand within their own networks. It's no secret that sharing is a huge component of digital marketing today. That's why you can track retweets, shares, likes, email forwards, and all sorts of sharing metrics.
Word-of-mouth is still a highly effective method to foster the trust of new customers, even in the online space. In fact, 83% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, according to a 2015 Global Trust in Advertising study by Nielsen, and 66% of respondents trust online consumer opinions. By posting quality, shareable content online, you're giving existing customers an easy way to recommend you to their friends and can make it easier for their friends to both trust and value you.
3. Boost Traffic and Brand Awareness
If your marketing team consistently creates entertaining, helpful, or actionable content and shares this content in the appropriate channels, you're helping to increase your engagement metrics. Content marketing is designed to foster engagement anywhere you publish content online, from your own website or blog to your social channels and partner pages. So, an effective content marketing strategy is designed to drive more leads, more comments, more likes and shares, and more links back to your site over time.
4. Keep Customers Coming – and Coming Back
For new customers, your online presence is often their first encounter with you. Even if your brick-and-mortar business has been up and running for years, a new customer may not trust that you're still in business if you haven't updated your website since 2006. By regularly posting and sharing content online, you have the opportunity to define your small business' brand voice and make your business stand out – in real life and online.
Regularly posting content that your target customers want not only makes it easier for new customers to find you – it also gives them the chance to keep coming back for more.
Content Marketing for Small Businesses
If you decide to try content marketing, remember that it takes time to deliver results. Rather than showing an immediate spike in web traffic the first time you publish a blog post, content marketing generally tends to get more effective the longer you do it. To be successful, a small business must be prepared to devote considerable time to the labor of content creation, including having the time, resources, and know-how to do it – but having limited resources doesn't mean the strategy is out of reach.
Before jumping into the exciting world of content marketing, plan. Get to know your customers' preferences, including the digital channels they use and what kinds of content they like to consume (video? photos? What about a more "traditional" postcard?). Brainstorm topic ideas with your staff, and see what content is out there for ideas. Figure out who on your team is most qualified or available to help develop and monitor your content efforts, design a content calendar, and follow a regular posting schedule. Lastly, decide on the KPIs and measurement tools you'll use to measure success, and adjust your strategy as needed based on what works and what doesn't.
If you're strategic and take things one step at a time, you can make content marketing work for your small business. Even though it takes time, thought, and commitment to properly execute a strong content marketing strategy, with all the benefits outlined above, the returns can be well worth it!
Nielsen is a (registered) trademark/service mark of The Nielsen Company. The Nielsen Company is not affiliated with AmVenture Insurance Agency, Inc. and has not endorsed AmVenture or its products or services.