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What Small Businesses Need To Know About Content Marketing

What Small Businesses Need To Know About Content Marketing

Content marketing may never replace traditional forms of marketing like advertising, but it can be a fantastic complement -- especially to a small business that uses it to create a competitive advantage.

If you throw a dinner party, you want your guests to enjoy the meal and the ambience of your home. Unless you are a lousy host, you probably aren’t so eager to get them eating that you’d barely say hello before whisking them from the front door, past the living room and straight to the dining room.

This is a useful metaphor to explain the difference between traditional marketing and “content marketing.” For a small business owner, the “meal” portion of a dinner party is when a customer buys something. Before you reach that point, though, you have to welcome them properly, make them feel comfortable with some good conversation and then lead them naturally to their seat.

For entrepreneurs hungry to grow, this might cause a bit of impatience at first. It can be tempting to invest all your marketing budget on the things that let you shout about your products and services from the rooftops. This could include advertising online, or even on billboards and in local newspapers. It could be creating signage that makes your firm more visible, if you’re a physical retailer.

There’s nothing wrong with marketing in that way, but small businesses may face a disadvantage in that their target market doesn’t really know a lot about who they are in the early days. It means you might have to spend a lot more on traditional marketing, at least at first, with little guarantee of what it will mean for long-term engagement with customers.

Content marketing is all about having that conversation in the living room before the meal, where you focus as much — if not more — on getting to know your customers before you talk a lot about your company and your products. Just in the way a good host is adept at drawing out the best in their guests, content marketing reflects a target market’s interests and establishes the small business as an organization in tune with them.

If you’re still a bit unsure about a content marketing strategy, there are a few other facts you should know:

The best stories are probably sitting in front of you

When customers look at your products and services, they might never realize the back story behind them — how you were inspired to create or offer them based on a problem you experienced personally, for example. That’s a story that might resonate with others, and could easily be told in a video.

Remember that customer you clicked with right away, who talked a bit about her goals and how your products and services might help her? That could be a representative example of your target audience. Write a blog post about her (even if you have to anonymize the identifying details).

Brainstorm for two minutes: what do you think your customers are trying to learn about before and after they’re using your products and services? Create an eBook that looks at those interests and topics, and why they matter.

Content marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. Just look for the untold stories about your customers (or the most common questions customers have), and the stories about your company that might inform, educate or inspire them.

Content gives you a better way to use (and grow) your own channels

As your small business takes off, you’ll probably develop a database of email addresses, as well as a number of social media accounts. No one’s going to want to receive messages or view your posts, however, if all you do is stuff them with the digital equivalent of brochures.

Content marketing assets, on the other hand, offer news, ideas and insight about the subject matter around your product. This means it’s more likely customers will open your newsletter, or “like” or reshare your posts. It will add helpful context when you’re launching a new product. It also means they might forward the newsletter to a friend, or that others who stumble across your social posts will wind up following you.

You can always get considerable reach as a marketer through advertising, but content marketing offers a way to build up your own channels, filled only with the most relevant audience members.

The ROI for content marketing is a gift that keeps on giving

If you’re running an ad campaign, it might last for days, a few weeks or even a few months. Eventually, however, those ads come down from websites and ad networks. Some people might remember the ad, but they may not see them ever again.

In contrast, content marketing is evergreen. In other words, you can write a blog post today that will be archived on your site for as long as you want. If you include keywords in the posts that relate to what your customers care about, it might become one of the first results they see on a search engine when they’re looking something up years from now. That means you’re still marketing long after you’ve produced the content, and it can still mean you grow your business.

This is an important point: the return on investment (ROI) for content marketing needs to be thought through at the outset. In some cases you might be creating content that draws a consistent level of traffic to your website. In other cases you might include calls to action within an asset, like a form they fill out to become a lead for your sales team. Depending on your approach, you might drive interest around certain kinds of products in the short term, while also establishing your firm as an expert in a certain area over the long term.

The other thing to keep in mind as you set a content marketing budget is the potential to repurpose or reuse an asset over time. Look ahead to the day you’ve published 100 blog posts, for instance. Check the traffic and other signs of engagement, then create an eBook that contains your top 10 performing posts. Maybe you can take your most-watched video and create a blog post using a transcript, or extract the audio file to launch your first podcast. There are all kinds of possibilities to get more value out of what’s produced.

Content marketing may never replace traditional forms of marketing like advertising, but it can be a fantastic complement — especially to a small business that uses it to create a competitive advantage.

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