Content Marketing for Small Businesses
If your business is online at all, chances are you have employed some content marketing tactics even if you didn’t realize it. You have probably created something digital – a page on your website, a blog post, an image, or other item – and you have most likely shared it somewhere online.
The internet is growing at an astronomical rate. It is estimated that 90 percent the world’s information on the Internet was created in the last 18 months.
With so much new information created every day, consumers have many choices. It is no longer enough to ‘SEO’ your pages and wait for traffic to come to your site. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. To bring attention to your website and your business, you have to genuinely bring something to the table and then bring the table to the customer; otherwise, you will be virtually invisible to potential customers.
Take your website from invisible to visible with these three steps. Repeat them over and over so that you’ll crush your site’s traffic goals!
Step 1: Create something of value for your customer.
Time is a precious commodity. If you hope to occupy some of your customers’ time, make the proposition worthwhile by delivering something useful. Content marketing isn’t just about waving your virtual hands in the air as if to say, “Look at me!” Instead, it’s about looking great once you have captured your customers’ attention. If you create valuable content, your customers will feel that the time spent viewing it was a good investment. By extension, they might then share this information with others. And ultimately, you will establish your credibility and build trust with your customers and the online community.
So what constitutes “value”?
The value of a given thing is, of course, assessed differently by individuals based on their own priorities and tastes. But there are some universally beloved things that you can start with as youbrainstorm for valuables. For instance, let’s say you find time, money, and current events valuable. Spend an hour on each of these to come up with ideas. Here’s how.
If you want to save your customers time:
· Write a “How To” blog post or compile a list of tips into a “Top 5” or “Top 12” list.
If you want to help your customers save money:
· Create a list of free/inexpensive resources or write a narrative about someone who has successfully cut costs or saved money using a new idea.
If you want to discuss current events or trends with your customers:
· Stay abreast of what’s trending on social media and in the news. When something that is relevant to your industry hits the news, seize the opportunity to discuss it with your customers by writing an opinion piece, sharing thoughts and questions posed by others, or even taking a poll to gauge customers’ thoughts on the issue.
Important: Don’t limit yourself to mere text to communicate with your customers. As you are creating valuables for them, make sure to consider using images and video to convey concepts that may lack pizzazz in mere text form. Examples would be creating an infographic to present a data heavy idea (e.g. the number of light bulbs sold in each state last year if your niche is light bulbs) or making a video that demonstrates how to make a gingerbread house if your business sells graham crackers.
With the web being so big and full of information, it stands to reason that even if you come up with a great idea, someone else may have already taken a run at it. What do you do? It’s probably a good idea to do some simple checking online to ensure that you don’t exactly duplicate anyone’s efforts. Not only could copycatting be a copyright infringement but also fail to add value for your customer. But don’t let the existence of something similar dissuade you. Just make sure that your version of the same idea has a unique quality; otherwise, present the information differently. It’s OK to take a used concept and update it. You can even refer to someone else’s idea and expand on it. Stay focused on being creative and solving problems for your customer.
Step 2: Share your content.
Now that you have created something you are certain your customers will care about, it’s time to spread the word. It’s not enough to have show-stopping goodies on your website. You have to get folks to see it.
Think about how you would market something OFFLINE. What would you do? You wouldn’t limit yourself to one flyer posted on the corner or one radio advertisement, right? You’d approach it from various angles. That is exactly what you need to do online, as well.
(1) Get chatty. Tap into the plethora of wildly popular and free services out there that will connect you to your existing and potential customers. Establish a presence for your brand and business on networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Foursquare. Don’t just create an account and start hard selling your name or products. Social networks work very similarly to offline networks of people. You should be a “good citizen” in the community by engaging in conversation with others. Share their ideas as you hope to eventually have others share yours.
Make sure that your social network profiles are complete with your business information, photos, and other narrative information that would be relevant to your customers. And when you do add self-promoting material, ensure that it has value and it is presented respectfully and in proper context. Many of the social networks offer paid advertising to grow fans. Budget for increasing your presence on the networks that your potential customers frequent most. In addition to the monetary investment, social networking success requires significant time investments as well. So give some thought to your specific needs and constraints, and don’t be afraid to consult experts for advice or help.
(2) Look to your left and right. Seek out online entities such as sites and blogs that aren’t competitors but are based around concepts related to your business. If you sell light bulbs, find credible bloggers who talk about artificial light or electric bills. Maybe there’s someone with a large following who has an interest in natural light versus light bulbs. Find these entities, and reach out to them. Ask them to do a guest post on your site or offer to contribute an article to their site. Present your suggestion as a win-win proposition. You give them something (new material from you or exposure via your site) and in return they give you something. From here you can establish links to each other’s websites, promote each other’s brands, and increase each other’s visibility. Win-win.
(3) Hang out at the water cooler. The best gossip in the office always happens at the water cooler, right? The online equivalent of this would be forums. Yes, forums! They are still alive and well on the internet. Even with the growth of the social networks in the past few years, the online Q-and-A vehicle is alive and well. People still like to have a way to chat about specific areas of interest and to exchange knowledge and opinions in ways that are not so easily facilitated by social networks. Find those light bulb related forums and jump in. Answer questions if you’re in a position to do that. Ask questions to engage the forum’s users. Essentially, establish yourself in well-regarded forums much the same way you would in other areas online.
(3) Connect with the media. Identify local reporters covering your industry. Cold call or email them with a pitch for a story that the journalist could write. Be sure to focus on time-sensitive topics or your pitch could get rejected. You may not succeed at first, so make sure your pitches contain topics that are newsworthy and what the publication’s readers would want to know.
Another way to connect with reporters is through HARO. This is a service that connects journalists to industry experts. Journalists post their ideas for stories every day on HARO. If you can be a credible source for such a story, you could get mentioned on a highly trafficked website.
Step 3: Measure, adjust, and repeat
You’ve made it all the way through the gauntlet of the first two steps. You’ve generated mind-blowing content, and through your exhaustive social media and online outreach efforts you’ve managed to get the entire universe to see it. Hurray! Now what do you do?
You do it all over again.
Effective content marketing campaigns really have no beginning and no end. To be competitive online, you have to be in constant motion. If you’re not moving forward, you are moving backward. Your competitors are still running, so keep up with them!
You might find that you are confronted on a daily basis with having to choose between devoting time to your regular business operations and allocating resources to your content marketing efforts. Both need to be done. If you find yourself overwhelmed, don’t panic! Take it one step at a time, and call for reinforcements if necessary. There are reputable firms out there that can help you create and market your content or simply advise you along the way.
There’s no time like the present. So go back to your arsenal of ideas, and start working on your next valuable addition. Cultivate and refine it. Then spread the word. All the while you need to be maintaining your brand’s presence on social media and staying on top of news and events that might impact your customers.
Content marketing is time consuming, requires time, and demands that you allocate resources such as people and money, but it is absolutely one of the most effective ways to market your brand and your products and services.
“The original article can be found at https://www.kabbage.com/blog/content-marketing-for-small-businesses