The digital age has provided a lot of new options for marketing. It can be quite overwhelming for new business owners to understand what approaches are available to them. With things like social media marketing and SEO to get your head around, you may feel a bit daunted by the idea of planning a content marketing strategy.
However, being able to market effectively online could be what launches your business to success. This means it’s well worth the time understanding the online marketing approaches that have worked for small businesses like yours.
The tried & true approach that millions of small businesses have found success with is content marketing. Here, we are going to take an in-depth look at content marketing, and its benefits to small businesses.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is about creating and publishing free, valuable content on platforms like your blog and social media accounts. There’s a big difference between content marketing and ‘marketing with content’ – content creation designed solely to promote your business such as a brochure or product descriptions is not what we typically call content marketing.
With the content you produce for content marketing, you’re looking to grow your business by adding free value.
This value can come in the form of information, entertainment or even resources (i.e templates). The important thing is that the goal of the content you produce is not pure promotion. Promoting your business is a side effect of the fact that your customer sees the content as helpful, interesting or simply entertaining.
Usually, the hub for a brand’s content marketing is its blog. In recent years, YouTube channels have also started proliferation as the value of video content is increasing.
Why Content Marketing?
Content marketing certainly has a lot of buzz around it, but it is more than a marketing fad. There’s no shortage of research behind it showing it’s a) crucial for small business growth, and b) not going away anytime soon.
At the start of 2018, research showed that content marketing was going to be even more popular this year with SMBs than ever before. In the B2C community, 86% of brands had content marketing as one of their main growth channels in 2018. Of B2B companies asked, a whopping 91% said that content marketing was in their marketing roadmap for 2018.
There’s been a lot of research to show that content marketing works, too. The return on investment has been shown to be very impressive: per dollar spent, companies have made three times as many leads with content marketing as with traditional marketing. 50% of consumers have reported that they use blog content in their buying decisions, too.
There is other data from consumers that support content marketing, too. 70% of consumers say that they feel closer to a brand after reading useful content from them. 82% say that they have a more positive view of the company when they read custom content from them.
All of this supports that this method of marketing is welcomed by consumers, which is important when you consider how unwelcome other types of marketing appear to be. 86% of people report skipping the ads when they watch TV. A huge 90% of people end up unsubscribing from company email mailing lists. 44% put direct mail straight into the trash without reading it.
Perhaps the most important consumer statistic of all, however, is that 60% of people say they want to seek out a product after reading content about it. This means that a good article that features a product is much more likely to lead to interest, or a sale, than other forms of advertising.
Content Marketing and Small Businesses
There are key benefits to content marketing for businesses of every size. For small businesses in particular though, it often stands out as the best option.
Content Marketing is Inexpensive
Content marketing can be very cheap to do. If you can produce good content yourself, it can even be free. While there is a cost involved with running and hosting a blog, this is typically a negligible cost.
Even if you don’t create the content yourself, having content written for you is often still cheaper than other forms of marketing. Companies that specialize in creating content for brands can help you get a good return on investment. The content they create will be highly effective at increasing your brand awareness, and also bringing in leads.
And, as we mentioned earlier, it’s been found to have 2-3 times the ROI as paid advertising.
Content Marketing Has Longevity
Content marketing also has the benefit of being long-lasting. If your content is ‘evergreen’ – that is, not topical or time sensitive – it can bring in traffic indefinitely. You can keep sharing a post on social media for as long as it’s relevant. You can also recycle old posts from your archive and update them to provide new content once you have a good backlog.
Compared to paid marketing, content marketing let’s you build an empire – brick by brick. Although it starts slowly, within a few months you’ll slowly see how great your organic marketing machine has become.
Other types of advertising stop working when the campaign is over. With content marketing, your content can keep working for you for years, especially if you use long-form content.
Pro-tip: Google really likes long-form content (it offers more value in general) and will promote it in the search listings above shorter articles and blog posts.
Content Marketing Promotes Engagement
Another reason why content marketing is great for small businesses is that it creates a dialog with readers. You can allow people to comment on your content and reply to those comments. You can also engage with people about the content on your social media accounts. This allows you to have some interaction with your customers and shows them that you’re responsive. It can also help you to show off your brand’s personality.
Larger companies may not be able to engage with customers in the same way. Staff have to follow guidelines and company protocols before replying ‘as the brand’. As a small business, you have a lot more freedom… you can be as interactive as you like and engage in ways that really make your customers feel like they know you.
Content (and ensuing social media promotion) are a tried and tested way to build a community and a positive view of your business.
Content Marketing is Great for Establishing a Brand
Branding is not just about your company logo or the packaging on a product. Your brand is also reflected in the way you communicate. Is your brand fun and quirky? Is it slick and smart? Traditional and authoritative? Whatever the mood of your brand, content is your first avenue for expressing it.
How you write, the kind of images used, and how you share your content all contribute to your brand’s unique identity. Consider a brand like Paula’s Choice – it has a brand synonymous with trust because they write thousands of honest and authentic reviews, even if it means propping up their competitors.
Content Marketing is Good for Your SEO
Being found in Google searches is essential for most businesses. SEO is a whole field of marketing on its own. However, content marketing is the best route to winning traffic through search results in several ways.
Firstly, by having more content on your site, there is simply more for Google to find. You will come up in search results for all kinds of topics if you have talked about them in your content. Secondly, you have an opportunity to include keywords in your content that can help you show up in relevant searches. Thirdly, good content is more likely to be linked to or shared, and this creates backlinks to your site. Backlinks are important in how Google judges a site’s importance.
Make sure your website and blog are set up for success on SEO: proper site-links, titles, and good page load times are essential.
Good Content is Highly Shareable
Yet another great thing about content marketing is that when you make great content that people find useful or entertaining, they’re likely to share it on social media. This can have a huge effect on your outreach, particularly if you manage to hit on viral content.
When your content really does add value, your existing readers and customers will be happily spread the word about your business. When you focus on truly adding value – creating content that people want to read and that really helps them, you’ll find referral traffic becomes a piece of cake.
Creating content that goes viral is the dream when it comes to content marketing. Virality is very difficult to predict or achieve, however, content that is genuinely interesting, informative or unusual can be something that some people will want to share. Considering spending some time on shareable content – for instance, a beautiful infographic.
Content marketing is an extremely powerful way to promote your business. The vast majority of small businesses are dedicating a lot of time and resources into this channel – if you’re not, you’re missing out.