Content Marketing for Small Businesses
Content marketing has been around since humans began telling stories. It’s an effective marketing technique that can bring great results, but many small businesses mistakenly think it’s not for them. They think it’s a big, scary thing reserved for companies with big budgets to use. The truth is, every business has the ability to take advantage of content marketing, and when it’s done well, everyone wins.
When you live and breathe marketing, the concept of content marketing becomes second nature; repeatedly bring value to your potential customers, and when they are ready to purchase, they’ll come to you.
If you google examples of content marketing you’ll be hit with things like the Coca Cola “Share a Coke” campaign or examples of Neil Patel’s many blogs dominating the SEO or social media search terms. It can be hard to relate these large-scale examples to small business marketing, but it can be done.
Content Marketing Defined
The Content Marketing Institute, an online authority on content marketing, defines content marketing as follows:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
The definition of content marketing is simple enough. The execution is a little more complicated.
Content Marketing in Action
Content marketing is not about highlighting the benefits of your products or services, but about delivering genuine value to your audience… whether or not they do business with you. So if you’re a Personal Trainer, for example, your content could include workout ideas, diet tips, running shoe reviews, before and after stories and a range of other health or fitness related items that are released by you, but not necessarily promoting your business.
In contrast, an advertisement (and not content marketing,) would be an article or video that lists your qualifications, your experience and hints at what you could do for them if they just signed up for your 8-week program or joined your gym.
The Style Publishing philosophy is your content should entertain, educate or inspire your audience (while still being in alignment with your brand).
A business to business (B2B) example would be a recruitment agency creating articles with tips about keeping staff engaged, changes in employment legislation, or how to foster a more engaged workforce. These articles are sort of related to their business, definitely of value to their audience, but are not simply promoting their services.
Like the Personal Trainer above, they are positioning themselves as experts, in this case in the world of staffing and human resources. By not just listing their capabilities or how their services will help, this approach builds goodwill over time.
Part of the Bigger Picture
Of course, you eventually need to make sure your potential customers actually know what you can do. Marketing isn’t just one thing — a single blog, a video or infographic — but something to build upon over time. It would not be a great marketing strategy to continually release valuable information without ever linking it back to your actual business.
The key is for the ask, the brand association or the link to be subtle and deserved. That is, over time you earn the right to ask your audience to become your customers, or better still, they come to you wanting to become customers.
For both our recruitment agency and Personal Trainer mentioned above, in large part, their customers will go to them when they need their services. By releasing valuable content over time, these businesses stay front-of-mind for their potential customers, and when they need those services or are asked to recommend someone in this area, the businesses who have been providing value are top of the list.
Through content marketing, businesses can also grow their customer base by educating their audience, and helping potential customers to understand they would benefit from their services when at first glance, they didn’t think it was for them. They can use content marketing to gently shift their audience towards becoming customers.
The Personal Trainer might release an article on safe ways to keep training through an injury or illness, and the recruitment agency might have some research showing trends in certain industries their audience weren’t aware of. Repeated exposure to their expertise can help potential customers realise they actually do need their services.
You Need More Content Than You Realise
Small businesses can be nervous about releasing content. They worry they’ll be annoying their followers if they say the same thing more than once. The truth is, people learn and absorb information in different ways, so not everyone even notices all of your content.
Some people read an entire blog, or download an ebook and devour it. For other people, you’ll be lucky to keep their attention for a few seconds as they scroll past your image on their platform wall. Some will pause to watch a video that gets their attention while others prefer to listen to information while they do other tasks.
It’s not necessarily realistic for small businesses to be across every platform every day, but it is realistic for them to be more visible than they currently are. The more content businesses release, the less important any single piece becomes, and that strengthens their overall marketing position.
If you’re not sure about what to actually say as part of your content marketing, think about the pain points of your customers or their frequently asked questions. How can your expertise help them beyond them just becoming your customers?
Even if you tell them everything you know or do, they still won’t be able to execute on your advice as well as you could (assuming you’re good at what you do). This is where the magic of content marketing kicks in.