How Small Businesses Can Leverage Content Marketing to Grow

Marketing is an integral component of any small business. Ultimately, it’s the way in which a business makes the market aware of its existence. Although there are many marketing techniques that small businesses can adopt, content marketing is exceptional in a number of ways. 

Content marketing is not only economical but also highly effective and helps build brands. But what exactly does content marketing for small businesses entail and how can a small business leverage content marketing to grow? Read on for answers to these questions and more. 

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a marketing technique that focuses on the creation and distribution of valuable and relevant content with the aim of attracting and retaining a target audience and consequently encouraging profitable customer actions, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

Unlike other marketing techniques, which ordinarily seek to pitch products or services via advertisements, content marketing involves providing useful content free of charge that can help existing and prospective customers to solve various problems. In other words, when you use a content marketing strategy, you are not going to directly tell people about your company and services, but instead, you provide helpful content they need. By doing this, you can build trust with your readers and cultivate an audience that may also benefit from the product or service you offer, which will go a long way in helping you establish your business as an authority in your field. 

For instance, if you are in the real estate business, you can create content that can educate people on how to avoid fraud when buying or selling a property without sounding salesy.

People get familiar with your business because you’ve helped them solve a problem through your content. This makes it more likely they’ll turn to you when they need the services your business offers. You can also create different types of content that appeals to people at different stages in their buyer’s journey

Read This: 30 Marketing Ideas to Promote Your Small Business

Benefits of Content Marketing For Small Businesses

As the business environment becomes more and more competitive, traditional marketing techniques are less effective while still costing you a pretty penny. Therefore, as a forward-thinking small business owner, you may consider turning to better marketing tactics, such as content marketing. 

Here are some benefits of introducing content marketing:

Enhance Brand Visibility

Most small businesses struggle when it comes to getting their brands known. The good news is that by creating high-quality content consistently and sharing it across the relevant channels, you can get your brand in front of the people who fit your target audience and start to build familiarity with them as your content helps solve their challenges.

Establish Trust and Loyalty

If you are a small business owner, you already know how difficult creating trust can be. However, by providing free content that offers education and resources to your customers, you can grow this trust with them over time. A relationship whose foundation is based on trust is likely going to progress from free advice into a profitable business for your enterprise.

In order to do that through content marketing, you must create high-quality, fact-checked and edited content that is accurate, useful and not an overt sales tactic. And, of course, your content should be relevant to your target customer.

Establish Yourself as a Leading Expert in Your Industry

For most people to hire your company or buy your product, they have to be satisfied that you or your products have what it takes to solve the problem that they may be having. In other words, you need to establish credibility for you to make any sales. Through the creation and sharing of great content, you can build authority and consequently establish yourself as an expert in your respective industry.

One important function content serves is sales enablement. This is content that addresses common challenges and objections that leads express while salespeople are working with them. Having this type of content can make your salespeople’s lives much easier and help your potential customers feel better about making a decision. Chances are, after some time in business, you can predict common customer complaints and address them directly or indirectly through content that can become a tool for your sales team.

Improve Lead Generation

The goal of any marketing technique is to bring high-quality traffic to a business or website. Content marketing does this by enhancing your digital footprint. By creating valuable and well-optimized pieces of content for your defined audience on a regular basis and sharing the content on your website, you will significantly enhance the chances of being found by people searching for relevant information through the major search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. Content marketing and search engine optimization go hand in hand and work very well together. 

The increased organic website traffic means more visitors who may end up contacting you and becoming leads. You can make use of these lead generation ideas to boost your business performance.

You can also use content marketing funnels to drive more leads. By creating content for every stage of the buyer’s journey, you can effectively nudge people along their journey towards making a decision to purchase from you or use your services. 

To do that, you want to identify the different types of challenges people face at each step of the journey, and then create content for each step.

For example, if you were a business who sold life insurance, you might create content as follows:

Awareness Stage

These people aren’t very familiar with the need for life insurance, so creating a blog post of video that you can share with them would help them learn more about why it’s important. 

Evaluation Stage

At this point, the buyer knows life insurance is important but needs to discover what options are out there. You might create a buyer’s guide that outlines different types of products and what they offer. Making this a pdf and asking people to give you their email address is a great way distribute this type of content.

Decision Stage

Your buyer now knows what types of products they want to get, but they still need to choose to go ahead with their purchase. Because they’ve been interacting with your content and you’ve likely already emailed them, they’re familiar with you. But you can help them feel better about their decision by sharing different types of content with them. Things like testimonials, case studies and other trustworthy documents all help them feel more confident and more likely to buy. 

It’s important to understand the buyer’s journey for your target audience, and make sure that your content marketing supports it if you want to generate serious leads. 

How to Create Content

One of the challenges that you will have to contend with as a content marketer has to do with creating fresh, relevant content continuously. Additionally, creating SEO-optimized content requires additional skills and knowledge that aren’t necessarily known by the average writer or editor so consider consulting with or hiring an expert in this field. 

You do not have the luxury to create content about anything; you have to focus on providing information that is relevant to your target audience: existing and potential customers. Finding and sticking to a niche is a great place to start. Here are some tips that can help you get started: 

Understand Your Audience

For you to create effective and relevant content you have to understand your audience. You can do this by conducting market research to understand the demographics of your target audience and the things that matter to them. Understand what their buyer’s journey looks like and the common challenges they face at each stage. 

Creating customer personas is a great way to humanize your audience and ensure you have them in mind when crafting your content. It goes a long way towards ensuring that your content is relevant and helpful to the intended audience.

SEO Research

Having understood the nature of your audience, the next step involves understanding what your target audience is looking for. To this end, you will have to conduct keyword research. There are many tools out there that make keyword research easy (SEMrush, Moz, ahrefs and more) but ultimately what you need to do is discover all the terms that your target audience use to search in the major search engines. And, you need to understand the intent of those searches. Are they looking to learn something or buy something? Are they comparing their options or researching one brand? Do they need to learn the basics of the topic they are searching for or do they already have advanced knowledge on the topic? 

Search intent helps you discover challenges your audience face. If you can craft content that solves that intent, and is SEO optimized, you have a good chance of ranking high in Google’s search results and getting high-value traffic to your site.  

Ideation

Once you have found the relevant keywords to include in your content, the next step is to find the relevant topics to cover. You can make use of the topic cluster model to make brainstorming easier for you. This will help you identify topics you should be covering. For example, if you are targeting an audience interested in personal finance, you can break up the broader topic of finance into subtopics such as banking, investing, retirement, debt etc. and then brainstorm ideas around each one of those subtopics. Breaking down a large topic into smaller subtopics makes it more manageable and clear so you can tackle one article at a time while ensuring you cover all your bases. 

See: 3 Steps to Take Your Company From Small Business to Big Business

Writing

Great content must be unique, informative, current, relevant, accurate, focused and easy to read. To this end, it is important to ensure that your content is well researched and original. 

Linking to trusted sources is really important. If you have original information or data you can add that can add tremendous value. Conducting a survey or other primary research goes a long way towards making your content higher value. 

Before you start writing, you need to ensure you have a few things in mind:

  1. What is my brand voice?
  2. What is the objective of this piece?
  3. Who is the target audience?
  4. What topics are important to them?
  5. What are my SEO requirements?

To do this, you will probably want to create a creative brief for each piece of content you produce and include a list of required keywords. This allows you as the business owner or content manager to ensure the writer, be it yourself or a freelancer, understands exactly what they need to accomplish and prioritize when writing the article. Without a brief, they may misinterpret the idea and provide a draft that’s nothing like you envisioned. Set expectations early for the best outcome possible. 

Once you have that done, make sure you write content that sticks to one point of view and clearly solves the audience’s challenge. Good organization is critical so make sure you have organized your content in a way that is logical and makes it easy to process.

For instance, you can organize blog posts in headings, subheadings, bullet points and short paragraphs. If you’re creating a guide or ebook, do the same, but also add a table of contents and glossary.

Once your content is finished, have an editor do a final pass on it. Even the best writers benefit from having another set of eyes on their content. 

The Right Types of Content to Create

There are several types of content you can count on to enhance your content marketing strategy. Some of them include:

  • Blog Posts
  • Videos and Podcasts
  • Case studies
  • Interviews
  • Checklists
  • eBooks
  • Infographics
  • Social media posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Newsletters

Most of these types of content are more useful at different stages of the buyer’s journey. As you craft your content plan, select the best content type for each stage and challenge you’re looking to address. Plus, look for ways where you can take one piece of content, such as a blog, and repurpose it in other ways by reformatting it as an ebook or featuring it in a newsletter. 

How You Can Promote Your Content

Once you have created and published your content, your next task is to get it noticed. It’s important for you to be proactive when it comes to content promotion. Some great ways to promote your content include:

  • Sending an email broadcast
  • Engaging with your audience on social media and other online communities
  • Paying to promote your content through platforms such as Facebook Ads and Reddit Ads
  • Sharing your content on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram
  • Connecting with influencers
  • Writing posts for others and linking back to your content

See: 25 Small Business Grants You Can Apply For

How You Can Measure The Effectiveness of Your Content

No matter how great or popular your content may be, its effectiveness from a marketer’s perspective can only be judged by its impact on your company’s bottom line. For you to optimize the performance of your content, you have to continuously track, measure, and analyze its impacts on your company’s finances.

To this end, you need to collect and analyze data on actionable metrics such as email engagement rates, event registration, time spent on your website, email subscriptions, lead form submissions, new customers, sessions, pageviews, conversions, CPAs and more. 

You can do this using automated data collection and analysis tools such as Salesforce and Google Analytics. However, you should remember that content marketing is a long-term effort and, therefore, you should not be discouraged by initial meager performances; all you need to keep going is a proof of positive progress, no matter how small it may be.

The data points you choose to measure your success will likely be unique to your business, and are often called your Key Performance Indicators (KPI). If you’re seeing progress with these your plan is likely working. But be patient nonetheless — content marketing takes time to grow but pays dividends for years to come. 

Important Resources for Content Marketers

If you are a content marketer for a small business, there are some resources that you will need for you to work more efficiently. Some of the most important ones include Facebook, YouTube, UserVoice, DropBox, Google Analytics, MailChimp and WordPress, among others.

Remember, the pillars of good content remain the same but techniques, strategies and the landscape itself changes often. Additionally, search algorithms change constantly so SEOs must shift and adapt frequently. Even experts in this field learn new things constantly so be open to change and growth. Learning never stops for marketers so stay alert and make time for regular personal development.   

Up Next: 10 Lead Generation Ideas for Small Businesses

The Bottom Line

Overall, it’s clear that content marketing for small businesses is one of the most effective marketing techniques that you can count on to take your business to the next level. Content marketing has been around for quite some time, but the availability of digital marketing platforms has helped it evolve and pushed its importance a notch higher. 

This marketing approach is not only effective but also economical as content can be reused and drive traffic over and over again. If you’re thinking of a way to get more traffic to your business or website, content marketing is an investment worth making.

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Photo credit: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.com

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