Like it or not, the dawn of the digital era has completely redefined the way companies engage with customers. The web is now awash with dime-a-dozen promotions, and it takes a lot more than an eye-catching graphic or great deal to convert ordinary web users into loyal customers.
That’s why more and more businesses have started to focus their promotional efforts on new content marketing strategies.
What is Content Marketing?
Simply put, content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that sees businesses create and distribute valuable content in order to attract a clearly defined audience. Rather than shamelessly pitching goods and services with ordinary sales copy, content marketing enables you to deliver information that enhances consumer knowledge.
By establishing your business as a consistent source or relevant and valuable industry information, content marketing strategies are designed to help you create an intelligent consumer base that will ultimately reward your hard work with their loyalty and business.
Who Uses Content Marketing?
Although increased reliance on the web has substantially increased the uptake of businesses adopting content marketing strategies, the concept itself has been around for quite some time.
Notable examples include John Deere, which launched its own magazine in 1895 designed to provide farmers with useful information on how to make their businesses more profitable. More than a century on, that magazine is still going strong, with a circulation of more than 1.5 million readers in 40 countries. Michelin’s coveted restaurant guide and Jell-O’s iconic cookbooks were launched around the same time with identical motivations in mind.
More recently, energy drink leviathan Red Bull has emerged as one of the guiding forces of content marketing. Its steady YouTube presence, feature film productions and magazine all provide extreme sports consumers with a consistent and unique flow of information and content that have helped the company to establish phenomenal brand recognition.
How Can I Use Content Marketing for My Business?
No matter what sort of business you’re running or what type of industry you’re operating in, content marketing can be an extremely effective and versatile promotional strategy.
If you’d like to develop a content marketing strategy to help bolster your business, you must first define your target audience and their needs. Think of who your business is targeting, what sort of information they’re typically after and how you could provide useful content to fill those needs.
Next, you’ll need to determine how and where to produce and distribute that content. By undergoing some market research, you should be able to develop a firm idea of where your would-be customers are spending the bulk of their time online. You might be able to maximize your digital exposure by producing videos on YouTube, writing blog posts on LinkedIn or contributing guest articles to relevant industry magazines.
After you’ve got a firm idea of what types of content to produce and where to do it, it’s worth developing a content calendar that will push you to remain consistent in your outreach efforts. If you’re attempting to establish your own company website as a source of information, you could also benefit from deploying a simple content management system that will make it fast and simple to produce and distribute content.
Before the days of the internet and Facebook statuses, marketing was a constant uphill battle for a lot of startups and small businesses.
Today, it is still an uphill battle. However, digital marketing has made the task of establishing a business presence much less intimidating. In fact, some might argue that it levels the playing field and gives the smaller guys an opportunity to shine in a way the big enterprises simply cannot.
There are a number of reasons why the market will always root for the underdog. As startups and small to medium sized businesses know, they have a lot to gain from a well-planned digital marketing campaign and must make sure every single dollar is put to good use.
If this sounds like you, take a look at these five tips to help compete and work towards a David and Goliath story for your business.
Small Business Marketing Tips
1. Invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Did you know that 81 percent of shoppers will begin their buying process with a Google search? Or that 35 percent of all ecommerce traffic comes from search engines?
Small Business Marketing Tips – Invest in SEO
Think of SEO as the word-of mouth of the internet. Regardless of whether you own an e-commerce platform, a brick-and-mortar store, or both, investing in SEO is one of the smartest business decisions you can make to put yourself on the map.
If planned correctly, you will see an incredible ROI without breaking your bank. SEO is effective due to the fact that the customer is already looking for you, or the service you provide. This is where targeting the right customers with the right keywords helps a lot. In the hands of a marketer who knows their stuff, tools like Ahref’s Keyword Explorer prove invaluable in reaching your target audience:
Small Business Marketing Tips – Invest in SEO
However, the most important thing to keep in mind about SEO is that you will not likely see significant results overnight. Like most paid options, your visibility will be tied to your budget. SEO is a long-term investment. Don’t give up if you don’t see success right away. It can take weeks, or even months. Keep investing and eventually, you will see good results.
2. Showcase Expertise with Stellar Content
Content marketing has been the central focus in the digital realm for quite a while now. Content is the foundation of brand messaging. The task is producing material in the form of blog posts, infographics, videos, etc. suited to the platform of your choice.
Content creation is a golden opportunity for businesses of all sizes to shine and let the world know what they are made of and what profound value they can provide.
The trick to creating grade-A content is knowing your target audience down to a tee while fielding their most prevalent questions or concerns.
Take Firmoo for example. An online store for eyeglasses, they know that their product is typically one where customers like to go to a brick-and-mortar location and physically try it on.
In turn, they go above in beyond on their website to provide all the information the customer might need. In addition to perfected product listings, they publish a blog that addresses pressing questions within the industry.
Small Business Marketing Tips – Showcase Expertise with Excellent Content
Content is truly an underdog’s best friend. Google loves fresh, relevant material. The higher quality you produce, the better you will do in the search rankings. Everyone wins.
3. Seek out Influencers
Influencer marketing is all about expanding your community. An influencer is basically a prominent figure with a large following. The goal is to find one pertaining to your target market and getting them to talk about your business to their loyal fan base. When you find the right one, it can do wonders for startups and small to medium sized businesses.
Start by brainstorming a list of who might have the strongest impact on your audience. This could be anyone like a blogger, politician, Instagram model, or even another business owner.
For example, Boxed Water came up with a genius influencer marketing campaign titled “The Retree Project.” For every Instagram post tagged with #Retree, Boxed Water planted two trees. It paired with the National Forest Foundation and other Instagram influencers to spread the word about their philanthropy. As of this writing, they have planted over half a million trees!
4. Make a Serious Effort to Get Online Reviews
We’ve all heard the stats on how important online reviews are these days. Perhaps the most mind-boggling one is that 90 percent of shoppers incorporate them into their purchasing process.
With that being said, customer reviews and testimonials can be a game changer for startups and small to medium sized businesses. This means that the underdogs need to make a huge effort to gather feedback from customers.
Following a purchase, it is wise to send an email encouraging customers to rate them on the big review sites like Yelp, or with a simple form to fill out regarding their experience.
Small Business Marketing Tips – Make a Serious Effort to Get Online Reviews
Asking for reviews is a very simple task and can bring unbelievable results. The key is providing noteworthy service that warrants good feedback.
5. Never Stop Tracking, Analyzing and Improving
Tracking your results is perhaps the most important piece of the marketing puzzle. Without the keeping tabs on analytics, you won’t have a good knowledge of what you are doing well and what needs to be altered or optimized.
Keep a close eye on your targeted keywords as well as content performance so you know how to make your next move. This process is how you see that your money is well spent.
One of the best ways to put yourself ahead of the game is by backing up each decision you make with actionable data. If you haven’t already, look into domain analytics tools like SEMrush or a multi-channel dashboard like Cyfe in addition to your regular Google Analytics, in order to make sure each of your business moves are being properly tracked.
My Facebook news feed is chock full of inspirational quotes and messages from my favorite celebrities. Whether it’s a funny post from Kevin Hart or an inspirational post from Mark Cuban, I always scroll through the “feed” in the morning before getting out of bed. Then, during my lunch breaks, I scroll again to see what’s new.
Finally, while I’m home watching TV and relaxing after a long day, I find myself scrolling through my social media profiles yet again.
Those micro-moments represent a killer advertising opportunity for brands to reach me. Of course I’m a pro at scrolling past the “Promoted Posts”, but the information shared by my favorite individuals is more difficult to ignore. So, as my company grew, I started looking for ways to tap into that audience that, like me, pays attention to key individuals in their daily routine.
Engaging Influencers with Content
1. Reaching Influencers in Three Easy Steps
Getting influencers (the people that have large, organic audiences) to share information with their fans is called “Influencer Marketing”. But how do you get an influencer’s attention? It can be as simple as having content that they stumble upon and enjoy. Or, you can send them an email pitch, using the process that The Daily Egg recommends on their blog.
I’ve had personal success reaching influencers by asking them if they’d like to be profiled in my blog, or as part of an upcoming project. A profile can be as simple as a quote, or a more in-depth interview; whatever the influencer prefers.
But, before I reach out, I create multiple channels (Facebook Posts, Tweets, Blog Posts and Landing Pages) stocked with high-quality content related to the target influencer’s area of expertise. This allows the influencer to quickly research me and confirm that I’m a serious individual that produces quality content in their niche.
To recap, my process involves:
Generating a list of potential influencers that I’d like to profile or target for ongoing marketing outreach.
Creating valuable, well-researched content that speaks to their niche on every channel available to me.
Making sure my website is strong and ready for their vetting. (More on that in the next section.)
Reaching out to them via a personalized, brief email that clearly defines the easiest way for them to contribute to my project; a quote for an upcoming article is a super easy option.
2. Text Layout with Attention-Grabbing Headers is Key
The way that we find and interact with websites is changing. As we become trained to mentally block-out advertising areas (generally the tops, sides and bottom of sites), it’s more important than ever to structure the text on our site around human behavior.
According to Reboot Online, “When humans encounter a piece of text, we tend to concentrate most on headings, and the first lines of paragraphs. We also usually scan a text before reading it fully all the way through to get an idea of what it’s about and hence, decide if we want to read it all in detail.” If you want readers to spend time on your page you need strong, impactful headers.
Key components of a killer header:
Include a number; the human mind loves the inherent value in numbers.
Focus on the benefit to the reader.
Take action, don’t be passive.
So, if I have a couple paragraphs discussing how to lay out text, I’d place a header above them that reads: “3 Pro Techniques You Should Use When Laying Out Text; It’s Easier than You Think!”
Influencers visiting my site will be able to scan it and realize that I’m a genuine person creating unique, valuable content online for my audience. They’ll be more inclined to work with me because I’m already working hard to create value on my own. Their contributions can be easily dovetailed into a known commodity.
3. Get Personal, Remove Boundaries
One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with was that my brand needed a face and personality behind it. I’m a natural introvert, which is probably why I became such a passionate blogger in the first place. But, to create an impactful presence that influencers will want to help support requires unmasking yourself and stepping out from behind the computer screen.
There are a couple of great ways to accomplish this. My personal favorite is YouTube. Creating short, targeted videos allows your audience to become familiar with who you are. Script them if you have to, but your natural presence on camera is almost always best.
Trust me, viewers will realize when you’re reading from a script.
My first couple of videos bounced back and forth between myself on the screen explaining a concept, and then a video capture of my screen showing the concept in action. I provided answers to common questions via YouTube and built a following. I embedded these videos in my blog posts and social media posts.
Inc.’s post by Jayson Demers explains part of the reason that personal branding is so effective; “Personal branding is becoming increasingly important because modern audiences tend to trust people more than corporations … allowing you to establish a reputation and an identity while still maintaining a personal level of trust and interaction, usually through social media.”
For small businesses, having an effective website is no longer optional. But there’s a lot that goes into making your website really work for your small business.
Members of our small business community are keenly aware of what it takes to put together a great website. Check out some of their top tips in the list below.
Increase Engagement With Website Visitors
Consumer attention spans aren’t as long as they used to be. So business owners and marketers need to be able to quickly engage with website visitors in order to convert them into customers. This SUCCESS agency blog post by Mary Blackiston shares tips for increasing engagement with website visitors.
Avoid These Small Biz Website Errors
When customers or potential customers visit your website, they aren’t likely to stick around very long if your site is full of errors. There are some common ones that can really hurt your business online. Here, Natasha Golinsky shares some small business website errors you should avoid on the On Purpose Projects blog.
Use a Blog to Drive Your Business
A blog can be a great addition to your website, if you use it wisely. To learn how to drive business using a blog, take a look at this Startup Professionals Musings post by Martin Zwilling. Then you can see further commentary on the post over on BizSugar.
Generate Stellar Social Media Content
If you want to get more people to actually visit your website, social media can be a great tool. But you need great content in order for your social media strategy to be effective. Stephen Moyers elaborates in this Basic Blog Tips post.
Go Above and Beyond With Your Content
Content Marketing isn’t exactly a new concept for most businesses. And with so many competitors out there using the same strategies to try to get new online customers, it’s so important for your content to stand out. This Marketing Land post by Julie Joyce discusses how to go above and beyond with your content.
Know These Facts About SEO
SEO is an essential component of any successful small business website. But if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to SEO, you might want to take a look at the points in this 3Bug Media post by Gary Shouldis. Then you can see what the BizSugar community says about the post here.
Fix These User Experience Pet Peeves
User experience is a huge part of your website. If users have a bad or confusing experience, they aren’t likely to actually do business with you. But you can fix some of the most common user experience pet peeves using the tips in this Search Engine Journal post by Josh McCoy.
Do SEO for a Tiny Website With No Visitors or Money
If you think that your website is too small for you to have to worry about SEO, think again. SEO is still important. And there are ways you can leverage it even for a small website with no existing visitors or money, according to this post by Neil Patel.
Write a Blog Post That Goes Viral
When you’re working to get website visitors, having a blog post go viral can provide a huge boost. You can’t necessarily guarantee that it will happen. But there are ways you can increase your chances of writing a viral blog post. Check out the tips in this Web Hosting Secrets Revealed post by Lori Soard. And then see what BizSugar members have to say here.
Avoid These Critical Web Design Mistakes
When building a website, it’s important to have a great design. But not all businesses get it right at first. Plenty of businesses have made critical web design mistakes that can ultimately hurt the bottom line. In this Noobpreneur post, Ivan Widjaya lists some of those common mistakes to avoid.
There’s so many ways to develop a brand, and so much advice on how to do it. It can be hard to distill the enormous amount of information available to small businesses who need help letting people know why their company is so important. Here are my four best tips for growing your business and your brand.
Get to Know the U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is quite amazing and most people don’t realize how many resources they have. In addition to connecting small businesses that need funding with lenders, they offer tons of information on every aspect of running a business, including developing a marketing plan, the relationship between marketing and sales, and how to set a marketing budget.
Use Social Media — but Don’t do Too Much Too Soon
Entrepreneurs getting started with social media marketing often make the mistake of overdoing it. You don’t need to be everywhere, and your messaging doesn’t need to convey all things to all people. Begin by picking a small number of social media channels that are going to help your business. Then stick to messaging that’s closely related to the core value proposition of your business. Facebook is great because it can target customers based on local geographies and other parameters. Sure, it’s a little old fashioned, but it’s basically the yellow pages of the internet age, and it’s also a way to connect people directly to your business. Others like Twitter can be used in a similar way, but Facebook is a great starting point.
Take Advantage of the Cloud
The great thing about being a newer, smaller business is that you’re not handcuffed by the same technology investments as your older, larger competition. You’re free to invest in all kinds of cloud services that place the burden of technology management on someone else. Cloud services are easy to get up and running, and they give you near infinite room to grow. On the marketing front, cloud-based services like Canva, allow you to create graphic designs for social media and other marketing efforts. Constant Contact can help you send email newsletters to current and potential customers. And there’s certainly no shortage of cloud-based marketing automation applications to choose from.
Protect Your Most Valuable Marketing Asset — Data
It doesn’t matter what business you’re in: You’re going to be generating lots of data about orders, seasonal spikes in sales, customer preferences, contact information and much more. That information will fuel all of your marketing efforts going forward — and it needs to be protected. That’s why you should consider a cloud backup service like Carbonite. With cloud backup, your data is easily accessible from any internet-connected device — and cloud backup protects your business data from malware, computer theft, accidental deletion and natural disasters.