Gone are the days of marketers suggesting paper flyers, phonebook advertisements, and wacky-wavy-inflatable tube men. Okay, maybe I’d still recommend the last one because everyone loves a windy, flappy, aero-dynamic cloth dancer. But still, in 2023, if your business isn’t involved in digital marketing, you’re already losing out on profits.
Despite our always-online culture, digital marketing – and content marketing, in particular – is a difficult concept to wrap your head around. Between the ever-evolving online technology space, a growing list of new terminology, and content marketing influencers, don’t worry if you’ve thrown up your hands in frustration every time you’ve Googled “What is content?”
Our guide to content marketing for small businesses aims to simplify what that means, how content marketing works for your business, and where to get started. If you’re ready to take the next step into digital marketing, read below.
What is Content Marketing?
For simplicity’s sake, let’s use the definition of content marketing as shared by The Content Marketing Institute:
“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.”
To simplify it further, content is every type of digital deliverable your company produces. That includes but is not limited to blog posts, email campaigns, social media posts, eBooks, case studies, webinars, podcasts, videos, and more. The term content does a lot of the heavy lifting as there are near endless forms of content.
Whichever way you are delivering information to your audience, that is content.
When you add marketing to the phrase, that informs the content’s goal. Content needs to be valuable and relevant to your target audience.
What makes content valuable is directly tied to knowing your audience: for a company like Hubspot, valuable content includes eBooks, infographics, and other learning materials. On the other hand, a fast-food joint like Wendy’s believes its audience desires a yearly roast. What is valuable to one group of people is not always the same as another.
With something like relevancy, it’s relatively simple: make content that fits within your branding and audience.
The rules for content marketing for small businesses are not the same as for larger firms.
Why Does My Small Business Need Content Marketing?
Every small business is different, but often any company needs four to seven touchpoints with a consumer before they make a sale. That includes emails, social media posts, or even physical advertisements.
The more times a consumer interacts with your brand, the more likely they are to become a lead and eventually a customer. That’s precisely why content marketing is essential to the success of your digital marketing strategy.
The Buyer’s Journey and Content Marketing
Content is directly related to top-of-funnel marketing in the buyer’s journey.
You can imagine the buyer’s journey in three parts of a sales funnel: top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and bottom-of-funnel.
In the beginning, a customer starts at the top-of-funnel. Top-of-funnel marketing casts as wide a net as possible to attract as many potential customers as possible. This is generally educational or informational content that makes consumers aware of your brand.
The top-of-funnel is where content marketing tends to exist.
In the middle-of-funnel, consumers evaluate your business to determine whether or not they want to make a purchase. Once they’ve decided they want to make a purchase, you move them through the bottom of the funnel for conversions.
Someone on Google often pops onto a blog post or case study from a search term, visits your website, and doesn’t make a purchase. But if your post is memorable (and valuable) enough, your brand creates a touchpoint.
The Importance of Touchpoints
These touchpoints can eventually lead to conversions. Think of it like a virtual happy hour, except everyone is invited, and cat memes are an acceptable introduction. Your content is a consumer’s first impression.
Expect high bounce rates and low conversions but tons of traffic from your top-of-funnel content. Your content marketing success depends on what you do with that load of content, as you need to drive those leads into the next step of the sales funnel.
For example, if you have an informational how-to guide blog post receiving a lot of traffic, your goal should be to drive them into your email pipeline to give your brand the best chance of engagement.
It is the same for case studies or white papers.
With social media, engagement with your tweets, posts, or videos is nice, but you want people to follow you. That’s why every YouTuber asks you to like and subscribe to their content (they want to be on your homepage the next time you sign on).
Know, Like, Trust
As potential customers are introduced to you through top-of-funnel content, it is important to feed them content that is more relevant to their business decision as you move them through the funnel. A content piece at the bottom of the funnel might include a price or service comparison guide with other competitive options.
This is not what the potential customer was looking for when they began their search, but at this point, they know your brand and are more likely to be looking for a solution they can trust.
A time-tested sales model follows a “Know, Like, Trust” model, and effective content marketing does this for you:
- Potential customers get to “know” you through finding your top-of-funnel content.
- By subscribing to an email list or following your social profiles, they begin to “like” you as they are exposed to more useful content.
- When they see your company as an expert, they will begin to “trust” you. When they are ready to make a purchase, they will reach out to your company because of that trust.
Content marketing is the first touch point between your business and future customers.
Guide to Content Marketing for Small Businesses
The biggest strength and weakness of marketing your small business is the size, time, and cost of digital marketing. Larger companies can throw a variety of content campaigns at the wall to see what sticks without losing too much sleep, as one successful campaign pays for all the others.
But cost and time are limited for small businesses, and you must make the right choices. Otherwise, you lose out.
With all of the available data, educational materials, and historical information about content marketing, I put together three tips to help you maximize your time while generating the best opportunities for new leads when content marketing for small businesses.
1. You are your best salesperson.
A few months ago, my furnace broke during the one cold week outside this winter and just stopped pumping out hot air and started leaking gas. So I did what I always do in situations like this: Google search.
After typing in my ailments, every furnace/boiler repair shop within 100 miles popped up with identical blog posts. Over and over, the content was the same except for one post, where the author started by telling the readers about his biggest mistake as a furnace repairman.
Now, months later, I remember that one post because it was the only one that made me believe an actual human was behind the computer screen.
I’m trying to say that no one knows your business better than you, and if you’re going to invest in content marketing, that knowledge needs to be shared authentically.
Whether with a personal narrative within your blog post or sharing an impromptu Instagram live, letting people get a peek behind the curtain does wonders when building connections with your audience.
Your industry knowledge needs to be front and center at all times.
In addition, building empathy is a significant part of making connections with your target audience and a cornerstone of content marketing for small businesses. People want to trust the companies they work with.
Adding a personal touch to your marketing goes a long way in creating life-long fans of your brand.
2. Always create the right type of content.
One piece of advice given a lot is that every website needs a blog. As a writer and content marketer, that’s a fair argument. Of course, though, there are apparent exceptions to the rule, especially when creating content for a small business.
When running a local business, you want to attract leads from a particular section of the population. If you start creating blog content that ranks for nationwide search terms drawing traffic from California to Alaska to North Carolina, that traffic won’t do much for you in the long run unless you are based in those areas.
That’s why it is essential to create the right type of content. And I’m not just talking about blog posts; this includes social media, videos, graphics, etc.
Think about it this way, if you are in the design business, it makes a lot more sense to create visually appealing social media content than a series of text-driven Facebook posts. Or if your audience is primarily young people, staying updated on TikTok trends will help your business.
There are a lot of platforms and types of content to produce, but as a small business, you don’t have the time or energy to create something for all of them. Instead, once you’ve identified your audience, figure out what they want and where they hang out.
Also, understand that what information you share with your audience needs to be valuable and related to your products. You won’t create videos about gardening if you are a law firm. Too many businesses get caught up in capturing keywords and the top spots on Google without considering whether it’s relevant to their audience.
Focusing on one type of content and taking the time to perfect it goes a lot further than spreading yourself thin trying to do everything all at once.
3. Promotion is essential early.
As a small business, word of mouth is one of the most critical aspects of driving new leads to your business. The same goes for content marketing and understanding how digital promotion works best.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: you cannot create a website, write a few blogs, and suddenly expect traffic. That’s not an effective marketing strategy as there are many moving parts in how your content gets in front of your target audience.
Organic traffic (people coming from a Google Search) can take three months to a year to see people visiting your website, and this is especially true for blog posts that target competitive search terms.
Social media is different and highly dependent on which platform you choose to use. But for any social media platform, you must rely on more than organic impressions to drive campaigns.
All of this is to say you must promote your digital marketing as much as possible. That might mean including QR codes around your shop, automatically signing customers to your email list after purchase, or enlisting online ads. In those first few months, when no one organically finds your website, you must put in the time and effort to make yourself visible.
Are you a small business owner who needs marketing help? Call The Loop Marketing today.
The marketing experts at The Loop Marketing have successfully redesigned branding, built successful content campaigns, and modernized a website’s look and feel to increase leads.
No matter the size of your business, The Loop Marketing team listens to your needs and guides your business through its marketing evolution to help ensure you attract the strongest leads possible.
If you want more information, schedule a consultation with The Loop Marketing today.