Are you a small business owner with a good business website trying to reach more clients and customers online? Have you considered leveraging content marketing as a source of digital marketing?

No? Why not? 

Okay, the only explanation that we can come up with for why you are not using content marketing as a digital marketing strategy is that you might not know what content marketing is, and you don’t know its benefits.

This article will give you what you need to understand what content marketing is and why you need it.  And, if you stick around to the end, you’ll get some expert tips on how small businesses can get the best bang for their buck when they start.  

David vs. Goliath

Running a small business isn’t easy.  As a business owner, you’re personally responsible for everything from development, production all the way up to hiring and firing.  Unfortunately, the big competition won’t sit around waiting for you to play catch-up.  They’re #1 on SERPs, have tons of traffic, and convert leads like there’s no tomorrow.  Some have been around forever and command the trust of the market in a way you never could.  What’s the little guy to do?  

What if there were a way to start evening the odds?  What if you could increase your visibility to the largest audience in the world and build evidence of your company’s value?  What if, using your website, you could boost your brand recognition and build a loyal following?  Content marketing just might be the great equalizer you’re looking for.  If you want to build reach and trust for your business, you’ll need to learn how to leverage this secret weapon.

Content Marketing: What Does It Look Like and What Does It Do?

Content marketing uses online media to create and distribute valuable free content to a targeted audience.  Unlike traditional marketing, content marketing almost never makes an explicit sales pitch.  Instead, it stimulates interest and engagement organically in the targeted audience.  By answering questions, filling needs, and providing value to the target demographic, the savvy small business owner will build a loyal, well-informed community that is much more likely to convert into sales than random individuals who ended up on a website through a lucky break with some algorithm.

Content marketing materials exist in many different forms.  Typically, they provide information in a clear, easy-to-understand manner geared towards efficiently informing as many people as possible.  The written word is particularly suited to this goal, and blog articles, eBooks, print books, and newsletters all have their place in an effective content marketing plan.

Audio-visual media also provide easy access to a large internet audience, particularly those who are too busy to spend time reading.  Podcasts and tutorial videos are incredibly popular on several internet platforms, while some webinars can provide a live/interactive element to content delivery.  Infographics are a type of content marketing that blends visuals and the written word to make its point at-a-glance for speedy consumption.  Regardless of the medium, effective content marketing answers the questions or fills the needs of a target audience.  

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8 Ways Your Small Business Can Leverage the Power of Content Marketing 

Knowing a basic definition of content marketing can be helpful, but how can you leverage it to achieve your specific goals?  Rather, what effects can you expect from your well-wrought plan?  The following list of 8 ways small businesses can leverage content marketing is divided in half.  The first 4 entries discuss the consequences of increased brand recognition, while the second 4 focus on the impact you will have on your audience.  

Growing Your Audience

Not to put too fine a point on it, but nobody knows your business from a hole in the wall.  You don’t rank well in search, your web traffic is low, and your conversion rate needs improvement.  Luckily, a good content marketing plan can help with all these problems.

#1 – Improve Your Search Results

The internet is an audience of several billion.  Even if very few people know about your business and are actively searching for it, you can be certain that plenty of people are interested in your niche, no matter how small you think it is.  By building a well-mapped content network on your website, social media accounts, and other content platforms, you will construct a web of links with your site at the center.  Search engines love backlinks, and if your articles, social media posts, and business profiles on LinkedIn and Google are optimized with SEO-friendly language, you’ll reap the benefits in your SERP placement.

#2 – Increase your Web Traffic

Because of your higher search engine ranking, your website traffic will increase.  With well-made, relevant, and useful content, people with questions about your niche will be predisposed to click on your link in their SERP.  The value they gain from listening to your podcast, reading your blog post, or watching your tutorial vid will encourage them to click on your link again when they have a similar question or need.  

#3 – Generate More Leads

More traffic means more leads!  If you are providing useful content that answers your audience’s questions or satisfies some other need, you can use a subtle CTA to get their contact info.  If they found your blog useful, maybe they can register to be notified of further updates?  Perhaps attendance at your webinar or live Q&A could require registration with an email?  Or perhaps they could get “members only” podcast cuts free for a limited time by registering their name and email.  Regardless of the format, the promise of more valuable content for free is a powerful motivator, and many people will volunteer their information once you have properly engaged them.

#4 – Close More Sales

Converting leads is never easy, and nowadays requires a light touch.  Many internet users employ popup blockers to avoid intrusive ads and other forms of direct marketing.  Since content marketing is not intrusive, and the people who view your offerings do so on purpose, you can tailor different pieces of content to people on different parts of your sales funnel.  Having a finely articulated content map is useful here.  By presenting content geared towards different steps on the psychological journey towards a sale, you can nudge people from one step to the next by providing value that makes them feel empowered.

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Growing Your Impact    

Content marketing also increases the impact you have on your audience.  Remember, your large competitors have a lot of things you don’t aside from brand recognition.  They can rely on their history and long track record to communicate their authority and (most importantly) trustworthiness to potential customers.  A well-planned content marketing strategy will help you close the gap.

#5 – Establish Your Authority

When your podcast fascinates and entertains the audience, or your eBook answers all the questions they had about a topic in your niche, your content is useful to them.  Offering current, comprehensive media to your audience shows that your finger is on the pulse of what people want and implies that your focus is on satisfying your customers.  Not only will your expertise be appreciated by current readers, but the effects of your content will ripple across time.  Your blog, podcast, tutorials, and infographics will build a documentary history of authority that can be explored by future visitors as well, potentially pushing them right through your sales funnel.  

#6 – Educate Your Audience

People love to feel empowered, knowledgeable, and competent.  Not only will your content answer specific questions that people may have, but if it is well-produced and entertaining it will also give them broad familiarity and context about your industry.  As your audience learns more from you, they will trust you as an authority and as the source of their own expertise.  In turn, an expert audience can be trusted to make the right decision when it is finally time to make a purchase.

#7 – Build Relationships

When your content marketing strategy provides value to your visitors, leads, and customers, a community starts to form – you build relationships.  This can turn conversions into repeat buyers who volunteer their own time to stay engaged with you and your other customers.  Think of when YouTube influencers assign frequent, helpful commenters as chat moderators on their live streams, or the people who frequently post help and advice on internet forums.  If visitors begin to congregate around your content to learn, entertain, and exchange ideas, you become their go-to.  This is the cornerstone of long-term brand loyalty.  

#8 – Increase Your Reach

Word-of-mouth has always been one of the best marketing tools for any business.  The community-building element of content marketing leverages this in a different way from other aspects of your business like, say, your stellar customer service.  If your content is relevant and satisfying, your community members will take it upon themselves to distribute it for you.  Reposts, retweets, link sharing, backlinking – all digital word-of-mouth.  And people trust who they follow just as they trust their friends.  

If a content marketing strategy works, it will increase your brand recognition, which in turn increases your impact on your community members, who will in turn increase your brand recognition.  Reach and engagement work in tandem to close the gap between you and the bigger companies.  If the prevailing wisdom suggests that your company is the place to go in your niche, you will become unstoppable.  

Top 3 Tips for a Small Business to Jump-Start Its Content Marketing

If you understand what content marketing is and what it can do for a small business, great!  But what can you do to make your fledgling plan more effective?  Content marketing takes time, and time is money.  To reinforce the point of providing added value to visitors, here are 3 quick tips to up your content marketing game.

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#1 – Don’t Be Generic!

Bad content marketing has propagated like wildfire over the past few years.  Many articles are filled with generic information about various industries.  To set yourself apart, focus on specific problems or scenarios encountered by your customers.  Can you tell someone the quickest way to lose weight or how to avoid foreclosure?

Well-structured long-form content can be a goldmine of useful information for the community you’re building.  To make sure people actually read it, be sure to label sections clearly and break up the text with relevant visual elements.  To lend yourself added credibility, cite data when possible and interview people with proven expertise.  

#2 – Use Keyword Research

If you are having trouble drilling down on a specific topic, keyword research can help you out and boost SERPs at the same time.  To start, spend some time reading forums and finding trending topics on Quora and Reddit.  These sites have very high engagement and are a great way to see what people are talking about.  

Once you have a general idea, there are many tools on the internet that can show you the search volume and competition rate of any keyword.  Trying to find keywords that balance volume and competition can be time-consuming but is almost always well worth the effort.  Once you’ve got a few, use the auto-complete functions of Google, YouTube, and other search engines to see the most popular long-tail keywords.  Strategic placement of them can give your SERP ranking a huge shot in the arm.

#3 – Make Your Articles into Other Types of Content

You’ve found a specific topic, produced an article, and given it some SEO.  Now turn it into several different types of content.  You can distill the main points, data figures, and tips from an article into an infographic, giving your Instagram audience the gist at-a-glance.  You could also turn each point into a separate post on various social media sites.  For more audio/visual content, convert articles into podcasts.  You don’t need anything fancy, just read the article aloud and host the podcast on one of the many hosting sites.  All these ideas will spread your content around, backlink to your site, and avoid the old, ineffective trope of just sharing links.  

Conclusion

There is no quick answer when it comes to staring down the big competitors.  But every small business needs a good content marketing plan to level the playing field.  It can increase your brand visibility and the impact you have on your audience.  Over time, and perhaps more quickly than you might think, your targeted, relevant, and useful content will build your credibility and foster trust in your online community – the key to enduring brand loyalty and repeat business.  So don’t wait.  Put together a plan, invest in production, and start building your online legacy.

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