Content marketing tips for small businesses

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Content marketing is a marketing tool that can help new customers find your business while determining the value of your product or service. Here’s how to make content marketing work for your business.

Most people think of content marketing as a promotional activity that is relatively new, but apart from the name ‘content marketing’ there is nothing new about it. In fact, savvy marketers promoted themselves by distributing content on the first commercial online services, years before the Internet as we know it existed.

Content marketing has long been used in print as well. Lawyers and other professionals who did not advertise promoted themselves by writing articles that appeared in trade journals. The articles contain short blurbs describing the author’s credentials and company name.

And then there have always been those recipes that food companies give away in supermarkets or embed in popular women’s magazines to sell gelatin, cocoa and other food products.

In fact, the only “new” thing about content marketing – other than someone naming it – is that it has become a multi-billion dollar industry. The reason? The internet has made it easy to research the pros and cons of every purchase and every seller before talking to a salesperson or advisor or stepping into a store.

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Why content marketing is important for small businesses

Content marketing is important because it is how customers today learn about and choose products and services to buy. The right content can get your product or service noticed and keep it on the prospect’s radar as they move through the buying cycle, from product discovery to final choice. Even if your business gets most of its customers from personal contacts, referrals and recommendations, the people who might want to do business with you will go online to learn more about you and what you sell before they commit to buying from you . You.

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Today, customers go online to find out what kind of product or service will solve a problem or fill a need, and then search for information to determine which features they want. They look for answers to questions like, “How much memory do I need in a computer that will be used to play Minecraft and other games?” “Is Granite or Quartz Better for Countertops?” “How much does it cost to build a small business website?” “Where to Buy Bulletproof Glass.” “How to Choose a Landscape Architect in San Francisco.”

Having content on your website that provides factual answers to common questions asked by your target market will help you establish yourself as an expert and therefore a potential supplier. (All those personal contacts you make at networking events and trade shows will likely be browsing your website for information before considering calling you or coming into your store.) Your content can also be found by search engines and appear high in search results. giving you potential customers that you would never have gotten on your own.

Once a consumer or business buyer knows what features they want in a product, they compare the benefits of one brand to another and one supplier to another. They look at social media comments, reviews, prices and anything that can help them make the best choice. They do all their research and pretty much decide what product they want and what company they want to buy from before speaking to a salesperson – even if it’s a big purchase.

What kind of content does your company need to produce and distribute?

To get the most benefits from content marketing, it plans to develop content that covers every stage of the buying cycle. Start by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. What do they want to know and what can they look for when they first realize they have a problem or need, but are not yet aware of products or services that will meet their needs? What kind of questions do they ask? What are their main concerns? Once they figure out what kind of product or service they need, what more do they ask for? What do they compare? What are their main considerations?

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You can write articles or blog posts that address each of their questions. For example, if you sell driveway resurfacing services, you may have an article on whether it is better to repair or replace your driveway and others on the benefits and pitfalls of tar, concrete, pebbles, stones, and pavers for surface of the driveway.

To showcase your expertise and help feed the information cravings of people ready to buy, you may have articles or blog posts that talk about the steps involved in constructing a driveway. Before and after photos (photos are content too!) and testimonials from satisfied customers would be additional content that could help capture the sale, without ‘selling’.

Have your content consumed

Use of content marketing information sales rather than high-pressure sales pitches. But all the content (information) in the world won’t do you much good if it isn’t found. In order for the content to be found, you need to promote it. Here are 10 ways to promote your content.

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  • Have an email sign-up page or other call-to-action that requires people to give you contact information on every page of your website.
  • Make sure your business card includes a link to your website and also a link to sign up for a newsletter or mailing list. (If you can’t put the newsletter signup link on the front of your business card, put it on the back.)
  • At least once a month, send out a newsletter or other mailing alerting people to information on your website, special offers, photos of what you sell, or other information that may interest your readers. (Photos, videos, coupons, infographics, and even audio clips are all “content” too, provided they contain something your readers want to know or have.)
  • Add a forward button to a friend in all your newsletters and mailings.
  • Post a short summary or teaser of your content on your social media pages and link to your website for readers to read the full document.
  • Create a lead magnet, such as a handy checklist or other informative guide, and use it to get prospects’ contact information. When they fill out a form to request the free information, add their contact name to your mailing list or an autoresponder so you can follow up with them and send additional information and calls to action.
  • Buy ads on search engines and social media sites to reference your content. But test your ads and pay attention to cost versus return on investment. Online advertising works well if you sell high-priced items or if you sell products or services that customers buy on an ongoing basis. If you want to sell a single $29.95 item and customers typically buy one of them and don’t need to buy it again, advertising online can be too expensive.
  • Create a printed flyer (something you can print on your home printer will work) to hand out at local networking events to promote and point out your content on your website.
  • Offer to be a speaker at local and industry groups – and run a giveaway of your content (an ebook or white paper, or an attendee-only special offer) that people can ask for by providing their contact information.
  • Create a press release that summarizes some of your content and includes a link to download the full report. Spread that to the media and also to bloggers and websites talking about your industry. Also, post the press release on your own website and then post links to the press release on social media.

Content marketing is not a substitute for other marketing. But if you create good content and focus on getting it found, it can be invaluable in winning new customers and building sales.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek advice from a licensed professional.