Researchers show us again and again that consumers are growing increasingly blind and deaf to advertisements. They can tune out commercials and gloss over even the best placed ads. Sometimes, ads even irritate us to the point that we memorize the company producing them simply to make sure we never buy from them. It’s a brutal world out there for anyone with a message to spread or something to sell and that’s why content marketing matters today more than ever – in many cases it is the only truly effective way to get the message out about what you have to sell.
As a small business owner, you might notice that the two key phrases here are ‘most effective‘ and ‘lowest-cost‘. Isn’t that great? That is, indeed, the beauty of the kind of marketing we’re about to talk about. If you have been in business for any amount of time then you probably realize a good chunk of your income goes towards advertising, but traditional advertising often offers you precious little by way of ROI, much less trackable results. This is where good content marketing can make a difference for you. Not only can you realize the kind of higher profile you need to bring people in, you will also see who is interacting with your content so you can gauge whether or not people like what you’ve put out there.
1. The Main Ingredients of Great Content Are All Around You
Every day that you are in business, you are interacting with your customers. You see what they come to you for and you hear the stories they have to tell, too. A lot of times, letting them tell their story through your company’s blog or social media profile can be a great way to not only showcase an important customer, but to show other potential customers why someone would choose to do business with you.
When this isn’t appropriate for the business you run, focus on why people are coming into your business to start with. What problems do you solve for them? A lot of times, being an expert that helps people is a great way to promote your business. If you sell flowers, think about creating content that shows those flowers off in photo form and also includes tips on how to find the right flowers that represent different messages people might want to say but do not have the words for. Or perhaps you could make articles on the history of different flowers that are popular today – there are endless options.
Always, always focus on what your audience wants. The key in the best content marketing strategies – what makes them really work – is that they provide value to the customer. This is not about selling them something, it is about answering a question for them, solving a problem, providing value. Even entertaining them counts – look at how many people online share videos of giggling babies, cute cats or interesting quotes.
Mainly, what you need to remember is that you do not have to hunt far and wide to find the ingredients needed to make content that stands out, you can use what you have around you already. Oh, and it never hurts to check out what the competition is finding success with, either. You might even consider joining a group just for business owners since that is often an excellent way to come across successful tactics and tips you can put to work in your own marketing.
2. All Great Content Marketing Strategies Begin with a Plan
This is our second tip for you small business owners, but it almost made the top spot. Why? Because far too many businesses leap into content marketing by setting up a blog or a Facebook account, post up some content and do a little SEO only to find that no one shows up or interacts with their content. This is disheartening, to say the least, but it does not have to be this way. The key to success with content marketing begins with having a plan, a schedule. Sure, you are busy enough as it is, but the point of scheduling is to reduce the time you spend creating and marketing content, not the other way around.
Staying a head of the curve and utilizing tools to automate your posting is a smart idea. This way, you only think about content during scheduled times when you can afford to do so. You never have to walk around reminding yourself that you need to be planning blog posts or tweets or any of that. This is essential and remember the old saying, ‘If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.’
3. Don’t Trust All Your Content to Just One Social Network
Having a blog you have control over is a very smart idea. You want to be in charge of the domain name, the hosting and so forth. The downfall of a blog is that it takes a bit more SEO work to get traffic coming to it and this is why social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Pinterest and others are helpful.
That being said, you need to keep in mind that no matter who much work you put into making a great Facebook Page, Facebook is in charge of it even if they do not own your content. That means that a change in their policy could eliminate you from the site. The same goes for any social network out there today. Just like an investment portfolio, you need to diversify. The more social networks you can create an effective and engaging presence on, the better. Yes, that means Pinterest, currently the social network underdog, as well.
So you see, Pinterest membership will help you get better rankings in Google’s search engine. That’s the topic of our next tip.
4. Make Sure Search Engines Can Find Your Content
Search engine marketing has changed in a big way in the past 2 years, but small businesses still need to make sure they are recognized by the search engines. Social media can help with that process, but you do need to continue to make sure that you have quality backlinks coming in. Search engines judge you based on your popularity and, as we have seen, Pinterest is one way you can help your popularity with Google’s search engine. There are other search engines, too, such as Yahoo and Bing that you will also want to think about, but for all 3 of these, backlinks are going to be the core of your success.
What content does is help you to obtain those backlinks. Bloggers can and do link to good content and this is exactly what you want. When you produce something popular, though, there is no harm in helping it become even more popular. Use your social media profiles to contact others popular on the platforms you use who are interested in what you’ve made and let them know where to find your content. Making connections is great, but making connections with popular people in your industry, or popular users who can use content you’ve posted online, is even more valuable.
When people talk about your company or content you have produced online, this is called social proof‘ and search engines have ways of evaluating it.
Social proof is important because it helps people who want to do business with you feel confident that you are a legitimate company that is not a scam.
Engage people and let them know you are not just using your social media profiles as a platform for advertising and they will respond. The more they respond, the further up in the search engines your ranking will go.
5. Keep Your Content Mobile-Friendly So It Spreads Faster
Smartphones and tablet PC’s are definitely powerful today because more people are using them than ever before. If you have a brick and mortar business, people may be searching for you while mobile. If you are not practicing smart mobile marketing then the time to begin doing so is right now. Make sure content you put online can be easily viewed in a mobile browser. Whether it is a photo or a video or even an article, test it out on both an Android and iPhone if you can. Testing proves that the content you posted can be easily accessed and you need to know this.
Mobile marketing is not just about typical web content, though. There is another opportunity you should consider seriously that can really benefit a small business: creating an app. Troy has explained how this is done right here on Top Marketing Strategies and it is actually quite a bit easier than you might think. It is also cost-effective in terms of the good it can do for your brand. You don’t even have to make money from the app because it can be a valuable gift that gains trust with your core audience and makes sure they remember that you are a company they will want to do business with. That in itself is incredibly valuable.
6. Need More People Involved? Offer Appealing Incentives
Plugging right in with the free app idea mentioned above, you need to think about ways of expanding your audience. Simple advertising alone is unlikely to build a substantial audience for any business. Instead, think about contests you could hold that are easy to enter and offer an excellent prize. A giveaway of a free e-book could be another way to raise people’s interest. You will need to be creative here, but the most important thing you need to recognize is what your customers want.
Find that out and offer it to them for free when they Like your Facebook Page or re-tweet you on Twitter, for instance. This helps grow your presence and also makes you appear more popular to others. Many companies offer a coupon to those who Like their Facebook Page, but others ask users to Share a piece of content they’ve created to their own timelines. You simply need to do what makes sense for your business and its audience.
If you reward people for participating on your page, they are more likely to continue interacting. The more they interact via social networks, the more obvious it will become to those who are their friends online that your business is something special. You will most likely need to experiment a few times to find a gift or prize that really gets people excited, but once you figure out what it is you are likely to see quite an increase in interest in your business.
Bringing It All Together Successfully
All 6 of these tips can help you succeed as a small business doing content marketing online. It really is not difficult so long as you take the time to think it through and plan things out intelligently. Sit down and draft a plan to get started or, if you already are trying this, write down ways you could improve your approach. You always need to allow time to see if your strategies are working before you make massive changes and that length of time should be around 90 days.
If you are already using content marketing, we would love to hear how it is working out for your small business. If you have questions about any of the tips listed above or content marketing in general, we are happy to answer. All you need to do is leave a comment below and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.