Guide to Content Marketing for Small Businesses
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Content marketing is a strategy that focuses on the creation and sharing of blogs, newsletters, videos, podcasts and other content that is useful to a business’s target audience. Business websites, social media platforms and email are often used to share this content, either directly or through embedded links.
When done correctly, content marketing can drive results that will ultimately boost a business’s sales and revenue. Here’s what you need to know when creating your content marketing strategy and how it fits into your business’s larger marketing goals.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a type of online marketing that uses written text along with video and audio media to capture the interest of a target audience. To do this, the content needs to be relevant and also offer something of value to readers, viewers and listeners. Content marketing can help a business develop and support its brand, demonstrate its expertise in the industry and keep its name in front of potential customers.
Benefits of content marketing
A business may want to consider including content marketing in its overall marketing strategy as a way to help:
Increase brand awareness.
Improve rank on search engine results pages.
Drive more visitors to its website.
Build stronger customer loyalty.
Add contacts to its database.
Generate new sales leads.
Increase sales and revenue, indirectly.
Types of content marketing
Written, visual and audio materials are all generally used in a business’s marketing efforts. What makes the materials used in content marketing different from other forms of marketing is that they don’t directly promote products or services, but instead focus on providing something useful to the target audience.
Articles are a staple of many content marketing plans. In addition to being available on a business’s website, articles can be highlighted and shared through social media posts and emails. Choosing topics that relate to your business can help to highlight your expertise in the industry, improve rank in search engine results and differentiate you from the competition.
Newsletters are a strong digital marketing method that's often coordinated with email marketing. Email campaigns can be developed with the sole purpose of sharing a business’s newsletters. Social media platforms are popular ways to highlight your newsletter and share links to it. Newsletters can also be used to grow your contact database through sign-up forms offered on your website.
Social media posts
Posts on social media platforms can be used to highlight your industry expertise through relevant quotes and thoughtful comments and observations. Sharing behind-the-scenes photos of your business and employees can help demonstrate your culture and give your audience a better understanding of your unique business. Posts can also be a way to share links to new blogs, newsletters, videos and other types of content marketing.
Content marketing videos can be created to demonstrate products, provide step-by-step instructions and offer expert interviews, among other things. They can be as short as 15 to 30 seconds or run for a number of minutes. Checking a platform’s recommendations can help you choose an appropriate length. In addition to being posted on video-sharing sites, videos can be shared through other social media posts, email, newsletters and on your website.
Emails can provide relevant industry news and other information that would be of interest to your target audience — in addition to introducing and providing links to other content such as newsletters, videos, surveys and e-books. When using email for content marketing, common call-to-actions such as “buy now”, “purchase here” and “order now” will typically be replaced with text such as “learn more,” “share” and “join.”
Infographics and other types of written content
Infographics, a visual representation of information and data, can grab your audience's attention and are easy to share. Surveys, quizzes, checklists, games, calculators and tools are just some of the other types of written materials that can be created to share in content marketing — as long as they have value to your target audience and relate to your business.
White papers, e-books and presentations
White papers, e-books and presentations offer more in-depth content that can help establish the industry expertise of your business. They are often used to educate the audience on a particular topic and may be especially appealing to your ideal customer. It’s common to offer these materials free in exchange for the readers' contact information. They can be shared through social media posts, emails and your website.
Podcasts, another type of content that can be used to demonstrate your expertise, can also help build brand loyalty, increase traffic to your website and add contacts to your database. Picking important topics that offer a learning experience for your audience can help establish you as a thought leader. Good audio quality is important when using this type of content, and your podcasting schedule can be shared through social media, email and other channels.
Webinars can be used in ways similar to podcasts such as to raise brand awareness and generate leads for your business. However, live webinars can also provide an opportunity for you to engage directly with attendees. Again, select an interesting topic for your webinar that will offer a learning experience for your audience. Live webinars can be recorded, then shared through email, social posts and on your website.
Content marketing strategy
Focusing on the following elements can help you develop a content marketing strategy that prioritizes the needs of your audience but still falls within your marketing budget.
Goals: Keep them realistic
The primary purpose of content marketing is to attract and engage your target audience. Increased brand awareness and stronger customer loyalty are some benefits of content marketing, but they are also difficult to measure and take time to fully develop. Keep this in mind when setting goals. For example, a goal to have three videos “go viral” to build brand awareness would be difficult to measure and generally unrealistic for a business that doesn’t have a large social media presence. A more realistic and measurable goal might be to increase traffic to your website by a set percentage.
Budget: Factor in all the costs
Some types of content are more expensive to use than others once you factor in all the costs associated with creating, sharing and managing it. For example, committing to the creation of a weekly podcast and outsourcing the production would likely be quite expensive. In contrast, if you already have a writer on staff and an email marketing platform to engage your audience, creating a blog article can be a relatively inexpensive way to increase your outreach.
Audience: Review your target audience
Review the characteristics of your target audience and use the information to guide the types of content you want to create and your selection of channels for sharing. When your customers are primarily other business owners, for example, you might use email to share links to webinars, white papers and presentations. Or, if your target audience is predominantly young, then you may want to share links to infographics, surveys and quizzes through social media posts.
Content: Focus on quality
Engaging content is important to a successful marketing strategy. Prioritizing quality over quantity can lead to better results. Keep this in mind when determining what to create and how frequently. Marketing software with features such as artificial intelligence writing assistants, prebuilt templates and digital design tools can help you create content. If you choose to use these tools, include the additional cost in your budget.
Tracking: Identify key metrics
Some of your goals may not be tied to metrics, but you do want to track the success of your efforts where possible. Increased website traffic, higher search rankings for keywords associated with your business and a growing contact database can confirm the effectiveness of your efforts.
Google Analytics, social media platform tools and other marketing tools can help you track key metrics and identify successes that you may want to replicate in the future. For example, if an infographic shared on social media received a high number of likes, then creating additional infographics might also be well received.
Tips when creating content
Here are some tips that can be helpful when creating content for your marketing efforts.
Stay true to your brand
Your brand is composed of a number of elements, and the content you create should reflect those elements. Following your brand guidelines as far as colors, fonts, imagery and logos helps in building and maintaining a brand. Your brand voice, the language and personality used in communications, also needs to be clear and consistent in content and other marketing assets.
Keep it relevant, useful and authentic
Content that has value to your target audience is vital to successful content marketing efforts. Selecting topics that are relevant to your target audience gives you the opportunity to provide information they can use. Because content marketing is about building a relationship with your audience, steer clear of content that directly promotes sales, doesn’t deliver on its promise and isn’t helpful to your audience.
Customize your content for each channel
Sharing similar content on all your social media platforms, or crossposting, can save time and help you streamline your efforts. However, making a few edits to customize the content for each channel can help keep your audience engaged. Also, make sure the post is also appropriate for the channel. For example, a post for LinkedIn may not work well on Instagram.
Fully utilize content
Crossposting is not the only way to maximize the use of content you’ve created. Direct quotes from a blog article can be included in the email and social media posts used to share it. Blog articles could be created to summarize the information in white papers and podcasts. And inspiration can be drawn from webinars and other presentations to create related infographics, quizzes and tools.