Content Marketing 101 for Small Business

 content marketing, thought leadershipYou’re building a business foundation with a great product or service and a killer support team.  You think you’re hitting on all cylinders yet you could be moving full speed ahead without a huge puzzle piece to success: content marketing.  Content Marketing differs from traditional advertising and “telling skills” about products becuase it provides takeaway value now.  It demonstrates your thought leadership in a marketplace that long ago began demanding expertise on the part of the companies it does business with.

Content marketing sounds like a buzzword, yet it’s an effective marketing tool revolutionizing the way companies and consumers connect. A study conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications found that seventy percent of consumers prefer customized online content to an ad and are more likely to buy from that company, according to Custom Content Council.

Is content marketing that missing link in achieving your business goals?

Content Marketing Defined: What It Is, What It Isn’t

Content marketing harnesses analytics, research and buyer personas to craft content that addresses consumer needs. These forms of content offer diversity, from blogs and videos to infographics and webinars.

It balances the demands of web visibility through search engine optimization. The right keywords, web language and backlinks all work together to get a web page steps closer to the coveted first page of search engines.

But these elements can be easily misinterpreted in ways that derail business goals.

In its purest form, content caters to people, not search engines. You may find temporary traffic from paid backlinks or the right keyword, but engaging customers for conversion in a meaningful way can render steadier success. No one will want to read your content or stay on a web page that’s not user-friendly, no matter where it ranks in Google’s search results.

While content marketing may skirt around the hard sell, it doesn’t avoid appropriate calls-to-action (CTAs). You still have to bridge the gap between content and conversion.

Alongside golden nuggets of content, provide clear links and action buttons to incentivize consumers into that next step. Instead of a simple “submit” button, illustrate what they’ll receive for clicking, such as “book a consultation,” “sign up for a free class,” or whatever product or service is offered.

Why Content Marketing Works

Content marketing provides businesses the thought leadership framework to engage customers and build credibility. In a digital world plugged in around the clock, people constantly search for new ways to be educated and entertained. If you’re not going to give them the content they crave, they’ll look elsewhere.

Trial and error is a great benefit of content marketing. It gives a fresh window into consumer behavior, according to Sprout Content. Your content may show that you get more visits and conversions from videos *, for instance, than infographics, which gives you the insight to focus on more of consumers’ needs.

How You Can Succeed In Content Marketing

First of all, if you’re a good writer or videographer with something important to say in your target market, create your own content.  If you have the ideas but not the communication skills in written or rich media, there are many who can produce content from your ideas or their own.  Google “copywriters” as a start, but be warned.  See examples of work first and even get a sample based upon one of your ideas. 

If you’re an entrepreneurial startup without the means to hire a copywriter or content marketer, you’re not out of the game.  At today’s interest rates, borrow the money to get your content offering out into the world.  It’s that important.  Shrewdly using small business credit cards can help you maximize your rewards on daily spending and enable you to hire an effective copywriter.  Among the many credit cards, DailyMarkets.com recommends the Business Gold Rewards, Platinum and Plum cards from American Express as some of the best small business credit card offers as of June 2013.

Putting Content Marketing to Work

Once your writer(s) is generating content, take a look at the Whole Foods blog as a first example on leveraging the content of others. It’s an excellent view of how a company uses the expertise of its network to share recipes and wellness tips. The wealth of knowledge from current subscribers enables Whole Foods to stay ahead of the curve in health, social awareness and environmental responsibility.

How about How-To video?  YouTube is chock full of viral video superstars that have used creative video to cross the market tipping point and earn sizable revenue.  Makeup guru Lauren Luke used the power of YouTube to launch her beauty brand with how-to videos.  Now, her makeup is sold through distributors like Amazon for big bucks.

Content marketing is a vehicle to drive more customers, and you can scale it to your needs. Start small with social media pages and bi-weekly blog articles to see where it takes your business.  Provide the informational value first and you’ll leverage that thought leadership into commerce.

* Editor’s Note:  I’d be stunned if an infographic ever yielded the interest of a prepared and well-produced expert video.

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