Content marketing provides free resources to customers in exchange for their attention. Unlike traditional advertising, which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides something educational or entertaining that customers want in exchange for permission to promote a product or service – and it’s an excellent tool for small businesses hoping to engage a whole new audience of potential customers.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing focuses on the creation and distribution of relevant and valuable information – think how-to videos, articles and downloadable eBooks – with the purpose of:
- Attracting a clearly defined audience
- Building a long-term relationship with them
- Turning them into loyal customers
The keywords you need to remember are “relevant,” “targeted” and “relationship.” Simply creating content without a solid understanding of your audience’s needs and interests will not help you grow your business – it will just mean you’re spending valuable time and resources creating resources for the wrong audience.
One of the primary reasons content marketing works is that it focuses on telling stories, rather than just bombarding prospects with sales messages. People are more likely to engage with a brand that delivers quality, educational content than one that focuses only on selling its products. Purchasing decisions aren’t always, if ever, rational. It’s not facts that get prospects to choose one brand over another – the emotions and personal beliefs that come with the story are key factors that motivate people to take action. Consumers tend to choose the brands whose narratives reflect their views and embody their ideal principles of life.
First, let’s consider one major flaw of traditional advertising.
With traditional ads, companies create content that interrupts customers in the form of billboards, magazine ads, commercials, and radio ads. Each of these advertisements interrupts customers as they’re doing something else, such as watching a TV show or driving to work. The ads don’t provide any value to customers, and they don’t offer any compelling reason for customers to pay attention. Instead, they interrupt customers at a time when hopefully they won’t be able to get up and do something else. For example, an ad on a subway capitalizes on the fact that passengers can’t go anywhere, and companies hope people will read them while waiting for the next stop. Traditional ads rely on good placement, clever wording, and creativity to capture attention for a brief period of time. The goal is for the ads to be clever enough to capture a few seconds of attention that will hopefully be enough time to communicate the brand’s message.
- Ads only capture customers’ attention for a brief period of time (if that).
- Ads interrupt customers instead of providing something of value.
- Ads can be very expensive – especially if they’re unsuccessful.
So, is there an alternative? Is there a way to reach customers without interrupting them? Is there a way to engage people so that they want to hear your message instead of doing everything they can to avoid it? Yes, and it’s called content marketing!
With content marketing, instead of developing ads that interrupt customers, you can create resources such as:
- Blog posts
- Podcast episodes
- How-to videos
- Educational infographics
- Downloadable guides
The Benefits of Content Marketing
Good content marketing informs, educates and entertains potential customers. This helps them discover your brand, grow to trust your company, and eventually buy a product or service. Below, you’ll find some of the many benefits that content marketing has to offer small businesses.
Provides value to customers
With an advertisement, customers often try to mute, ignore, or get away from it as fast as they can – the last time an ad popped up on your computer, I bet you immediately looked for the little “x” to close it without even reading the ad, right? If you’re providing content that’s tailored to what customers actually want or need, they could end up spending hours with your content developing a relationship with your brand and remaining engaged with your products. People may read blog posts, watch videos, listen to podcasts or even read reviews for weeks before buying a product, but they will hang around and voluntarily consume content until that time comes if you’re providing something helpful.
Educates your customers
Many times, people don’t purchase a product because they don’t realize how badly they need it. Customers may not buy from a company that sells direct mail solutions, not because they don’t need the product, but because they don’t understand how it works. Content such as blog posts and YouTube videos can educate customers about what you do, how you do it, and which problems it solves, to the point that they’re ready to buy your product.
Creates a sense of trust with your consumers
As you give people more and more free content, customers arrive at a point where they want to reciprocate the benefit that they’ve received. If your company helps them become a better marketer and make more money, when they’re ready to buy a marketing product or service, you’ll be one of the first places they look.
Attracts customers for free
You can pay for social media ads to attract new customers. Or, you can write great content that they will seek out. If you write the content strategically, each blog post will last you for the life of your business, and you’ll get a high return on your investment. Thousands of potential customers can read one post that took you two to five hours to write. Whereas Google ads cost money to bring people to your site one time, content is written once and can direct traffic to your site for years. In the end, content becomes an asset.
Creates something “shareable”
Think about what people share online. They share videos. They share articles. They share content marketing pieces. If you look at any Facebook homepage, most of the things shared are links to content. Even if customers like you enough to click on a share link to your homepage, they can only share it once because, after a homepage is shared, there’s no reason to share it again.
But with content, the same customer can share your new content 10 weeks in a row. That’s 10 opportunities to reach their network multiplied by the size of their audience. If even one new person in their audience likes the content and shares it, the content gets multiplied again. The most important point is that people share content – making a piece of content is much more likely to go viral than a link to your “About Us” page.
Provides SEO benefit
For every blog post you publish, you have new content that can be indexed by Google – meaning it can come up in search results for customers searching for your services. Without blog posts, your website may have 10 pages that can be indexed. After writing one post a week for a year, your website will have 52 more pages.
That’s much better than 10, and much more likely to help your company gain search engine traffic.
Increases the ways customers can get to your site
With podcasts as an example, you’ll reach an audience that you may not have ever reached with blog posts or YouTube videos, you’ll reach people who listen to podcasts. Each of these audience members who finds your podcast will also find a link back to your site. By uploading podcast content onto iTunes, you’re creating another potential traffic source that doesn’t have to be paid for and another opportunity to get your message in front of an audience. By using YouTube, podcasts, and blog posts, you’re creating three potential traffic sources for your website.
Connects you to your key audiences
One of the goals with any marketing campaign is to get your message in front of one key audience – potential customers. A larger audience means more people know about your business, and a more targeted audience means that a greater percentage of that audience can potentially become buyers.
With content marketing, you’re developing something specifically for your customers. Not every reader will become a buyer, but it’s one step toward getting your brand in front of the right group of people.
Content Marketing Tips for Your Business
So where do you start? Here are five content marketing tips to help you convert your content into customers:
Provide content your customers want to read
A lot of people make the mistake of writing their blog about their business. Your business story might be fantastic, but customers care about the “What’s in it for me?” not your origin story. Use this to your advantage by providing valuable content that customers want and need in exchange for their attention. Try how-to articles, downloadable guides or entertaining videos. Anything that gives customers something they want in exchange for their valuable time and attention.
Offer free content
Do you know what most of today’s consumers want? They want to hear the word “free.” Think about how your friends like to brag about the great deal they just got. The same goes for your customers. While most marketers and brands are asking for money and sales right off the bat, you can offer free tools and high-quality information to build trust.
Consider offering your own valuable content, like an in-depth guide, for free or building your very own useful tool related to a specific industry. SWFL Inc. exists to help businesses thrive in this region – so naturally, the content we provide is all about helping your business grow and connect with new customers.
Rely on Analytics to track your performance
Quality content is important, but it doesn’t mean much for your business if none of your visitors become customers. This is why analytics is so important. By carefully monitoring, tracking, watching, and reporting on the numbers, you’ll be able to gauge what’s working, what isn’t, and what could be made better.
Additionally, focusing on analytics will help you improve your strategy for the future. For instance, let’s say you notice your most popular blog article is about how to create a “Google My Business” listing. Create a video version of that! Or write a whole series of Google how-to articles. Following the popular content will increase traffic, and ensure you’re spending time and effort where it matters.
Re-purpose your content
It takes time and talent to craft fantastic content. So find ways to re-use it! This will save you time and help you reach a new audience. For instance, let’s say your podcast team published a high-performing podcast episode. Why not turn that episode’s topic into a blog post? Or add new information to a popular blog post and republish it.
Re-purposing your content will also ensure your audience has more than one chance to see it.
Use other websites to find out what kind of content your customers want
Sometimes it’s hard to know what people want to read about. One way to get a better idea is to visit sites within your industry. Check their blogs and see which posts saw the most retweets and shares. You don’t want to write these types of posts every time, but it’s a great way to boost traffic when it fits into your publishing schedule.