Content Marketing 101 for Small Business, Startups and Scale ups
With over 5.7 million small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, it’s quickly becoming hard to stand out from the crowd. When you’re competing against other companies for the same market segment, honing your content marketing strategy is essential. Perhaps unsurprisingly, research from DMN shows that 76% of companies plan to adopt a strategic approach to content marketing, while 59% already have a content marketing strategy in place -- a 16% increase from 2018.
As brands increasingly jump on the content marketing bandwagon, we take a look at how small businesses, startups and scaleups can use content marketing to reach new customers, maintain a competitive edge and drive sales.
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What is Content Marketing?
Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz on the street about content marketing, but you don’t quite understand how it applies to your business. Maybe you already dabble in social media, but don’t have an underlying strategy. Content Marketing incorporates elements across different mediums and platforms, including social, email campaigns, and SEO landing pages. These pieces of content work together to nurture customers throughout the sales journey to take them from the initial research stage to final conversions.
As Robert Rose ‘the Content King’ explains, content should be viewed AS a product, rather than content FOR a product. In other words, content doesn’t promote a product, but in itself provides value directly to your readers. So, producing content is not always the same as producing a content marketing strategy. A good content strategy should maintain a consistent tone-of-voice and brand image. Your strategy should also use a blend of sales-y and non-sales content to provide value to customers and expand on the benefits of your product/service.
Furthermore, content marketing goes beyond simply creating and distributing content. Research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that content marketing strategies incorporate everything that’s important to a brand, including underlying business goals and has clear goals or KPIs.
Once created, your content marketing strategy will serve as a road map to guide you through the process of promoting your brand both online and offline. Some experts, like Forbes, claims that content marketing is the ONLY form of marketing.
However, it’s also important to remember that content must contribute to your bottom line, so there needs to be a way to monetise it at some point. If people would never pay for your content or it would never encourage them to buy from you, then the content might not have a purpose at all, but simply be an advertisement masquerading as content marketing.
Common Types of Content for Small Businesses
You probably already have some form of content creation, whether it’s random social media posts or regular blog content. In fact, 70% of companies create some content with most preferring written content like blog or thought leadership articles.
However, the best type of content for your company will largely depend on your existing content and industry. Different content works better for different industries and audience segments. For example, if you’re a lifestyle brand wanting to attract Millennials you need to be on Facebook and Instagram. However, if you’re a B2B professional services company, you’ll want to cultivate a LinkedIn presence and regularly create thought-leadership articles.
One of the best ways to determine the best content for you is by creating an external content audit. Examine your competitors' content and look for any content gaps. How can you create content that’s better, smarter and more innovative?
As part of your content audit, look at existing formats, channels and topics to find areas/types that no one else is doing well. You can then capitalise on your competitor’s missed opportunities to create a stellar content marketing strategy.
Types of Content
As part of your content audit, you’ll need to consider each of the following types of content.
One of the most popular types of content, 55% of marketers use blogs to create inbound leads. As such, blogs should incorporate elements of SEO (such as targeting long-tail keywords) and discuss subjects your audience is interested in.
Blog content establishes you as an industry leader, provides value to readers to create a ‘soft sell’ and encourages new visitors to learn more about your brand and opinions.
Blogs are also a great way to generate traffic as you can share across social to encourage followers to visit your website. Once they’re on your site and start to trust your brand, they’re more likely to convert or recommend your company. A win, win all around.
Facebook currently has 2.32 billion monthly active users, while LinkedIn has 500 million. Creating a social media presence for your company presents a massive opportunity to connect and engage with current as well as potential customers.
Not enough brands take advantage of this opportunity as only one third (34%) of small businesses say they use social media. However, 57% of customers say they’d be somewhat or very influenced by positive online interactions with a company. And, 63% of customers expect to be able to engage with a brand on social media.
Social media is undoubtedly valuable, but it involves more than simply posting every day. With social media, it’s all about the quality of your content. You want to provide value to your followers, rather than simply adding to the noise.
You also need to leverage the right platforms. Instead of trying to be present in all places at once, determine which platforms your target audience uses and customise your messages tor reach those specific individuals. For example, Facebook is great for lifestyle brands, while B2B companies typically do better with LinkedIn.
YouTube is currently the world’s 2nd largest search platform, falling behind only Google. The platform attracts over 1.8 billion users every month.
Videos capture and hold customers’ attention, with over 45% of customer spending at least an hour a day watching video content. Customers are also more likely to prefer video as 59% of executives say they’d rather watch a video rather than read.
Videos are effective because they’re easy to digest and the moving images grab customers’ attention when they’re scrolling through their social media feeds. How often have you ended up watching a funny cat video on Facebook?
Remaining competitive in today’s vast digital marketplace chances are you’ll need to leverage some form of video content.
Once you’ve created content, you need a way to distribute it. Email marketing, such as newsletters, offers a perfect opportunity to encourage repeat purchases and stay in front of your audience. Under new GDPR regulations, customers have to opt into your newsletters, which means they’ve already expressed an interest in hearing from you.
Sending them relevant updates, sharing engaging content and even upcoming promotions offers allows you to remind customers why your brand is awesome. So, it’s really not surprising that 83% of B2B companies use email marketing as part of their content marketing strategy.
White papers or books provide a valuable way to further demonstrate your expertise and showcase groundbreaking research.
With a gated white paper, customers have to enter their personal details like an email address or phone number to access and download the content. You can then incorporate these personal details into your email marketing strategy and continue to build a relationship with these customers.
While you may be skeptical about this approach, will customers really share their personal details to access a white paper?
Research from DemandGen shows that 76% of customers are willing to do so.
If you decide to take advantage of lead generation content, make sure to implement it into your wider strategy and nurture these relationships. There’s nothing worse than allowing customer emails to gather dust in your backend system.