When I ask the question “Will You Find Your Next Client — or Will They Find You?”, it is a direct challenge to business owners to define an inbound marketing strategy, a combination search, social media and content marketing, to attract a clearly defined audience who are researching a solution to a challenge or need. Content marketing is the foundation for a successful inbound strategy for without content there is nothing to optimize and nothing to share on social sites.
10 Content Marketing Benefits
There are many content marketing benefits regardless of whether you are marketing to businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C). Content marketing:
Increases visibility of your brand
Having quality content promoted across the appropriate social media channels gets your brand in front of those who may be looking for a solution to their problem.
Develops lasting relationships with your audience
If you continually provide your audience with actionable content, they will turn to your business when they need more than what they can do themselves.
Improves brand awareness and recognition
Small businesses face the challenge of getting their brand in front of their target audience. Creating content that continually gets found when someone is looking for an answer can influence your brand reputation.
Creates loyalty and trust, with both your current customers and prospects
Offering content that provides advice, education and useful solutions freely and without a sales pitch builds trust with your prospects and customers. Relationships built on trust are more likely to move beyond free advice into a profitable relationship for your business.
Helps you to build authority and credibility
Service based businesses live or die on their expertise and how well they can communicate that to their audience. Demonstrate your expertise with content that provides insight into what your strengths as a business provides and what you can do for your clients.
Positions your business as an expert in your industry
Once you have demonstrated your expertise, people will naturally turn to your content first for the answers they are looking for.
Generates traffic to your site to improve lead generation
One of the most important content marketing benefits is generating inbound leads. Adding more quality content to your website helps to create a larger digital footprint. This provides more opportunity of your business being found in the search results.
When you create well-optimized content that answers a question or solves a problem, you are more likely to gain higher ranking in the search engines. This helps to increase organic traffic, creating more opportunities for visitors to become leads.
Opens a channel of communication through social shares and comments
As your content gets promoted and shared, you can begin connecting with people who have shared your content or commented on your post. This gives you an opportunity to answer other questions and become a trusted source for helpful information. When the need arises, you become the go-to business to help solve their biggest problem
Helps your customer move through the purchase decision more quickly
Purchase decisions begin with a search. If your content leads them in the direction of a solution, they will join your list. If done right, content marketing can move prospects through the buyer’s journey at their pace. When they are ready to buy, your business will most likely be positioned as the expert. This makes the decision to buy from you is much easier.
Provides value with no strings attached
Giver’s gain is the concept of helping people grow their business without an ulterior motive. Content marketing takes the giver’s gain concept of network to a higher level. You help people freely without expecting anything in return. This makes your business approachable and the one most people will feel more comfortable with when they do decide to choose a vendor.
With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that according to Hubspot’s 2018 State of Inbound Marketing report, 74% of marketers prioritized an inbound approach to marketing. In addition, companies are nearly 4 times more likely to see higher ROI on inbound than outbound.
10 Content Marketing Challenges
With all these positive benefits, why is it so difficult for small business owners to successfully implement content marketing? Inbound marketing is not a “set it and forget it” marketing activity. It is a process that requires regular, consistent delivery of focused content to increase your visibility and demonstrate your expertise.
The biggest challenges facing small businesses are:
Determining your goals for content marketing
Why do you want to engage in content marketing in the first place? With the 10 benefits above, which one are you interested in achieving? That will drive the type of content you will need to produce.
Being able to focus on a narrow target audience and intimately understand their challenges
Many small business owners have trouble choosing their ideal target client. In order to succeed in content marketing, you have to focus in order to create the right content at the right time to help them make a buying decision.
Having enough time and resources to produce the content your target is looking for
Creating quality content takes time. But if this is important to you, carve out the time in your schedule or find someone who can do the initial writing for you. Then all you will need to do is review the content for publication.
Developing a content plan that provides the road map for what content to produce and when
Having an editorial calendar is crucial to success. Laying out the content with details such as publish date, media type and promotion targets helps you keep on track. This is one area you just can’t wing it and hope for the best.
Writing content with focus and clarity
If you create posts around a single or narrow topic, you will find yourself writing more focused content that is easy to consume. Even though the trend is to write long-form content, shorter posts can still work to get you more visibility. After you write a few shorter posts to get started, then focus on some cornerstone content. Create this content to provide more details around some of your key areas of expertise.
Not understanding what content to produce and in what format
This goes back to determining your goals and understanding your ideal client needs. What you produce and in what media type has to align with your idea client. If your clients don’t like video or video is hard to consume where they work, make sure you have text to accompany the video.
Not knowing where to post your content to reach your ideal client
You can create the best content, but if you don’t promote it, it will stay hidden. But where to promote it is the question. Once again, knowing where your target will most likely see your content helps you determine where to post.
- Are you a local business? Post it on your Google My Business page.
- Does your audience hang out on Facebook? Put it on your Facebook page and personally share it to your friends.
- Are you selling primarily to business owners? Share it on LinkedIn on your personal profile and company page.
Producing quality content consistently that excites and informs your audience on a regular schedule
Consistency in publishing is probably the hardest thing to do. We all have businesses to run and clients to serve. Set realistic expectations around your content delivery. You don’t have to publish content several times a week. Once or twice a month is a good schedule for most small businesses. Look for other opportunities to share your expertise through interviews or guest posts. They also help you gain precious backlinks.
Measuring the effectiveness of the content you produce
Measuring any marketing activity is always hard. But there are ways to do it. Using Google Analytics:
- See if your website is gaining more visitors.
- Look at what pages and posts on your website are most trafficked.
- See which platforms are referring visitors to your website.
- Look for people linking to your content.
The effects of content marketing takes time, but you can start to see if there are positive outcomes from having done the work.
Proving ROI of content marketing
Everything we do in marketing is to increase revenue. So measuring the return on investment of your content marketing efforts is important. The best way to do this is to ask people who call your business or contact you through your website about how they found you. Content helps your web presence to be more visible. Being found by someone who needs your help is the result of more visibility.
10 Content Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
Content marketing benefits definitely outweigh the challenges so here are a few tips to help you get started.
- Intimately understand the audience you are trying to reach so your content marketing efforts are not a waste of time.
- Once you know your audience, focus on how your content can benefit them. Generate that content by answering the questions your prospects and customers have. When someone starts the buying process, they start with a search. Become the brand that answers their questions thoroughly so they have no choice but to contact you.
- Document your content marketing strategy. Marketers who document their strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t.
- Focus on quality content published regularly. Don’t believe you have to blog everyday to succeed with content marketing. Most small businesses don’t have a marketing department that can create and distribute content as often as some folks say you should. Strive for a rate that works for you and publish useful content.
- Be realistic in how much time you can spend on content marketing based on your resources. If you don’t have the time, consider outsourcing to someone who can produce the content and distribute it for you. Just be sure you oversee the process so what is being created aligns with your vision and beliefs.
- Produce content that is timeless so that it continues to work for you long term. Publishing quality, evergreen content will continue to drive traffic to your website over a longer period of time.
- Re-purpose your content across different content types. A blog post can be turned into an infographic, presentation, video or a podcast. These different media types can then be shared on different platforms to increase your reach.
- Be sure to put all of your valuable content on your website and share it to social media. You own and control your website but rent space on social sites.
- Build your email list so you can reach interested parties on your terms. Again you own your in-house email list. Get people to subscribe to your list by offering some type of content that is very useful to them. Once you have them signed up, you can then provide your content to them directly via email.
- Have patience. Content marketing is a long term strategy that takes time for the results to be visible.
Share your knowledge and expertise
Every business can successfully market their products or services by offering content that educates and provides a solution to your customer’s biggest challenges. When a prospective customer finds you through the content you provide, they begin to form a connection with you built on trust.
When you share your knowledge and expertise freely with no strings attached, the giver’s gain philosophy takes hold and you become the recipient of wealth:
- From the satisfaction of helping someone with your knowledge and
- Through new clients who truly appreciate what you have to offer.
Just remember that for some small businesses, proving your expertise through the content you produce is an investment you need to make. People need to determine if you can help them. So although you may not think your posts are working, they are influencing buying decisions.
Don’t wait to get started on this effective marketing strategy. Work with someone who can help you get clarity and take advantage of all the benefits of content marketing. And if you have any content marketing questions or questions inbound marketing in general, contact me to discuss your marketing needs.