We live in the information age - information is our currency. We have access to tonnes of it and tonnes of it is available to us, more than we can ever digest, assess or even use. We are constantly navigating online content clutter, working out what to engage with and give our attention, and what to tune out. The idea, therefore, of content marketing is that if companies provide valuable, helpful information to their customers on an ongoing, regular and free basis, then they’ll begin to stand out amongst the clutter and be top-of-mind when those people are ready to purchase. But is it really worth all the effort for a small business? Aren’t we just adding to more clutter anyway?
Here are some of the reasons I think small businesses should invest in content marketing;
Naturally it’s not appropriate for companies to share all of their information with their customers, but sharing useful information that will either benefit your customers in some way or ‘lift the curtain’, so to speak, goes a long way in developing authentic relationships with them. When you ‘lift the curtain’, go ‘behind the scenes’ and share something of value and something of yourself, it’s a very persuasive way of getting people to know, like and trust you.
It stands out because we tend to tune out ‘too polished’ corporate messages. Showing yourself as a real person behind your brand or your company is something that people can connect with and trust because they’ll be able to relate to you in the way humans relate to other humans. Content can be much more personal than traditional methods of marketing and promotion, and gives expression to transparency and authenticity beautifully.
Relevant when they want it
Jay Baer says, “You’re either sufficiently useful at any given moment, and thus can connect with the customer, or you’re not”.
Creating regular, quality content that’s useful to your customers and potential customers positions you in their minds as useful, which is a really great idea if you want to sell them something later on. Every time you post something that’s relevant and valued, you’re contributing to your relationship with them and that’s the most valuable thing. It also takes time.
Content marketing is a way of listening
One of the most critical principles of marketing is listening. We have to listen to our customers to find and really get to know the problems they face if we have any chance of being the best at solving them. It’s both simple and complex at the same time, what with preferences and nuances, but only by developing genuine relationships will we start to understand and uncover their uniqueness.
Content marketing gives us the opportunity to present ideas, perspectives, thoughts, plans and information, and see how it’s received. You can see how your audience reacts through their reading, subscribing, sharing, liking and commenting. It’s also a way of listening by interacting with the commenters - don’t just read the comments, ask questions, comment yourself - listen and get to know the people who are giving you their time and attention.
Go to where the party is
If you knew your customers and potential customers generally all hung out at a particular pub, or went to the same community events, or attended the same seminars and conferences, wouldn’t you try to ‘pop in’, mingle a bit, join in, get known? Of course. Naturally that makes a fair bit of sense. Well where your people are online is no different.
Where are they? Which platforms do they use? Do they read? What do they read? Do they subscribe and follow people? Who? If information is the currency of the day and we’re all trying to filter the stuff, then your customers and potential customers are consuming something somewhere. Find out where that is and join the party …. WITH great content that truly helps them and gives them excellent value, because if you’re not talking to them, being relevant, helping them out and building a relationship, someone else is.
Content marketing is an ongoing process
Don’t approach your content marketing plan with a short view. It’s about developing your brand through developing relationships with the people you serve and this doesn’t happen overnight. In many ways, it's something that needs to be accepted as part of your brand culture, part of who you are as a company, not as just a tool to get more sales and meaningless popularity. It’s about standing out by serving your customers and your potential customers well. It’s about being relevant and useful, and it’s about caring enough about what you do and who you serve to take the time to share.
Choose your metrics and tweak your plan
Look, for a small business, content marketing can definitely seem like a daunting commitment and one that naturally begs the question of its payoff. For a start, it’s not something that can be ignored because of the times we live in - you have to adapt to survive. However, you should and can know whether your efforts are warranted by some measurable results. Basically you want to know if your messages are being read, whether they’re being understood, and what actions people are taking as a result.
Here's 4 ways you can assess the effectiveness your content marketing efforts;
- Consumption metrics - how many people are reading the content
- Advocacy and sharing metrics - which pieces of content and being advocated and shared, by whom and how
- Lead-generation metrics - how many of our new leads are being generated by our content efforts
- Sales metrics - how many of the leads that have been driven by content convert to sales
A content marketing strategy can definitely be worth the effort for a small business. You have access to your customers and potential customers in a way that’s never been more prolific, and you have a chance to stand out to the people who matter. Content marketing is a way of adding depth to the relationships you have with your customers, of connecting with more potential customers and of developing a brand and a business that makes a difference. Carefully consider the outcomes you want to achieve through content marketing, as well as the resources you can realistically commit (time, money, energy), then create a simple plan, including some measures of effectiveness.
Remember this is an iterative process that’s about relationships - be real, have fun and serve your people well.
I hope you enjoyed this post. And honestly, it can be daunting thinking about all this content stuff, especially when you're flat out running your business and your family day to day! So if you'd like to have a chat, throw some ideas up, talk about your concerns, find out more and how it can work for you, I'd really love to give you my time. Contact me via the form here. All of my initial consults (chats!) are totally free and there's no obligation - let's just talk.
Thanks as always for your time,
I would like to acknowledge inspiration and research for this post to Helen Andersen’s, “How to Apply Youtility to Internal Communication”, on the Convince and Convert blog.
Photo credit: "Eggs of many colours" by woodleywonderworks via Flickr