What is Content Marketing and How Can I Use it for my Small Business?

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Content marketing has certainly been taking the business world by storm recently. As a small business owner, you might be hearing this term or reading about it all over the place, but how can you make it work for you?

First, it’s important to understand what content marketing really is. As a practice, it has existed for some time; however, the term “content marketing” is relatively new. Falling under the general blanket of inbound marketing, which focuses on attracting business by engaging customers and prospects in a two-way dialogue as opposed to a one-way broadcast message, content marketing is a technique used to attract business through content. It’s a way to educate your customers and prospects. The idea is that if you answer their questions and write about your industry without going in for the hard sell, they will see you as a valuable source.
And when they see you as a valuable source, they want to do business with you.

What is content, you ask? Think of anything you’re creating to help educate your customers and prospects. Here’s a list of some types of content that are frequently used:

  • Stories
  • Articles
  • Case studies
  • Interviews
  • Images
  • Infographics
  • Video
  • Newsletters
  • White papers
  • eBooks

This is, of course, a very short list. There’s a lot of content out there!
Let’s talk about blog posts, though. If you want to make a go of content marketing, having a business blog is essential.

What do I post on a business blog?
It’s a valid question. After all, people tend to think along the lines of, “unless I’m having a sale or promotion, I’ve got nothing to say.”

With a business blog, you’re not going to say much about yourself. You’re going to write about your industry and news that affects it. If you’re in healthcare, you’re going to write about medical breakthroughs and what they mean for your patients. If you’re in automotive sales, it means you’re going to write about different cars’ safety features, the latest and greatest, and recalls. If you’re a corner bookstore, you’re writing about authors, books, and news from the literary world. If you’re a locally owned restaurant, you’re writing about health and nutrition and sharing recipes (not your secrets, of course!).

Hopefully you get the picture. No matter what industry you’re in, there is a way for you to write about it without being self-promotional. Note that all of the above suggestions are ways to educate those who are consuming your content. You’re answering their questions, and as you’re doing that, they’re gaining trust in you as a source. You’re building up your authority. Content marketing that is done well is a win-win situation.

Can I post about my own events and offers?
Of course! But use these kinds of posts in moderation. Too many posts that are all about you, and your content starts to lose its educational value.

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But I’m just a small business. No one is going to read this.
Not true. There are plenty of small businesses out there who are doing such a phenomenal job of content marketing that they’re getting recognized on a big-business level. People will read it. You just have to keep at it and not give up even when it feels like you’re writing to yourself. Everyone experiences that, and it’s where many good businesses throw in the towel.

Think globally. Write for a larger audience. If you’re based in Maine, there’s no reason why you can’t educate someone in Hawaii through your content. You never know when they have contacts in Maine, after all, and are willing to give references.
Is that it? Just blogging?
Not quite. Blogging is a strong foundation for your content marketing, but you want to vary the approach a bit. It’s not just all text. As you get used to posting, include other types of content, as well. Mix and match. Have fun with it. Try video blogging or creating an informative video with your business. Add some images. Include charts or infographics and discuss what the findings mean for your industry.

How much of this should I do?
This will vary by business, but you want to be a regular presence. Once a week is the absolute minimum, but if you can do more, it’s certainly encouraged. After all, the more content you’re able to produce, the better traction you’ll create. This means more people consuming the content, which can ultimately lead to more leads in the funnel for you.

Remember, the immediate goal of content marketing is to educate. The overarching goal is to build the trust that helps move your content consumers into the funnel. Once they’re in the funnel, you can ramp up the kind of content they have exposure to seeing (for example, maybe you have a guide or an eBook available for download and you offer it in exchange for an email address).

And finally, don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Good content will sell itself and your business. High volumes of poor quality content not only stand a good chance to hurt you in the search engine ranks, but they also hurt your chances of attracting quality customers.