There are so many things on a small business owner’s to-do list, all of the time. Quite often there’ll be an entry that reads “do content marketing”. They’re just not sure why, and so it gets put off. Apparently, everyone’s doing it, so they are pretty sure they should be too.
Except there’s a lot of other things to do.
Are you one of those putting off content marketing?
Why? If it’s like many people I’ve met over my years in both “normal” marketing and otherwise, it’s because they:
a) don’t understand what it is
b) think it’ll be too hard.
Here’s the big reveal
It’s not rocket science. You’ve already brought a product to market; you run a business day in, day out. Don’t miss out on the benefits because it might be different to what you think you know. It’s not.
The only reason businesses like mine exist is because spending time on content marketing might not be the best use of your time or skills. They don’t exist because we are all knowing gurus who have been imparted some special knowledge not available to mere mortals.
I know. Some tell the story as though that is the case, but it isn’t. Don’t buy snake oil from them either.
Here’s my simple guide to how to think about content marketing versus all your other marketing activities. Even if you don’t call things by these labels currently, I bet you’ve got some of this going on already.
What is content marketing?
Well, according to the Content Marketing Institute, it’s “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Clear enough then.
How is that different from just marketing?
The definition of marketing is “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”.
At least two things appear in both: customers and profit. If you’re a not-for-profit, then read donations or however you fund what you do. But all of us are in business for something other than just the fun of it, and all of us need customers or donors, so definitely the right focus.
Here’s my perspective, hopefully jargon-free.
How close are you to the sale?
Let’s imagine a website for a pickle company. The homepage will probably entice me in with details of their amazing pickles and chutneys. I’m probably one click away from full product details, with all the tasty ingredients described in mouthwatering detail. And there’s the click to buy button.
All of this is marketing. It’s all geared up to making you want to buy, right now.
That email with a discount code for your next purchase? Marketing. One to two clicks from a sale.
Let’s get acquainted
When I look around this site, then I might find serving suggestions. Ten ways to eat chutney. Six of which I’ve never thought of. But I might bookmark for that later.
Or a recipe using the chutney that’s not just put it in a sandwich or serve with a pile of cheese and crackers. Proper cooking. I could make a quick supper with that.
Oh, and how about ten favourite British picnic spots? They can’t guarantee the weather, but these sound perfect. I might even take some pickle with us. And I do like that one I bought last time.
No sale here. Yet.
This can all sound like really nice stuff to do, that’s just giving the customer a warm, fuzzy feeling about some nice writing and not necessarily guiding them to put money in the till today. As much as it’s going to be a disappointment, it’s unlikely every day is a pickle buying day.
But one day it will be. And you want your business to be one of the first people they think of on that day.
With fascinating content that they want to read, then you’re doing lots of different things with your potential customers:
1. You’re building trust. You’re showing that you know your stuff about what you do. You also understand stuff related to everything you could possibly want to know about what to do with your product, even if slightly tenuous. If you’re not sure if this works, then read the story of Marcus Sheridan in his book They Ask, You Answer).
2. You’re increasing awareness of your brand. It’s your content with your brand on it, every time. Even if you’re not asking for a sale with each piece, then you should be showing them an aspect of your brand that makes it even more appealing.
3. You’re making it more likely that they will buy. Even though the content doesn’t necessarily directly ask for a sale, you should be including calls to action, whether it’s linking out to a particular product, or getting them to sign up to your newsletter or enter a competition. They all keep you more top of mind ready for a purchase.
4. You’re making it likely that more people will find you. They might not know that they want to buy your specific pickle. They might be looking for an idea for dinner or somewhere to go for a picnic. And then they find you. Talking of which…
How will they find me?
The reasons for creating content are very simple. You want to:
1. Be a brand the customer can recall
2. Be a brand they have chosen to hear from regularly
3. Be a brand that they look forward to hearing from regularly as you’re the brand that sends interesting, useful stuff
Of course, there’s also the big G of reasons, in that Google, and Bing, and any others that are left, like fresh content. Your content should contain those keywords that you know customers use looking for your kind of product. You’ll weave them in naturally, so the content when they get to it meets what they were looking for.
How will they hear from you?
Ah, you remember that I said content marketing isn’t rocket science? Well, that’s certainly true. It’s also not easy, as in it’s hard work, it takes commitment and patience. Unless the stars are particularly well aligned, it’s unlikely to massively boost your traffic overnight.
You’re building one piece of content at a time. Which is why you want to make sure that it’s really useful and engaging for your customer, and that they can find it. Ideally, this is where your email list comes into play, as a way to get every piece of content to them. Some of which they might choose to open.
If you get really good at it (see my view on The High Street Deli newsletter here) then they might open 90% of what you send. Then there’s all the other good stuff like sharing it and commenting on it.
Just you have to go one step at a time, one piece at a time.
Go steady and be consistent
Don’t panic about having to be everywhere. Choose something, somewhere, and get really good at it.
Ideally, make it the same somewhere your kind of customers like to hang out. If they are all about Twitter, then make that what you get really good at. Yes, tweets are content, so make them good. Just don’t put out ten tweets one day and then nothing for weeks. Same applies to starting a blog.
Are you still putting it off?
If you think you’re now ready to get going, then there are a few posts you might want to read as further pointers.
In “How can you make life wonderfully simple for your customers?” then I get you to think about what the problems and questions are that your customers might have. It’s a great place to start thinking about your content from. Then there’s the question of titles, so you might want to read “What are the best titles for blog posts (that customers will truly value)?”
And just so you know what you might be letting yourself in for, then it might be worth reading “Why blogging for business is hard“. But it absolutely is worth it. Unless your time is better spent on other stuff, in which case try “Why you should hire a freelance writer“.