Last Updated: Nov 11, 2015
Content marketing is one marketing tool that can help new customers find your business and establish the value of your product or service at the same time. Here’s how you can put content marketing to work for your business.
Most people think of content marketing as a promotional activity that’s relatively new, but other than the name, “content marketing,” there’s nothing new about it. In fact, savvy marketers were promoting theMSelves by distributing content on the early commercial online services years before the Internet as we know it today existed. Content marketing has long been used in print, too. Attorneys and other professionals who didn’t advertise promoted theMSelves by writing articles that appeared in professional journals. The articles included brief blurbs describing the authors’ credentials and company name. And then, too, there have always been those recipes that food companies give away at supermarkets or embed in popular ladies magazines to help sell gelatin, cocoa, and other food products.
In fact the only “new” thing about content marketing– other than someone giving it a name- is that it has become a $40 billion dollar industry. The reason? The Internet has made it easy to research the pros and cons of every purchase and every vendor before talking to a salesperson or consultant or stepping foot in a store.
Why Content Marketing Is Important for Small Business
Content marketing is important because it’s how customers today learn about and choose products and services to buy. The right content can get your product or service noticed and keeps it on the prospect’s radar as they move through the buying cycle from product discovery to final choice. Even if your business gets most of its customers from personal contacts, referrals and recommendations, the people who may want to do business with you are going to go online to learn more about you and what you sell before they make a commitment to buy from you.
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Today, customers go online to figure out what kind of product or service will solve a problem or fill a need. Then they search for information to help them determine which features they want. They look for answers to questions like “How much memory do I need in a computer that will be used to play Minecraft and other games?” “Is granite or quartz better for kitchen counters?” “How much does it cost to build a small business website?” “Where to buy bulletproof glass?” “How to choose a landscaper in San Francisco?”
If you have content on your website that provides factual answers to common questions asked by your target market, you’ll help establish yourself as an expert and therefore a potential vendor. (All those personal contacts you make at networking events and tradeshows are likely to look around your website for information before they consider calling you or coming into your shop.) Your content may also get found by search engines and show up high in search results, bringing you potential customers you would never have gotten on your own.
Once a consumer or business buyer knows what features they want in a product, they compare the benefits of one brand to another and one vendor to another. They check out social media comments, reviews, pricing, and anything that will help them make the best choice. They do all their research and pretty much make up their mind about which product they want and which company they want to buy from before they speak with any salesperson – even when they are making major purchases.
What Kind of Content to Use
To reap the most benefits from content marketing, plan on developing content related to each phase of the buying cycle. Start by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. What do they want to know and what might they search for when they first realize they have a problem or need, but aren’t yet aware of products or services that will address their needs? What kinds of questions do they ask? What are their main concerns? Once they’ve figured out what type of product or service they need, what else do they ask? What to they compare? What are their chief considerations?
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You can write articles or blog posts that address each of their questions. For example, if you sell driveway resurfacing services, you might have an article on is it better to repair or replace your driveway and others about the benefits and pitfalls of tar, concrete, pebbles, bricks and pavers for the driveway surface. To show your expertise and help feed the information cravings of people who are ready to buy, you might have article or blog posts talking about and showing the steps involved in surfacing a driveway. Before and after photos (photos are content, too!) and testimonials from happy customers would be additional content that can help nail the sale, without “selling.”
Getting Your Content Consumed
Content marketing uses information to sell instead of high-pressure sales pitches. But all the content (information) in the world won’t do you much good if it doesn’t get found! To get the content found, you have to promote it. Here are a several ways to do that:
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About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets. Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn