How to use content marketing for a small business

Great products or services don’t guarantee success. If you’re in business, you’ll know that a great marketing strategy is also needed.

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Your content should be valuable to your customers.

I am a content writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. As over 90 % of New Zealand businesses are small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), most of my clients fall into the SME category.

So, as SMEs, my clients face a common problem: How to market themselves with a limited budget. Marketing can be extremely expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Unlike days gone by, businesses no longer need to ‘rent’ advertising space to get exposure.

There is an alternative…

Content marketing: Cost-effective marketing for small business

If you’re wondering what content marketing is, here’s a definition:

The creation and distribution of valuable content designed for a specific target audience. 

Content marketing has been around a long time: There’s John Deere’s Furrow magazine, Michelin’s Michelin Guide and, more recently,  Red Bull’s Red Bulletin magazine.

These publications work because they give value to their target audiences without shoving sales messages down their throats. For further explanation, here’s a great video that explains content marketing (otherwise known as brand journalism) very well.

Of course, producing a magazine isn’t realistic for most businesses. The good news, though, is that the internet and social media has  made it possible for small businesses to use similar strategies.

In this post I outline a simple content-marketing strategy. If you find this post useful please share it and I welcome your comments.

Create a blog

For most businesses, a blog is a great place to start. In fact, as a content and web writer, blogging is my main marketing strategy by far.

What does blogging achieve?

For me, blogging:

  1. attracts Internet traffic to my website
  2. acts as a sales tool that I can refer clients to
  3. positions me as a leading content writer.

 

What should you blog about?

Write about what you do. If you’re a business coach, write about coaching; if you’re an accountant write, about tax returns. I’m a content writer, so (surprise, surprise) I write about blog posts about writing. The trick is to identify questions your clients have and answer them.

Here’s an example:

Friends of mine run a booking agency in Russell, Bay of Islands. If I were to pay a visit, I would want to know about activities, accommodation and restaurants, etc. That’s what they should write about.

These days, when someone plans a holiday, where’s the first place they look? The internet. If you provide information (linked to your website) that answers your potential customers’ questions, guess who’s likely to get the business? You. This information doesn’t have to be in the form of a blog, either. You can create videos and SlideShares too.

How should a blog be written?

First and foremost, don’t write a sales brochure disguised as a blog. A blog should be informative and useful. The goal is to create content that your customers find valuable and want to share among their networks.

A blog post doesn’t need to be long. However, the more information contained, the more likely it will be shared and linked to. Word count is also one factor Google considers when judging the ‘authority’ of your website. So, as long as your posts are written well and free of waffle,  the longer the better.

Keywords

To attract internet traffic, your blog posts should include keywords. These are words or phrases your customers are likely to use when searching online for your products or services. Using the booking agency as an example, a useful key phrase might be, “Walking tracks in the Bay of Islands.” If someone is searching for this phrase, there is a very good chance they are planning a visit. This type of phrase (with three or more words) is known as long-tail. It’s quite specific and much more relevant than say a short-tail keyword like “Russell” where the searcher could be interested in any number of things.

It pays not to over do keywords — Google will penalise you. I normally use a keyword or phrase three to four times, with an emphasis on the main heading. For more information on key words, I explain in How to get found online.

Promote through social media

Once you’ve written an informative blog that includes good keywords, the next step is to promote it. This is where social media is invaluable.

Social media works because it is cheap and, if you produce good material that people share, can far outreach traditional media.

However, there are a multitude of sites to choose from and this can be confusing. So, you need to determine which sites your clients use. As a web writer working with businesses, I find Linkedin very good. However, if I were to deal directly with the public, sites like Facebook or Pinterest might be more effective. For more information on social media, my post A guide to five social media sites looks at the subject in more depth.

Final word

For your content marketing efforts to be effective, you must create content often. This is where so many businesses struggle. Affiliate marketers blog every day. My advice is that you should create content at least once a month and the less frequent your material, the more substantial it should be.

What do you think? I welcome your comments.

  1. Hi Andrew, it can be cost effective but it does take time and time is money right? It also takes commitment – one blog post will not be enough to do it as you mention in the last paragraph. It has to be consistent and you have to be active on other blogs and social media to grow your own along the way. Once you build traffic via it it’s a great way to generate leads.

    1. Hi Lisa, it does take a LOT of time, so it certainly cost money. However, it is more cost effective than many traditional marketing methods. In fact, research has found that a sale generated through content marketing cost 60% less than traditional means. This is simply because the prospect is much further along the sales cycle by the time they approach you – they have already done much of the research thanks to the content provided.

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