Content marketing for small business owners: Here’s how to make it work

The past decade or so has witnessed the meteoric rise of content marketing. Google has exerted a lot of pressure and emphasized the importance of creating high-quality content. It has released the Panda Algorithm Update and a couple of others to ensure websites are complying with content creation guidelines. Naturally, creating quality content has become a way to attract qualified leads, and an increasing number of marketers are drawn towards it.

However, if you’re new to content marketing, it may seem a little intimidating at first; particularly when your competitors have been practicing it for years. So what’s the first step?

Does content marketing really work for small businesses?

It’s a question that many small business owners ask. We frequently hear about multi-million dollar companies pushing out a lot of great content, and their work is often cited as examples of how to do content marketing right.

But bigger brands have deeper pockets and the resources to create a lot of great content. The question is, can you, as a small business owner, add ROI by using content marketing?

Yes, absolutely. And you don’t even need a lot of money to do it.

You may not know this, but 70% of customers like to learn about a company through an article, instead of an advertisement. Customers are actively searching for such content. The good news is that content marketing has become so profitable that 73% of brands outsource someone to manage their content strategy.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, over 89% of businesses use content marketing to grow their business and outreach.

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The value of content marketing is being felt across the board, and both small and large organizations are utilizing it. In fact, it is particularly essential for small businesses with stringent budgets that can’t afford to spend hefty amounts on advertisements or other marketing tactics.

But if you’re a beginner, you must be thinking…

What is content marketing?

In simple terms, the purpose of content marketing is to spread the word about your business and establish you as an expert in your industry. It incorporates several avenues of marketing to create a unified voice for your brand, including email, social and SEO. All of these elements work together to create a cohesive plan.

A well-planned content marketing strategy acts as a lead magnet, results in better sales and a bigger return on investment than most other marketing techniques. In other words, content marketing is a long-term strategy that uses various types of content to help you build stronger relationships with your customers.

In this listicle, Convince and Convert shared 105 different ways you can present content to your customers.

Another reason why content marketing is an effective marketing tool is that traditional online advertising isn’t cutting it anymore. According to a research, 200 million people used ad blockers on their browsers in 2015. Today, more than 615 million devices are using ad blockers. But while users don’t want to look at advertisements, they need content.

In fact, most people are searching for one thing or another – which leads them to various businesses that are providing helpful information. But to better understand content marketing, you also need to know…

What isn’t content marketing?

Many people think content marketing is also SEO and link building. It couldn’t be further from the truth. True, great content will help with both of these areas. But when you create content with a focus on SEO or link building, you are setting yourself up for failure. Creating excellent content that serves your audience is the real key to this game.

Your focus should be to create original and shareable content. It’s important that your business treat SEO and link building as separate from content marketing. The real purpose of your content should be to entertain, educate and inform readers.

If your content is a 1000-word sales copy of your latest Mothers’ Day Sale, then you’re alienating your customers. In other words, content marketing has to be used to build a lasting relationship with your audience.

Why is content marketing so effective?

Content marketing builds a narrative and tells a story your target audience can relate with. It helps you build a  reputation as an expert. It is, therefore, an effective way to grow your brand. A strong reputation encourages potential customers to put their trust in you. And this is how brands influence buying decisions.

Publishing high-quality content that addresses the specific needs of your target audience is the best way forward. This way, you become a trusted authority in your industry, and they can turn to your site for answers.

Here are some eye-popping statistics on content marketing;

  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional advertising. – Demand Metric.
  • It generates 3X more leads than other marketing methods.
  • Businesses that use content marketing have 6X higher conversion rate. – Aberdeen.
  • According to Dragon Search Marketing, 61% of consumers are influenced by custom content.
  • 69% of marketers think that content is far superior to direct mail and PR. – Custom Content Council.

Every business wants more leads and customers. The question is not where to find them. They’re everywhere. The real question is; how to create content that inspires them to take action? Here’s how to get started;

1) Create a content strategy

Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Benchmark, Budgets and Trends Report claims that lack of strategy is one of the biggest reasons content marketing initiatives fail. What’s more, merely 37% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.

Without a strategy in place, you’re shooting in the dark and hoping an arrow would hit its mark. When outlining a content strategy, you first need to identify your goals. Then, you have to check if your current content is producing the results you require.

Here’s how you can start;

a) Define your content marketing objectives

It is not enough to create content. It is equally, or probably more important to understand what business purpose are you trying to achieve. Before working on your content, outline and define your goals clearly. Clarity is of the utmost importance when it comes to creating top of the line content that converts.

But how do you define content marketing objectives that align with your overall business goals?

b) Know your target audience

Understanding your target audience is key to a killer content strategy as a small business. Here’s how you can learn more about your target audience before moving on to the next step.

  • Focus on your best customer first

You’ll see minimal or zero results if your content marketing is not focused in the right direction. This is why it makes sense to choose one customer segment and focus on it. That means creating a content strategy that is tailored to this customer segment before moving on to the next.

  • Understand what your customers truly care about

One of the biggest advantages of using content marketing is that it enables you to understand a customer’s unique journey towards a purchase decision. When you create content, you have to learn about their situation or what they stand for.

Take a step further and try to understand what your customers care most about. This includes their pain points, challenges, frustrations, and motivations. You can do so by creating buyer personas and analyzing their buyer journeys.

  • Focus on small conversion goals

All your content marketing efforts come down to zero if you don’t know what actions you want your customers to take after reading your content. Here’s what a conversion funnel typically looks like;

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The real purpose of your content marketing is to convert as many of your prospects into customers as possible. This is why your content strategy must have small conversion goals.

2) Streamline your content marketing

Streamlining your content marketing process is an essential first step when it comes to increasing your outreach and regularly creating content that inspires and educates your audience. A properly thought-out plan can increase your content’s effectiveness and your team’s efficiency in producing high-quality content.

a) Grow a knowledge bank

Growing a knowledge bank is the real key to the success of your company’s content marketing strategy. It’s where you store and organize all data and research you’ve gathered from your team and your ongoing research efforts.

You can benefit from this technique whether you’re running an organization with multiple employees or producing your own content. Every day, a person is inundated with 174 newspapers’ worth of information. Is there a better way to leverage this info than by building a knowledge bank?

Creating a knowledge bank will feel like a challenge initially, but with a knowledge management template like this one, the process can become so much easier. You can also use an app like Evernote to save quotes, entire articles, and other information so ideation and writing can become easier.

b) Keep track of client queries

This is a big one. Depending on the size of your company, your sales team may be answering hundreds of client queries per day. If you analyze, you’ll come across some repetitive questions and discern pain points that you can address via content. Solving these customer problems will not only help you educate, inform and entertain your customers but also increase your customers’ trust, helping you nurture leads and position your company as a viable solution.

c) Revitalize old content

Revitalizing old content keeps it fresh and relevant to your audience. It could mean turning a series of blog posts into an ebook or taking key points from a webinar to create an easy-to-consume infographic.

Dig into your old content and extract items you can improve for your audience. It could mean one of two things; you can either revamp the content or repurpose it for a different segment of the audience.

d) Additional tips
  • Have clearly defined roles for each member of your team. If you’re a one-person team, dedicate a few hours each week to content production and distribution across various platforms.
  • Plan an editorial calendar, so your content creation efforts are on track and in alignment with your goals.
  • More content is not necessarily better. In addition to writing new content, make sure to repurpose old content to make the most of your time.

3) Analyze your progress

The next step is to measure how your target audience is reacting to your content. This way, you’ll be able to create more of what they enjoy and less of what they don’t. But it’s not always so easy. Many marketers still rely on assumptions to drive their content strategy.

It is also important to state here that some level of trial and error is essential when implementing any marketing tactic. Unfortunately, resorting to biased, faulty data can blind you to what readers really want, while also draining your time and resources.

The following 5 metrics will help you analyze how well your content marketing strategy is performing;

Social: The number of social shares is one indicator of how well your content is performing and how much it’s helping your target audience.

Traffic: An effective content marketing strategy attracts traffic. To see how well each post is performing, you need to analyze the number of visitors it is attracting per day, week and month. This way you’ll understand how quickly your audience is growing and what needs to be improved.

Conversion: You should always be working towards improving your content’s performance to increase conversion rates and engagement levels. The number of visitors that took a tangible action on your site; such as signing up for your newsletter or webinar, gaining access to gated content or purchasing from your site indicate conversion.

Leads: By tracking leads as they move through the conversion funnel, you are in a better position to provide more tailored content to your visitors. A standard practice is to start with lightweight, educational articles for those at the top of the funnel and then create more detailed blogs and webinars for more qualified leads to move them deeper into the conversion funnel.

You can use several tools to analyze your content’s performance. For example; Buffer can be used as a paid tool to carefully analyze how each of your social media posts is performing. With its free version, you can manage up to 3 social media accounts.

Your social media pages offer free insights too. Twitter Analytics is free, and on Facebook’s Business Page you can also get detailed information about post reach.

 

MailChimp is yet another marketing automation software that offers everything from A/B Testing tools, to detailed reports, email templates, and more to optimize your lead capture.

Analyzing your content marketing efforts allow you to identify how well you are performing in terms of growing your brand. Other key metrics include collecting valuable customer information from your website such as visitors’ onsite behavior, navigational and exit paths, referrer sources, etc.

Did any of the tips mentioned above help? Let us know in the comments below!


How to write copy that converts

Copywriters are some of the highest paid writers in the world. But like anything lucrative, the skill requires a lot of practice and hard work.

In fact, web copywriting may be one of the most deceptively difficult things to do. After all, anybody could string words together, flesh out a landing page and add a call-to-action. But not every copy leaves an impact on the reader or converts.

Before we move on to discuss all the elements that make a copy effective, let me tell you this; the single most powerful copywriting tip I’ve utilized in my work is simplicity.

Leonardo da Vinci said, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ This advice from the 16th century still rings true today. In copywriting, simplicity is everything. In other words, simple sells.

Here are a couple of other attributes that your copy should have to increase conversions;

Evoke an emotional response

A compelling copy triggers an emotional response in your audience. This is the kind of copy you want to create. It is also that copy which garners attention, engagement, and sales. Your copy should make her laugh. Make her fearful of losing out. Make her wince. Make her want something.

People are emotional creatures. Buying decisions are rarely made rationally. Triggering an emotion is the only way to incite action. How many people do you know who take logical buying decisions, instead of following their heart?

Pain and pleasure are the two main drivers of action. Much like the carrot and stick phenomenon, pain and pleasure are equally applicable to humans. The best copywriters know that emotions sell. And they use this knowledge to draw out emotions when crafting a TV script, a landing page, an article or anything else.

Take a look at Ann Handley’s email subscription CTA;

It’s easy to get a little too self-promotional when it comes to building your own personal brand. Despite having accomplished a great many things, Ann via her microcopy, shows that she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Kill your darlings

‘Kill your darlings’ is a term coined by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. It forms one of the most basic tenets of good copywriting; keeping it simple.

Even if you’re writing technical articles, avoid industry jargon and fluff. Using fancy language does nothing but confuse or alienate readers. Refrain from showing your poetic side. Keep it simple and straightforward.

Limit your use of adjectives and rid your copy of adverbs. They make your message clogged and dull. To keep your copy sharp, follow these quick tips from George Orwell;

  • Use a word instead of a phrase
  • A phrase instead of a sentence
  • A sentence instead of a paragraph
  • A para instead of a page

‘If you can’t explain it to a 6-year old, you don’t understand it yourself.’ – Albert Einstein. A copy that’s simple is also so much more effective.

But I think the concept of simplicity was best explained by Jony Ive, Steve Job’s soulmate in simplicity.

“Why do we assume that simple is good?

Because…simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity.

To be truly simple, you have to go really deep”. – Jony Ive [excerpts from Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson]

Study your competitor’s copy

You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Sometimes for creativity, all you have to do is study your competitor’s copy. You can borrow their ideas but in a way that you make them their own.

You’ll have a hard time writing copy that sells if you’re a perfectionist and constantly trying to reinvent the wheel. Let your competitor’s copy inform and inspire your work.

Just take a look at this refreshing copy by urbandaddy. They’ve mastered the art of getting me to open emails from them. This particular one was titled ‘fun.’

There are a couple of things that caught my eye in this email.

First of all, there’s no long introduction. The writer got straight to the point – a very wise decision lest the reader gets annoyed about reading so much about something as common as a rubber band gun.

Secondly, notice the purposeful sentence structure. The writer forgoes conventional grammar and uses a plethora of run-on sentences and traditional product promotion copy.

Keep reading, and you’ll notice a conversational tone that mocks the silliness of the product but also loops the reader in for something interesting and fun.

So if you didn’t know how to start your copy, reading this would give you some interesting ideas. For example, you could use the same tone to talk about your product. Or share an inspiring, interesting or alarming story that relates to your experience and then highlight the solution your product or service offers.

You can also use storytelling as part of your product/ service copy as stories have a huge impact on the brain.

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The best thing about urbandaddy is that they maintain their tone in every copy they publish. Here’s a screenshot of their editorial;

Read widely

Read often and widely. It is the ultimate building block for writing that is worth reading. Understandably, in this noisy world, people are giving up on reading.

But you’ll notice that if you want to write a blog, reading other articles, blogs, listening to podcasts and watching training videos will actually get you fired up to write superbly.

On the other hand, not reading will kill the impulse to write.

Reading is so good in fact that it improves your health in several different ways;

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In his essay, Dan Kurland explains,

“Reading is primary. One can write only as good as one reads.”

In the same way, if you’re struggling to write persuasive copy, get your hands on a good book and read intensely. I would also suggest that you take notes as you go along so you’ll have an easier time remembering information and working on your persuasive copy ideas when the time comes.

Reading books helped me become a blogger and writer. To get you started in the right direction, here are 17 books every copywriter must read.

Notice the language you’re using

Use language that is simple and direct. Be conversational. Write in a way that your audience understands you and knows that you understand them. We see this idea expressed again and again by some of the best in business.

In fact, most of the communication errors we make on paper happen because we use complicated language. And unlike most writing, when we talk, we flow. So combat complexity with ‘conversation’.

If you’re new to writing copy, take an editor’s help. Ask her to read your copy aloud in front of you. Notice anything that doesn’t sound like what a real person would say to another.

Another trick is to give yourself some time between writing a copy and reviewing it so you have fresh eyes and ears that would pick out the gaps.

Focus on one goal

Everybody wants their copy to close. But unless you have a singular goal, it won’t. In marketing terms, it means sticking to the CTA (Call-to-Action).

For this purpose, the copy needs to be very simple and specific. Also, you have to put something in the copy that inspires users to take action such as a discount coupon.

Most marketers, when they think about CTA, they think design. While the color and design of the button are of the utmost importance, it’s the copy of your calls to action that gets them clicking.

Dan Kennedy sums it very well;

“There are, of course, many ways I cast nets to find clients. Books, teleseminars, webinars, newsletters … all are done ultimately with the intention of gently inviting people to inquire about my services.

Yet each has a different strategic purpose.

That’s a key point. You have to know your purpose for each piece, each item, each event. You have to know what your purpose is for being there. For being anywhere.”

Answer relevant questions to make your copy persuasive

One of the best ways to write copy that’s persuasive and effective is to strive to answer your audience’s most pressing questions. For this, you need to know your customers’ pain points. Or what’s keeping them awake at night?

Let’s suppose if you’re writing content for Pagely.com – you should visit their FAQ section first.

With the help of these frequently asked questions, you can start preparing a persuasive essay or blog post. You can also use Quora to find what potential customers are searching for.

For example, if you’re looking for questions related to content marketing, you can go to Quora and search for this term.

If you still need more questions, you can dig deeper by asking your email subscribers, social media followers, and customers what they’re struggling with. Their answers will give you some deep insights and help you write a persuasive copy that sells.

These tips should help you get started in the right direction. Were they helpful? Let us know in the comments below.