Paid advertising has been a reliable stratagem for customer acquisition for long.
As retargeting has flourished, ads have greatly helped growing businesses retain customers, improve their lifetime, and trimmed customer churn and cart abandonment.
Those were the good old days of paid advertising.
However, according to a recent report from anti-blocking firm, Page Fair, over 615 million devices blocked ads by the end of 2016, out of which 62% included mobile users. Desktop ad blocker usage surged to 17% in the same period to 236 million compared to 2015.
This might make a better user experience, but it spells troubles for brands that basically rely on paid ads to reach their target audience.
So how do you get past the block movement?
Content marketing seems to be the answer and it’s not only for major brands like Nike and Red Bull. Even small businesses can boost their sales using this simple tactic.
The family opened the outlet in 1954 and started selling electronic goods. They were in dire need of customers, but didn’t have the funds for traditional advertising. It was then when they met Roger C Parker who came up with the brilliant idea of launching the “Buyer’s Guide Place,” a magazine that educated shoppers on buying electronics. Similar to a blog, it highlighted the team, their philosophy, their missions and objectives.
Roger’s 7-step content marketing plan helped maintain sales, and within 18 months the magazine transformed their business hugely. They expanded throughout California, Oregon and Washington until Best Buy acquired it for $87 million.
Does that make sense?
Now before we dive into content marketing strategies for small businesses, let’s understand some of its benefits.
The first benefit is that it’s relatively affordable and tends to be considerably less expensive compared to other forms of marketing. In fact, it can cost up to 62% less than advertising and outbound marketing.
Small business owners often think that content marketing is a costly affair. However, a recent report titled The 2017 State of The Creator Economy, sheds light on the following:
- Perceived price of infographic: $608. Actual price: $185
- Perceived price of listicle: $295. Actual price: $214
- Perceived price of video content: $1,208. Actual price: $631
- Perceived price of whitepaper: $1,123. Actual price: $959
Another significant benefit of content marketing for small businesses is that it works. Businesses with an active blog section have 126% higher rates of growth than static websites.
Are you a company with epic dreams but on a shoestring budget? Don’t fret as many small businesses are in the same boat as you.
I’ve listed 4 comprehensive steps to prepare for an effective content marketing campaign for small businesses.
4 Content Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses
1. Know Your Target Market
The first step to creating an effective content marketing campaign is to know whom you’re going to serve with your invaluable content. Creating content about anything and everything that comes to mind will prove to be a futile exercise. This is absolutely important for small businesses since they can compete with major brands by targeting a niche market. But even if you’ve niched down your target audience, you’ve to be more specific.
Your target market is the group of consumers you want to reach with your valuable content. Successful businesses don’t reach their audience by a broad category-for instance, shoes. Instead, they target their message by those who are receptive to their products or services like “joggers in search of running shoes.” The reason behind this is that no matter how large your market is, not everyone is a high value target.
Here are some questions to ask when creating a detailed description of your ideal customers:
- What demographic groups does your target market belong to?
- Where do they hang out?
- What are their day-to-day concerns?
- How can you help?
Social advertising can be the best method to adopt to understand your audience, but paid social advertising can be costly. Fortunately, there are some free tools to aid with your search.
One such tool is Google Analytics as it can help you identify and understand your current customers who make your best target market.
Here’s a quick guide on understanding your target audience using Google Analytics.
Another tool to analyze the type of content that resonates with your target is Hootsuite. At its most basic, this platform is a tracking tool for analyzing your follower growth with respect to posts on social media. The platform’s built-in analytic features allow you to explore industry trends. You can easily look at what other related businesses are posting about on social channels. With the free version you can monitor three accounts.
Here’s a detailed guide on researching your social media audience from the Hootsuite blog.
Remember that you can always branch out your niche later. So there’s nothing to feel stressed about while deciding what to specialize in the beginning.
2. Understand What They Need
After you’ve defined your target market, you need to decide on the following:
- What do they actually require-Content that they’d probably enjoy reading and if possible, think of content which has not been saturated yet. For example, news-related content relevant to your industry can be a brilliant way to kick start.
- What do they like- For this you need to scout social media channels to find the content they’ve engaged with. Think of creating “how to” content and case studies.
Creating relevant and interesting content is one of the biggest challenges for brands. However, if you go about it the right way, it can be seemingly easy.
The best way to do so is to stay updated with the current happenings in your industry.
For instance, if you want to create effective content for the finance industry, head over to Google Alerts and create a bunch of email alerts to keep yourself updated in the world of finance as shown below.
This way you’ll be on the email marketing list of Google and remain updated with happenings in your industry.
The other source is Google News.
In many cases, you can come across specific blogs that consistently promote related content ahead of others. Do some research on that.
The main objective behind tracking latest industry trends is to find effective content that has raised eyeballs and then go on to present your thoughts on the topic or create something engaging.
A fantastic tool that can help to create a successful content marketing campaign for small businesses is Buzzsumo. It allows you to find the content that is most shared within your industry.
As you can see, the most shared content is news-related, indicating it’ll not prove to be actionable or relevant. So think of another keyword that will pair with your niche keyword and enter into the tool.
For instance, adding the phrase “finance tips,” with tips being the actionable keyword generates some really great content topics.
Once you decide on a topic that looks promising, you create your own version that’s superior than other choices already on search engines and social platforms.
Now is the time to focus on creating content which can be in the form of:
- Blog posts
- Short Youtube videos
While creating content, try mentioning influencers and leaders in your industry. Besides its ability to enhance your social shares, it has many other benefits as follows:
It highlights that your business is aware of top leaders in the industry
It also increases your content’s believability as you’re including opinions and thoughts of industry leaders.
Finding influencers can be a cakewalk with Klout. Just sign in and enter a keyword relevant to your industry and the tool will present you with a list of related topics.
Click on top-experts in the right hand side bar. These are the users whose content have generated maximum engagement in the last 90 days.
Try including these experts in your content so that it becomes more shareable.
3. Get Your Content in Front of Your Target Market
Now comes the very important step and that’s getting your effective content in the eyes of your audience.
You can contact people who’ve shared similar content by clicking on the “View Sharers” button on Buzzsumo. The next step involves reaching out to them and asking them to share your newly published content. But before that, shed some light on their recent shares and write a short intro about yourself. Remember to keep your emails pleasing.
You can also reach out to influencers in your industry and entice them to read and share your content. The point is that influencers aren’t only powerful because of the content they produce, but also impactful since audiences have a deeper connection with their brand and what they represent.
If you are successful in choosing the right influencer for your business, you’ll be appalled at the level of validation your brand will receive. And if you want your target market to share your hardly-created content, the best way is to convince them that your content is worth a share by having their favorite influencer back your brand.
When it comes to sharing content, I use a free tool called Viral Content Bee. The best part is that your content is not being re-shared by you but by others. You only have to remain active and share other people’s content too.
To start using Viral Content Bee, go to “add project” and insert the URL of the content you want to get shared. Add an eye-catching description to attract the attention of users and get your content easily shared.
You then need to select at least 3 groups of interest for your campaign and decide what social platforms you want the post shard on. On the Settings page, you can connect all your social accounts. Starters can have 2 Facebook accounts, 5 Twitter accounts while Pinterest and StumbledUpon permit only for a single account to be used. You can use Google Plus, but it won’t get you any credits, which are of paramount importance while using this platform.
The free version has some restrictions, but still you’ll be able to get your content in front of your audience.
Remember that your blog can help you establish greater credibility for your business and drive greater organic traffic. Publishing consistently will allow you to connect to your audience as well as your prospects.
Another way to get your content in the radar of influencers is by direct messaging them on LinkedIn so they read, share and link to your content.
4. Share Your Content Intelligently on Social Media
Many small businesses are publishing content consistently to build their target base and increase traffic, but may not get everything they could have from each piece of content. If you’re serious about creating content, you also need to be serious about sharing it wisely on social channels.
Considering every single link to social media has a half-life of approximately three hours, businesses must constantly search for novel and innovative ways to promote their content.
Here are some tips to keep you ahead of the rat race:
- Use Open Graph Tags on Facebook
Facebook launched Open Graph Tags in 2010 to enable third party websites to be readable by the social giant. This takes place by assigning appealing “graph” objects to website with information, which is sent to Facebook when someone likes or shares a page. These tags can have a massive impact on conversions and click through rates as if they’re set up inaccurately, erroneous content will be shown when pages are shared on social media.
Kissmetrics has posted an in-depth guide on using Open Graph Tags.
- Create unique posts for different platforms
Every social platform has its own unique way of presenting content. Users will appreciate if you put in efforts to adapt your content based on the demands of the platform.
For example, Facebook can reward you if you post content that is both entertaining and informative-something that is easily shareable. Craft killer headlines and content that immediately creates an emotional connection with your target audience. On the other hand, LinkedIn has a professional tune. Your content has to be created in order to add value to the professional lives of users. Twitter is known for its trending updates, which are often witty at times. Share content that is captivating and conjures curiosity besides being inspirational.
- Add call to action buttons
Make your CTA buttons clearly visible in your social posts as this will entice readers to take action. It could be anything as “Download Now” or “Learn More,” directing the reader to your website.
Readers are more likely to click on these buttons and you can measure the success of the post through UTM parameters.
- Use industry specific hashtags
Using hashtags to market your business on social media is one of the easiest and quickest ways to expand your influence beyond your current lot of followers. When you use relevant hashtags in your posts, people searching for those keywords will find you, and can potentially follow you.
Here are 14 powerful hashtag tools that can be used while creating a content marketing campaign for a small business. Hashtags shouldn’t mention your brand name, but should represent your brand and the products/services you sell.
Lay’s Potato Chips ran a campaign titled “Do Us A Flavor,” which encouraged users to pitch in their best potato chip flavor ideas. The hashtag #DoUsAFlavor garnered a lot of attention and hype.
Some readers got very creative.
There’s a lot of complexity surrounding content marketing. And small businesses have no inkling on where to begin from as it looks perplexing at first. But as you can see, businesses of all sizes including mircro businesses can easily implement content marketing as part of their marketing efforts.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice. All you require is an ongoing analysis and frequent updates to your content. As long as you’re willing to test the waters and have some skin in the game, you’ll be adept in the world of content marketing.
Do you’ve any other content marketing ideas for small businesses?