Chances are you’ve been inundated with blog posts, Facebook ads and unsolicited email pitches hammering away at the importance of content marketing… how it impacts new and prospective customers, affects your website’s search results and even helps you attract new employees.
The truth of the matter is, there’s a lot of truth to the matter. But is content marketing really something that small or mid-sized businesses need to worry about? Or is it reserved as a tactic for big businesses with mammoth budgets and seemingly infinite resources? Let’s start from the ground up.
What is content marketing, really?
The Content Marketing Institute says it best, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
In a nutshell, it’s thought leadership combined with relevance for your customers. It’s interesting and engaging material that knifes through the existing ad clutter found in traditional and online media. As consumers, we’ve become desensitized to television and radio commercials, magazine and newspaper ads, direct mail offers and even online display advertising.
Content marketing serves as a conduit to reach your audience on an individual level, keeping your business top-of-mind when purchase time rolls around. It also positions you as a thought-leader in your industry, adding value to both your personal brand and your company brand simultaneously.
So, what kind of content should I create?
Sharable and discussion-worthy content comes in a lot of packages. Let’s review the top six content marketing options:
1) Blog content: One of the best outlets for your content is your own company blog. How better to promote thought leadership than timely, consistent distribution of industry insight and professional analysis via your own website. *Note* Integrating images and video into your blog posts can help drive engagement also. More on that later.
2) Press releases: Have something really newsworthy and timely to share? Press releases are a great channel, even if the only outlet available to you is PRnewsire or a similar online distributor.
3) Case studies: Did you solve a big problem for a client? Does your business have a track record of helping customers save time or money? If so, it may be worth writing a case study. Not only is this great content to share, but also it can turn into sales collateral for your team to share with future prospects.
4) White papers: If you have a unique and detailed perspective on a technical topic, white papers are a great piece of content to invest in, especially if your target market requires a deeper understanding of technology or solutions before purchasing.
5) Infographics: Some people are visual learners. Infographics are a great way to take a big bucket of disparate statistics and information and tie them together visually. Smart marketers are now using animated gifs to create “gifographics” to further improve the user experience. Click on the great example shown here to get a better idea of what this looks like.
6) Video: This can be the most time consuming and expensive content marketing endeavor, but it also boasts an incredible return. Video marketing is growing, and with good reason. Good video is shared aggressively, and also gives you a unique footprint in the search world. YouTube is the second largest search engine in use today, with more searches each month than Bing and Yahoo! combined.
So I created some really killer content. Now what?
The old saying “if you build it, they will come” is partially true, but why risk it? If you’ve invested time in creating great content, even more time should be invested in sharing it. Content aggregation outlets like Stumble Upon and Biz Sugar are valuable tools, as are your company’s social media properties (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc).
However, some of the greatest return comes from outreach campaigns. One-on-one prospecting of news outlets, webmasters and bloggers; find people who would benefit from your great content. If your customers are there, you want to be there. Small business owners are always pressed for time, but without this critical element of content marketing, your return may not exceed (or even equal) your input.
Content marketing is a “must-have,” not a “nice-to-have” in the digital age
The line above says it all. Content marketing is one of the most important tools in your arsenal to grow your business and stay relevant. This is especially true as it pertains to impacting search results. In fact, many search marketers have made content marketing their cornerstone as opposed to simply trying to acquire links. If you want to geek-out on it from a search perspective, this video from Moz is pretty interesting.
Is there a phrase that aligns with what your customers look for? More importantly, is there a burning question that you can help your customers answer? Great content focused around that phrase or question is the best way to impact search engines, bringing you organic traffic made up of your most likely customers. (It’s not quite as simple as that… you’ll still need someone versed in search engine optimization to develop your internal and external link strategy, your content calendar and the back-end tagging of pages and images. But those resources are always readily available).
Finding a great content marketing partner for your business
For most small, mid and growth-stage business owners, tackling this task internally might be too daunting. Even finding time to organize your thoughts into a working content strategy might require a herculean effort in your jam-packed schedule. Luckily, outsourcing this function is popular (and profitable) for business owners and marketing managers. Great digital marketing partners have fantastic copywriters, amazing graphic artists and strategic thinkers capable or helping you create and distribute content in a manner that provides a steady stream of business to your digital doorstep.