Content marketing quickly went from being seen as the future of advertising to the standard of advertising over the past few years but it isn’t a new concept at all. It has been around, believe it or not, since the year 1732 when Benjamin Franklin began publishing an almanac to promote his printing business. Magazines, recipe books, and journals have long been used by companies to promote their products; even a few radio stations cropped up over the years. In this digital age, content marketing has taken on a whole new life.
The first instance of digital content marketing was back in 2001 when the company Johnson & Johnson purchased the website BabyCenter. That was the year that the term “content marketing” entered the vocabulary of businesses everywhere after being coined by the Penton Custom Media company. Over the next few years, large companies started purchasing and launching websites to drive their brands. Some of the original players included Procter & Gamble, American Express, and L’Oreal. This marked the so-called “second era” of content marketing.
Blog was the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary Word of the Year in 2004. Podcasts, videos, and other streams of digital content became more popular as advertising tools. This concept was gaining momentum.
When social media emerged throughout the late 2000s, online content marketing became more accessible, easier to share, and much more popular. By the year 2015, every corner of the internet was abuzz with the concept. Forbes was talking about it, the use of this strategy had more than doubled over the past few years, and there was even a documentary released called “The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing.”
Even now in 2020, content marketing is key for businesses of all sizes. The statistics alone prove that it is a crucial investment.
- Leaders in social media marketing are 51% more likely to reach their sales quotas.
- Businesses are generating over 470,000 website visitors, 1,800 leads, and 300 new customers per month on average.
- Roughly 40% of marketers say content marketing is a very important part of their marketing strategy.
Content Marketing & Small Businesses
There are over 30 million small businesses in America today and it is important for them to employ this critical strategy for success. As many of you understand, a small business does not mean a small mindset. If growth is your ultimate goal as the owner of a small business, content marketing needs to become part of your strategy going forward.
Additional statistics show that only 64% of small businesses even have a website. They also show that 75% of consumers judge the credibility of a business based on their website; a further 50% would be deterred from using a business if the contact information on their website was out of date.
The time is now to dive into content marketing and make the most of it in order to drive your business forward. In this guide, we’ll discuss what content marketing is, why it is crucial, and how you can create a content marketing strategy and website that will take your small business to the next level.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing was one of the most searched terms related to business and marketing in 2019; it is a word that gets used so often that the meaning of it can become muddled, or disappear altogether. The first step in utilizing this important strategy is to understand what it truly is.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, it is defined as “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.”
Instead of interrupting the user experience in the form of an advertisement in the way that traditional advertising does, content marketing is much more seamless. As the data shows, it is also much more appealing to your customer base. This is because content marketing has a significantly different driving force than traditional marketing. A great example here would be that a YouTube video could be content marketing and the ads that run throughout the video would be the traditional advertising.
When you use content marketing effectively, you are creating content that is designed to resonate with your customers, entertain them, solve their problems, educate them about what you’re trying to sell to them, and educate them about your brand. This doesn’t disrupt their experience online at all, instead, it contributes to it. Consumers know when you are trying to sell them something and content marketing helps you to engage with them on a deeper level than just saying “hey, please buy my thing.”
It doesn’t replace traditional advertising but it supplements it in a very important way that helps to build not only an audience but also a customer base. Content marketing can take many forms. As you read in the introduction, print and radio have been consistent vehicles of content marketing for over 200 years. These avenues were successful because they provided information to their customer base that helped them in some way, while also highlighting the products and services that these businesses were trying to sell.
On the internet, content marketing has even more diversity. Blog posts, podcasts, videos, infographics, photos, and more are all different forms that content marketing can take online. These pieces of content all have a few things in common. They seek to connect consumers to a brand, entertain them, bring their attention to a product, present a product or service as a solution to a problem, and so on. Not every piece of content is going to feature a direct advertisement; however, every piece of content is created with the goal of engaging potential customers. Most of that content does so successfully.
Content marketing for small businesses is an awesome tool. If you are already actively using social media to create brand awareness, it’s highly likely that you’re already dabbling in the world of content marketing as it is. Even if your customer base is mostly local or you fill a very specific niche, content marketing can help you drive success. Small businesses, especially new ones, need to establish a reputation and establish trust from consumers. Content marketing is one of the greatest ways to cultivate a sense of trust from your potential customers while establishing your credibility and increasing awareness about your business.
The Advertising Revolution
Content marketing has dominated the world of marketing for a while but it truly started gaining traction about six years ago. Since then, it has revolutionized the way that brands and businesses of all shapes and sizes approach marketing. Today, more than 60% of marketers are producing at least one piece of content a day. From the same source, it is reported that 78% of Chief Marketing Officers see content marketing as the future.
As far back as 2008, Seth Godin said “content marketing is the only marketing that is left.” It has been on the rise ever since. It is true that content marketing is what the majority of marketing budgets are spent investing in. In this section, we’re going to explore this advertising revolution and what it means for your small business.
Even though we’re referring to content marketing as a revolution, there is a caveat. When you’re creating a new marketing strategy or introducing new methods into that strategy, it is important to remember that they aren’t typically meant to completely replace the older methods that you have been using. This is especially true if those methods are currently working for you. Adding content marketing to your strategy should just bolster your current efforts. That brings us to what your current efforts probably consist of: traditional marketing and paid advertising.
Traditional marketing is a term that is used, most often, to refer to any advertising that isn’t done online. This can include billboards, print ads, radio commercials, television commercials, and other more traditional means of getting your brand out there. Fatalistic headlines on the topic of traditional marketing have been published routinely for close to a decade now. Even the Harvard Business Review has declared it dead in the past.
The problem with this type of marketing is that repeated studies have shown that consumers aren’t really paying attention anymore. Consumers are looking into products on their own, typically through the internet. With that said, the internet isn’t really the advertising haven that it may have been historically.
When digital advertising first took off, paid advertising rose up. This is also sometimes called pay-per-click or PPC advertising. Throughout this article, we’ve used the term traditional advertising to describe this method of digital marketing. It is a method that you can still observe everywhere on the internet. If you’re currently running Facebook ads, sponsored posts on Twitter, or something similar, then you are familiar with paid advertising. A business will have their advertisements run on some digital platform, and pay a small fee for every customer that clicks on that advertisement. This type of advertising is still prominent all across the web but, similar to traditional marketing, the fact is that content marketing proves to be more successful time and time again.
Why Does Paid Advertising Fall Short?
A lot of companies run digital ad campaigns in the PPC format and that will probably never go away. It’s important to recognize that a lot of those businesses are supplementing that with content marketing and they may be using those PPC methods as a way of distributing their content instead of running more traditional advertisements. The pitfalls of paid advertising are really easy to observe.
- It disrupts the consumer experience online.
- Over 600 million internet users currently use an ad blocker.
- It can cost double or more in comparison to content marketing.
For small businesses, paid advertising can be a great beginning strategy and can help add to your customer base. As a long term strategy, you may find that you are cutting your customer base significantly. According to recent research, roughly 90% of consumers skip advertisements on television as well as unsubscribe from company emails. Approximately 11% of internet users will never see your paid advertisements. In contrast, 60% of people will seek out a product after reading about it online and a whopping 70% of consumers prefer to learn about a company through content rather than a paid advertisement.
Content marketing, as has been said thousands of times, is the future of digital marketing. It helps you circumvent the problem of the widespread use of ad-blockers and generally contributes to your success more effectively than other marketing methods. The bottom line when it comes to marketing is this: Consumers know that you are trying to sell them something and content marketing is a way to make seeing your advertisements worth their time. It allows you to make important connections with your customer base and provides you with a tool that you can use to impact them at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Why Is Content Marketing Important For Small Businesses?
Content marketing is important for small businesses for several reasons. It is demonstrably the most effective form of marketing right now regardless of what the product or service you’re providing may be. It is also one of the most widely used; 91% of B2B companies and 86% of B2C companies use this strategy. Just because your business is small, or just getting started, doesn’t mean that you should brush it off.
Content marketing is not the only way to advertise your business and it is uncommon to employ it as the only strategy but it will prove itself to be one of the most important in your arsenal if you choose to adopt it. Content marketing has a range of benefits in terms of cost, leads, brand image, and more. Conversion rates are as much as six times higher for those who implement content marketing as part of their current strategy. As you’ve read before, it costs less than any of the other methods even when outsourced. Perhaps most importantly, it allows you to build a relationship with your customer base.
This approach allows you to make connections with consumers in a way that makes it more likely that they will become customers. In this section, we will explore the benefits of content marketing for small businesses in-depth and show you how it can impact your customers regardless of where they’re at in your sales funnel.
The Benefits Of Content Marketing For Small Businesses
The lower cost and greater ROI are amazing benefits of content marketing. It’s something that costs less than other marketing methods and works. Even though that is the case, there are a lot of other benefits that can come with content marketing, particularly for small businesses. Here are nine great benefits of content marketing.
1. Address a Problem Then Provide a Solution
This is great for small businesses that are looking to introduce a new type of product or even those who are trying to break into an existing space. Products and services typically solve a problem for their buyers, even if this is a small problem. Think about the problem of headphone wires getting tangled or not being durable enough and how wireless headphones were introduced to solve that problem and now they are everywhere. You can create a piece of content that brings awareness to a problem, large or small, that your product is designed to solve. That content is going to lead your prospective customers right to your product or service as a solution.
2. Build Up Your Credibility
Small businesses are always going to have the problem of larger competition. This is a problem that will diminish as your business grows but can be quite the hindrance in the beginning. Publishing content that is well thought out and includes relevant, well-researched information is one of the best ways to show your potential customers that you know what you are talking about. People are generally eager to support small businesses but online it is easy to be wary of a younger or lesser-known brand. Creating resource guides, compiling research into blog posts, and other forms of informational content will allow you to show that you can be a leader in your space even though your business may not be as large as your competitors (yet). The bonus here is that free content is great for your customers. You’re giving them something which will make them more likely to give you their business in return.
3. Establish Your Message or Identity
Your business has to have something unique about it, or a set of ideas that color the way you operate, or perhaps, a very interesting story behind it. Whatever that may be, it can be a strong marketing tool for you because it can attract like-minded customers or it can showcase something about you and your business that you want your prospective customers to know but do so in a more authentic way. Content marketing is a great way to tell your story, attract consumers that follow a certain lifestyle or fit into a subculture, and more. Instead of a typical “About Us” blurb on your website, you can choose to produce content that embodies your message or what it is that sets your business apart in an organic, accessible way that is more likely to get shared and discussed online.
4. Gather an Email List
If you’re planning on eventually having a newsletter or would like to have some kind of mailing list to send out updates, promotions, coupons, and more: content marketing can help with that. Content marketing can take many forms and one of them is through interactive resources like calculators or search tools (as you can see on mortgage company sites). You can have consumers enter an email to see the results that that tool provides, or at least give them the option. If you publish blog posts, podcasts, videos, or even have ebooks that are available for your customers, prompting them to enter their email in order to access these pieces of content or giving them the option to be updated is a great way to fill out an email list that you can use later on. One thing that makes email lists so great for small businesses is that email is a great way to drive customers back to your site on a regular basis (as long as you’re not bombarding them with filler and promotional correspondence).
5. Increase Brand Awareness
Brand awareness most often comes from people seeing, engaging, and sharing content online. If you create a great resource on a particular topic or publish a particularly entertaining or useful piece of content, it is going to get shared. This could be on social media, between friends privately (word of mouth), or from higher-authority websites that are much more popular. While you will learn about backlinks later, they can be an awesome way to spread your content and business out ever further across the internet. When you create good content, it is going to get viewed and shared, which will help more people see who you are and what you’re selling.
6. Increase Your Sales
It would be remiss not to mention that content marketing increases your sales. This is one of the key benefits of this marketing strategy and it is worth noting that consumers really do purchase the products that they learn about through content marketing. Some statistics from Hootsuite say that 80% of all Instagram users follow brands or businesses on the platform; viewing this content has been shown to increase ad recall, CTR, and purchase intent. Being informed about a product and having a positive association with a particular business makes consumers significantly more likely to make a purchase.
7. Increase Your Social Following
Social media has become an advertising mecca. As you just read, Instagram is a viable way to generate customers (even more so than Facebook). Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great ways to connect with your customers. Publishing content on these platforms that goes beyond strictly advertising is going to capture the attention of your audience, and hopefully see it shared. Using hashtags, promoting your content, and the engagement from your existing followers are all going to contribute to that following increasing. When people engage with your brand and enjoy your content, they are more likely to spread the word and spend their money with you.
8. Introduce or Highlight a Product or Service
YouTube is one of the prime platforms for this if you often create video content but other types of content can help with this as well. If you want to demonstrate a new product or point out specific features of it, you can incorporate that into content rather than just pushing a standard advertisement. Content that is directly on your blog or website can describe products and their core features because you know customers are interested if they’re already on your site. Some interesting ways that this type of content marketing has worked in the past include art supply businesses showcasing the pieces created with their products, or even Land Rover’s digital magazine OneLife. In the magazine, anecdotes about adventures in the company’s vehicles engage readers while presenting information about their off-road capabilities.
9. Receive Traditional Media Coverage
Content marketing is a great way to gather attention from more traditional media sources. This is especially true if your business creates a piece of content that goes viral and that gets reported on; however, this benefit isn’t strictly for viral content. If your story is trending, it could get picked up. If a post you share is particularly interesting, it could get picked up. If you create relevant content that relates to current events while tying in your products or services, that could be included in an article or news story. Another way to help garner traditional media recognition is through the use of press releases, which are another form of content marketing in and of themselves.
But that’s not all…
Content marketing helps put eyes on your business, your products, and your services. One thing that makes content marketing a very effective strategy is that you can impact customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey, which we’ll discuss next.
Content Marketing & The Buyer’s Journey
The Buyer’s Journey is something that is talked about a lot in marketing. This is the process through which people decide to purchase a specific product and it consists of three main phases. These phases include Discovery, Consideration, and Decision.
- The Discovery Phase is when a person goes from unaware of a problem to becoming aware of that problem. As an example, a potential customer in this phase may find out that the household cleaner that they are using is not safe to use on all surfaces so it is bad for their countertops.
- The Consideration Phase is when a customer becomes aware of solutions to their problem and the products that provide that solution. Following the example from before, this phase could be where a customer finds out that there are specific cleaners that are safe to use on their countertops that won’t damage them and then discovers what brands might work for them.
- The Decision Phase is the final phase and is the one in which a person evaluates the different products based on things like price, availability, and so on, then makes their final choice. Finishing up the example, this would be when the customer selects your brand over a competitor based on the great price, a particular available scent for the cleaner, or because your product seems like the best quality.
- The Delight Phase is also included sometimes as the final phase when it comes to content marketing. In this phase, the customers continue to engage after they’ve purchased the product. Adding on to the example before, the customer could be so pleased with how their countertops look using the new cleaner that they essentially become evangelists for your business either online or in their social circles.
Something very special about content marketing that is not true of other methods is that it can impact a potential customer regardless of where they’re at on that journey. It’s also worth mentioning that, as you read before, consumers research the products that they are about to buy now more than ever. Putting your content in the right place can help your business by making sure they find you, like you, and then buy from you as opposed to a competitor. This gives small businesses an advantage! So, let’s walk through how you can use this advantage.
In the Discovery phase, your potential customer may not even know that they have a problem as you read about above and you can bring it to their attention. Most likely, however, they are aware that they have a problem and are looking for answers. They are going to be researching the problem, turning to Google to find answers to a specific question that they have, or looking for how-to guides and general tips.
The most common forms of content marketing that will target your customer during this phase include blog posts, e-books, guides (printed or digital), infographics, podcasts, and webinars. If you create content specifically to answer questions or provide guidance in relation to the products you’re selling, the consumer is going to be able to find your content throughout their research. When you’re targeting prospective customers at this stage in the buyer’s journey, you’re not actively trying to sell them anything just yet. This type of content provides them with information and answers.
For example, if you own a small business that sells leather cleaners and conditioning products, you could create a resource on your website that answers questions about how to care for leather so that it stays looking new, how to restore a leather purse or piece of furniture, and more general topics. This type of content is generally called awareness content. The goal of this type of content is to make your customers aware of what their problems are, provide solutions, and answer more general questions.
In the Consideration phase, your potential customer has moved on from looking for information related to their problem and they are now actively pursuing a solution. So, this type of content follows that same process logically. Instead of providing just general information with this type of content, you begin setting up potential solutions and include your own business as part of that in a subtle way.
This type of content typically includes blog posts, comparison guides, interactive online tools, and what are known as pillar pages on your site. Creating comparison guides is a great way to get your business out there to customers as they are looking for solutions. If you make objective content that subtly steers them towards your business but gives them legitimate facts about their options, they’re going to view you as trustworthy and consider you a potential solution.
As an example, if you own a small business that makes hair care products, a consideration phase piece of content could be a list of different vitamins or oils that are good for nourishing color-treated hair. A lot of people that color their hair have some damage and will likely be looking for ways to make their hair look healthier and go back to normal after coloring, so your piece of content can describe the things that will help them make that happen. You can also use the opportunity to subtly point out that your products contain all of those ingredients.
One of the goals of this type of content is to start nudging your potential customer towards your products as the best solution; however, the primary goal of this type of content is to provide even more valuable information that is a little bit more specific to your target audience. This will help you build stronger relationships with the people who are looking for the solutions your products provide because you are proving your credibility and aren’t outright pushing them into your business.
The Decision phase is when your potential customer has gathered a lot of useful information and is ready to commit to a specific solution. Content that targets customers in the decision phase is going to be the most direct content that presents your products as the best choice for their problem. Unlike the previous two content marketing phases, this is the one where you want to outright sell your brand, explain to them what you have to offer, and why you’re the best.
The types of content that are useful in this phase include case studies, comparison guides, marketing emails, or social media posts. This phase is about showing your prospective buyer that you are the best choice. Regardless of your product or service, remember that this content shouldn’t focus on your business. This type of content should focus on your potential buyer and how you benefit them more than your competitors.
For instance, if your small business is a professional cleaning service, discuss how your potential customers can benefit from using your services as opposed to your competitors or doing it themselves. You could talk about how you offer the lowest prices in your service area, how the products you use are safe for pets, or how your cleaners have to go through a rigorous vetting process so that you’re more trustworthy. Truly sell your business but remember that the goal of this type of content is to help your buyer make the decision, not to brag, per se.
The Delight phase is one that is often included in discussions about content marketing. This isn’t very critical for small businesses in the beginning because you will want to focus your efforts on the previous phases in order to build out your customer base so that they will do the bragging for you! In this phase of the buyer’s journey, the content that you could produce here once you’ve mastered the others is content that is designed to keep customers engaged with your business.
The types of content that this phase usually consists of blog posts, emails, online tutorials, videos, and more. This type of content should be informational, entertaining, and related to your products and services in some way. This content will hopefully be shared, keep customers coming to your website after they’ve made their purchase, and create a relationship with them that drives them to leave positive reviews and make more purchases.
If you run a small business that provides lawn care services or sells lawn care products, you could make some content that includes tips for properly cleaning and storing lawnmowers, video tutorials for doing certain landscaping projects, and so on. The goal of this type of content is to keep your business on your customer’s radar after they’ve made their purchase with you so that they keep coming back and help you draw more customers over time.
How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing strategy is something that is unique to each business and creating a strong one is especially important for small businesses. Shifting to a new marketing plan and adopting new methods of marketing is an investment and small businesses need to make sure that all of their investments are wise. In this section, we’re going to talk about how you can make sure you’re being wise with that investment as you adopt this new method of marketing into your current strategy. We are going to talk about the key things that you need to create a strong strategy and give you a thorough roadmap to content marketing success in your small business.
What Do Small Businesses Need To Do For Effective Content Marketing?
There are resources all over the internet that go over content marketing strategy frameworks, from businesses and just content creators running their own blogs and YouTube channels. There is no shortage of information in this regard and that’s at least partially due to the fact that “Content Marketing Strategy” was the most searched query related to content marketing for the year 2019. For small businesses that are just now beginning to adopt content marketing into their plan and their budget, these resources can be extremely complex. So, we’re going to go over the absolutely fundamental things that you need to do as a small business owner to create an effective content marketing strategy.
1. Understand Your Goals.
This may seem like it is obvious; however, it is important to flesh out exactly what you are hoping to achieve by adopting content marketing as one of the methods that you use to grow your business. Make sure that you pick specific goals that you can convert into action steps and measure your progress towards meeting them. Do you want to pursue content marketing in order to increase your social media presence and establish your brand identity? Do you want to use content marketing in order to create awareness about your products and services? Have specific goals for the strategy and then break them down.
2. Understand Your Audience.
Something that is great about content marketing is that it gives you the opportunity to meet customers where they are spending their time. There are two things to consider when it comes to understanding your audience.
First, look at your existing customer base. Determine things like average gender, age range, and educational level. Work out the demographics of your core customer base and then use that information to find out where they are spending their time online. Explore the data that shows what platforms are most successful among those groups you’re targeting. What types of content are they usually looking for? Do they look for guides, tutorials, reviews, comparisons, or something else? Do they lean towards blog posts, videos, or podcasts?
Second, consider your ideal customer. Go through the same process with this group. Content marketing can strengthen your relationships with your existing customers and that is important; however, looking at things from this perspective will also help you pull in new people that will spend their money with you. Aligning your content with your ideal customers is a good way to quickly establish your brand image. Do you want to be a hip, modern brand that garners business from younger consumers? Or, do you want to be a brand that is aligned with an older audience and be perceived as “no-frills” and reliable? Your ideal customers will help you align your brand to a consistent image and give you a jumping-off point for content that reflects that.
3. Understand What Content You Want To Create.
Once you understand your audience, you can start to understand the type of content that you should be creating to serve that audience and draw in customers. Content marketing can take many forms, which is something you’ve seen throughout this guide already. Successful content marketing strategy is going to tackle content creation from various angles to make sure that your content is diverse and engaging. Even though that’s the case, this is still an important part of making your plan.
Blog posts and articles are a very popular form of content marketing. Articles can provide your potential customers with quick information or they can be extensive and cover a lot of information on a single topic. There are multiple types of written content that you can curate on a blog that range from lists, research and case studies, opinions, guides, and more. Even if you focus on written content alone, you can still create a broad range of content types that will help you target your customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Videos are a newer form of content marketing but are also very popular. People can’t skim a video for information in the same way that they could with a written piece of content but studies show that more than half of the people who consume video content will watch them in their entirety. Product demonstrations, company information, tips, and even more entertaining content rather than informational can all be effective forms of content marketing.
Infographics are a great way to condense a lot of information into a more enjoyable experience for your potential customers. Photos and short videos can be engaging for younger audiences on social media and can quickly show off a product or convey some key information.
Some tips when you’re trying to determine what type of content you’d like to produce to get the best results are:
- Find out what content your audience is looking for and meet their needs.
- Find out what content types your competitors are neglecting and fill the gap.
- Find out what is working for the competition and emulate it but outshine them.
- Find out what content converts best for you and run with it.
- Find out what topics are trending, relevant to your customers’ interests, and driving discussions online related to your business and focus there.
When working on this step, you can be as broad or as granular as you would like. There has been research done on the most effective times of day to post your content. Harness all of the information available to you to make the most of your content.
4. Determine Your Production Schedule.
A fact that we touched on earlier in this guide is that the majority of companies that are leaders in content marketing are posting new content on a daily basis. Consumers are used to being inundated with content on a constant basis. Recent data suggests that people see as many as 5,000 ads per day. Not only does that demonstrate why having a good content marketing strategy is important, but it also shows you that there are a lot of players on the court.
The quality of the content you’re producing is always going to be more important than the quantity or frequency of that content. It would be a waste of your resources to rush out videos or blog posts that fall short in terms of providing your prospective customers with the best experience possible; but, how can you balance that with going so long between pieces that you become just a blip on the radar rather than a consistently engaging source of information?
Think about these things when you’re creating your production schedule. If you are outsourcing your content production (which most companies do), take into account what the turnaround time is for each piece. This is also a good time to reflect on your audience and the data available about their consumption habits.
When you’re outlining your content marketing strategy, think about what channels you’re going to produce content through and how frequently you would like to post on each one. Maybe you want to make daily posts on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter, weekly posts on YouTube if you create videos, and a monthly blog post to supplement your other content.
This is one element of your strategy that you can adapt with time. When you’re first starting out, you may feel that it’s extremely important to build out your library of content more quickly but then slow down once you have a good amount published. Perhaps you want to ramp up your content production during peak sales throughout the year. Iron out what works for your business.
5. Determine How You Will Measure Your Progress.
Even though we already brought this up in the first point this is something you’re going to find is extremely important in the beginning, and very useful over time. Generating solid leads, effectively using your resources, and driving your sales are some of the key things that you probably want to do with your approach to content marketing. Knowing how to measure your progress and track how this new endeavor is benefiting your business is going to help you with all of that. There are a lot of different metrics that you can track, too.
- Authority: Is your domain authority close to or higher than your competitors? How does your page authority compare to your competitors? (This is one of the more difficult metrics to track but, it can increase your performance in search results and help more potential customers see you first when they’re doing research.)
- Conversions: How many people are clicking additional links on your site and exploring? How many people are engaging with your content or sharing it? How many people make a purchase after reading your content? (What counts as a conversion is going to depend on your goals. Perhaps you’re just trying to spread awareness so you consider someone sharing your post a conversion. In other cases, maybe you only count purchases as conversions.)
- Lead Quality: Is your audience responding to your call to action or opting into whatever you’ve offered on your site to gather their email? Are they engaging with your posts and asking questions? Do they check out related resources?
- Retention: How many people come back to your site multiple times? How many pages are people looking at when they’re looking at your site? Do they press the back button when they leave?
- Revenue Influence: How much of your revenue comes from buyers who discovered you through your content? What pieces of content are generating the most revenue? What phase of the buyer’s journey do you think your content became relevant to your customers?
- Sales: Have your sales gone up? Have customers returned to purchase products or services again? Is the average sale amount going up?
- SEO: Does your content show up on the first page of search results? Are you getting more inbound links?
- Social Media: How many followers do you have on your official business accounts? How many of those followers engage with your posts through likes or comments? How often does your content get shared across other platforms?
- Traffic: How many people are visiting your site or viewing your content? How many total pageviews are you getting on a weekly or monthly basis? How many unique pageviews are you getting on a weekly or monthly basis? (If a single person looks at a page multiple times, this would be counted in your total pageviews. Unique pageviews only count the first time someone views the page, showing you how many different people have looked at the page.)
- What your audience responds best to.
- What channels are most effective for conveying the information you want to convey about your business.
- Where your strengths are in content creation.
- Original: People consume a lot of content and they notice when you even just “borrow” a few ideas. Create content that is unique. Even if you use information from other sources, you can make it your own. This is one of those things that you just can’t get around doing if you want to be successful with content marketing.
- Engaging: Quality content is going to keep the attention of the consumer. You can make content that is inspiring, funny, heartfelt, poses questions, answers questions, and more. If you make videos, make sure that the narration doesn’t just drone on. If you make infographics, make them visually interesting. Write good articles and lists, add interest with images and charts. Make it conversational. Develop a certain style. Quality content is engaging.
- Informative: Add value to the lives of the people who consume your content, regardless of the channel that you use. Give them information, give them insight, teach them something. Make your content comprehensive, including all of the relevant information available, back it up with good sources. It’s okay to do things that are just funny or entertaining when you’re targeting customers that are in the end stage of their buyer’s journey; however, remember that your content has to provide value. One of the best ways to provide your potential customers with value is to inform them.
- Accurate: New information can come out over time or you can find more current sources after you’ve published a certain piece of content. Perhaps, you (or your writer) didn’t do great research and some of the information in your article is a little out of date or incorrect. This isn’t something that you want to happen. You want to make sure that anything you’re including in your content is the most up-to-date information that you can find and make corrections as soon as you catch a mistake. This is a key part of maintaining trust with your existing and future customers.
- Relevant: You don’t need to stay completely on top of all of the trends and current events in the world but you should keep in mind what people are reading and talking about when you are planning out content pieces. If you write about things that people are actively talking about, they are more likely to come across your small business as they browse the internet. You should also make sure that you’re making content that is relevant to your products and services. It would be weird to learn about vehicle maintenance from a cosmetics company, wouldn’t it? Stay on topic to your business and try to keep up with what’s going on in the world as much as possible when you’re creating your content.
- Thoroughly Proofread: There is nothing worse than reading a great article with good information where the actual writing is a mess. Use a proofreading tool, there are many paid and free options available online. You should also always read the content before it gets published, or even have a dedicated person that reads things over as well. Typos and grammar mistakes happen to the best of us but, you don’t want your customers to think that you don’t care or allow something so minor to diminish your credibility. Read things over and edit as necessary before it ever goes live.
- Actionable: There are some instances where you won’t be directly selling your products or services with your content based on where your target audience is in their buyer’s journey. Even when that’s the case, quality content is actionable. It should always tell your customers what to do next. Your informational posts should instruct customers on how to approach a problem. Your comparison posts should explain if a customer should buy a certain product or not. Even posts that are more entertaining and opinion based should have some degree of actionability to them. Direct your customers towards what is next. Include calls to action in your content, even if you’re only saying that they can subscribe for further content. Decide what your desired result is for every piece of content and then find a way to direct the reader or viewer towards that result.