This is the second in a series on content marketing for small business. Click here to read part one.
These days I’m doing a lot of reading about and research on the topic of content marketing. One discovery I’ve made is that more and more companies – both B2C and B2B – are creating niche topic content rich sites for use as a marketing channel.
Here is a short list:
- Midsize Insider – This site from IBM targets small-to-midsized business owners and IT decision makers.
- Work Reimagined – AARP sponsors this site, which is focused on helping baby boomers leverage ourselves in the marketplace.
- Cox Blue – Cox Business is the force behind this site, which provides marketing tips and information for businesses.
- Credit.com – This is a blog run by Credit.com that provides information to help consumers get a handle on their finances and improve their credit score.
- Inside Scoop – This blog site from Intel is designed to appeal to consumers.
- Content Standard and The Content Strategist – Both sites address content marketing and target content marketers and those that want to learn about this new marketing approach.
- Redbull.com – The infamous energy drink brand Redbull doesn’t even talk about itself on its site, which is 100% focused on consumers.
This begs the question, have niche topic sites such as these become the new standard for marketing in the digital age? If the answer is yes, then how can small businesses limited by budget and personnel make use of this approach? Or, can they at all?
I believe they can, though not necessarily in the same manner. Here’s why you should consider content marketing as a viable marketing approach along with a plan for how to get started.
Content affects both search and social
The line of demarcation between search and social has largely been erased. One hand washes the other, so to speak. Search has become more social and social media, which is content-centric, positively affects search results. Therefore, frequently-updated, keyword-optimized, topically-relevant content has the potential to improve search ranking and build trust.
Content establishes thought leadership
If thought leadership is a concern, then creating original content helps establish you as the “goto” brand in a given niche. That, too, helps garner trust.
Indium, a manufacturer of electronic assembly materials for companies like Intel, uses blogging as its primary marketing strategy.
Starting with a single blog, over the course of several years the company has developed a number of niche-topic blogs that are written by employees and has used them to distinguish itself as a thought leader. The results of this effort has led to increased sales leads and reduced marketing expenses.
Rick Short, Indium’s director of marketing communications, said this about the company’s blog marketing efforts: “Being a thought leader is being considered the best, most authoritative, trusted source. It means being the ‘go to’ people,” he said. “And it all leads to increased sales, profits and sales leads or it simply does not matter.”
Content gets attention
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve been contacted by journalists seeking my opinion. They reached out to me because they a) found me via search results, and b) because they read my content and felt I had something of value to offer. But, not only has such content brought attention from the media, it has gotten attention from members of the marketing industry and potential clients as well.
No matter how one looks at it, content marketing helps businesses get what are two of the hardest commodities to come by: attention and trust.
So, if it’s worth doing, how do small businesses go about it?
1. Start with a blog – You may not be able to devote the time and resources needed to create niche sites similar to those listed above. However, you can start a blog, whether on your existing site or adjacent to it. If your site is built using WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or many of the proprietary content management systems available, you probably already have the capability to blog built right in.
Read some my posts about blogging to learn why I’m so bullish on the use of blogs as a content hub. Here are three to wet your whistle:
- 7 Tips to Help Your Blog Get the Attention it Deserves
- 10 Things to Consider Before You Blog (an article I wrote for Practical Ecommerce in 2005; call it an oldie but a goodie)
2. Determine a content strategy – This should actually be step one, but I wanted to get the “which platform do I use” issue out of the way first.
There are three questions to ask when developing a strategic content marketing approach: What do you want to say? (Message) Who do you want to reach? (Market) Where do you want to reach them? (Media)
Clearly define your message in terms of its focus and tone. (Read part 1 of this series where I lay out how to create a strategic content plan that contains more information on content focus and tone.)
Think buyer personas. (BuyerPersona.com website has a lot to say about that.) Craft a message that will speak to the needs of a specific individual, not just a mass audience. That will make your message more personal, conversational and well-targeted. Buyer personas include not only a demographic representation of the prospective customer, but a psychographic one as well.
Once you’ve defined your message and know to whom you wish to speak, spend time listening to find out where your customers and prospects maintain a presence on the web, specifically within social media.
I suggest this because you want to be where your customers and prospect are and, with perhaps one exception – Google+, not where they’re not. Where are customers today? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (B2B) and Pinterest come to mind, but don’t limit your thinking to those. There are also forums, online communities and many other niche-topic social networks that you may need to tap into.
Content Marketing Process
The process I try to follow involves three steps:
1. Create a content hub – That’s your blog (see above).
2. Syndicate content to social outposts – This can be done through a variety of means. One way is to use automation via tools such as dlvr.it. However, it may be better to use a social media management tool such as Sprout Social as that provides you with a greater degree of control.
3. Manage social communities – You must not only create quality content, then distribute it to where your prospects gather, but also interact with those who engage with your content.
I can hear you now…”This sounds like it can take a lot of time.” Yes, it takes time. I won’t sugar coat it. But it doesn’t have to take too much time.
What is more important, however, are the benefits content marketing can bring, namely attention and trust.
There are two other aspects of content marketing that I will address in an upcoming post in this series: what happens once someone gets to your website or shopping cart thanks to your content marketing efforts, and how do you analyze the effects to ensure those efforts are met with success.
Check out my new ebook - Social Media for Small Business, Vol. 1 - the first in a 7-part series on using social media to market your business.