In a small business, it is imperative that you gain public awareness and market your brand to attract new customers (and retain current ones). It is also often the case, however, that resources are limited within small businesses. With less cash to spend, less staff to work and less know-how on all things marketing, any marketing efforts that a small business does choose to implement needs to not stretch these limited resources further and provide a solid ROI.
With a properly executed content marketing campaign, a small business can increase its traffic and sales considerably. Today we are going to cover 11 steps that will help you begin a content marketing campaign and make the most of your efforts.
1. Know what content marketing is. As the
Content Marketing Institute defines it,
"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
As I define it, content marketing is a form of online marketing (be it through videos, social media, email newsletters, or blogs) that attracts interest in what a company has to sell or offer by providing related, educational content.
2. Identify your target market. No marketing campaign can be successful without a clearly defined audience. If you are unsure of who it is exactly that makes up the target market for your small business, taking the time to
conduct market research can be a very worthwhile endeavor.
You can learn a lot about who your company's target market is through "primary" forms of research done by your business, like distributing a survey, or conducting focus groups. You could also gain valuable insight through "secondary" research, like analyzing the data pertaining to your business and your industry that's already been published by outside sources.
3. Do your research. Gather all the data you can.
Learn more about your target market: who they are, what they are interested in, how they access the media of your small business. Maximize the research by also asking more detailed questions of the consumer, such as where they normally go to shop for specific products or where it is that they notice the most ads for similar products or services.
Learn more about your competitors as well and what they are doing to market themselves. Consider how it is that they portray themselves through their content and methods of communication on their website and social media accounts, as well as the ways in which they execute marketing campaigns. Do not make any blind assumptions. See what types of content marketing is proving successful in your industry and how your small business can get the same results.
4. Set specific goals. Avoid the mistake of setting out on your company's content marketing adventure and simply seeing what comes of it. Rather, begin your campaign with set goals for it to achieve. Decide what it is specifically that you want to accomplish for your small business. Are you wanting to improve your online sales? Or get more followers for your social media accounts? Or bring more foot traffic into your brick-and-mortar store?
Determine what it is your small business needs most so that you can narrow the focus of your content marketing strategy. All marketing campaigns should at least aim to gain exposure and build awareness for the brand as well as convert content viewers into business customers.
From there, you can determine more specifically what best relates to your small business and its needs. For instance, under the category of building awareness for your brand, is it more important that your campaign helps solve a problem within your target market or provides them with something that entertains them?
5. Develop a well-thought plan. Setting specific goals is vital to the success of your enterprise's content marketing, but it is not enough. You also must know how you plan on reaching the goals you have set. Think through the topics that you know are of interest to your target market and relevant to your brand and choose what it is that will serve as the content for your content marketing. Having a detailed plan drawn up for your content marketing campaign will help your small business stay on track and be able to manage the campaign with ease throughout its duration.
Within the plan for your company's content marketing campaign, include the goals, the target market, the research that's been gathered, what content will be included and through what channel, as well as how it is you will manage the campaign. Use a template like this to get you started on the right foot.
6. Choose your channels. There are several different mediums for content marketing, but that does not mean your small business is going to use them all. Using the data you have gathered through your market research, decide which one you think will most relate to your target market, achieve your goals, and that your staff has the know-how on.
Does your target market prefer emails or messages via social media? Do they bother watching videos when they see the thumbnails of them online? Don't orchestrate a campaign on social media for instance if your target market does not consist of regular users of social media. Choose the way of distributing your small business's content marketing that works best for the brand.
You should also set up Google Analytics to track ROI variances by advertising channel. It may seem like common knowledge, but too many small business owners are still not tracking their sites.
7. Leverage Guest Contributors Having guests contribute to the content that your small business generates is helpful both in building brand awareness and establishing brand personality. Getting an influencer to write or speak for your company will generate interest that results in more traffic driven to your small business. These guest contributors can serve their purpose in many ways, including writing blog posts, conducting an Instagram takeover for a day or by being featured in a video your small business produces.
The people you choose to be guest contributors will further communicate what it is you are trying to convey as the personality of your small business. In one such example, fashion brand
Express teamed up with professional surfer Anastasia Ashley to help promote a new Express swimwear line. By having her take over their social media and talk about her swim and surf routines, Express was able to bring in new followers and grow its brand's exposure by providing relative, informative content to fans.
Traditional guest posting is great, but there is so much more you can do to leverage outside expertise to grow your brand, so don't be afraid to think outside the box.
8. Keep SEO in mind.
Modern day link building and content marketing have a lot in common. As a small business, you need to get double duty from your marketing efforts. Link building through content marketing is a great way to do just that. Great content can send you referral traffic, create brand awareness and help you improve rankings for key search terms your customers are using. If you don't have the time or expertise, research some reputable link building services to help, just make sure they are doing outreach to real, quality sites so that you get the SEO and content marketing benefits of their work.
9. Create an Effective Call-to-Action (CTA) Sure, if someone's interaction with your content marketing is seeing it as they scroll through their Facebook feed your brand is technically being exposed. Wouldn't it be way better if that person scrolling their Facebook feed saw your content, then went to your company's site and made a purchase?
Create a strong call-to-action by showing them how people like them use your company's product, enjoy their time at your business or relate to the issue that your business could address for them. As evidenced through a Philips Sonicare email marketing campaign, emails with a single CTA can increase clicks by 371 percent. That's a number your small business cannot afford to ignore.
10. Get inspired by big brands. Although large corporations often have huge marketing budgets and a big team devoted to making use of those marketing budgets, your small business can still take what is done by big brand's marketing teams and use it to inspire its efforts.
See what types of content marketing that are out there capture your attention and think about why they do so. What marketing campaigns do you hear your family and friends (and most importantly those in the target market of your small business) talking about? Use what the big companies are doing to market their brands inspire what you do to market yours.
11. Have a way to track your success. Once you have put time, money and effort into your content marketing campaign, you will want (and should want!) to know whether all the hard work ends up paying off. Utilize tools like Google Analytics (please setup Analytics if you have not) or Facebook performance tracking (through Facebook Insights or a tool like Sprout Social) to see how much traffic your content generates and how many conversions you are able to make.
In your tracking efforts, you can see through what channel your content marketing campaign is most often seen, through what outside sources it is accessed, and at what time of day. Having pieces of data like this will help you in your future campaigns to know where to broadcast them and when.
Producing original content for your small business is no easy task, but is one that can lead to a significant ROI. With high-quality content marketing efforts, your company can increase the traffic it receives, boost its SEO and sales, as well as promote brand awareness and recognition. Execute a well-planned, strategic content marketing campaign and reap the benefits for your small business.
About the Author
Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Spring Hill, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz.