Let’s face it: content marketing is no longer just a buzzword, it’s now an inarguable blogger topic of necessity to increase your online presence, recognition and external brand perception. And in 2013, content marketing is not just for the big dogs – there is undeniable opportunity for small businesses to generate killer marketing content this year. So saddle up, and let’s get to work on your small business’s 2013 killer content marketing strategy.
Content Marketing Overview
Sure, it’s a bit of an already overused term – something marketers and “gurus” and “mavens” have crammed into their day to day speech patterns, but what exactly is content marketing? There are many definitions out there, and I could concoct my own, but I feel the folks at Content Marketing Institute have defined content marketing pretty well:
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Essentially, content marketing consists of the ideation, creation, development and dissemination of content in order to attract visitors to your website. If you are at all familiar with HubSpot, you will likely realize this as a form of Inbound Marketing, whereby you place meaningful content with the goal of directing visitors back to a lead generation form on your site.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting all small businesses need to go out and sign up with HubSpot or a similar service, as they are prohibitively expensive by most small business standards. But if you’re a micro enterprise, or a small business with revenues under $250,000, then you don’t need all the bells and whistles of large content and inbound marketing automation platforms – not yet, at least.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most popular forms of content marketing, and more importantly, how you, fellow small business owner, can begin to harness the power of content marketing.
Content Marketing Ideas
Certainly the more traditional and, in many ways, easier method of content creation, blog posts are incredibly effective methods of building a content arsenal. Small businesses need to be realistic with their expectations, though. As the leader, take the reins to start off – create one post, once a week, for four weeks. After that, jump up to two posts per week.
When small business owners, who are already overwhelmed with other aspects of the business, begin by saying they will write three or four blog posts per week, it is much too easy to burn out. And then it’s easy to say that blogging is too hard and takes too much time. You’re smart about other aspects of your business, be smart about blogging.
Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be as burdensome as it sounds. Once you start to build a blog inventory, you will have some points of reference to start writing articles. Depending on the site’s parameters and rules, you may be able to use existing content, or you may have to write new content.
If the latter, don’t fret. You already have a lot of content at your disposal. You can essentially write a series of similar or complementary articles without having to reinvent the wheel. (Note: I’ve put together a list of great article submission directories and social bookmarking sites.)
Video creation is an effective method for disseminating your message, as well as providing a face of the company to an unknown audience. With the proper video search engine optimization, short, informative videos can do wonders in establishing trust with your target audience, soliciting feedback about your content, and helping market you products and services to a niche crowd.
You ever go to a website, enter some information about yourself so you can get a free e-book telling you all types of secrets and information? Me too. In fact, I probably do it 3-5 times per week. Not because I believe a free resource has loads of never-before-seen information, but because I enjoy looking at quality information, with a pleasing aesthetic. It’s inspiring to see inspiring work.
E-books can be great sources for content, and there are too many blogs and websites telling you how they got 10,000 visits for an e-book they wrote. Don’t count on that many people reaping exposure, unless you already have a big following. But you can expect to steadily increase your following by writing and distributing quality content, like, say, an e-book.
Another great avenue for content creation. Whereas e-books are more directed toward how-to and instructive information on a particular subject, white papers tend to be a bit more lengthy, and about industry trends and more macro-focused content. In addition to garnering leads, the high quality content white papers provide can work to.
So people don’t know about your blog yet, right? You maybe have 10 or so subscribers, and that’s fine…for now. Because what do people know about? Lots! They know about Nike and John Varvados and Costco and American Airlines and Toyota cars and Louisville Slugger bats. When you, previously unacknowledged small business owner, talk about a large brand in an engaging, informative way, well that’s not a bad combination for anybody. And it’s not so hard to do.
Let’s say you recently flew on Virgin Airlines and had a great experience. You could do a case study on how customer service is ingrained in the Virgin culture, and how it has driven recognition and positive response. Give your personal, subjective opinion, but balance it with a level-headed approach and cite industry data to prove your point.
Essentially this boils down to writing creative captions and overlaying it on an image. OK, that’s too brief a description. Historically, a meme is an element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means (e.g. imitation). That has been adapted a bit by modern technology to essentially mean a concept that is passed virally through the internet.
Here’s one example of a meme for Saul the Salt Monster – an icon for a sodium reduction awareness initiative. And here are the Top 50 Memes of 2012, according to a basic Google search on the interwebs.
Content Marketing Strategy for 2013
Now that you understand some of the basics for content marketing, follow these steps to ensure your new or small business follows a killer content marketing strategy in 2013:
- Goals. Clearly define goals for engagement (social comments, likes, retweets, website referrals, landing page conversions, downloads, etc.) and WRITE THEM DOWN! Put them in 10 spots if you have to. Personally, I keep my goals on my phone, written in a notepad on my computer, in my calendar, and hand write sticky notes and paste them everywhere. The more you are reminded of your goals, the more likely you will be to follow through with them.
- Research – A proper content marketing strategy begins with research in these two arenas:
- Demographics. Always know who you want to talk to versus who you”re actually talking to. Define your demographics as much as possible – what keywords are they searching for? What long-tail content do they want to see? Are they more active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (or other)? How old are they? How much money do they make? Carry on until you can’t possibly segment the information. There are myriad resources to help with this (Google Trends, marketing white papers, state of the industry presentations, etc.)
- Content. In order to create effective content, you need to be an avid reviewer of content. Know what appeals to you, and more importantly, what doesn’t. Use the existing content out there to help you identify the proper approach to speaking to your newly defined target market(s).
- Plan. It can be overwhelming to have to create content out of thin air with no preparation. For you WordPress users, install the Editorial Calendarplugin (free). Or you can use Google Calendar or whatever you’re more comfortable with. But set yourself deadlines, and abide by them. The more content and ideas you can aggregate in advance, the better off you will be. If you’re still having trouble with this, check out some great helpful resources: SEOmoz’s The Ultimate Guide to Content Planning; CopyBlogger’s Agile Content That Works; or Smashing Magazine’s Start Out Organized.
- Create. The ineffective marketing strategy (in any iteration) is the one that waits to be formed. While good, quality content is the ultimate aim, it is also important to remember that any content is good content. Start small, but get started. The more you create, the easier it will be to create. Opportunity is everywhere, but you first have to get started.
- Review. Use Google Analytics to track and measure the effectiveness of your content. See what gets the best results – photos, videos, articles, etc. Of course, you should always be optimizing your content, but that’s another post altogether.
Remember, your content marketing strategy is a living document that you create and must continually refer to. It will point you in the right direction and help you stay on target, but it will always be changing, even if slightly, and you will have to adapt to an ever evolving marketplace.
Be honest, be thorough and be proactive. Get started now!
Do you have any tips you use in your strategy? Let me know in the comments section below. 🙂