Wondering if content marketing can boost your business? Recent statistics certainly suggest it can.
One report has found that content marketing costs 62% less than other types of marketing but delivers three times the return. Another concludes that nearly half of buyers engage with three to five pieces of content before making a purchase.
And many companies have seen the traffic-generating power of their content increase over time without any further input.
But as a local business owner, you might be unsure if content marketing can work for you.
The short answer is yes.
Content marketing is not just for big companies. With the right strategy, your business can benefit from the traffic and customers that great content will attract.
Execution is the key. There are a handful of foundational stages involved in any content marketing plan and it’s important to follow each one.
The purpose of this article is to give you a bird’s-eye view of what’s involved. Understanding each part of the process will enable you to create specific steps for each stage. You’ll get your content marketing campaign off to a flying start!
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is based on a simple principle. Rather than “interrupting” potential customers when they are involved in an activity unrelated to your business (such as through television ads or billboard signs), you provide them with information they are already searching for.
The idea is that this content will stimulate interest in your brand and products. Fundamentally, content marketing involves two stages: creation and distribution.
- Creation is about honing in on what your potential customers are struggling with.
- Distribution is about figuring out which channels they are using to seek solutions and making your content available through them.
At its heart, content marketing is about creating great content and maximising its reach.This means building up the platforms that you use to publish and promote it. Which leads nicely onto the first step…
- Build your local content “assets”
Your “content assets” are the mediums through which you distribute your content. The more leverage you have with a particular medium, the more your content will be consumed.
There are four assets that you need to build:
- Your blog – Your blog is more than a platform for publishing articles, videos and other informational resources. The authority of your blog, particularly your domain authority, will determine which keywords you are able to go after in Google.
- Your social media following – Good content encourages sharing. The higher the number of followers you have on a social network, the more your content will be shared beyond your existing following (to your followers’ friends and their friends).
- Your local network – Your network is the group of influencers that you are in contact with. Building relationships with people in your industry with large local followings will mean that they are more likely to share your content with their own audience.
- Your email list – Content marketing is also about nurturing your existing leads. Your mailing list represents opportunities for building relationships with new customers and also for encouraging them to share your content with their friends and colleagues.
Building these “assets” will mean that your content generates more interest over time, on auto-pilot. I want to look at each in turn. But first I want to describe one of the most important pieces of the content marketing puzzle. It’s something that many businesses overlook..
- Clearly define your target customers’ needs
One thing that I see again and again with small businesses is an underappreciation of great information. They’re more concerned with marketing their content, rather than the content itself.
But if you look at examples of posts that have gone viral, one thing is clear: they’re really, really good.
A good content marketing strategy begins with a strong understanding of what information your potential customers want and how they want it.
The following information should feed into your market’s profile:
- Demographics – This is basic data like age, occupation, spending habits, education etc.
- Psychographics (fears, desires and obsessions) – Psychographic data encompasses your potential customers’ interests, lifestyle choices and personality traits.
- Browsing habits – Once you’ve mapped out your market’s needs, it’s time to figure out the best way to target them. Properly understanding their browsing habits will give you an advantage in figuring out where to find them. Is your market most active on LinkedIn? Do they prefer to browse on Facebook? Or are they keen on using new platforms like Medium?
There are a number of online tools, like BuzzSumo, that allow you to explore which content has already performed very well in a particular industry. These pieces of content usually point to pressing needs. By identifying topics that have generated high engagement, you can optimize your own content creation strategy for popularity.
Remember: it’s all about solving problems. Once you have a clear profile of your target customers, along with an understanding of content that has already done well, topics for posts, articles, videos, graphics etc. will flow naturally.
- Go after search traffic by targeting local keywords
There are two platforms through which people find content: search engines and social media websites. As a content marketer you need to target both.
To net traffic from organic search through Google, you should target keywords that express local problems. Many business owners are hesitant about SEO (search engine optimisation) because competition can be stiff. The reality, however, is that local keywords can often be some of the easiest to rank for.
The basic process is as follows:
- Brainstorm local keywords – What phrases are your target market using to search for information in Google? Brainstorm all the possible answers. A landscaping company in London, for example, may come up with terms like “landscaping advice london”, “how to pick the best landscaper in London”, “do I need a landscaper for my small London garden”.
- Use Google Planner to gauge demand – Google’s free keyword tool will tell you how many monthly searches each of your terms gets.
- Create content focused on these keywords – Once you’ve identified the top performers, it’s time to create content around those keywords.
Keyword targeting and search engine optimisation are two sides of the same coin. On the one hand you need to build content around keywords that your customers are searching for. On the other, you need to build your website’s authority, such that you’re able to rank for those terms. Which leads nicely onto the next point.
- Use outreach to build links for authority
There are a myriad of ranking factors that Google uses. The image below gives you an idea of just how complex it can get!
(Source: Search Engine Land)
Fortunately, you don’t need to go that deep. Ultimately, you need to think about building links and citations back to your blog.
Outreach is by far the best method for doing this. By pinpointing other websites that might be interested in your content and letting them know, you can put together a campaign that generates a significant amount of links.
Here are some examples of possible candidates:
- Local business directories
- Business associations
- Local blogs
- Local news websites
- Local event pages
It doesn’t matter how much you invest in outreach. The important thing is to have some kind of strategy in place.
- Build your social media following
Consistency is the key to growing an engaged social media following. Having a structured, long-term content posting plan, that’s based on information about your market’s browsing habits, is the key to success.
Remember the following tips:
- Publish consistently – Data shows that a consistent posting schedule is the key to success.
- Pay for followers – Especially in the early stages, it’s worth thinking about investing some money for followers.
- Diversify your content mix – People are looking for different things on social media, and your content “mix” should reflect this.
- Promote other people’s content – Include relevant content from other people in your posting schedule. Your audience will appreciate this and it’s a good opportunity to cement relationships with other businesses active on social media.
It’s important to understand that people are seeking different types of content through social media. The stats suggest that a good strategy is usually a diverse one.
- Foster local relationships
Imagine having access to a pool of people that will share your content. By forming relationships with individuals and organizations that have access to the people you want to reach, you can add another layer of effectiveness to your content strategy.
Think about targeting the following groups of people:
- Influencers – These are people with large followings on social media. Reaching out to them and asking them to share your content can be very effective.
- Local publications – Are there any local publications that might be interested in republishing your content? Do they have an online presence? Are they looking for guest articles or features?
- Other businesses – Are there other business is non-competing markets with followings that you can leverage?
This step works in conjunction with all those described above. Having a network of people eager to share your content will boost all other aspects of your whole marketing plan.
Conclusion: Remember that content marketing takes time!
It’s possible to create a content-fuelle machine that generates new leads and customers for your local business, often on autopilot. But it’s important to remember that content marketing takes time!
There’s a lot of information and it can seem overwhelming. You could take any one of the strategies described above and see results. The real key is in bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together to form a complete, integrated plan.
If you’re interested in learning more about content marketing, get in touch with us here at DigiCo. We’ve run campaigns for some of the biggest companies on the web, along with a host of local businesses.