A poll conducted by Forbes last year found that 78% of CMOs see quality content as the future of marketing. Elsewhere, Hubspot reported that small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads on average than those without blogs.
Even so, many smaller businesses remain reluctant to make any concrete investment in content marketing. Some pay it no mind, while others make vague attempts to occasionally publish something of questionable relevance.
Content marketing is unique, in that it is accessible to businesses of all sizes and creates a level playing field. The benefits of an effective content marketing strategy are universal – not exclusive to those with the biggest budgets.
If anything, smaller businesses able to add the personal touch to their content could be even better positioned than their larger counterparts.
Irrespective of business size or type, the benefits of an investment in content marketing are the same:
- It Can be Used as the Base For a Multi-Channel Strategy
For example, quality blog posts published on a regular basis can be used as the central hub for a much broader promotional strategy. You create quality content, you publish it on your blog and you post links across the rest of your channels.
This can be great for breathing life into your social media marketing campaign, without having to do any extra work. With each high-quality post you publish, you bring something of relevance and value to your social media channels, too.
After which, you can generate even more engagement by asking questions, hosting a poll, inviting comments on your posts and so on. All building towards a unified multi-channel content marketing strategy, based on one central content hub.
- Content Builds Your Identity and Strengthens Relationships
We live in an era where nobody likes to be ‘sold to’ in the traditional sense. Nor does the hard-sell have any place in today’s marketing landscape. Instead, it’s all about building and maintaining meaningful relationships with customers.
This is something that has a tendency to begin and end with quality web content. The copy you produce provides you with the opportunity to take things far beyond your basic value proposition and offer. You can use your content not to tell people what makes you different, but show them.
What is the story behind your brand? What made you go into business in the first place? Why are you different from the other 10,000 businesses in your niche? Why should people trust what you have to say?
It’s a crowded market out there and, no matter the niche, the average customer is fairly bombarded with marketing messages. No one really likes being “sold to” in this busy marketplace and this is where content comes into its own.
An investment in content marketing is an investment in CRM. One with the potential to eliminate the usual business-customer barriers and create meaningful relationships.
- It Can be Managed Cost-Effectively In-House
Hiring help is always an option – i.e. outsourcing your content writing activities to a third party. But it stands to reason that the most authentic and engaging copy is that which comes directly from the source.
The key to successful content marketing lies in using your own voice and letting your own personality shine. Not to mention, sharing your knowledge, wisdom, experience and expertise in whatever it is you do best.
This is ultimately why people will come to you and keep coming back to you. Web users engage with content with a specific purpose in mind – not simply for the sake of it. They want to be educated, informed, entertained or inspired – your job is to make it happen.
If you are genuinely an established authority in your field, keeping them looked with a steady stream of quality content should not be too difficult. The more of your campaign you handle in-house, the more cost-effective the whole thing becomes.
The Cornerstones of an Effective Content Strategy
Every content marketing strategy is unique, but successful content marketing is always built on the same basic foundations. Something smaller businesses need to be particularly mindful of, where limited resources may be an issue
Again, none of these core components is particularly complex or costly. Though it’s true to say that the more you put in, the more you stand to get back in return.
A look at the linchpins that hold a successful content marketing strategy together:
1. Purpose and Intent
This applies to both the strategy as a whole and the content you create.
Your strategy needs to have a clearly defined objective. Your goal could be to get more organic search traffic, build backlinks with authority sites, generate more qualified leads and so on. Objectives are essential, as the purpose of your campaign will have a huge influence on the type of content you publish.
Likewise, every piece of content you publish needs to serve a purpose. Publishing content simply for the sake of it brings no benefits of value whatsoever. Every piece should position you a step closer to achieving your objectives, while offering something of relevance and value to the reader.
2. Research and Planning
In-depth research and planning will enable you to come up with a workable publishing strategy and schedule. Contrary to popular belief, simply ‘winging it’ and making things up as you go along is inadvisable.
Quality content (and inspiration for content) doesn’t just fall out of the sky when you need it. Instead, it’s something you have to plan for and research in advance. Plus, working to a predetermined schedule is so much easier than adopting a random approach to the whole fine.
3. Sticking with What You Know
It can be tempting to tailor your output primarily on the basis of what you think your audience wants to see. Of course, factoring in the expectations and preferences of a target audience is essential. But at the same time, everything you write should be a genuine reflection of your knowledge, your interests and your expertise.
If you hit a dry spell, FAQ content is always well received. As are Q&A posts directly answering questions from readers and customers.
Anything you can do to enhance your authority while publishing content of genuine relevance and value will work in your favour.
4. Aggressive Promotion
Think of every post you publish as a promotional tool for your business. One you need to get in front of as many eyes as possible, across all the channels you can.
Avoid the mistake of leaving your published posts to their own devices. Instead, aggressively promote everything you publish across every channel at your disposal. Use your social media accounts to direct traffic to your blog, post snippets to generate engagement and so on.
The same tactic can also be used to drive traffic to past posts from your archives. If there’s something of genuine quality and value you want them to see, show them the way.
5. Competitor Research
Your job is not to provide a carbon copy of the content your competitors are already publishing. Instead, you should be looking for every opportunity to improve on their content strategies.
Heading to competitors’ websites for inspiration is never a bad thing. In fact, it’s the only realistic way of finding ways to outperform them. Scrutinise their content., nit-pick their output and find every possible fault with their posts. You can then use these insights as a blueprint for coming up with something superior.
Even if it’s simply a case of putting your own unique twist on a common topic, it could work in your favour.
6. Analysis and Continuous Improvement
Lastly, there is no such thing as a perfect content strategy. There is always a degree of trial and error involved, in figuring out what resonates with any given target audience.
Getting the most out of your content strategy therefore means adopting an approach of continuous analysis and improvement. Using Google Analytics, you can gain invaluable insights into how engaging or otherwise your content has been.
Which posts kept the reader on-page longest, which motivated them to take action, which drove content to your other pages and so on. All invaluable information you can use to steer your campaign closer to its and objectives.
Patience is a Virtue…
Having realistic expectations when planning and implementing a content strategy is essential. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of initiative that can bring overnight fame and fortune. Quite the opposite, as it takes time and efforts for a content strategy to begin delivering noticeable results.
But what makes the whole thing worthwhile is how the benefits of effective content marketing are ongoing. Just as long as you keep putting out quality content, it will continue to work in your favour.
Again, the fact that 78% of CMOs see content as the future of marketing speaks volumes. Particularly for smaller businesses with limited resources, there’s no better way of generating engagement, establishing your authority and building brand recognition.