By: Brent Barnhart
on Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Do you fix something that's not broken?
Some small business owners tend to get set in their ways, especially when everything's on the up and up. Why change when the customers keep coming through the door?
Unfortunately, most SMBs aren't so fortunate in today's economy
. They're doing what they can to stay afloat, meanwhile figuring out what works and ironing out the kinks along the way. There's so much out there in terms of small business sales and marketing, it often takes a good chunk of trial and error to figure out what really works. Sadly, many businesses can't afford to wait for the answers.
It's been proven time and time again that content marketing works for SMBs. As businesses that blog consistently receive more traffic and engagement through social media, there's no doubt some degree of benefit to a business that carries out a content marketing strategy. While the benefits are plenty, many businesses may not be on board or still feel the need to tweak their content strategies to meet their goals.
Perhaps you've struggled with the concept of content marketing in the past. You know you're no Shakespeare when it comes to blogging and that's okay. You don't need a room full of frantic writers to make it work. Just like most marketing methods, you should consider starting small and branching out from there. Whether they know it or not, most business owners have the tools at their disposal to carry out an effective content strategy.
Yet taking that strategy to the next level may require something extra. Some new perspective or a shift in thinking to help drive more traffic and encourage your following. Are you getting the most out of your content marketing strategy? Feel like it's not paying dividends? Feel like there's more to be had? Consider the following when it comes to tweaking your content marketing strategy.
Don't Start With the Sale
You wouldn't try to follow a handshake with a sales pitch, would you? A lot of web content comes off as feeling like a giant sales pitch, which ends up being a turn-off to readers and ultimately puts a dent in the chances of your content getting shared. Presenting your content in a “salesy” manner may get your business off on the wrong foot with your readers.
To prevent giving your readers the wrong idea, push any sales links or marketing messages toward the end of your content. Leave the beginning and remainder for actual information that they want to digest and share; otherwise, they not get past the first paragraph. Do your best to pique their interest, not turn them off.
Focus on Questions
When it comes to your content, consider questions that your business can both pose and ponder. What sorts of problems are your readers facing? How can you make their lives easier? Do you have the answers?
Content posed in the form of a question typically performs well. Meanwhile, answering questions will help solidify you as an expert in your field and present your business as a problem solver
. Quality content has a purpose
, whether that purpose is answering a question, providing advice or sharing insight. Don't simply write for the sake of writing; consider the purpose of each piece before you get started.
Are You Doing Your Research?
You can boost your content's likelihood to be read and shared by doing the proper research. Hard work pays off; an effective content strategy requires a strong understanding of your industry, audience and the problems which they both face. You may consider yourself to be well-versed in your field; however, it never hurts to take the time to go the extra mile. See what other sites and businesses are talking about in your field, what content their producing and what's on the mind of industry leaders. Subscribe to email newsletters and keep an eye on sources such as Google News to help keep you in the loop.
Likewise, proper research will keep your content factual and correct. You may feel that you know your business like the back of your hand; however, there's always room for growth and further education. Furthermore, you need your content to be both contextually and factually correct in order to be seen as a consistent, trusted source of information. In order to reach such a status, your research needs to be up to snuff.
Segment Your Followers
We often discuss the need to target your audience and provide them with something of value through your content. This may be difficult if your business covers a lot of ground. For example, a pet store has products that are of interest to people who own dogs, people who own cats, those who own both and those who own neither. It's tricky to consistently produce content and deals which appeal to everyone as we don't want to give too much attention to one buyer or tune out the rest of our audience.
For this reason, you need to create content that appeals to both your readership at large and certain segments of your followers. To expand on the pet store example, a piece about dog grooming tips would obviously appeal to dog owners; however, an article about removing fleas from your apartment may appeal to just about any pet owner. A healthy mix of both general and targeted content will help to keep your followers interested. Likewise, don't focus too much on one segment of your audience or be too broad when it comes to your business' scope.
Understanding why you're taking the time and energy to put forth a content marketing strategy
is just as important as the strategy itself. While just about every business may benefit from a content strategy, what does your business have to gain? There are many goals involved with your business's content, whether it be increased traffic or engagement from your users. Which aspects of content marketing are most important to you? Social? SEO? By understanding your goals and what's best for your business, you'll be better equipped to carry out a strategy. Some companies focus heavily on keywords and search, meanwhile others focus on content that's more image-heavy or share-able. Neither strategy is inherently right or wrong; however, you need to determine what will work best for your small business in order to see success.