If you’ve ever cheered for Red Bull during a Formula 1 race, viewed a “how-to” video on YouTube or Googled your way to a helpful blog, odds are content marketing (also known as inbound marketing) has helped you out in some way.
The internet has gone and made people a whole heap more informed thanks to reviews, social media profiles, blogs, websites, podcasts – the lot. All of these things have put the power in the people’s hands and traditional advertising on TV and in print (known as outbound marketing) have become nothing but an interruption.
This is where content marketing comes in.
American marketer Joe Pulizzi says: “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.”
For small businesses trying to navigate the digital world, put more simply content marketing is helping to solve your customers’ problems so they trust you, become a fan of you and ultimately buy from you (hopefully again and again).
I’ve broken it down into three simple steps:
A) Define what problems you can solve for your customers
B) Amplify your expertise
C) Build your subscriber base
Here’s how to do it.
Seriously, what problems do they have that are ripe for you to solve? What information do they crave? This is where you can add value to their lives and become an authoritative source for them.
The easiest way to do it is to find your business’s content sweet spot (see figure 1).
Here’s a real-life example for you. During the global economic meltdown of 2008, Marcus Sheridan, a pool company owner, was on the brink of closing down his business (pools are the last thing on people’s shopping lists during a financial crisis).
Marcus started blogging furiously, answering every question about pools he’d ever heard from his customers using audience-friendly blog posts. In quite a short amount of time, Marcus’s website became the go-to resource for people wanting to know everything they could about pools, from pool types, maintenance and costs through to how much dirt is removed in the excavation process and the best (and worse) ways to ensure your pool is at the right temperature.
Marcus not only saved his business and his staff, but his company flourished in a time when thousands of businesses went to the wall. He identified the things his potential customers wanted to know – their pain points – and helped them get the answers.
Top tip: Not sure where to begin? Go to your email inbox, type a question mark into the search box and press enter. An almost endless list of questions you can answer will pop up.
Where there used to be only TV, radio, newspapers and print, there are now a seemingly endless amount of ways you can talk to your customers. The old adage is “be where your customers are”. The answer to that? They’re online.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog, YouTube or any other platform, choose the one where you know your customers hang out and serve them relevant, helpful content. There are, of course, time and budget implications for each channel so start with the most effective one for your business.
If you’re a plumber, give them a comprehensive blog about changing a washer; if you’re a burger joint, mouth-watering images on Instagram of your awesome food or beautiful pictures of your surrounding area to inspire visitation.
Either way, you want to post content that helps, inspires and makes you trustworthy. If you have a bit of money to spend on social media advertising, boost your content to the relevant audiences in your area.
Top tip: Facebook punishes business pages that try to organically post overly promotional or salesy content, so avoid at all costs.
The reason you’re creating and amplifying all of this wonderful, helpful, non-salesy and transparent content is because you want to be so valuable to people that they will trust you and automatically think of you down the line when they are ready to purchase.
A lot of the content you post will drive people to your website, so it has to be ready to collect email addresses. Make sure it has a widget on it similar to the one below.
If you have a Wordpress site, adding a widget like this is simple but talk to your web developer about making sure it is prominent on every page. You can set it up so your customer relationship management (CRM) tool or an email management platform (MailChimp, Emma, Vision6) collects all of the addresses into a central database for you.
Top tip: Make sure your emails are sent consistently and the content remains helpful for your audience. This is also where you can include more information about your services/deals, just make sure the majority of the content remains all about the customer (see below).
Yes and no. These three steps will get you started as a problem solver for your audience and it may be that it’s enough for your type of customer base, but it’s up to you how far you take it.
If you choose a content marketing approach, be consistent and realistic with how much effort you can put into it. But if you find the right pain points for your customers, it will pay you back in spades over the long term as you create repeat customers and fans of your business.
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Kurt is a digital content strategist with a focus on developing strategies and content that help businesses' audiences engage, solve, trust and act. Kurt has helped create and execute strategies across B2B and B2C businesses, growing audiences, generating leads and creating brand advocates. Kurt is the director of strategy for The Content Division and co-hosts the Telltale podcast.