These days, small businesses are competing to be heard through a lot of noise, and grabbing the attention of prospective customers isn’t as simple as it used to be. Consumers want to be drawn in by your story, not bombarded with sales-focused messages akin to late night infomercials. They want unique, valuable and actionable insights – and they expect to get it from you for free.
So how can a small business achieve this?
Simply put, through content marketing.
When you’re new to the game, building brand equity needs to be a priority. Content marketing can help you increase awareness of your business amongst relevant target audiences at the top of the funnel, and build trust with them so you can start moving them through the buyer journey, towards more conversion-focused strategies.
As long as you have a strong strategy behind what you’re creating, you can use content marketing to kick start your digital growth – for low cost and with high impact.
Let’s take a closer look at how.
Write about things people are searching for
It sounds obvious, but your content is only valuable if people actually see it, and unfortunately it’s not as simple as hitting publish and watching the traffic flow in. One of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to keep people coming back to your content is to optimise it for search engines. You want people who are searching for the exact problem that your business fixes to find you.
Putting search engine optimisation (SEO) into practice takes time and research. To get started, make sure you’re using tools such as Google Keyword Planner to find relevant long-tail keywords with high search volume. This will tell you the right kinds of topics to focus on, the words to weave into your content headings, subheadings and paragraphs (where it makes sense to). As well as trying to rank your specific pieces of content, remember that the simple process of having relevant, fresh content published on your site regularly can help the rest of your site rank in search engines for relevant keywords. Over time you’ll see that this is invaluable for sending ongoing, qualified traffic to your site, at no extra cost to you.
Spread the word on social media
It’s no secret that social media is a powerful tool to promote your content. It allows you to be personal and creative with your message, and invite consumers to share and engage with your content. Done right, the potential reach for social media content is huge.
So where to start?
This will depend on your brand and business idea, but Facebook is generally a useful place to begin. With over two billion users, it’s safe to say that the platform’s potential reach is astronomical. And with its highly specific targeting options, you can quite easily find the people who’ll most likely get value from your content.
Here are a few simple pointers for promoting on Facebook:
- Write a killer headline. Keep it short, active, and demonstrative of the benefit to your audience.
- Use a well-designed image. If you can invest in a professional designer or photographer, avoid stock photos. Otherwise, teach yourself how to use Photoshop and utilise sites like Unsplash which offer free images that look much more natural and will be more engaging for the social media audience.
- Write great copy. Keep it concise, ask thoughtful questions to encourage engagement, and use a clear CTA so the user knows exactly what step to take. You could even throw in a couple of emojis (if it feels right for your brand).
- Always put budget behind the post. Set up target audiences and promote to them with a budget that works for you. With Facebook’s organic reach well and truly dead, there’s almost no point publishing on your page if you’re not willing to pay to get your post seen.
Use email outreach
Another way to promote your content and build brand awareness is through email outreach. But like all aspects of content marketing, the tactics have to be smart and appealing.
Here are few tricks of the trade to consider in your email outreach strategy:
- Use a professional email address. firstname.lastname@example.org simply won’t cut it anymore. To build trust, make sure you send emails from a professional-looking address.
- Make the subject line count. Intriguing and simple is best. Remember, it’s the first thing your readers will see.
- Make it personal. You should know your audience inside out before shooting off emails. Think of it as a conversation (without being too informal), and don’t be too pushy. People love to talk about themselves, so find a point of commonality and show that you understand them.
- Make it concise. Get your information across as efficiently as possible. No one has time to read an essay.
- Make it obvious what you want. If you’re asking them for something, be direct about it. “I’d love if you’d share this article in your weekly newsletter because I think your audience will get a lot out of it” will be much more effective than “I hope you like the article.” People don’t have the time or motivation to read between the lines.
- Send at the right time. Send your emails during the working week and in work hours – and not on public holidays.
Speak about your business, but don’t be too pushy
Most people aren’t interested in the launch of a new business – unless they know exactly how it can benefit them. Content should never be extremely self-centred, and should always focus on the end user.
However, if the aim is to get word out about your business, there are still ways to weave this into your content. It’s just about being delicate, building a relationship with your reader first, and writing about the benefits that people actually care about.
Particularly in the early stages, content marketing is more about establishing trust from your audience and offering valuable content that shows them you’re an expert in what you do.
You can do this by:
- Using visual data or referencing original research you have done
- Focusing on quality, not quantity – there’s no use posting the longest article on a topic if it’s not providing value every step of the way
- Linking to relevant and useful content from your own or other sites
- Responding to comments (on a blog or social media posts)
- Sharing a consistent message across platforms
Ticking all these boxes will help you develop organic relationships with your audience.
Include relevant Call To Actions
While you don’t want to make your content all about you, you should always include relevant calls to action (CTAs) to ensure you’re getting the most out of the traffic you’re sending to your site. Trial using CTAs in-text, on banners and widgets, through pop ups or as part of your blog design.
But what makes a good CTA? Firstly, it needs to relate to your content, so that it’s specific and relevant enough for your audience to want to take note. Secondly, it has to be well-written, which means keeping it simple, being clear about the benefits to the end user, optimising it for all devices, and creating a sense of urgency.
Work with influencers
Influencer outreach is one way to break free from the noise and get your voice heard. Working with industry influencers gives you access to someone with great sway over your target audience. The relationship you build with them increases your credibility as a business, and in turn, your capacity to reach new customers.
When you decide to get in touch with influencers, make sure your purpose is clear. Be honest, straightforward, and establish what’s in it for them. If you’re having difficulties reaching influencers, there are several outreach tools you can try out.
Don’t forget to measure
Finally, how do you know what’s working and what’s not? While brand awareness isn’t the easiest thing to measure, there are ways to gauge how many people you’re reaching through your content. Importantly, it’s about understanding what metrics are most relevant to your business goals.
For brand awareness, this is usually:
- Social shares and comments
To get accurate data on all these metrics, you can simply use Google Analytics or the in-built analytics tools on various social media platforms. Remember that the more information you have about your customer’s behaviour, the better you can optimise your content to suit them.
Jump on board today
Make no mistake – content marketing is a tried and tested way of cutting through the clutter and getting word out about your business. More than this, building an audience organically will help you naturally convert readers into customers, while simultaneously establishing your business as a reputable industry leader.
I can’t recommend this approach enough for businesses new and old. If you have any questions about how to make it work for you, I’d love to help – feel free to leave them in the comments!
Sophie McAulay is a creative digital strategist who specialises in content marketing at digital consultancy Web Profits. She’s motivated by helping clients achieve their goals through original content that inspires their target audience.