Back in the day, business owners and executives designed marketing messages for their products and services that, like a megaphone, were directed outward toward target customers and cast a wide net. The usual marketing media were print, radio and television.
Traditional marketing activities are still employed, but they’ve been joined by a more personalized strategy known as content marketing. Neil Patel, CEO of KISSmetrics, defines content marketing as “… the way for a business owner to educate customers and potential customers about your products and services. The goal is to offer tips, help and education about anything that can be useful to the customer. This kind of information can be shared in the form of a blog, white paper, webinar, video. or social post… ”
Content marketing directs inward and engages customers on a granular level. Solopreneurs and organization leaders can reveal a deep understanding of customer priorities and challenges, build trust and credibility and demonstrate how customers might benefit from using their products and services.
Michael Brenner, a Forbes Magazine Top 40 Social Media Marketer and head of strategy at NewsCred, points out that “Small businesses don’t have the luxury of massive ad budgets… They need to drive brand awareness and (sales) leads with limited resources. Content marketing is a great way for small businesses to do both.”
Great. How can early-stage entrepreneurs, small business owners and Solopreneurs get started with content marketing? First, identify the content that your customers will value and present it in a way that will lead them to your message. Consider your customer’s viewpoint about the reasons that they use your products or services: what are they trying to achieve and what information might they appreciate? Speak (and listen) to your customers about their business goals and challenges and get a better handle on where your products or services fit in.
Shelly Kramer, founder and CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, advises marketers to “Tie your overall business goals and objectives into your content marketing strategy” and to incorporate content marketing into social media. “Social and content have to work together in order for you to be successful… You can’t have success with content without a robust presence in the social media space… Understand the role that fresh, relevant content and social media channels play. There is great content being published on corporate blogs on a daily basis that no one ever sees.”
Next, choose your delivery platforms. Do customers visit your website often? Then posting a white paper once a month or writing a weekly blog could work for you. Are customers part of your LinkedIn group or Facebook fan page, or do they follow your business on Twitter? Add those icons to your email signature block and website, to create social media connections that alert customers to your content.
Along with fresh and relevant, volume, value and variety are your other guide posts. Brenner says “(Volume)… starts with this notion that you need to be present in our always on, always connected world. The second thing is value. Your content has to be good. I always recommend that brands identify what they want to talk about and then make every effort to produce as much valuable content around those topics as often as possible. The final tip is about variety. Customers (and search engines) reward brands that deliver value in multiple ways, so think about text-based articles, videos, SlideShare presentations, case studies and all the information we consume across the digital, social and mobile web.”
Finally, measure your content marketing ROI and monitor its impact. Patel offers three metrics: 1. Track content views; 2. Use Google Analytics (free) to track which types of content drives visits to your website; and 3. Measure your search traffic. “You have to give it time. Don’t expect great results in three months or six months, but you will see traction. Within the first three months you should see more traffic to your site. Within a year you should start to see good results and an opportunity to monetize traffic on your site.”