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Tips On Content Marketing for Small Businesses in 2018

Post By Scott Yoder | Content Marketing & SEO

There are more opportunities to use content to connect with your target audience in 2018 than ever before.  Here are some tips, ideas, and examples of how to be effective with your content marketing tactics.

You don’t hear the term content marketing as much as you did a few years ago.  But it’s still a marketing tactic with widespread use.

Part of this is probably because the term suffers from buzzworditis.  The aftermath of being a big-time buzzword is often useless vagueness.

But it’s also because the “content” part is redundant.  So much marketing on digital today is content-based that it seems we could just drop the term.

But not quite.  It’s still worth it to define content marketing as a tactic so you have a clear idea of who you’re trying to reach, what they need to hear, and what you’re trying to say.

It’s also really important to know that in the context of marketing, content doesn’t mean every image, video, or word you ever publish.  The digital world is built on content, but not all (or even most) of it is an explicit marketing tactic.

So lets delve a bit more into what content marketing really means, with some examples of how businesses are doing it effectively in 2018.

 

Filling Information Gaps

If you’re looking at content marketing as a tactic for your business, perhaps the most important thing to consider is information gaps that make it hard for people to understand the value of your offering.  These gaps are serious enough that people will seek to fill them.  They’re also big enough that if they aren’t filled, they’ll derail your sales process.

In this context, content marketing is synonymous with educational or informational marketing.  It’s most effective when you need to educate your audience, particularly when they are receptive to the information.

Defining content marketing in this way gives it parameters as a tactic that may (or may not) lend itself to your business.  And that’s an important point.

Not every start-up or small business needs to educate its audience.  If you’re selling coffee mugs with original artwork on them, you don’t have to educate people on why they need a coffee mug.  If you’re an emergency plumber, you don’t send someone a blog post about how you unclog a toilet – you just do the work.

In the recent past, there was considerable crossover between content marketing and SEO.  Businesses created a lot of content, mainly as blogs, to build relevancy for targeted keywords.

But advancements in search algorithms have – for the most part – rendered this tactic ineffective.  Unless you’re actually providing useful information people need, your content is unlikely to help much with SEO.  In content marketing today, the informational need comes first.

So this tactic starts with something fairly straightforward.  Consider the FAQs your potential clients have as they relate to not only your offer, but the problems – in general – your solutions solve.  Be particularly diligent about questions that signal a knowledge gap that causes fear or hesitation.

The goal of your content marketing material is to answer these questions.

 

Content Marketing Examples

1.  Blogging

Blogging is more or less the “original” content marketing tactic.  It remains effective, particularly for more complex topics that need detailed explanations.

For example, at Marketing 360® we blog on a variety of small business marketing topics to help business owners better understand the needs of their business.  You’re reading this type of blog right now.

We also focus on business verticals that tie our content marketing efforts into SEO.  For example, this post on how to market a law firm ranks on page one for a variety of searches where the intent is to learn more about that topic.

It’s an informational post with a series of tips to help law firms looking for marketing direction get their bearings.  It makes suggestions that get people to consider our services, but it’s not a sales pitch.

It ranks on page one, as do most of these posts on small business marketing.  Between these, we have hundreds of keywords related to SMB marketing we rank on page one for.

Blogging is still the best content marketing tactic to use for SEO goals.  When leads have information gaps, one of the first things they’ll do is research on Google.  If you show up there with useful information, you’ve achieved the goal of getting them into your sales funnel.

 

2.  Explainer Videos

Video is an excellent way to convey your informational message, so long as you make sure that’s what you’re doing by formatting it as an explainer video.

In other words, the video (as the name “explainer” suggests) needs to explain the topic, filling the lead’s information gaps.  As they gain understanding, they’re more motivated to buy from you.

Appliance Parts Pros effectively uses the explainer video tactic.  They have hundreds of videos that answer specific questions about how to fix appliances at home.  They also, of course, sell the parts needed to do the work.

Again, notice how well this business lends itself to informational content marketing.  Their customers start with an information gap.  They need instruction on how to fix their broken appliance.  They search for and find instructions from this business.  Selling them the parts is a natural step in the journey they’re on.

It’s worth noting that video is a really strong mobile and voice-activated search tactic.  Many people will ask Siri or another voice assistant these questions.  Google tends to rank video for these types of “how to” queries.

 

3.  Infographics

Infographics combine visuals and text to convey information effectively.  With today’s on-the-go mobile users, these can be effective.  Again, if you’re providing information, make sure that’s the focus.  Here’s a good example:

 

#4.  Facebook Groups

One interesting and newer tactic for businesses to do content marketing is to start a Facebook Group.

Facebook Groups are pages that segment audiences based on a topic or shared interest.  They are informational in nature, which make them an excellent tactic for content marketing.

For example, we recently created a Facebook Group for a business that sells beauty products.  The information on the page has to do with tips and hacks to help busy moms look their best.  It’s called Busy Moms Beauty Tips.

For this tactic to work, you have to be able to engage a Facebook audience and generate content that people will react to, comment on, and share.  Also, this crosses over into being a social media tactic with a lot of user-generated content.  In fact, if your group is flourishing, it’s likely that your business won’t create the majority of posts.  They’ll be created by the group members.

This tactic is not as precise as blogging or videos when answering specific questions, but it has the virtue of spreading information – connected to your brand – across the group network.  It’s a contemporary tactic that takes control out of the hands of the brand and gives it to people who want to disseminate content on a topic of interest to them.

But these groups, when managed by a business, serve the underlying goal of providing useful information that stimulates interest while getting people into the top of the sales funnel.

 

#5.  Additional Tactics

We could have an endless list of delivery tactics for informational marketing.  Any way that you can connect with your audience is legitimate so long as you’re providing value and they’re receptive.  Additional tactics to consider include:

  1. Presentations (webinars, podcasts, live)
  2. Social media stories (Instagram, Snapchat)
  3. Pinterest boards with ideas/inspiration for products like crafts, food, fashion, home, etc.
  4. Social media posting and curation
  5. PR efforts
  6. Product review articles
  7. Posting on forums (like Quora)
  8. Consultation offers
  9. White papers and industry reports
  10. Newsletters (email or snail mail)

Some of these, like email marketing and white papers, work well as gated content, allowing you to gather the lead’s contact information in exchange for providing free information.

 

The Importance of Specificity

One thing that’s particularly important to consider when you develop material for content marketing is clarity and specificity.  We see a lot of content that’s only ostensibly informative.  It’s really just a spin on the business’ sales pitch.

To be successful with content marketing, two things need to happen.

First, your business needs to lend itself to informational content.  The more research your audience does and the more burning questions you can answer, the better this tactic will work for you.  If you’re just creating fluff that’s nothing more than a repackaged sales pitch, you won’t engage anyone.  That makes distributing the content through search or social media difficult.

In this light, work hard to create content that’s specific and clear.  Each question you answer is the topic of a blog, video, or infographic.  The more specific you are, the tighter your content will be.  The highest quality material available on a topic will garner the most attention.

 

Wrap-Up

There is no real definition of what online “content” is, so as you research this topic you’ll find all types of material that gets labeled as content marketing.

However, be aware of how quickly this tactic can go astray.  You can find yourself in a situation where you create some awesome content, only it’s not doing anything to help your lead generation or sales.

That’s why it’s better to think of this as an informational, educational tactic.  When you stay on topic and help people understand things that also make the case for your business value, you’re serving multiple goals.

Be authentic about wanting to help people.  Make sure your content really is informative and useful.

But also make sure there is a way to bridge this material into a discussion of your offer.  Part of your answer is that you are part of the answer.

If your offering is a commodity or simple enough that people understand it with little or no information, use branded content on social media combined with direct-response advertising as your tactics.  There’s no point answering questions nobody’s asking.

Connecting with researchers and shoppers looking for ideas and tips is excellent top-of-funnel lead-generation.  That, in a nutshell, is what content marketing is.

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