Content marketing

Small business content marketing

In this article we focus on organic digital content marketing and explore some of the best practices brands can adopt to best connect with the South African consumer and improve business performance.

Marketing is, and will always be about content. Whether it paid or organic, it all about getting relevant and useful content in front of consumers. Without even realizing it, businesses have always been using content marketing- TV commercials, Radio, and Print to drive business results. It has always been about content.

Content marketing with respect to digital marketing

Content marketing as best defined by CMI

“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.”

Two key words- Valuable and Relevant!

This is what the entire idea of content marketing is about, consistently delivering content that brings value to a defined audience thereby increasing brand awareness and building trust with the audience.

There are many benefits to content marketing

It increases awareness– Content increases brand visibility and help prospects find you. And, you’re giving your audience more reasons to pay attention to you.

Builds trust– Consistent valuable content shows that you know what you’re doing, you can deliver and keeps you in your prospects mind. When comes the time they’re ready to buy, you’re the first one they come to.

Increases conversions– Content warms your leads, and bring them closer to buying.

Why does it work?

As the number of internet users continue to rise globally, now at more than 4.13 billion, and 36.54 million in South Africa, more people turn to the internet, AKA google, to find local businesses, to get beauty tips, get entertained, look for recipes, you name it. Ultimately what they’re looking for- is content. Content that’s relevant and valuable to them.

According to Hubspot , 97% of consumers search and learn more about a local business online than anywhere else. This alone should emphasize the importance of content marketing.

Before jumping into the content itself, there’s a few things to take care of.

1. Identify your target audience needs

According to a Sproutsocial survey, 51% of people they surveyed say their relationship with brands start when they feel the brand understands them and their needs

The difference between content marketing and other tactics is that content marketing is about providing valuable content, while other tactics are selling. And to be able to deliver something your audience will value you will need to understand them better than anyone.

If you’re going to create valuable content you need to identify your target audience’s needs. Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience you can start creating content around their problems or their needs.

Methods that will help you identify your target audience needs.

A survey

A carefully thought out survey will help you learn more about your customers and their needs. You can use free online tools such as SurveyMonkey to help you create short online surveys you can share to your current customers.

This is Surveygizmo’s six step process to creating an effective survey.

Questions you ask in a survey will depend on your content marketing goals and objectives. But every survey should cover these 3 broad questions.

  • Audience demographics
  • Audience desires, and
  • What courses/articles would you like for us (Brand) to create?

Competitive analysis

A competitive analysis relating to content marketing begins with finding out what keywords  your competition is targeting, what content they build around those keywords, how they distribute it and how it performs.

Tools like buzzsumo.com make it easy to search for best performing keywords and content. What you find while doing your research will give you content ideas.

You should take your time and analyze the data you collect to find out what your competition is missing or doing wrong and improve on it and offer better value to your audience.

Join industry-related forums or groups

One of the easiest ways to find out more about your audience is joining online and social media forums in your industry. There’s so much information being exchanged on Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

All you have to do is simply enter search, find a group in your industry, start asking questions and giving advice when you can. Chances are someone has been to where you are now and those people can help you. You just have to ask.  

2. Develop a content strategy

At its core, a content strategy is the creation, publication and organization of valuable content. It clearly specifies what content you will be creating, how, where and when you will publish it, and why.

The process of developing a content strategy includes answering these questions.

Who are you creating content for?

Answering this question should be easy when you’ve successfully conducted your customer research as directed above. This question demands that you become clear about who’s the target audience for your content. And how many audiences are you creating content for.

Consider various content types and relevant channels you can use to deliver content to different audiences.

What problems are you solving?

Remember your content needs to be relevant and useful. This means your content has to solve a real problem that you know your audience is facing.

How are you unique?

Every business has competition, and you’re after the same people your competition is after. Potential customers need to know what makes you better than your competition. Use content to prove you’re worth buying from, and not your competition.

What content formats will be best for your audience?

There are many content formats you can use to communicate with your audience- pictures, videos and Blog posts etc. Different audiences respond to different content types differently. Decide what formats are best suited for your target audience.

What media channels will you use?

You also have different options when it comes to channels you can use to publish your content. You can use multiple channels, depending on your content type and where your audience spends most of their time.

How will content creation and publication be managed?

To simplify the process and avoid confusion, it best to be clear about who’s creating what content, where and when is it going to be published to go live.  

Creating and distributing content

Learning about your audience and their needs is only the start. The next step is creating and distributing content.

Deciding the primary content for your brand.

Integrating different content types into your content marketing strategy can help you connect with different customers in many different ways.

But unless you have a dedicated content creation team or an agency that will build strategy and create your content, it best that you focus on one or two content types. This will help you establish your groove, get you going, build a loyal audience and it will be manageable.

Here’s how to decide your primary content type.

The content type you choose is largely dependent on the topic(s) you cover.

For example. If you have a fashion business, a fashion blog and social media posts are perfect for you. Podcasting? Not so much.

OR

You’re a corporate Law firm. Prioritizing social media doesn’t make much sense for you, but blog and video are a great investment.

The most important thing to consider when deciding your content type is audience. Where do they hang out on digital, what types of content do they already consume, and how are they consuming it. If you are able to identify all of this, you will not have a problem deciding your primary content type.

Top 5 best content types and how to use them

1. Blog posts

For most brands, blogs are the pillar of their content marketing strategy and there’s good reason for this. Writing a blog doesn’t take a lot of time, they are easily found by google, and they offer value at a low cost. But these aren’t the only reasons they’re doing it.

These are the real reasons why.

  • To generate leads

A hubspot study showed that businesses that prioritize blogs see a 126% leads rise compared to those that don’t blog.

  • Increase website traffic

With every blog you write, you add a page into your website, and that means one extra page search engines can index, which means one more opportunity for you to show up in search results and drive people to your website. 

  • To establish authority

Strong brand reputation and authority can take a business to a whole new level, and blogs help to achieve that. By consistently posting helpful blog posts that answer common questions your customer or audience has, helps establish you as an industry authority in their eyes.

Follow these to create a successful blog that achieves all 3 points mentioned above.

  • Post regularly

The more valuable blog posts you have, the better your chances of getting more leads since websites that publish 16+ blog posts a month get 3.5 times more traffic than sites that blog less.

  • Optimize your blog for leads and sales

Ultimately you want to get something from putting out all this valuable content. This is where call-to-actions (CTAs) come in. Insert a call to action to encourage your audience to visit your other pages, sign up for a newsletter, or download free content relating to the topic etc.

  • Link to your own content

It takes time and a lot of convincing to convert an audience into paying customers. Use internal links to send them to your other blog posts they might find valuable until they are convinced you’re the right business for them.

  • Optimize blog posts

You want people to discover your content, find value in it and trust you.  To increase your chance of being found by the right people your blog needs to be optimized for the right keywords.

Use tools like Buzzsumo.com and Wordstream’s free keyword tool  to help you find the right keys words to use to drive more traffic to your blog posts.

2. Video content

Video content is a must for almost all businesses, whether it short or long form video, it works and works great. Video is dynamic, engaging and we all love it.

Including video in your content marketing strategy is a must since more people would rather watch a video than read text. There is a huge upside to adding video content right now, especially here in South Africa. As of 2017 the number of active YouTube users in SA is 8.8+ million. Use video content tap into this growing hungry audience.

The best way to use video content is to upload it on YouTube, embed it in posts you write, share it directly on social media or as links, and coordinate them with your blog posts and improve your visibility.

3. Social media posts

Social media is a very powerful marketing tool. Big global brands are being built on social media year in year out. Executed right, your social media content marketing will bring in a lot of revenue for your business.

A great social media content strategy considers posting frequency and quality of the posts. A survey conducted by social media examiner revealed that social media marketers post an average of 8 times a day of Facebook. If you have a business Facebook page, you already know about the declining organic reach of your posts. Posting multiple times a day will help you reach more of your fans.

The key word here is social- meaning you need to know why your audience goes to social media, tap into that and blend in. Be social, don’t ask for a sale on every post.

4. Infographics

Infographics are a great way to pack a ton of information into one picture in an interesting, neat and readable way. The reason infographics work and why brands love using them is because they know humans are hardwired to prefer visual content over written content.

Infographics often combine graphical elements and text in a creative way to breakdown complex concepts and summarize information. 

This is an excellent example of an infographic.

  • It tells a story
  • It visually appealing
  • Well structured
  • Accurate and well researched
  • It sends a clear message

Why infographics should be part of your content marketing strategy.

They’re easy to digest

What would you rather see: an infographic with visual representations, charts, and graphics next to the stats, or just a bulleted list?  Of course! An infographic. Why? Because it easy to recall information if goes with visuals.

They’re sharable

People like to share interesting visuals on social media and industry related online forums and groups. Having a viral infographic can put you on a map and get you noticed.

They’re SEO friendly

Infographics are a great link building tool. If they get a lot of backlinks and shares they will enable search engines to recognize you and rank you higher for relevant keyword searches.

It goes without saying that if you’re looking for the most convenient and visually appealing way to present numbers, and summarize information infographics are your best bet.

5. Case studies

Another one of the most valuable types of content marketing there is. Case studies are in-depth examinations or illustrations that show how your business has helped your customer. A case study should provide knowledge and actionable information.

A great thing about case studies is that they are unique, sharable, they use your own data, and others can’t really copy them.

Consumers love case studies because they get to see how your business adds value in their business or lives. It even better if it a case study that discusses how you successfully solved a problem similar to theirs.

You can include case studies in your website, just like you would a blog. But you can also use them in other ways, you can use them for your social media posts, in your blog posts, videos and other types of content.

They will help you convert many leads since they’re a proof that your products or services work and get results. They will help you establish trust and attract a lot of traffic to your website.

If you’re going to implement case studies as part of your content marketing strategy, be careful of which customer(s) you ask to do a case study with- you do need their permission you know. Preferably it should be a customer whom your business has benefited the most.

Final word on content marketing

Every business, big or small, B2B or B2C, local or not, can benefit from content marketing. I can’t think of a business that wouldn’t. There are so many benefits to content marketing.

  • It sticks around for as long you want it to
  • It constantly generates traffic and leads
  • It relatively low cost compared to other marketing strategies.

Huge brands may be dominating with their content marketing, but that shouldn’t stop you from creating and putting out the most relevant and valuable content.

What you need to do is focus on your target audience, their needs and interests. Create and put out better content that will demand your audiences’ attention and become the most reliable source for them. 

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