If you’re a small business and thinking about the best way to market yourself, you may have heard about the power of marketing and how it can help your business to grow your audience and increase sales.
The stats are clear. We know that searching online is the key for people who are trying to solve problems and make decisions, especially when it comes to purchasing.
And so, if consumers are searching for information that’s relevant to your business, you want them to be reading your content on your website rather than your competitor’s site.
So, how can I use content marketing to ensure customers land on my website?
In short, there’s no quick and easy answer to this question.
If you ask any marketing consultant this question, you’ll soon realise that there’s no simple ‘hacks’ for having a successful content marketing strategy.
In fact, if you read my guide to content marketing, you’ll see that content marketing takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication.
Take a look at your last search query on Google. Were you able to find a blog post or webpage that helped to answer your query? Did this page lead you to engage with the brand in any way?
If you answered yes to these questions, then the individual who created this content did a great job – they created content that fulfilled your intent.
But think about this. Over 4.4 million pieces of content are published daily.
That’s a whole lot of content for Google to sort through and index every day as they try to find ‘the most relevant, useful results.’
It also means there’s a whole lot of competition out there for you to try and outrank.
Therefore, to win, you need to create a comprehensive and detailed content marketing strategy which publishes frequent, relevant, and up-to-date information about your industry to ensure you’re targeting your audience.
You also want to ensure your strategy has a strong understanding of where your competition’s successes lie, how you currently stand in comparison, and what your end goals are.
In the words of Beth Comstock, former Chief Marketing Officer of General Electric; ‘marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day.’
And so, the key thing to understand is: whilst the lure of content marketing is great, it takes a focused mind to really succeed at it.
If you have a new website, you need to have the confidence (and money) to believe that content marketing is going to work for your business and truly commit to getting it to work for your business.
Content marketing requires a long-term mindset, with the drive for growth, and a specific skillset to make it successful.
Unfortunately, content marketing is no longer tactical, and you can’t stop after a few month’s work if you feel things aren’t fruitful yet.
You need to be patient yet consistent to see real results.
If you are thinking of investing your time and effort into content marketing, you need to understand these key points first:
1. Content marketing means focusing on the long-term
Imagine you decide today that you want to be an Olympian weightlifter.
Think about what you would need to do in order to get there, and how much training you are likely to have to do.
A lot to comprehend, right? And so, it would be logical to start with creating a plan, or strategy, of how you’re going to get there.
Your first step may involve going to the gym a few times a week, before getting into the key techniques or exercises that will really start growing your muscles.
This is the same approach with content marketing – you have to develop a process and ensure you spend time to train that muscle in order for it to grow.
And much like going to the gym, at first it will feel a long and difficult process. If you’re not getting the results you were first expecting, you may even feel like giving up.
But you need to burn through this stage and focus on the long-term gains in order to succeed.
Content marketing is really hard in the beginning, and it’s vital that you accept this before you start.
2. Content marketing requires new skills
No matter how you choose to create content, you will quickly come to realise this.
For example, if you want to start a blog as part of your content marketing strategy, then the ability to write and design are especially important skills.
Working on your personal skill development is just one aspect to ensure you’re best equipped for pursuing content marketing. But what happens if you manage a marketing team and want to get them on-board?
You need to evaluate the skills of each of your colleagues, and make sure you have the best talents needed to make your strategy a success. The key will be to focus their strengths into your content marketing plan to make effective use of your team.
It’s also essential that from the start everyone is reading from the same hymn sheet. Just as you have learnt to understand that content marketing strategy is a long-term investment, you want to make sure that everyone in that team is completely focused on the goal and invested in driving results in the long-term.
Over time, as the cogs start to turn and you and your team get into a rhythm of publishing content frequently, you will realise that great people will enhance your ability to build a great content marketing machine.
3. Content marketing requires ownership
Anyone can churn out words. And, with 70% of all businesses using content marketing strategies, you’ll probably discover that a lot of businesses really do just churn out and publish a lot of words with little to no purpose.
But, to do content marketing well, you need to understand that it isn’t simply about publishing content. It’s a long and time-consuming process.
And this means that to do it properly, you need to have one individual who is solely focused and invested into driving it forward; someone who can constantly review your audience’s wants and find new and engaging ways to keep them coming back for more.
If you don’t, your content marketing strategy can slip. Without this capacity, other marketing tasks may become more attractive, or you may need to take short cuts to balance time effectively. Either way, you never want to publish content which is sub-par or isn’t being created as often as it should be.
The key to content is about being consistent and engaging.
Just how in a physical shop you would want a sales attendant on-hand to help your customers, your online strategy should always be about having as much new and necessary information going out to help consumers make informed decisions.
And so, you need someone on-board who can ensure the content machine cogs are always turning as best as they can.
4. Content marketing means you really need to care
All good businesses put their customers first. And this is the same approach you should have with content marketing.
Content marketing is all about thinking from the customer’s perspective and trying to solve their problems.
Ultimately, it’s got to speak to them as an individual and cater to their every need. After all, if they don’t connect with your content, you’re going to lose a prospective sale to someone else.
It’s a fundamental shift from the old way of using the radio to direct people to what you want them to hear. Instead of pitching your products to them, you are providing useful and relevant content which helps them to make an informed decision.
It’s all about putting the autonomy back in their hands and allowing them to ‘self-serve’ and interact with your business on their own terms, by engaging with the content which speaks directly to them.
That means when creating new content, you need to constantly think about how best to connect with your customers and sharing information that really matters to them.
5. Content marketing means you need to be a complete expert
From the wise words of physicist and Professor Frank Oppenheimer; ‘the best way to learn is to teach.’ And it’s certainly true with content marketing.
Successful content marketing is all about establishing authority and being a thought-leader who shares relevant, up-to-date, and engaging information that addresses your customer’s queries.
Therefore, when you create content, you will need to learn a lot in order to be considered the expert in your field.
There’s no room for being ambiguous; content marketing reduces your ability to blag your way through things and forces you to provide well-researched and informative content. If you aren’t convincing enough, you’ll lose your custom to someone else.
6. Content marketing requires discipline
In life, if you want to be really successful with something, then you will need a huge amount of discipline to keep you focused and on the path to winning. And it’s no different for content marketing.
Unfortunately, content marketing doesn’t have any shortcuts – you need to really stick with it long-term in order to see results. That means continuing to publish new content weekly (if not daily), even if you cannot see any immediate successes.
Much like how an Olympian can’t miss a few weeks of training, you as a brand cannot afford to miss out by being inconsistent with your strategy.
Content marketing isn’t about just being creative in what you publish. Consistency, and establishing yourself as a key player that’s always present on the online battlefield is essential in terms of return-on-investment.
7. Content marketing never stops
Much like everything, there is always more you can do, improve, and try.
Remember the quote I used earlier?
‘Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day.’ – Beth Comstock
Content marketing will constantly push your boundaries and make you think even further outside of the box. You need to accept that it’s a long-term process and that you will need to learn to grow with it as time goes on.
With this innovative way of thinking, you won’t always know what new direction may work best for your audience. But it’s key to success is to test try new things, tweak them, and learn about what really works for your brand.
8. Content marketing forces you to be your best.
With content marketing, everything you publish is your stake in the sand – it’s your way of separating your brand out from the rest.
People are always looking for new brands to connect with, and an investment in content marketing may really help you to stand out from the rest.
Content marketing forces your business to really be the best in your market. Aside from growing your online audience, it will also give you good direction for your business plan, and allow you to focus on the things that really matter to your customers.
And, the more authentic you are, the better.
Joel Spolsky – software engineer at Microsoft – once wrote; ‘The consumer is not an idiot. She is your wife.’ Consumers aren’t stupid. And they can see straight through blagging.
If you are in any way dishonest with your customers, they’ll soon disconnect and move onto your more honest competitor, so why not be open from the start?
If you don’t have the answer to a popular customer query from the start, it can only open up opportunity for your business to grow with demand.
Content marketing separates the strong from the weak
In this way, content marketing is great for separating the strong from the weak, as you really have to be focused and invested for the long-term to come out on top.
There’s no denying it. As I have mentioned throughout this article, being successful with your content marketing plan will be difficult. It will require a lot of time, effort and dedication.
Just like climbing a mountain, the journey to the top of a search engine doesn’t always have a visible end line.
You need to keep your long-term strategy in mind and see the bigger picture, so you stay committed to achieving your outcome. There’ll be some rocky paths where you need to get creative and find new ways to out your competitors.
But once you do reach the top, the view is amazing.
Adding content marketing to your arsenal
Content marketing allows small businesses to really get ahead of the competition and be heard in their market.
But it does require a huge amount of time and effort, so don’t expect to walk into content marketing half-heartedly.
Do it because you see it as an investment, growing your company to where you want it to be, not because it’s a buzz word that everyone seems to be involved with.
After all, if you’re going to do something, do it right.
If you need help with anything mentioned in this article, then why not get in contact with a marketing consultant such as myself? I can help you to build a content marketing strategy that will help you to get ahead and drive real growth for your business.