Part two of our series on “must-haves” for your small business will focus on content creation and the importance of providing value for your audience.
Regardless of whether your business is wet-behind-the-ears or a well-established entity, content is key in increasing your brand awareness. If your business is online and you’re not willing to produce new content, you’re not going to get anywhere. Like a sales team without a pitch or an advert without a message, an online business without content marketing doesn’t get recognized.
And here’s the thing: Not all content is created equal.
Great content appeals to your target audience and incorporates a number of tried-and-true practices that serve to boost your content’s value in the eyes of search engines. Unfortunately, 70% of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy.
Unlike other lead generation strategies, content marketing gives to prospects, instead of asking them for something.
– Neil Patel
We’re going to take a moment to outline several “best practices” when it comes to creating valuable content for your business.
- What makes great content and how can you prove it?
- The 3-minute content marketing plan that gets leads and converts customers
- 5 options for content that aren’t blog posts
Let’s get started.
The biggest problem with any content creation and blurring it with marketing, is that the whole process seems slow. Even when it is published, how can you tell if your content is any good?
The way people become customers and buy from you has changed significantly over the last decade. No more are sales people the gatekeepers of information. People can research and learn everything they need to about an industry or product before they buy.
Your customers are reaching you later in their buying cycle and closer to their final decision. It’s no longer about waiting for them to come to you for advice. You need to share and give away more than ever in order to build trust and show you know what you’re talking about. According to Curata, about 74% of companies indicate that content marketing is increasing their marketing teams’ lead quality and quantity.
On top of all that, you’ve got more businesses to compete with. Not just within your industry, but online. How does your business produce stuff that stands out?
Content Marketing is a commitment, not a campaign.
– Jon Buscall, Head of Moondog Marketing
Why doesn’t it work now?
Boring, bland content
The biggest reason that businesses struggle with content marketing isn’t necessarily because they can’t create it. It’s because what they create is dull as mud.
Here’s the cycle. If we produce a few blog posts for our blog and share them out, we’ll drive a little traffic to our site. If the title and social post is boring, or unclear (another massive problem content faces), it’s not going to drive a lot of traffic.
The little traffic the post does attract, lands on the post, but because the copy is dull, people don’t read on. If they don’t read on they won’t sign up to a newsletter or email lead magnet. That means we don’t capture many leads.
Those leads we do capture are sent the same boring content, so they just don’t engage with us and convert into customers.
Instead, you need to really work hard at getting every line and word to compel readers to move to the next paragraph. Keep sentences tight and short. Use explosive and informative titles that clearly explain WHY something is important to read.
If you only want to produce safe, dull content, then that’s fine. But you’re never going to get better customers with it.
Actually talk to your customers. Use the language that they use. Talk about the things they talk about. Never feed salad to a lion.
– Jay Acunzo, Vice President, NextView
No clear link between content and next steps
Let’s say you start getting more traffic because you’ve improved your titles and social posts. Your posts are now great to read and you can see more people visit for longer and your shares are up?
How to we convert people that read a blog post into leads and email subscribers? Well they’re not going to just call you up straight away to buy (well they might if your posts are that good).
Chances are you’ll need to place a lead magnet and email capture in front of them that’s RELEVANT to what they’re reading now.
For example, if you’re a car dealership. You might have written a great post on keeping your brakes safe during winter. Everyone who reads that post is obviously interested in keeping safe and their brakes.
By offering the next steps as “would you like us to check your brakes” or “view this 15 point video to check your own brakes” you are offering something specific to and relevant to that post.
It’s not that content marketing is hard to measure the results from, it’s that sometimes it doesn’t produce the results you’re expecting.
That isn’t to say the whole system doesn’t work. It means that you’re not producing the right content for the right audience yet.
We at SMP Studios have a very clear content marketing strategy. By sharing more of what we’re great at, we want to reach as many people as possible with our message. Everyone who visits certain posts are encouraged to take the next step via an email lead capture so we can send more useful content.
Your business needs a clear step-by-step process for producing, promoting and measuring your content marketing. And we might just give you that below…
Useful + Enjoyable + Inspired = Innovative Content.
So how do we do it?
Let’s take a look at how we produce a smart content marketing strategy for our business and how you can do it for yours.
Consider your audience
Before you even begin to create any content, you need to stop, step away from the keyboard, and think about who you are targeting.
Who is your business’s audience? Is this the audience you’re trying to reach in constructing this particular piece of content? Are you trying to engage a new demographic, or reach out to a particular subset of your client base?
Bearing in mind who you’re targeting is critical before beginning any work on a piece of content. Your audience will dictate the nature and style of your content post. After all, any content you create and post should be aimed at drawing customer action that creates profit for your business.
We have a simple 3-step process to our content marketing that has increased conversions measurably. We don’t worry about the final core product sale when traffic lands on a blog post. We look at what makes sense to sell to them.
By having a topic that we focus on for a 3-step process, for example “car brakes”, we look at the most common questions and problems that people face. We’ll produce open, free blog content for this part. This is step 1 of the 3-step process.
Next, we’ll ask “if you’re serious about problem or benefit, then you need to watch this”. This is our call to action. This is step 2 of the 3-step process.
We offer something for people who are serious about the benefit or problem that people are facing if they’re reading that blog post. For example, it could be like we talked about above, a video on checking your own brakes or a free brake check if you come in.
The point is that we offer something specific and relevant to our readers so they understand what the next step is. We make sure to protect it with an email sign up or lead form so we can market to them later.
Finally, step 3 of the 3-step process is to say “while I’m here, why don’t we…”. Think of the reader who has checked up on their brakes, then decided to bring it in for a free checkup. Or the reader who signed up to the free brake check video.
Asking them “while you’re here…” or “while I’m with you…” is the best way to make a logical sale. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount. We’re just trying to get them to buy from us so they overcome their fear of using their wallet with us.
What’s the next logical step to sell to the customer? What’s the end of the question “while I’m here why don’t we…”? We also like to share more content with them while they’re a lead via email marketing.
Email marketing can massively improve your conversions. It builds trust and can run entirely on automation.
Typically we use the below flow for our email marketing.
- Deliver the content they signed up to
- Welcome email with our details
- Similar topic content to add value
- Different topic content
- Sales email
- Similar topic content
- Sales email
What we’re doing is saying “if you liked that, you’ll love this”. It’s a simple tactic that lets us share more content with our subscribers and leads and shows them we just want to help. Eventually we’ll send a few sales emails to move them onto the next stage, asking ourselves “what is logical for this lead to buy next?”
Vary the post and delivery types
Content marketing thrives on variety. You don’t just have to write blog posts to share. You can produce different types of content for different purposes. There are many different ways to reach your audience with valuable content.
The truth is that most of the time the delivery method itself is NOT what people are interested in. But it does matter that you vary your approach in order to appeal to different methods that people consume.
You can even re-purpose content by turning older blog posts into some of the other methods below. For example, taking the same content in a blog post and doing a video piece to camera on the same subject.
If you’re feeling burnt out with blogs, consider these alternatives:
- Videos – Don’t underestimate how powerful video is to the content marketing part of your business. If you’re camera shy you can get animations done or do a voice over on some slides.
- PDFs and eBooks – Compile together older blog posts into a longer ebook, or write up a process to giveaway.
- Slides – Either as a webinar, recording or just delivered, slides make a great resource for customers.
- Presentations and Podcasts – If you get the chance to talk live, record it and use that as content later.
- Infographics – Really great to share and easy to reverse engineer, everyone loves infographics. These can be posted solo or incorporated into blogs, videos, and related materials.
Communicate confidently and assertively
No matter your content type, you can boost value by ensuring you come across confidently and assertively.
After all, you’re the guru. You’re the expert in your field. Don’t be afraid to convey this in your communications. Your audience will appreciate you more for it, and concretely establishing yourself as an utmost authority within your content will only add value to your brand overall.
Embrace white space
In all written communication, you’ll want to embrace white space.
It may seem counterintuitive to encourage white space in your communications—it’s easy to view this as “wasted space.” But it’s quite the opposite.
White space gives your readers a break. It operates as punctuation amongst your work that allows your content to be more easily digestible.
Remember: This is the Internet. Your readers are going to have short attention spans. Encouraging white space in your communications boosts the “scannability” of your content, making it an easier read.
Be smart with keywords
If you want to ensure your content is valuable, you’ll need to incorporate keywords intelligently throughout your content.
Before using keywords in your content, you’ll want to ascertain which keywords to use. Fortunately, tools such as Google Analytics and HubSpot allow you to discover keywords people searched for to reach your business’s site, as well as those keywords in your field they looked up that didn’t bring them to your site.
By using the above services, you can build a pool of keywords that—when integrated into your posts, infographics, ebooks, and other content—will add value by drawing in more readers.
Once you know the keywords you want to use, you’ll need to integrate them naturally into your content to boost value. Here’s the thing to remember: Don’t get carried away.
“Keyword stuffing” your content in an unnatural, or inorganic, way encourages search engines to penalize your site. Instead, ensure your content and keywords flow together effortlessly.
Utilizing keywords in this manner will ensure that your content carries additional value through search engine optimization (SEO).
Practice internal linking
When possible, link back to yourself.
If you’re composing new content that references a past topic or is part of an ongoing series, be sure to include hypertext links within your content that leads readers back to your previous posts and any related videos, podcasts, et cetera.
Consistently practicing internal linking will boost SEO and increase the value of both your new content and your previously existing content.
And if you combine internal linking with slick keyword implementation, intelligent white space inclusion, assertive diction, and audience-based considerations? You should find that your content will generate more value for your business than ever previously imagined.
We absolutely love content creation. It’s a core component of our marketing strategy and we’ve found it to make our lives much easier. All you really need to worry about is how you can help people. Just focus on that and producing content that proves you’re useful to your customers.
We often hear “if I give away too much, customers will just do stuff for free and not use me!” While a small percentage of people never will buy, it’s no different to ‘lookey-loos’ coming kicking tires or wasting your time ‘picking your brains’ on the phone.
Content marketing is like a restaurant. Sure, seeing the menu and even the recipe is nice, but a really interested person wants it done for them.
Think about your target audience and what they are interested in reading and learning about. What problems or questions do they have that you have the answers to? Providing answers and solutions for your audience will increase your credibility and influence in your market.