One of the most effective new marketing approaches out there is content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute, over 85 percent of brands use it, but less than half believe they're good at it. In many ways, content marketing is even more important for small businesses.

So what, exactly, is content marketing? Why is it important? And how the heck do you actually do it? I asked three experts to weigh in: Michael Brenner, head of strategy for NewsCred and a Forbes Top 40 social media marketer; Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg and a featured expert in Kauffman's Founders School; and Shelly Kramer, founder and CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, who has been recognized by Forbes as one of the top 20 best marketing and social media blogs.

A Layman's Definition of Content Marketing

"Content marketing is a way for a business owner to educate your customers and potential customers about your products and services," says Patel. "The goal is to offer tips, help, and education about anything that can be helpful to a customer. This kind of information can be shared in the form of blog, white paper, webinar, video or social post. The opportunities are endless."

Why Should Small Businesses Invest Time in Content Marketing?

"Small businesses should be even more focused on content marketing than larger brands," says Brenner. "Small businesses don't have the luxury of massive budgets that are over-weighted in ineffective advertising. But they also need to drive brand awareness and leads with limited resources. Content marketing is a great way for small businesses to do both."

The bottom line is that smaller businesses should invest in content marketing because it can generate awareness, engagement, and leads. Ultimately, content marketing can do something even more meaningful for businesses, Patel says. "Good content marketing builds trust. And if someone trusts you, they are more likely to buy your products and services and more likely to tell their friends and family."

How Does a Small Business Marketer Start?

First, Brenner says, "Start by identifying the business goals, who you are targeting, what value will be created for the customer, and what value will be created for the business." Second, Patel says, "Get inspiration by asking potential customers. Reach out to them and ask, 'What do you want me to blog about? What are problems do you have? What can I help you solve?'

Finally, Kramer suggests developing a holistic plan. "Write down your strategy. The key is to tie your overall business goals and objectives into your content marketing strategy," she says.

What are the 3 Biggest Mistakes Small Businesses are Making?

Kramer says the biggest problem brands have is not minding the three legged stool--an integrated marketing strategy that includes SEO, social media, and content marketing. "SEO, social, and content all have to work together in order for you to be successful, and all too often marketers don't yet understand this," Kramer says. "You can't have success with content without a robust presence in the social media space. And you can't have great SEO success without understanding 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."

How do You Break Through the Clutter?

Breaking through the clutter is as simple as the 3 Vs: Volume, Value and Variety. "You cannot just publish a couple of times a month and hope that it moves the needle," Brenner says. "So it 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 brands identify what they want to talk about (the topics of conversation surrounding their brand) and then make every effort to produce as much valuable content around those topics as often as possible," Brenner says. "The final tip is about variety. People (and search engines) reward those brands that deliver value in multiple ways. So think about text-based articles, videos, SlideShare presentations, research reports, and all the different things we consume across the digital, social and mobile Web," he says.

How Do You Know if You're Successful?

When you're putting your content out in the digital world--via YouTube, Twitter, your blog, the list goes on and on--how do you know if your content is actually successful? Patel offers three specific steps: First, track views. Second, use Google Analytics, a free measurement tool. Google Analytics will show you how much these pieces of content are driving traffic back to your site. Third, check to see how much search traffic you're getting. Visitors will link to it from their sites and you will also notice that it ranks in Google or Bing and you will start to see more search traffic.

"You have to give it time. Don't expect great results in three months or six months, but you will see traction," Patel says. "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."

Where Do You Go to Learn More About Content Marketing?

According to our experts, the best online resources are Content Marketing Institute, Kauffman Founders School, Hubspot, MarketingProfs, and of course Patel's QuickSprout, Kramer's V3Blog, and Brenner's NewsCred. And for a longer read, check out Content Rules by Ann Hadley and Youtility by Jay Baer.

What are your favorite places to go to learn about content marketing for startups? Message me and let me know.

 

Published on: Oct 29, 2014