If you are a small business owner, it is very likely that you are extremely passionate about the product or service you offer your customers. You are the expert when it comes to your customer offering, and I am sure that your passion has earned you an excellent reputation amongst your customers that keeps them coming back for more.

But what are you doing to find new customers to secure the future growth of your business?

If you are like many small businesses, marketing may have slipped down your priority list, as you wear your many ‘small business owner hats’ every day.

However, it stands to reason that in order for your business to grow, you need to be excellent at marketing – at finding (and keeping) new customers to bring in more sales.

One of the most cost effective ways small businesses can attract the attention of new customers is to regularly create useful FREE online content – content marketing – designed to appeal to their ideal customers.

So what is content marketing?

Content marketing is the creation of free information on your website that is useful to your target customer, such as:

  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • Cheat Sheets
  • Infographics
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Case Studies
  • Worksheets/Templates
  • Whitepapers/Reports
  • Slide Decks
  • Video

Why should small businesses use content marketing?

  • SEO (search engine optimisation) – writing content around ‘keywords’ that your prospects will be searching for in Google if they are looking for your product/service improves your rankings on the search results
  • Increases awareness of your businesses, and drives traffic to your website
  • Establishes your credibility amongst target customers – makes you an authority in your field
  • Provides you with a meaningful reason to post regularly on social media/email
  • Move prospects through your pipeline – gaining trust at each stage along the way of their buying decision-making process
  • Brand building/relationship building – helps prospects get to know your business before they buy
  • Can be used to complement offers/promotions
  • Provides opportunities to capture email addresses/attract more social media followers

Finally, if you create it yourself, content marketing is a free marketing tool – the only cost is your (admittedly precious) time. However your valuable reward is to increase your website traffic, enquiries and sales.

How to easily create awesome online content

Step #1 – PLAN

Plan your content calendar for the next 12 months to give flow to your communications, and help with inspiration when you come to writing each piece.

Consider quarterly/half yearly themes, seasons, or particular calendar events relevant to your line of business, to make sure you make the most of the marketing opportunities such as:

  • Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day…
  • Summer holidays, Back to school
  • Upcoming product releases/updates
  • Spotlight on particular product/service, or problem that your customers have that you solve
  • Company/Industry events, or Announcements
  • National/International events

Your plan isn’t supposed to be set in stone as you will also have spontaneous ideas as you go through the year, or may need to respond to something that you can’t predict. But having a plan is an important first step towards creating varied, timely and interesting content marketing.

Step #2 CREATE

Commit to a particular day of the week that you will ring-fence for writing your content. Be consistent!

  • Start with a concept, identify something you know a lot about that your customers will be interested in
  • Next write an outline for what you will cover in your content
  • Then get stuck into writing it! Many people find it helpful to write the beginning and end first, and then flesh out the middle parts last
  • Finally think of a snappy heading that will arouse curiosity and encourage customers to read on
  • Don’t forget to include a ‘call to action’ at the end of the piece of content, such as the one at the bottom of this blog!

Content creation can be slow going at first but it gets easier with practice. Set a timer and insist on no interruptions for maximum productivity.

Step #3 DISTRIBUTE

Once you have uploaded your content live on your website, you need to get the link to the content in front of as many prospects and past/present customers as possible to drive traffic to your website and future enquiries/sales. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Post link on Facebook/Twitter/Google+ etc – post to all the social networks where your business has a presence
  • Copy your content into LinkedIn Publisher (if relevant to your target customer)
  • Email newsletter showcasing content – to all past/current customers and anyone else on your list
  • Approach a local/industry specific directory, or network, or publication – ask whether they would like any guest posts, often they are looking for quality content to fill their space

#Step 4 SHARE OTHER PEOPLE’S CONTENT

This may sound counter-intuitive (and you may not wish to do this for a very close competitor) but I’m a great believer that there are enough opportunities out there for everyone, and it is good karma to share great content that will be of interest to your customers, even if you didn’t write it yourself.

Not only does it provide an extra service to your customers, it also takes the pressure off you to create every piece of useful content that you share, and also hopefully will encourage the other business to share your future content with their connections too – increasing your exposure to new audiences.

If you are sharing other people’s content on social media, don’t forget to credit the author by tagging them – this is polite, and also allows them to see you are sharing their work, giving you a better chance of future reciprocation.

#Step 5 MEASURE

It is really important to measure the results (especially increases in sales) generated by your investment of time in content marketing.

Just like getting fit, marketing results don’t happen overnight, but with a regular consistent approach, you should see pay-off within 3 months.

Think about the metrics that are important to your business (such as social media fans, website visitors, enquiries, sales). Make sure you know your performance numbers before you started, and then track your progress monthly.

After 3 months, review whether your results are in line with your expectations, to ensure they make your investment in content marketing worthwhile. Also review which topics/formats were most popular to feed into future content planning/tweaking of your approach if necessary.

Diarise 10 min reviews of performance EVERY MONTH to make sure they happen!

So, are you convinced that content marketing will attract more customers to your business?

Thanks to the internet, your prospective customers are more empowered than ever to research their purchases before you even realise they are considering buying from you.

Today’s time-pressed buyers use online research to inform most of their buying decisions – often skipping the traditional sales process altogether.

By regularly creating useful and interesting online content, designed with your ideal customer in mind, you’ll have the opportunity to capture the attention of more prospective customers, showcase your product/service/expertise during their research phase, and therefore increase your ability to convert more customers and grow your sales.

Will you invest more time focussing on content marketing for your business?

If you’re a small business owner looking for help with any aspect of planning or creating content marketing to attract new customers to your business, or would like Marketing coaching sessions or practical Marketing support to enable you achieve your goals, please get in touch.

If you’d like to receive small business marketing tips & ideas delivered directly to your inbox weekly, please sign up here.