Does Small Business Content Marketing Deliver Results?

Search online for any information on small business marketing and it is hard to avoid the topic of content marketing. But what is small business content marketing, is all the hype justified and does it deliver ROI on the time and effort involved? This post attempts to answer those questions.

What Is Content Marketing

The purpose of content marketing is to deliver the information prospects need to make a purchasing decision. It is about customer education, business reputation and staying front of mind.

So what is content? In simple terms, it is information that is both relevant and of value to the potential customer. It is information that engages the prospect without being pushy in any way. Content can take many forms including:

  • Case studies and reviews.
  • How to guides, posts and videos.
  • Comparison information.
  • Responses to frequently asked questions.
  • Industry or market comment.
  • Seminars or webinars.
  • Business news, for example, a charity event.

The important point to remember is the content must be helpful and engaging and build trust and credibility.

The Benefits of Content Marketing

The way customers and prospects react to promotional messages have changed in recent years. Potential customers that once waited for information to be pushed their way now seek out the information they need.

Prospects believe word of mouth and the reviews of their peers more than anything a potential supplier may deliver. Some low value or commodity products may be purchased online without too much thought. With more complex products consumers seek out information and educate themselves before making a decision.

Is All The Hype About Content Marketing Justified?

Much of the small business content marketing advice published on the internet is, in fact, bad advice. Content marketing may be useful as part of an overall marketing mix but it is not a silver bullet. Content marketing may work well for some small businesses but certainly not all.

Simply publishing content without a purpose is a waste of time and effort. What is the objective of each piece of content and how does it fit into an overall plan? Ultimately the time and effort involved in small business content marketing need to generate a return. There needs to be a plan and objectives and measurement of progress against that plan.

Some Examples Of Small Business Content Marketing

There is little doubt content marketing can be resource intensive but that does not need to be the case. A simple campaign based on a few content marketing tactics can deliver results for small business. Some examples from our own experience:

A shop retailing specialized high quality items generates business via social media. They publish photography of items new to the store, they prepare guides and examples of how their products can be used. They promote offers and promotions all via only two social media channels (Facebook and Pinterest). This is the only promotional activity undertaken and sales continue to grow month on month.

A specialist car paint shop uses a combination of customer testimonials, helpful guides and YouTube videos. Cars they have painted often win awards at various specialist car shows. They use this as an opportunity to create YouTube videos both to discuss the car, its specification and their involvement.

Since implementing content marketing business continues to increase. The main promotional activity in the past was PPC advertising (at a cost of over GBP(£) 800 a month) which has now been cancelled.

A specialist distributor publishes regular blog posts discussing industry trends and qualification standards. They have produced a useful guide for customers that they give away in return for an Email address. They also deliver E-newsletters (built around their blog posts) on a monthly basis.

They solicit customer questions and answer these via their blog and produce YouTube videos as how to guides. In the past the business spent over GBP(£)20,000 per annum on traditional advertising but this has been reduced significantly.

As the old push style marketing (advertising, direct mail, telemarketing) becomes less effective many small businesses are trying to identify new ways to attract customers. Content marketing is, in many cases, a major part of that new small business online marketing process.

Content marketing requires a solid, well thought out strategy and plan, resources and (crucially) time to make an impact. However, it can deliver a consistent stream of high quality sales leads in the medium term.

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Why website content is important

The Value Of Small Business Website Content

The real value of small business website content is not as obvious as some may wish to portray. Simply publishing content on a regular basis will not, on its own, shoot your website up the search rankings. That said there are real benefits to publishing content that may not be so obvious.

In a previous post I discussed the key elements of a good website and mentioned the importance of building credibility by adding appropriate content. That is only part of the story; content has more value than building credibility alone.

A considerable amount of time, effort and cost goes into developing most websites. Often, more effort (and cost) is then allocated to ensuring the website can be found online via search engine marketing. It is a pity then, if after all this effort, the visitor takes a quick look around the website before disappearing off on another search just a few seconds later.

What is needed is a process to engage prospects and keep them on the site for longer. If prospects find information of value on the website that engages them and solves their problems then they are likely to stick around for longer. In an ideal world they may even call or Email you for more information. Content marketing is the process of delivering that useful, relevant information of interest to an identified prospect group.

Over time as prospects return to the website for more information an element of trust develops. With this in place prospects may sign up for updates by Email, for your monthly newsletter or for a download you may provide. With Email addresses secured it is then possible to communicate directly with potential customers on an ongoing basis. Not with pushy sales information but with more valuable content. This ensures your business is always front of mind and has a level of trust not afforded to competitors.

To succeed the content you build must be of value to your target customer base and it must be engaging. Content can come from a number of sources, many of which may already reside within a business. Case studies on completed projects and how to guides are two examples. A comment on what is happening in the marketplace and trends to look out for are other examples.

Generating content has another indirect advantage as it significantly improves the search engine optimisation of the business website – that is its position in the search engine when a prospect searches for a relevant term. Google, and the other search engines, are now more focussed on how often a website changes and the amount of relevant content of potential value to those searching a website contains.

If a Blog is attached to the website then this is viewed as new content and each blog post can rank on the search engines in its own right therefore bringing in more website visitors. More website visitors equal more potential sign ups (E Mail marketing) and more enquiries and sales leads.

On site SEO is important but off site SEO (building relevant backlinks) is often the major factor that must be managed if a website is to rank well in search. Building high quality links without something of value (content) that deserves that link is extremely difficult.

Content then is important to any website. It builds credibility and ongoing relationships with potential customers. It ensures prospects hang around on your website for longer which gives them more time to take your ideal action and (crucially) it helps drive more visitors (traffic) to a website. There is a direct relationship between more traffic and more sales.