Seth Godin says, “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”
If you’ve been utilizing traditional marketing strategies (with success), you may find yourself scratching your head.
Paid advertising is often the go-to strategy for entrepreneurs who want to grow their online brand. And while it can be an effective piece of your strategy, it shouldn’t your entire strategy.
The fact is that paid advertising just doesn’t work as well as it used to.
Consumers today don’t want to see your tired old sales pitch. They have an innate sense for when someone is trying to sell them something, and they don’t like it.
What do they like? To be informed, entertained, educated. Pretty much anything but sold to.
So, where does that leave you and your business? How can you sell your products and services without advertising them?
The answer is simple: Content marketing.
If you’re not familiar with content marketing and how it works, or you’d simply like more information, this is the article for you. Keep reading to learn how creating great content can help you sell without selling – and create loyal customers in the process:
What is content marketing?
Today’s consumers demand relevant, informative, and original content from the brands they know and like. Content marketing satisfies that need by creating powerful collateral and sharing it across a wide range of channels and customer touch points.
According to Media Planet, for small businesses competing with larger brands, content marketing is an incredible tool for leveling the playing field. It can help grow brand awareness, build trust, demonstrate credibility, and create a distinct and memorable persona.
Why use content marketing?
For small businesses in today’s marketplace, content marketing is an indispensable tool. Small businesses often compete against larger companies for the same exact audience. Those larger companies have greater brand recognition, more resources, and seemingly endless budgets.
What they don’t have is YOU: You’re not just another big brand, you’re a real, live person. You bring personality, humor, love, and even failures and heartbreak to the table. In a nutshell, you provide the genuine, relatable, human moments that a corporation cannot.
Sharing those moments through original content allows you to build a real relationship with your audience.
Content marketing also:
Builds online presence
Creating and publishing original content is the ONLY way to build a strong online presence. When you share original materials such as social media posts, blogs, and email newsletters on a consistent basis, it increases visibility and helps build a loyal following. In addition, sharing relevant and compelling content encourages social sharing and builds brand advocacy.
The best online marketing strategies include various types of content that reach consumers at the various stages of the sales cycle. Content makes it easy to seamlessly push prospects through your funnel, and take them on the journey from lead to customer to referrer.
An audience member sees the new blog you posted on social media
They click through to your website to view the full blog
They like the blog, so they decide to browse the rest of your site
From there, they end up on your "about" page, and they find your story relatable and intriguing
They decide to sign up for your mailing list, because they'd like to hear more from you
You just gained a loyal follower (and potential future customer) based entirely on the power of your online content.
Creates social reciprocity
When you provide others with something of value, they will feel a subconscious need to give something back to you and reciprocate. In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini refers to this as the “rule of reciprocation”. It is the universal tendency in human beings to feel compelled to repay or reciprocate when given a gift whether it has come in the form of a material object, a kind deed, or an act of generosity.
By sharing content that is truly useful to your audience, you are providing something of value to them. (It is worth noting that the content doesn't have to be of extreme value: It can be something as simple as a funny video or an inspirational quote to help them through a rough Monday morning.)
This principle can benefit you in two ways:
Your loyal followers will like, share, and comment on your content, thus exposing you to a larger audience and
When they need a product or service you provide, they will remember the value that you’ve delivered, and will contact you before reaching out to a competitor
Establishes thought leadership
If you want to be viewed as a thought leader in your industry, you have to position yourself as an expert. Content marketing is an ideal vehicle for this, as it allows you to create and publish original materials based on your unique knowledge.
The content you provide should address or answer any concerns your audience or customer base might have, in language they understand. The more practical and helpful the information you provide, the more likely it is you will become a go-to source for information in your field.
As Google’s algorithms have evolved, they have started to favor factors which are naturally a part of any good content marketing plan. These include:
Frequent addition of fresh content across a variety of channels (website, social media, YouTube, etc.)
The sharing of high-quality, useful information
Smart use of targeted keywords, in the appropriate places
Audience interaction, such as comments, likes, and shares
Customer reviews and testimonials
According to one study, websites that rank the highest in Google’s search results also tend to be those that have the most content on them. It is important to note, however, that simply tossing up content for the sake of populating your pages is not going to help, and neither will “keyword stuffing”.
Google is smart, and they know when you’re sharing quality information and when you’re just trying to trick the system. If you share three blog posts a week, but they are full of repeat information, text you copied from other articles, or just straight-up fluff, it won’t help your SEO at all. In addition, stuffing your content full of keywords just to boost ranking will actually have the opposite effect – and you may get bumped down a few spots.
Bonus: Content marketing is more cost effective than other strategies
Most small businesses, especially if they’re new, are working on a tight budget.
You may be tempted to spend that money on traditional advertising methods, but content marketing generates more than three times as many leads as outbound tactics and it costs 62 percent less. Plus, with its SEO benefits, it is one of the best ways to increase organic traffic to your website.
By creating and running your own content marketing strategy, you can gain footing in the marketplace without spending a ton of money.
While content marketing can be immensely time consuming, it is possible to do it on your own. However, if you feel that you lack the expertise and choose to hire a professional, there are plenty of companies which offer rates suitable for the average small business owner.
Content marketing will allow you to become an authority in your field, build an audience, earn higher ranking on Google, gain social reciprocity, and much more.
If you’re still asking yourself whether or not you need content marketing, the answer is a resounding “yes.” And if you’re wondering when you should start, the answer is “right now.”
Content marketing is the one marketing channel you can’t afford to leave out.