I could argue that content marketing is THE most effective strategy in a marketer's bag of tricks. But, I'm also the first to admit that it can be a challenge to tackle for smaller companies with limited resources and tight budgets. But you absolutely CAN NOT let those constraints defer your organization from creating your own content marketing strategy, and attempting some big wins.
In this new series, I'm going to help small businesses overcome their content marketing challenges, including: generating engagement, overcoming a lack of resources, keeping up with trends and technology and measuring effectiveness.
Nearly half of B2B small business marketers surveyed by Content Marketing Institute don't have a documented content strategy. This is alarming. It will be extremely difficult to see where your hard work is headed if you don't have a written objective.
You must begin by putting pen to paper and document a strong content marketing strategy.
If you haven't already documented your content strategy, leave this page (or rather click that link above)--we'll be here when you get back!
There are many companies that have built great reputations with the aid of creating an audience first through content marketing: Content Marketing Institute (it's in their name!), CopyBlogger, Social Media Examiner, QuickSpouts, KISSmetrics, Moz, etc. So how did they all do it? There are some similarities that any small business can copy to start building an audience and a community.
1. Finding your content sweet spot
The most successful content comes from people who have both expertise and passion for the topic(s) they cover. Now, it would be fantastic if we could only write about exactly what WE wanted; however content marketing is really about serving the needs of others first.
It's likely that you share a sweet spot with others who have well-established authority--they're tough competition! But, if you just tweak your content slightly, I bet you can find an ear of opportunity that isn't being served effectively, or at all. You either serve a new niche or you serve up content better than anyone else--that's how you attract authority and an engaged engaged audience.
The more specific you can be, the more targeted your content will be at addressing specific needs or problems of your community.
2. Establishing your base
A base audience takes time--for everyone. Be patient and set realistic expectations for both yourself and for key stakeholders. It could take months--like 15 months! before you start seeing any monetary gains.
First things first, create a hub. You will be publishing and promoting your content across a variety of different channels to earn eyeballs, but your content hub is your primary platform. This hub should be something that your brand owns, like a blog or newsroom on your website or domain. This is critical because it asks as insurance for your future.
3. Stay memorable
The key here is to maintain consistent and regular touch points with viewers landing on your content and converting them into subscribers. In fact, Joe Pulizzi, founder of CMI, strongly recommends prioritizing email far above social followers, as email tends to generate far better response rates and eventually revenue.
To grow your list, make it simple--as simple as possible. Include prominent links on every landing page and webpage, cross link in blog content and share, share, share on every social profile. For the actual forms you use, only ask for the essentials. Too many required form fields are a conversion-killer.
You might also consider using pop-up subscribe boxes, a feature box or giving away exclusive content to readers.
- How to Increase Conversion Rate on your Blog
- How to Convert Casual Blog Visitors into Dedicated Subscribers
- 7 Simple and Proven Tips to Increase your Blog Subscribers
4. Diversify your distribution plan
A great blog begins with the content you create, but that's not going to do you a whole lot of good without an audience to read said content, right?
Not only should you diversify the types of content you create, but you should also determine which sources will be your strongest channel referrals. You should consider organic search (highly critical and free!), paid search, social media, paid social traffic, outreach with bloggers, site owners and influencers, content syndication networks and finally, repurposing content.
Each of these options above warrant their own separate posts, but at least we got the cogs turning and helped you figure out HOW you might take your content and blog to the next level.
5. Use the right tools
The right tools can get you going on the right foot to find the community who's interested in you so you can start to collect the insights that matter--and start building a strong community.
1. Creating brand ambassadors
Real-life connections are a special relationship--and they're layered with trust. Research shows that people are more likely to trust someone they have met in person vs. someone they have only communicated with online.
Try these tools:
- Meetups: Heard of meetup.com? You can filter meetups based on topic and location and by joining these groups, you're creating opportunities to make personal connections with potential users on a regular basis.
- Eventbrite: another great tool for discovering topical and relevant events near you to attend.
- Coffee meetings: Remember, everyone's time is precious, but if you're providing value , a coffee meeting is a great option to get some face time in. Make it worth their while by explaining the benefits of being part of your community and how you can work together towards a shared goal.
- Conferences: Attendance (and paying for) these things can be tricky, but if you can identify specific members of your community that will be at an event--you can have a high ROI. Contact folks prior so that you can carve out some time for a side conversation while you're on-site.
Riffle: deep audience information
Building a community from scratch requires one-on-one customer interactions. And while that is time-consuming, the efforts are worth your while. Remember those brand ambassadors that you're meeting at the above-mentioned in-person event opportunities? Your earliest fans are more likely to become your first evangelists.
With Riffle, you can make these interactions even better by learning meaningful information about a person's tastes, what communities they're a part of, and how they use social media. It's a Chrome extension that provides detailed Twitter analytics and integrates directly with services like Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Salesforce.
3. Mention (a tool)
Mention lets you quickly and easily set up alerts based on keywords or phrases that you care about. Simply follow topics you and your community are interested in. By monitoring these interests, you'll start to discover potential community members and other related topics. Then you can join in on those conversations, too! If you get to know your audience, you get beyond basic demographics and connect on a deeper level.
4. Forums: build relationships
You've got a great stack of topics and interests of your target audience, now it's time to connect and build a relationship with your audience outside of social media and inbound marketing tactics (like email).
- Forums: There's a forum out there on anything and everything. Join and connect with other like-minded people that are eager to ask questions and share their own expertise on a given topic. Consider Quora, MightyBell or Vanilla Forums.
- Twitter chats, LinkedIn groups: Social media holds nearly endless opportunities, but it also provides opportunities to drill down into smaller, focused groups. Join the groups or chats that are relevant to your community and gain deeper insights into the pain points of your potential community members, as well as what resources they're sharing.
Building a strong community on your blog takes patience, but stay dedicated. I'd love to hear your insights in the comments below!