The marketing world has changed. Today, content marketing costs less than more traditional forms of marketing, and, done well, generates more leads. But you need a little insight in order to reap the rewards. To help you out, here’s a guide to content marketing for small to medium businesses.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the creation, publication, and promotion of web content, which is closely monitored so its results can be tracked and measured.
Essentially, the aim is to publish useful, informative, and entertaining content that entices people to your little piece of the web. While your aim is to increase conversions, it’s also valuable for helping to craft your brand and build your authority as an expert in your industry.
Why content marketing matters
It’s a crowded market out there, so if you want to survive and build your reputation and client base, you need to find a way to stand out.
It shows potential customers who you are, highlights your company values and builds your reputation as an expert in your field. Done well, it can lead to a 20% increase in traffic to your blog, as well as increased engagement with your audience. Both are invaluable in helping you reach a wider audience and gaining new, loyal customers.
However, content marketing shouldn’t be a random thing you do when you have spare time. You need to plan a content marketing strategy to encourage reliable, cost-effective sources of traffic to find you. One successful strategy is having a free eBook, discount, or downloadable product that you can promote on the website, on social media channels and through newsletters, which leads to more consistent organic traffic.
How to plan your content marketing strategy
Unsurprisingly, content marketing starts with creating lots of content. But not just any old content. It must be unique and interesting and provide valuable information to help people solve problems or answer queries. Equally, it could be something entertaining and fun that relates to your brand and demonstrates your brand personality.
1. Set your goals
First, you need to be clear on your goals. Do you want to raise brand awareness, build your client base, increase engagement with your customers, generate new leads, or demonstrate your thought leadership?
Then narrow it down so you have SMART goals. Perhaps you want to increase your audience range or attract more people in a specific region or country. Maybe you want X amount more social media followers who are more engaged, which you can measure by likes, shares, and comments.
Getting crystal clear on your goals helps to set the right plan for your web design business.
2. Define your target audience
To expand your reach, avoid writing for everybody. By gaining an understanding of who your target audience is, you can produce content that’s interesting and valuable to them. This will help ensure you reach the people who are most likely to engage and, ultimately, buy-in.
A great way of doing this is using buyer personas. By identifying people’s needs and interests, you can plan the right content and the right format for that content.
At this stage, you may wish to do a little reconnaissance on your main competitors. Look at their content and their level of audience engagement. Originality is everything, so you don’t want to copy their ideas, but merely use them as a starting point.
3. Decide what sort of content you want to produce
Adding a blog is the obvious place to start. The most successful blogs mix sales and promotional posts with informational and entertaining articles — if you include too much promotion, it will feel overly “salesy” and could put people off.
Written content marketing includes eBooks, templates, white papers, case studies, digital magazines, opinion posts, theme and plugin reviews, and Q&A sessions.
However, people like to consume content in different ways, and new technology has introduced all manner of possibilities. If you’re not keen on writing, you can start a vlog or podcast, run a webinar, make useful infographics, and even add something fun, like a quiz, quotes, or online game. Again, your target market is a good indicator of the type of content you should produce. Millennials love consuming content on the move, so podcasts and vlogs are popular, whereas more traditional, older audiences generally prefer written content.
4. Brainstorm content ideas
Think back to your buyer personas. What are their pain points? What problems are you trying to solve for them? This is a great starting point for deciding topics for your content.
Consider the types of queries people ask Google — you could even play with typing sentences or questions into search engines and see what autocompletes. If people are seeking the answer to a specific question and it’s in your area of expertise, it’s a fantastic option.
Again, originality is key. You won’t stand out from your competitors if you produce a regurgitated article on the same subject. Target a new niche, or at least a fresh slant to an old topic.
5. Brand your content
If you’re producing a load of content without including sufficient branding, you’re missing a trick. Establish a brand voice that fits your business values and brand personality, and stick to it. Remember, part of the reason you’re doing this is to build your authority and send out a positive impression of your company. Giving away free, useful information is a great marketing tactic, so you want people to know it’s coming from you.
Include internal links and promote your products or services within the content, but don’t get drawn into the hard sell. This will undoubtedly put people off. Ensure it’s high-quality, informative content first and foremost, and people will always return for more.
Branch out by producing guest posts for larger blogs. This will reach a wider audience and, if they like what they see, readers will click that link and come whizzing over to see what you have to say on your own site.
The most important thing is to be consistent in your voice. Consistency breeds trust. And trusts breeds loyal customers.
6. Blend content and design
As the old adage goes, content is king. But a poorly designed blog will never give you the conversions you seek. Ensure the blog matches the company style, be consistent in the fonts, colours, and imagery, and break up large walls of text with graphics, videos, images, and bulleted lists.
7. Publish and manage
The best way to ensure consistency and regular posting is to draw up an editorial content calendar.
Quality trumps frequency every time, so don’t rush to put out sub-standard material on a daily basis — it’s much better to post something valuable and engaging once or twice weekly.
Make sure much of your content is evergreen, as this encourages long-term, consistent, organic traffic. But leave room for timely articles — people like to see you’ve got your finger on the pulse and keep up with the latest trends. This can generate a welcome surge in traffic.
Finally, don’t just publish your content and then sit back and wait for the spike in hits. You have to show people the way. This is where your social media calendar fits in. Work to promote your content, so it reaches as far as possible. Social media is the ideal platform to share posts to reach a wider, more responsive audience. When people like, share, and comment, ensure you take note. Thank them for their time and start to build conversations with them. You’ll be the first person that pops into their heads next time they need a web designer!
How do you plan your content marketing strategy for your web design business? Can you add any useful tips to my list? Join in the conversation below.