If you’re interested in content marketing for small business, you may be curious how it’s different than content marketing for larger organizations. Content marketing is all the rage these days, and for good reason. As Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, puts it:
Consumers have shut off the traditional world of marketing. They own a DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons (making them irrelevant).
Smart marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way.
This better way for Joe and a host of other marketing gurus is content marketing, which he defines in the following way:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
If you’re a small business like us, however, you may find this new type of marketing intimidating, to say the least. These are just a few questions our clients ask us when we introduce them to this relatively new approach to marketing:
- How does content on the web attract people to your business?
- How do you find or create relevant content?
- Do you create all the content yourself or is it okay to curate content from other sources?
- If you do curate content, why would your audience want to hear from people other than you? Won’t that hurt your business?
- Where should the content appear? On a website? A blog? Social media? Traditional media like newspapers, television, and radio? All of the above?
To help answer these questions for folks that aren’t currently our clients, this will be the first post in a three-part series called “The Complete Guide to Content Marketing for Small Business.” In this series, you’ll learn:
- How to find your content niche when doing content marketing for small business
- How to create a sustainable plan for developing, publishing, and promoting content
- How to improve your content marketing plan over time
Okay, let’s get started! Below you’ll learn how to find your content niche as a small business.
The First Stage of Content Marketing for Small Business: Finding a Content Niche
Heading back over to Joe, we find out that the first step in developing a content marketing plan is to differentiate your content from what already exists. He advises to “either start telling a different story or don’t bother at all.” What he means by this is that you need to identify what is unique and interesting about your business. Then you need to tell a compelling story about that uniqueness.
It’s important to differentiate the story you have to tell from the stories already being told in your industry because that’s what makes customers fall in love with small business: they’re unique. Think about it: do you really care about a specific McDonald’s location? Or any other large chain? No, because they’re all the same. Large chains have multiple locations. Small businesses have to rely on being the best in their area.
This is why telling a unique story is even more important when doing content marketing for small business.
Small businesses that thrive know that they need to appeal to customers in their area, whether that is a city, a state, or a specific niche online. That’s your value proposition as a small business: it’s what you do for your customers that no one else can do for them.Your content niche is the story you tell your customers that keeps them coming back for more. Click To Tweet
Step 1: Figure Out What You’re an Expert In
The first step in identifying your content niche as a small business is to figure out what you’re really good at. And it doesn’t have to just be the product or service you sell. Maybe you treat your customers better than other people do. Or maybe you’re more honest with your pricing than others are. Maybe you know something about your industry that others don’t.
There’s some reason why people keep coming back to you. And it’s because they trust you. They think you’re an expert in doing whatever it is that you do.
And this is where a lot of our clients get hung up: you can tell a content marketing story about anything. Many of our clients start out thinking that their industry doesn’t rely on stories. This is especially true if they’re in a highly technical field like healthcare or geography. The assumption is that this highly specialized knowledge is only shared by other experts.
What many small businesses don’t realize, however, is that other people in their market do want to hear their story. There are people that get excited about just about every topic you can imagine, and many of those people are potential customers.
Here are some things to consider as you develop your content niche:
- What makes your business unique? What keeps people coming back to you?
- What stories do you have to tell that relate to the unique value proposition of your business? What stories can you tell that will keep people coming back to hear more?
- What are you really good at?
- What knowledge do you have that competitors in your target market don’t?
Step 2: Create Your Audience Profile
After you have a rough idea of your content niche, it’s time to identify who you’re going to tell your story to. Who you’re trying to reach is as important as the story you have to tell. As we all know, the way you tell a story depends strongly on who you’re telling it to. You don’t tell the same story the same way to a grandparent as you do to a small child: you tailor it.
Content marketing is no different. You need to identify specific individuals that you’ll be speaking to. Consider the following questions when doing so:
- Who are your target customers?
- What are their basic demographics (i.e. age, gender, location, buying habits, etc.)?
- What values do they hold that make them good customers (i.e. a passion for antiquing, interest in refinancing their house, searching for a new doctor, etc.)?
You can answer this question by looking at your customer database or other sources of data (i.e., recent orders), but it’s more important to identify specific individuals that are like the customers you want to attract. Choose individuals that you think represent a specific customer segment and build a profile for each one that includes:
- Basic demographic info
- Quick story that explains why they’re a valuable customer to you
Your goal in your content marketing plan will be to attract new customers that are like these customers you’ve identified!
Step 3: Figure Out What Your Audience Is Searching for Online that Relates to Your Niche
This is a step a lot of our clients who have attempted content marketing have skipped. As one past client put it when we brought up content marketing: “I kept a blog for six months. No one read it.” Besides figuring out your content niche and who your audience is, you also need to look at what people are actually searching for online.
This involves keyword research, which we’ve written a whole post about. Without repeating that information here, you need to identify keywords that:
- Have relatively high search volume, relative to the group of people you’re trying to reach
- Have low competition, meaning they aren’t flooded with other people’s content
- Make sense, given your content niche and target audience
This is an art more than a science. The goal is to find the sweet spot between what people are currently searching for online, what you want to contribute, and what you think will appeal to your audience.
And you don’t need to figure this out all at once. In our personal experience, content marketing for small business is a process. It may take you some time to find your niche and that’s okay.
Next Post: How To Create a Sustainable Plan for Developing, Publishing, and Promoting Content
In our next post in this series, which will cover all the basics of content marketing for small business, we’ll explain how you can take your content niche and develop it into a winning content marketing campaign for your small business.