For small businesses, looking “big” online isn’t so much about appearing as a large company when they’re not. Its about being a big resource for prospects and customers. As the popularity of content marketing and brands as publishers heats up with large companies, many small businesses still have the advantage of being nimble and adaptive to new ways of engaging customers. That ability to experiment and implement quickly as well as creatively can be a big advantage.
Here are a few ways small businesses can use content marketing in combination with some SEO and Social Media Smarts to be a “bigger” resource for their online customers.
1. Blog – A blog is an easy to use content management system that also offers numerous social and SEO benefits. For example, our client Marketo started a blog as soon as they launched their website and start-up business. That one blog has now grown to 4 blogs and a dominant position in Google and social search results for the solutions their customers are looking for most. In part by using a blog as a useful resource for prospective and current customers, Marketo is attracting business at a faster rate than most of their larger competitors with a 10 year head start.
2. Newsletters & Email Marketing – Email newsletters are great ways to connect directly with prospective customers and stay connected to current customers. Newsletters can be published as blog posts for discovery via search engines and can provide a great segue from social relationships on social networks like Facebook or from a blog to more commercial relationships with prospects. Newsletters provide a way to offer useful and targeted information to nurture leads and provide opportunities to find out more on products and services.
Our client J&O Fabrics has been providing customers with an email newsletter about fabric for many years offering tips, how to articles and information about new products. That newsletter was the inspiration for a very popular fabric blog which led them to implement other social media efforts through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
3. Media Coverage & Contributed Articles - Word of mouth is priceless for all businesses, especially small businesses. Getting mentioned in the local business media and trade publications can boost awareness, credibility and directly generate new business. Make a list of local business publications, writers and editors as well as popular trades and bloggers. Send them relevant news about your company in a concise and compelling format.
Getting an email directly from the CEO or a VP of a small business creates a direct connection that many time pressed journalists appreciate. If they blog, make comments that add value, then follow up with more detailed, useful information. Provide “hooks” that give perspectives and insights not normally thought of. Stand out and tell a compelling story. Follow up but don’t stalk! Many of the relationships we have at TopRank Online Marketing with journalists came as a result of sending an email offering 1-3 abstracts for potential contributed articles. Now many of those news sites contact us for quotes.
4. Resource Center - One way small businesses are beating their larger competitors in search and in building authority is to be a better resource for customers through useful content. Common formats for helpful information about buying, using and related information on products and services include articles, videos and podcasts.
5. Social Networks & Media – In the way that customers expect a toll free number, web site and blog, they’re beginning to expect the brands they buy from to be social. That means having a presence in the social networks that are most relevant to customers. It doesn’t need to be a lot of time, but a small amount of time consistently spent on interaction and relationship building can go a long way at developing a community.
The key is picking the right platform. It might be a LinkedIn group, Facebook Fan page, a Forum added to your site or creating a niche social network of your own using a service like Ning.com. Content created on the newsletter, blog and resource center can be cross-promoted with social networking and media sharing. While it’s new and a work in progress, Imagine Lifestyles, a TopRank client that rents exotic cars, luxury homes & yachts does a good job at cross promoting blog content on their Facebook page and YouTube channel.
6. Events – Networking for small businesses is as old as word of mouth marketing itself. Events are a great way to connect with prospective customers, marketing partners, new employees and influentials in your industry. They’re also a great place to create content. We’ve shared many insights into how to get the most out of attending conferences, especially when it comes to content creation.
Liveblogging, interviews via video, audio or text and photos are not only great content to be shared after the event, but more importantly, serve as an excellent ice breaker to connect with others during the event. That content can be used in many of the tactics listed above.
As a small business, should you do all of these things? No, of course not. Wearing many hats and slim resources means all of these tactics won’t be practical. But you can start small and adapt with more or different content according to what’s working vs. what’s not.
What are some creative ways your small business has been able to achieve “big” results with customers on limited resources?
Want to learn more about Content Marketing?
If you’re attending OMS in San Diego next week, be sure to sign up for SES Accelerator on Feb 10th. I’ll be giving a presentation on Content Marketing Strategy that will provide both high level and specific, tactical advice on how companies, large and small, can boost their online marketing results with content.
If you’re attending SES London, I’ll be giving a presentation on Content Marketing & Optimisation Feb 23rd followed by a presentation for OMS London: Integrated Online Marketing: Search, Social & Online PR on Feb 25th. I hope to see you there.