By now, we as small business owners know you can’t rattle off a list of products, services, features and benefits, call it marketing, and expect people to hire us. There’s too much competition, and people have instant access to too much information.
Trust in traditional advertising has eroded after decades of banging people over the head with deceptive sales pitches that insult their intelligence. Online advertising, which was supposed to bring the accountability and measurement that were missing from platforms like radio and print, has been plagued by ad fraud and poor viewability standards.
Patience has worn thin as publishers continue to shove pop-up and pre-roll ads down people’s throats, covering up the content they want to see or making them wait to see it. According to a report from PageFair, ad blocker usage increased 30 percent in 2016.
Unfortunately, both legitimate advertisers and effective advertising platforms have been hurt by these trends.
This is why content marketing has taken off. It allows any business, regardless of size, to take control of their marketing strategy, their message, the delivery of that message, and the measurement of their marketing efforts.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as follows:
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.
This isn’t about sharing links to content created by others. This is about creating original content – blog posts, newsletters, videos, podcasts, white papers, e-books, case studies, infographics, etc. – giving that content a permanent online home on a platform you own, and then sharing it via email, social media, and professional networking channels.
On the most basic level, creating and sharing original content on a regular basis keeps you top-of-mind. It allows you to educate people and earn their trust over time. If you consistently deliver value to your audience, they’ll hire you or refer you when the need for your services presents itself. You’re also more likely to be rewarded by Google with better rankings.
On the other hand, if you use your content to sell and self-promote, people will tune you out and unsubscribe to your content.
Top-of-mind awareness, education, high search rankings, and control of your content are off- the-charts important. People do indeed want to work with those they know, like and trust. But the value of content marketing goes much deeper.
Become a Go-To Information Source
People don’t just want products and services. They want, expect and need information.
Information helps people make educated decisions about their purchases. It helps them feel comfortable about who they’re doing business with. It answers their questions and addresses their concerns in detail. It removes doubt and confusion.
All of these things overcome obstacles to a sale.
Content is information. Helpful, valuable, searchable information that lives on your website and positions you as an authority in your field.
As a business owner, you have a choice. You can either be that trusted, go-to source of information that people crave, or you can concede that position to someone else. Possibly a competitor.
Show People Who You Are
What drives you as a business? What are you passionate about? What values shine through in everything you do? What positive changes have you created or enabled?
There probably won’t be one blog post, newsletter article or video that answers one or all of these questions. Showing people who you are as a business is part of the cumulative effect of content marketing.
When you dig deep into topics to educate your audience, provide information that helps people solve a problem or avoid that problem in the first place, share client success stories, and incorporate little nuggets about your company’s history, your audience gets a better sense of who you are.
More than know, like and trust, people want to do business with companies that are authentic. Companies they admire. Companies that share their values. Companies they believe in.
That’s how you build relationships with people you’ve never met. Relationships based on a common bond, not monetary transactions. Relationships that lead to loyalty and advocacy.
Make Price a Formality, Not a Sticking Point
We all get beat up on price from time to time. There’s no getting around it.
But when you focus on delivering value in your content, people are more likely to judge your business based on the value you deliver, not the price you charge.
If you feel confident in a company’s knowledge and ability to deliver on their promises, and you believe in the same things they believe in, would you really hold out for a better deal from someone else?
If price continues to be a sticking point, those people probably aren’t good prospects anyway. At least you know to shift your focus to better prospects.
Avoid Becoming a Commodity
There is nothing worse than being viewed no differently than any other company that offers the same products or services. That’s commoditization.
When you’re a commodity, you have no respect. You have no leverage. There is no relationship.
People choose commodities based on price. Period. The only way to win that business is to lower your price, which cuts into profits and devalues your offerings.
When you become a go-to information source, show people who you are, and make price a formality, you avoid becoming a commodity. More than a provider of a product or service, you’re a trusted expert. You instill confidence. You have value, and the leverage to ensure that you’re compensated accordingly.
Ask Yourself These Questions
Are you providing people with information they need to make better purchasing decisions?
What are you doing to build relationships with people who could become clients and/or referral sources?
What are you doing to convey not only who you are and what you do, but what drives you each day?
What are you doing to establish real value and stand out from your competition?
Beyond know, like and trust, content marketing helps you address these questions that are critical to the success of your business. When you unlock the deeper value of content marketing, that’s when you find the gold.
If you’d like to discuss how to develop a content marketing strategy that supports your business goals, let’s talk.