Constantly hearing about content marketing, but not sure what it is or how it can help your business? Business Advice, in partnership with Yell, spoke to some micro business owners who are getting it right for inspiration.
Our analysis takes the form of a four-part article series, taking you through all the important steps associated with micro and small business online sales and marketing. We’ve already examined the need to think about your online entity early on, and now it’s onto the next step.
Given that 62 per cent of people that receive a word of mouth recommendation go online to check the business out before they contact them, according to research from Opinium, establishing authority and authenticity through content has never been more important. “When done right, it can be one of the best ways to manage costs. If you create something that people want to share on Facebook, it can be very effective,” said Chris Witham, founder of micro design agency Lucid Synergy.
Witham, who has recently begun to produce video content and distribute it on LinkedIn, also pointed to the importance of experimenting with new content and sharing platforms. “Trying different things out is the only well you can work out what’s cost effective,” he added.
The idea that getting good at content marketing is a gradual process was reinforced by Planned Market Research founder Thomas Parry. “I’m gradually developing the tools to create the sort of content which people want to share,” he said. “The key thing is to provide content which educates people. It should be concise – and you need to see it as the start of the sales funnel.
“One thing that has worked really well is a downloadable PDF containing information on how to do market research – how to plan it properly and make sure it is the right length. My biggest bugbear is a bizarre questionnaire which goes on for too long.”
Mark Clisby, Yell marketing director, is in agreement that offering informative, useful content can be a big boost to a small firm. “Once you’re an established business, you need to be working out who your customer base is and identifying areas they’re interested in. It’s important to know where their knowledge gaps are so you can tailor content to meet their needs.”
For Elaine Burns, the founder of ecommerce platform Wear Eponymous, content marketing provides an opportunity to educate customers about her brand’s distinctive ethical stance. Though it isn’t a channel she has used previously, it is on the horizon, and Burns knows exactly what she wants to achieve.
“We’re focused on ethical products – and that means ethical prices too, so the creators aren’t getting ripped off. Getting the point across that designers need to be treated as fairly as customers is really important to us.”
The power of authenticity is certainly something which shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to content marketing. Roddy Campbell, the founder of a pioneering startup which allows people to rent out unused space in their homes during the day, has tapped into his pool of users to find such content.
“We have a lot of great Instagrammers who use our spaces, which has allowed us to find people who we think have great stories to tell. Writing about them and telling their stories has proven powerful because it’s very genuine.”
For Campbell, the success he’s had with content marketing when it comes to his business comes down to two key things. “We’ve worked closely to capture their tone of voice, and have a great content editor,” he explained.
Getting the tone of content right if you want it to be shared on social is something Clisby emphasised too. “Our marketplace has fallen foul of making things too complex for people to understand – there’s a real need for understanding that getting things across in a simple way is important. So don’t make it too complex, and don’t show off.”
“If you’re clever with the creative, it levels the playing field. You can compete with big companies and do better than them. But you’ve got to really experiment with it and pay to play,” Witham agreed.
Whatever your plans are for your content marketing strategy are, understanding your customer should be the first step. Make it unique and topical – no one is going to share something which is months out of date. And most importantly, remember that potential clients probably don’t know as much about the industry as you do, and keep it accessible.
Next week will see Business Advice, in partnership with Yell, explore the often confusing world of SEO – hearing from our four business leaders about how they’ve tackled the discipline.
We hope you’re enjoying our online sales and marketing feature series. If you have any specific questions then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and we’ll get our friends at Yell to answer them.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.