How do we get found in search engines? How do we get people to talk about us on social? We better be interesting and helpful, and we better do this on a consistent basis.

Joe Pulizzi Founder, Content Marketing Institute

The Content Marketing Institute was founded by Joe Pulizzi, the leading evangelist for content marketing. Joe, an entrepreneur, speaker, and author on content marketing, believes passionately that there is a better way for brands to market than how they’ve done it in the past.

New Rise Digital’s Simon Dunant asked Joe to explain to small business owners what content marketing is, and why they should be embracing content to build trust and connect with their customers.

Many small businesses may have heard the term Content Marketing but don’t fully understand what it means, how would you define content marketing?

Instead of interrupting our customers and prospects with advertising or promotions they don’t want, we develop valuable, relevant, compelling and consistent content to attract and retain customers.

It’s very similar to thinking and acting like a publisher, and could take the form of blog posts, e-newsletters, print magazines, social media content, in-person events and more, but unlike a publisher, instead of generating revenue through paid content or advertising, we drive new sales, cost savings or keep our customers happier in some way.

Why should a small business owner consider using content as a marketing channel, and what are the opportunities?

First thing, you have to ask the question “why?” What business objective are we trying to solve. Content may or may not be a solution.

That said, our customers are inundated with over 10,000 marketing messages per day. They are also in control of what they take in. How do we break through all the clutter and get customers’ attention on a regular basis?

How do we get found in search engines? How do we get people to talk about us on social? We better be interesting and helpful, and we better do that on a consistent basis. The opportunity is to become the leading, go-to expert in your particular niche. There are no barriers to entry for doing this today.

What do you consider to be the biggest misunderstandings that businesses have when considering using content as a marketing channel for their products and services?

The content isn’t about us; it’s focused on the customer. Our audience doesn’t care about us, our products or our services. They care about themselves. Most businesses lack consistency. Content marketing is not a campaign, its forever. Timetables for success take much longer than 6 months (for the most part). If your timetable is less, just buy advertising.

Content marketing isn’t just for lead generation. Actually, from a historical standpoint, the majority of content marketing programs are focused on loyalty and retention goals.

It’s important to set expectations when using any digital marketing channel, so what goals should a small business be setting, what metrics should they be measuring and what tools should they be using when creating content marketing campaigns?

There are many metrics that will help you show increase in sales, lower costs or happier customers. But my favorite metric is subscription. If there is a holy grail to content marketing measurement, it may be to show the difference between those that subscribe to my content versus those that don’t. Do they buy more? Buy quicker? Talk more about us? Stay longer?

Most businesses focus so much on lead generation. It’s so much better to grow your audience first, and look to sell to your audience second.

Are there particular markets or demographics that you think fit particularly well with content marketing campaigns and any that don’t?

Honestly, I haven’t found an area where there couldn’t be a content solution. That said, healthcare is huge right now because education is critical to patient satisfaction rates. Manufacturing has taken a little bit longer to catch up, so there are still some content niches there for the taking, especially as some B2B decision makers are just starting to use social media channels.

Which types of content tend to create more engagement?

If you mean sharable content, blog posts and eBooks are probably right there at the top. Video is starting to take off as well, although, it’s less about the content types and more about the content and consistency. Also, some of these programs need some paid distribution behind them if we don’t have our audiences built up yet. There’s no sense in spending a lot on content creation without an audience.

Are there any upcoming trends in terms of type of content you’ve seen that small businesses should be investing their time and budgets into?

Small businesses are notorious for starting programs and stopping. The biggest issue right now is actually choosing a channel to master and consistently publishing in that channel. We’ve seen so many small businesses start a blog or webinar program or e-newsletter and then stop altogether or erratically publish.

If you are just getting started, the blog/e-newsletter combo works really well for small businesses and doesn’t take a large budget.

Creating content for a campaign can be time consuming, and in small businesses particularly, time is at a premium. What advice would you give to a small business owner reading this that thinks they don’t have the time to devote to a content marketing campaign?

There are amazing storytellers, journalists and writers out there willing to help you. Look at the contributing writers in your industry niche trade magazine and approach those people. They usually are not part of the payroll and are looking for opportunities.

Are there any particular online tools you’ve found useful for creating content?

WordPress is our content management system. For email, MailChimp is great for smaller companies. Tools like KaPost, AtTask, and DivvyHQ are great for content production. To distribute eBooks, we love Slideshare.

Creating great content is only valuable if it’s actually seen. What are some of the best ways that small businesses can effectively distribute their content and gain visibility?

It takes time, but the best method is to build relationships with industry influencers. First, create the list of influencers (where your customers are hanging out online). Then, start sharing their content. Then, bake them into your content. After a while, you may start to communicate with them, and they may start sharing your content. Become an active member of their sites and blogs.

Again, focus on building your audience first by attracting subscribers. If you create a blog, your goal might possibly be to get and keep a subscriber.

In your experience how successful do you think Content Marketing has been so far at delivering conversions against other forms of digital marketing?

There are a lot of ways to get conversions; content marketing is one of them. But what content marketing can do that most other forms can’t is it can create better customers. If you get the conversion and then nurture that subscriber with epic content on a regular basis, odds are they do something different that will help your business.

That’s the magic of content. It helps you position yourself as a trusted resource; the other conversion methods probably can’t do that.

What are your top 3 tips for converting customers with content marketing?

  • Limit the calls-to-action on your content site to subscription only.
  • Consider using Pippity or another popover tool to drive subscriber rates to a special content offer.
  • Leverage Slideshare Pro to generate leads directly on