Content marketing is picking up momentum with small business owners. According to eMarketer, 74% of small business marketers increased their content marketing efforts in 2013.
Every small business serves a long-tail niche audience that can be targeted with content that resonates with them.
You simply cannot post a 5-page website, leave it alone for months (or even years), and expect to see any results in the form of online leads and customers. Content marketing takes time and effort, along with the willingness to learn, and yes, even fail.
So what can small business owners and marketers do with their content marketing to increase sales? Here are 5 five great ways you can leverage content for driving more online leads and sales.
1. Case Studies
Put yourself in the shoes of one of your target customers. One of the main things they require before providing you with payment is trust.
Trustworthiness is what prospective customers require to know that your product/service is going to provide them with some sort of gain: financial, time, organization, or all of the above. You must earn your prospects’ trust before they buy-in completely.
Case studies are one of the best ways to build trust with your target audience. Write a blog post detailing one of your most delighted customers. Be sure to include who they are, what they do, and the exact details on how they used your product or service to fulfill their desired needs. How exactly did you help resolve common pain points that others in their situation face all the time? The more quantifiable data points you can use, the stronger your case will be.
If members of your audience are the same or similar predicament as your featured customer, you’ll be able to create that trust factor and have a higher likelihood that they’ll reach out and express a need for your products/services. RELATED CLASS: Content Marketing for SMBs
Another powerful way to build trust with your content marketing is with testimonials.
Use a tool like SurveyMonkey to survey your power-customers (those who use your products/services the most) and brand evangelists/advocates to see who would be willing to provide you with a short testimonial. If you’ve done a great job for them, they should be willing to do this for you.
The bigger, more reputable customers and evangelists are really the ones you want to go after because the likelihood that your audience will recognize their name/company is higher. More recognition means more trust. Again, getting hard data in your testimonials is a very powerful motivational factor for conversions. For example, which of these testimonials is better in your opinion?
a) “Brand X is great!” – Joe Schmoe
b) “By using Brand X, I was able to increase my ROI by 300% over the past month!” – Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley Author, Investor, Business Advisor.
Include solid calls-to-action wherever you feature these strong testimonials on your website so your visitors know exactly what to do to achieve the same results as your testimonial. For example, “Download this whitepaper to see how you can achieve the same ROI results as Guy!”
3. How-To Articles
I’m sure most of you have heard this one before. It’s one of the safest content marketing techniques, because it just works.
Your target market is all over the search engines every day, searching for ways to make their lives easier. That means a lot of queries that begin with the words “how to…”. Each query that doesn’t find you is potentially lost business. Each article represents another opportunity to cast another line out behind your hypothetical boat (your website) to catch, and reel these potential customers in.
The easiest way to figure out what your next how-to article will be about is by listening to your customers. What do they ask about in their support requests? If there’s a common question that you can answer with a how-to, then that’s what you’ll write about.
You can also listen to (see read) the blogosphere, social media, and Google trends. They’re all great places to find what people in your industry are talking about aka what’s hot. You can curate content from those articles and questions into a great how-to and then reply to folks with a link to your article. Be sure to offer your unique point of view on the subject. Add value, don’t just repurpose.
In your article, point out that your readers need your product/service to properly complete the how-to process and you’ll have more visitors convert into leads and customers. How-to articles that don’t sell your brand don’t do much good for you, so go ahead and brag a little bit.
4. Guest Blog Posts
A great way to tap into larger audiences who could benefit by using your product/service is by having reputable industry mavens post on your blog. Don’t forget to return the favor by providing your own guest post(s) on their blogs as well. RELATED CLASS: Business Blogging: How to Leverage Business Blogging for More Traffic, Leads, and Sales
You can start small by asking other local business owners who are in your industry for a cross-promotional guest post exchange. Make the pitch about them and how it will benefit their business. Agree to write a post that meets their content guidelines and determine a topic that their audience will love.
I say “in your industry” because you’re going to have a link back to your site, and Google rewards links that are from similar sites. For example, if you write a how-to article for a local cheese maker when you’re in the children’s clothing industry, you’re not doing either party a favor. However, if you’re a boutique wine shop offering the same cheese maker an article on “How to pair French wines with cheeses”, then you’re more likely to see some traction in the form of visits and SEO because of relevancy.
Guest blog posts put your name, as well as your brand name, out in front of new, relevant audiences. These links last forever so they create a constant stream of visitors who can be leveraged into leads and customers (as long as the content is evergreen, aka timeless).
This final content marketing piece is really used to retain customers by keeping them informed on what your business has been up to lately.
They want to hear what’s going on in your industry and how it’s affecting them. If your customers only hear from you when you want something from them, you’re going to slowly push them away. Having an informal monthly eNewsletter can help keep the two-way dialogue open.
Send a short, well-formatted newsletter that includes links to some recent articles you’ve written, details new products/services you offer, lists improvements to existing products/services, and other relevant company or industry news that would be of interest to your audience. This way your customers know how you’re going to help them, and potentially others they know, now or down the road.
You can also send promotional and sale-related emails this way if you’re announcing a buy-one-get-one free or some other deal. We use MailChimp for this and it’s been great.
There are obviously many other content marketing techniques that you can use, but the five I’ve listed here are, in my opinion, what small business marketers should focus on to boost online sales.
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