Winning content marketing strategies for SMBs

Content marketing continues to grow in importance for both B2B and B2C organizations, and as more and more businesses come to realize the importance of establishing thought leadership in their fields, those same businesses are finding that a disciplined, intelligent, and focused content marketing strategy is one of the best mechanisms by which to achieve their objectives.

But while we’ve all marveled at the publicity stunts of RedBull and other major brands with huge marketing budgets, we wanted to recap why and how content marketing applied to SMBs which, by definition, dont’ have as deep pockets.

Why is Content Marketing appealing to SMBs?

As the Content Marketing Institute defines it, “Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

In short, content marketing is rooted in the idea that quality content begets meaningful engagement, and meaningful engagement drives positive sales. Content marketing is a particularly appealing strategy for small-to-medium-size businesses (SMBs) for a number of reasons, among them:

  • It is primarily a digital marketing strategy that largely plays out across social media platforms, making success achievable at a fraction of the cost of “traditional” advertising options.
  • The “tools” to execute a successful content marketing strategy are readily available, comparatively inexpensive, and generally very user-friendly.
  • It is a strategy that favors multiple voices, making it an excellent fit for SMBs where it is common for team members to wear many hats.

So how do you do it?

Content Marketing Strategies

To deliver ROI to SMBs, a content marketing strategy needs to provide measurable results for reasonable – or at least scalable – costs. SMBs have limited budget and time to invest and they need to see results fast.

To achieve that, here are three important strategies to consider:

1. Blog Optimization

When it comes to your brand’s own content, a blog is possibly your single most important asset. While that might seem self-evident from a “narrative” standpoint, there is some optimization you can bring at both the site and the content level.

Old-school SEO is dead. With Google’s recent algorithm changes, great content became the only SEO strategy that wins. But without wasting money in old-fashioned SEO and precisely because of that new paradigm, there is some site optimization that you should cross-check sooner than later. Your site should be of course searchable (which means implementing basic SEO tips) but more importantly shareable: it should allow for likes, follows, and subscriptions, and it should be connected to your other social platforms. In particular, ensure you have big visible call-to-actions (CTA’s) to share any of your posts individually (ie not your entire blog, your posts). Last but not least, add conversion hooks to your blog: create CTA’s to subscribe to your content, get a demo of your products or be contacted by your sales team – whichever fits nest your lead nurturing and conversion strategy.

As for your posts, you want them to do as much for you as possible, for example:

  • Don’t let text just be text. Create pull quotes for images and tweetable quotes for sharing.
  • Don’t let an image just be an image. Embed quotes into images. Hyperlink images to locations on your site. Include more than one image, so that when you share the post, you have options of which images to run on which platforms.
  • Don’t just quote from. Link to. When you link, don’t just link to a URL. Provide Twitter handles for your sources, LinkedIn pages, Facebook pages, or Google+ pages.
  • Don’t be afraid of audio and video. Link to or embed videos, webinars, and podcasts. This will enrich your content, and it highlights quality work from other sources, and engenders mutual goodwill with your sources.

2. Content Curation

Content curation is essentially the process of sharing interesting content with your target audience, for the benefit of your target audience, in such a way that it enhances your own reputation and standing as well.

As an example, say you’re in the business of cloud storage. What kind of assessments can you make about your audience? Meaning, they’re interested in cloud storage, what else might they be interested in? How about:

  • The Cloud
  • Technology
  • Big data
  • Upload/download speeds
  • Product/service reviews
  • Security
  • Data migration
  • Supplier stability
  • Hacking
  • Piracy and file sharing

With a list in place, the next step is searching the web for content about any and all of these related topics. This can be done via standard search engines, via social media (relying on hashtags, groups, communities, search terms) or better yet through tools like Scoop.it’s new Smart Suggestion Engine. Once you identify appropriate content (articles, photos, infographics, webinars, podcasts, videos) you should annotate each item with your insight to bring perspective to your audience and share it via your available social platforms. There are numerous tools you can use to queue up and schedule your posts (e.g., HootSuite, Buffer which are integrated to Scoop.it) so in an ideal world, you can maintain a steady stream of content that provides a service to your audience, and highlights your brand as a thinker in the field.

3. Re-purpose, Recycle, Re-Imagine

Intelligent and ongoing re-purposing of your content is critical to a winning content marketing strategy, because not everyone is paying attention all the time, and not everyone experiences things the same way. Some read blogs in the daytime, some watch YouTube at night. Some like short-form micro-content, some like long-form e-books. Some listen to podcasts on their commute, some while they exercise. This one likes pictures, that one likes graphs. This one prefers webinars, that one prefers Slideshares. The point being, any good piece of content can be re-tailored to different formats, different platforms, and different duration times, and if you want to catch the most fish, you need the widest net. Let’s say your company is getting ready to release a new white paper. Thinking like a content marketer, your job is to imagine what else that content can be besides a white paper. For example:

  • One or more supporting blog posts that focus on sub-topics within the scope of the white paper
  • An infographic highlighting the findings in the white paper
  • A podcast on which the author(s) discuss the findings in the white paper
  • A survey providing an opportunity for readers to offer their reactions to the white paper
  • A webinar based on the white paper, that can then be recorded and posted as a video on YouTube

Conclusion

The key to make content marketing interesting for SMBs is to lower the barrier to entry and let them start with reasonable costs. A couple of hours to write a blog post, 15 minutes a day to curate content, etc… But to really demonstrate ROI, SMBs need effective strategies that scale such as the ones above. Now over to you: what other content marketing strategies have you found effective for SMBs?

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