Small businesses tend to be conservative about marketing, both in terms of what they’ll try and what they’ll spend. This is often in their best interest – they have limited budgets and lean staffs. They don’t have a lot of resources to spare.
But unfortunately, sometimes this restraint can hurt them. It causes them to hold back on marketing investments that could bring them more business. Content marketing is one example.
How much should small businesses spend on marketing?
The Small Business Administration recommends “small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing.” But that’s not happening very much. One recent survey of small businesses found 63% of them invest 6% or less or their revenue in marketing. 34% invest less than 3%.
The survey turned up something else of interest: These businesses tend to do their marketing in-house, rather than outsourcing it. Only 12% of the small businesses surveyed outsource their marketing, public relations, and advertising. Yet 54% of them outsource graphic design and web development.
So if your small business is short on marketing budget, but you’re still committed to doing your marketing in-house… well, you’re about average.
It’s also no wonder that you might be a little suspicious about this content marketing thing. For it to work, it’s got to be effective, low budget, and something you can do yourself.
So does content marketing fit the bill?
In many cases, yes. But your company may be different. I simply can’t tell you that content marketing is right for every business. It certainly does work well for professional services companies, like law firms and CPAs and marketing agencies. But I’m not sure a car wash or a movie theater would benefit.
You’re really the best person to decide if content marketing can help your business. Learning a bit about how it works, and what the benefits can be, might tell you whether or not this new type of marketing is right for you.
To help you do that, here are all the ways content marketing can benefit a business. If even a few of these could apply to your company, content marketing is probably worth a try.
1. Content marketing helps you retain existing customers
We get so focused on finding new customers that we often neglect the ones we have. That’s a mistake. As you’ve probably heard, it costs dramatically less to retain an existing customer than it costs to find a new one.
Content marketing can help with this. By creating good content (and promoting it) you can stay top of mind with your customers. You can also gently remind them of other services you offer.
So content marketing doesn’t just let you retain existing customers. It also lets you make them into more valuable customers.
2. Content marketing is more effective than native advertising
Advertising has been having a hard time for a while. First, there’s so much advertising that it’s almost impossible to stand out. Second, with the rise of browser ad blockers (and TIVO, and every other tool created expressly for blocking ads), fewer ads are getting through.
Content marketing breaks through those barriers. Because good content is useful, audiences are naturally attracted to it. It blurs the line between entertainment, education and advertising. In fact, really good content isn’t even recognizable as advertising.
Still not sure about this? Well, there’s been a bunch of studies to back it up. One of my favorites from Moz and Fractl found that content marketing beat native advertising in terms of leads, links and traffic.
3. Good content attracts organic search engine traffic
Search engine optimization has always been fueled by content. That’s only more so now. In fact, most SEO-advice websites have full sections on content marketing. And almost every article on those sites mentions how to use content in every aspect of optimization.
That’s interesting, but as a small business owner, you’re probably interested in one thing: Getting more traffic to your website. Content marketing can do that. Witness how blog posts drove more traffic to the websites in a study from HubSpot. (This traffic converts, too. More on that in a second.)
4. Content marketing generates leads
This one’s for those of you who are all about the numbers – who want proof that this will work. Well, the good news is content marketing definitely generates leads.
It’s also great at nurturing leads. This means you aren’t wasting your sales teams’ time with poor quality leads. And you aren’t throwing out leads that simply aren’t ready to become customers yet.
With a steady stream of content, you can keep talking to prospects. Done correctly, this communication can accelerate their decision-making process. They’ll become customers sooner than they otherwise would have.
Want proof? Here’s another graph from that same HubSpot study, showing how the number of blog posts published contributed to more leads.
5. Content sharing leverages word of mouth, one of the most effective marketing tactics ever created
Word of mouth happens in content marketing in several ways. First, every share is a type of word of mouth recommendation. When people are sharing your content with their followers, they’re saying, “Hey – you should see this.”
When their friends see these recommendations enough, they’ll develop familiarity and trust with your brand… before they ever even click through.
6. Content marketing answers common customer questions
Worried you won’t be able to come up with enough content ideas? Stop. You can go a long, long way simply by answering every question about your company, products or industry that you’ve ever been asked.
Answer these questions in a way that’s truly useful to your audience, and be sure to give the best answer available. The more detailed, helpful and entertaining you can be, the better.
This will help you create a body of terrific content, and it has a sleeper benefit. You’ve just given your customer service staff an amazing resource to help your customers and prospects with. Your content can become the new and vastly improved version of a FAQ (Frequency Asked Questions) page.
7. Content marketing supports your sales team
Just as a great content hub can help your customer service people do their jobs better, a great content hub can also help your sales staff, too. Every piece of content you create should be moving people through your sales funnel. So in a sense, every piece of content is serving as a remote sales person.
This cross-over between your sales department and the content you create should go both ways. In fact, you might want to bring a few people from your sales team into your content brainstorming sessions. Your sales team knows an enormous amount about your prospects.
8. Content marketing lets you distinguish yourself from your competition
Creating content that expresses your company’s personality and uniqueness can seem like a challenge at first. But it’s actually a major opportunity. This is because “me too” content (content that’s like everyone else’s) simply isn’t enough to stand out. You need to find what’s called your “brand voice”.
So here’s your chance to be a little weird… or a little opinionated. It’s good to take a stand, have a position, and say what you want to change about your service or industry. This is exactly the perspective to create great content from, and to market that content effectively. In fact, this is usually the only kind of content that gets noticed.
In other words…
9. Content marketing supports your outbound marketing, too
Content marketing can support your other marketing tactics – your outbound ones. In other words, your advertising, email marketing, webinars, and other outbound tactics can be supported and amplified by your content marketing work.
This is one of the best things about content marketing. Once you’ve got the content assets, they can be re-used, re-formatted and re-shared many times. Every blog post can be made into multiple content formats.
Think content marketing might be a good fit for your company? There’s certainly plenty of benefits to it. And if you plan your content well, there are plenty of ways to overcome the biggest challenges of it, too.
Content curation can help you create more content faster, for instance. And content marketing automation can do most of the repetitive work and the analysis, too. Those are the shortcuts most successful small businesses find they need to make content marketing work.
Back to you
Have you seen content marketing grow a business’s revenue in ways I haven’t mentioned here? Tell us about it in the comments.
And if you’d like to know how you can start blogging consistently in 30 minutes a day or less, read our eBook!
Image by Hiroyuki Takeda.