In their 2013 content marketing benchmark survey, the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs compiled the top priorities, goals and hurdles identified by marketers in their efforts. Content marketing now represents 33% of their marketing budgets, and over half of respondents said they were handling their content production exclusively in-house.
The results reflect the rise of content marketing as a primary strategy for businesses. But for a small business, with limited staff, marketing budget and unique business considerations, how do these results translate? Let’s take a look at the top challenges identified in the survey, and see how smaller business can address them.
Producing Enough Content
Marketers’ top concern is producing enough content to be effective with content marketing. But how much is too much? The answer, as always, is “it depends,” but we needn’t leave it at that. While finding that sweet spot of output vs. return will take some trial and error, what is clear is that a higher output generally provides higher returns, at least in terms of broad metrics like traffic and search engine indexing.
Take a look at this graph by Hubspot for a sampling of traffic returns on blog article ouput:
Clearly, there are tangible gains to be had with increased content output generally. But finding the right volume that works for you will take a bit of consideration. How deeply do you need to dip into your content production resources to produce at consistent levels? How well does it convert? A “more is more” attitude has to be balanced against real world concerns, so balancing production against return is critical. In reviewing other top marketing concerns, we can address some of these ideas and consider solutions to production limitations for small businesses.
Producing the Kind of Content That Engages
Content that does not resonate with its audience or serve SEO goals lacks strategic purpose. Marketing is not won by the brand that can fill the most online space, but by the one that can move its audience to action.
The best start to this approach is to use content to answer customer questions. We all are familiar with FAQs, but not enough businesses recognize that a frequently asked question is usually a frequently searched question. A small business looking to get traction with their target market should work to answer common questions with content.
This may entail breaking your FAQ page up into individual optimized answer pages, or using blog posts to speak to common customer concerns. In short, content that answers consumer questions and addresses reservations removes obstacles between the user and the conversion. Even a small business can reach out to their account managers, salesperson, customer service rep or other client-facing employee to identify recurring concerns or questions that can be proactively addressed with content marketing.
How do you know if your content is engaging audiences? See the “Measure Content Effectiveness” section below.
Producing a Variety of Content
To reach your audience, it’s important to consider a number of publication avenues. Content marketing is not just about creating great content, but pushing it out to your audience wherever they may find it. Here are CMI/Marketing Profs’ stats on which tactics marketers are using to reach their audiences:
To a company with limited resources, this may seem daunting. You’ve just invested in a really engaging blog post, so where do you find the resources for videos, guides, webinars, infographics and other formats?
A strong option is repurposing: taking the groundwork research you’ve done and pushing it out over different content platforms. Perhaps the data points of your research lend themselves to an infographic, or an account rep can best explain a customer question in a video. However it translates, the takeaway is that you needn’t toss aside your initial work just because it’s been published in one format.
Look at the content you’re producing and consider ways that same information could be applied to new formats. Creating a variety of media need not entail starting from scratch every time.
Lack of Budget
A small business has financial considerations, but a limited budget needn’t stop a company from achieving significant content goals. Consider these ideas when looking to produce content on a limited budget:
Who better to speak to your company’s offerings than your staff? In creating cost-effective content that speaks to your customers’ needs, rely on your staff members to create content that addresses client needs.
- As noted above, staff can often speak directly to client needs and concerns. Let those drive your content creation.
- Employees can be excellent at speaking to value propositions, service offerings, product details and other company strengths.
Inexpensive and Free Tools
Content production doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. For starting out with different formats that your staff may not be familiar with, consider free tools that will help you produce content on the cheap.
- Infographics: there are a number of options out there to create visual data products for little or no money.
- Video: YouTube is the foremost free publication channel for video, and there are a number of free solutions available to assist you in developing your video content.
- Presentations: sites like Slideshare allow you to share business slide decks online for exposure and to develop brand authority.
- Curation: Recognize you’re not the only kid on the block with a good idea, and showcase an editorial flair. Compile the best content in your field on a topic and bolster your industry cred without the burden of significant original content production
There are many content creation tools out there to explore. As you get familiar with with these formats you can consider investing in more advanced tools or partnering with an agency to continue elevating your content offerings.
Inability to Measure Content Effectiveness
Content marketing is a tree falling in the woods – be around to hear it. The success of content marketing should be informed by quantifiable metrics (you have site analytics in place, right?). ROI on marketing efforts is simple enough to do if you can identify the measurements that matter to you.
Likes, shares, traffic are all wonderful, but are they converting for you? If so great, but too many small businesses aren’t aware of how their content marketing efforts are performing in real world terms. For conversion-oriented sites like ecommerce, it’s relatively straightforward to track goals like online purchases and newsletter signups. But how do you track the effectiveness of a blog post or infographic?
The first step is to have quantifiable metrics to measure. Does your article or video post have a contact form or other call to action that can be tracked through analytics? Is your free guide gated behind a form that feeds into your lead nurturing funnel? When content budgets are tight, your ability to validate that expense internally will be driven largely by the ROI metrics you plan to align with those efforts.
Small Business Content Strategy
Being a smaller company does not mean content marketing is outside your means, it just means taking a little time to plan marketing efforts. Using the tips above, the top content marketing concerns can be sidestepped easily and effectively.