If you've poked around enough marketing websites, you've seen sites mention content—one of those marketing strategies that cuts through the thunderous din of advertising to reach customers with real, usable information.
Content marketing isn't about blasting emails that aren't even opened before they're moved to the trash folder. Instead, content marketing is about giving your small business's website and blog fresh content tailored to your industry niche. That new content makes readers come back to your site for information, building trust among the site's visitors. Once trust is established, it's easier for your company to convert the site visitors into actual customers. Existing customers, too, will have reasons to keep returning to your site.
Who Uses Content Marketing?
Based on research by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and the company MarketingProfs, CMI founder and executive director Joe Pulizzi says 86 percent of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are using content marketing. The research is part of a new trends-and-benchmarks report published by the two companies, which reached out to consumers through social media sites.
By far the most popular site for content marketing is Facebook, with 90 percent of the B2C marketers reporting they use the mega-social networking site for business. Twitter was used by 69 percent of marketers and YouTube by 65 percent of the marketers.
Pulizzi points out the largest challenge for B2C content marketers, as well as small businesses trying to get into content marketing, is having little to no budget for the content push. Other challenges include having enough content to keep it fresh, as well as publishing content that engages the site visitor.
How Do You Build Trust?
As a small-business owner, you already know about networking to get your company's name out there. Content marketing is an extension of that networking, only you're building a relationship with your website and blog visitors, online, and as with any good business relationship, it comes down to trust.
How do you build trust with site visitors? By offering them reliable, useful and new information. Take, for example, emergency room doctor-turned-author CJ Lyons. She has carefully built trust with her readers and has sold more than a million self-published books, by interacting with her readers, sending them valuable content through e-mails and on her website, then dropping the price on her eBook from $4.99 to 99 cents—and the book sales skyrocketed, according to Mark McGuinness, who chronicled Lyons' as a case study for marketing site Copyblogger.com.
How Do You Measure Whether It's Working?
Naturally, you'll want ways to measure how effective your content marketing is in introducing new customers to your products and business. For example, look at what Sears does with its FitStudio.com site.
The national retailer has created an online fitness community with FitStudio and provides fresh content to community members through articles from fitness experts. The site ties in with Sears' merchandise of exercise equipment. Sears measures a number of metrics for its site, including new members, engagement, page views, return visits, coupon redemption and purchases, says Julia Fitzgerald, a chief digital officer with Sears Holdings.
"FitStudio is a social venue where people can connect with each other and the fitness experts for information and encouragement," Fitzgerald tells Forbes.com. "While the Sears brand is successful at selling fitness equipment, we have challenged ourselves with FitStudio to extend the brand beyond the equipment and to stand for the motivation and know-how to get America in shape."
By creating trust and providing content that's relevant to your customers, content marketing can help propel your business forward.
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