Content marketing has become something of an equalizer for SMBs competing for consumers’ attention and looking for ways to generate new leads. As the cost of Adwords skyrocket, the old dictum that you get what you pay for is no longer the case. In fact, when it comes to search the opposite is true. Increasing bids on keywords can be a losing a strategy for many SMBs because bigger brands who can afford to spend more in the cost-per-click market will always be lurking around the corner.
What makes content so attractive for building a new audience and generating leads is that it’s truly ownable. Creating, commissioning, or otherwise earning content provides SMBs the opportunity to extend their business in a more meaningful way to consumers. Content creates value for consumers where other forms of digital advertising like display seek to extract value with direct-response cues that consumers have now been trained to ignore, a likely explanation for why display has hit a wall in recent years.
Here are best practices your small business should use to generate leads with content:
1. Get into the business of blogging
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 or small business, a blog is an essential piece to any content strategy. Blogs provide a simple way to engage consumers with content they find interesting, educational, or entertaining. Rather than a hard sell on a product, SMBs should consider what other value they as a company –and member of the digital community—can offer consumers. What is your subject matter expertise? What is the source of inspiration behind your company? What lessons have you learned that might be useful? It’s this knowledge and use of content that can help to engage with the consumer and turn them into a valuable lead over time.
2. Gain credibility with earned media
Earned media, such as news coverage, press mentions or product reviews, are a great way to increase your visibility in a crowded marketplace. Such exposure goes a long way in educating consumers without a brand’s direct involvement—which is to say consumers often trust earned media more than branded content. 79% of consumers indicated they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, showing that consumer knowledge about your company is a powerful and credible way to excite your audience and generate new leads. With the holiday season quickly approaching, expect to see the role of earned media in consumer spending proliferate.
3. Make multimedia multipurpose
In addition to providing a more engaging experience for consumers, multimedia assets greatly increase your options for content execution. Video is one of the most versatile assets you can develop. Embedding your company or “how-to” videos into articles and blog posts, turning them into thumbnails on Facebook and linking on Twitter, or adapting them into podcasts on SoundCloud, are all valuable ways to get more views and ultimately boost brand recognition. Similarly, an Instagram photo can live in a blog post which then becomes an appealing thumbnail in your Facebook update. All great ways to engage your audience!
4. Take it offline and get in-store
Many believe that content marketing is limited to the Internet. However, if you’re a brick-and-mortar business, using great content like case studies in lieu of hard-sell sales collateral is an effective way to engage with consumers in-store or at “the last 3 feet” before the sale. Think like the local supermarket that shares recipe cards using ingredients from their shelves. Whether your efforts are on or offline, the key is to always add value, entertain or inform your audience.
5. Build it and they will come…or will they?
Of course, one of the most important steps to consider is how to amplify your content to reach a bigger audience and capture that larger pool of leads. You’ve put a ton of time, effort and spend into creating content, but just because you have it on your site doesn’t mean people will discover it. In some cases, your content may be interesting enough that your audience will share it via social channels, but the reach is still limited to a smaller network. Here are a couple of alternative methods we suggest:
- LinkedIn offers a sponsored updates product that allows businesses to target any LinkedIn member. You’re able to distribute this content directly to relevant professionals in a place their customers and prospects are already consuming professionally relevant content.
- Outbrain drives discovery of article and video content at scale through personalized recommendations that appear in the footer of online article pages of premium publishers like CNN, WSJ and Slate. By amplifying your content through recommendations on these sites, you’re able to leverage their audience and drive them to your site, increasing your exposure to new leads over time.
Ultimately, whether you use social, content discovery or search to drive a new audience, the power of using your own content and creating value from sharing your knowledge will always better resonate with your audience than a hard product sell.