The Small Business Content Marketing Paradox Ross | February 6th, 2013
“Content marketing” refers to creating information (content) that has value to others. The creator of the content ultimately wants to sell a product or service to prospective buyers who benefit from the content, but the goal of content marketing is rarely to sell directly. Instead, the goal of content marketing is to encourage people to read and perhaps engage with the content, and to begin developing a relationship with the person or entity that created that content.
As you can see from the graph below (taken from Google Trends), online searches for “content marketing” worldwide have skyrocketed during the past several years. In fact, you’ve probably seen dozens, if not hundreds, of blog posts and articles about content marketing.
In fact, interest in content marketing isn’t uniform around the world. Google trends data strongly suggests that content marketing is hot in the United States, but much less so elsewhere in the world.
If we zoom even further, we see that the strongest interest in content marketing is found in two major startup markets – the East Coast and California. That shouldn’t be surprising – many startups are effectively using content marketing as their inbound sales strategy.
But there’s an important paradox facing small businesses and startups – effective content marketing requires the creation of consistent, high quality content AND a strategy for distributing/promoting that content across social networks and the Internet. Unfortunately, as we have all observed, most small businesses and startups are unable to do all three things well:
generate lots of content
ensure that the content is high quality
create a strategy and implement tactics to distribute and promote your content
If you cannot accomplish all three goals, the content you distribute will do little to help you engage potential customers, and ultimately will be something other than “content marketing”.
Let’s briefly look at all three goals of content marketing.
Generate lots of content
Many small businesses and startups face a difficult challenge – it’s not easy for them to generate lots of content. Their already small teams are stretched with other responsibilities and there’s very little available time for writing. Some solve this problem by leveraging third parties (marketplaces, consultants, agencies, freelancers). For example, you can post writing projects on marketplaces like crowdSPRING or Elance or you can identify bloggers or other freelancers whose work you admire and hire them to help create content for you.
If you have the internal resources to generate your own content but are not sure where to start, I recommend you read How To Grow Your Business With Content Marketing and 10 Content Marketing Tips You Can Employ Now.
Why should you worry about generating lots of content? Shouldn’t an occasional piece of content be enough?
Content frequency does matter. Hubspot reports that companies that blog 15 or more times per month get five times more traffic than companies that don’t blog at all. In fact, frequency of content and traffic are closely related.
More importantly, frequency of content and inbound leads – potential sales – are also closely related. The more frequent the content, the higher the number of inbound leads.
Bottom line: if you want to execute a successful content marketing strategy, you will need to generate lots of sustainable content.
Ensure That The Content Is High Quality
It’s not enough to generate lots of content. The content must be consistently high quality for your strategy to succeed. Sadly, there’s a ton of crappy content being generated every day. A ton of noise and very little signal.
In fact, some of the absolute worst content is about content marketing. It’s a giant cesspool of bad, uninformed, generic posts that add little value. (I hope you won’t classify this post in that cesspool).
If you are going to take the time to create content and to distribute and promote it, make that content great. Take the time to create something of value.
Many of you are wondering what’s more important – frequency of content or the quality of content. Both are important, but I would urge you to focus on quality first and frequency second. Remember that the goal of content marketing is a soft-sell. You’re trying to create a loyal base of readers (people who consume your content). You’re trying to build a relationship with these potential customers. Some of them might buy products and services from you. Others might recommend your products and services to their own networks. But your opportunity to sell them something at a later time is severely compromised if you add little value to the content you share with them. If the content is crap, they will have little reason to develop a relationship with you, little reason to buy your products and services, and no reason to recommend your products and services to others.
The content that will win the battle for attention and help your brand will not be low quality, volume-oriented content designed purely for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes or merely to keep your brand in front of the public. Quality content will nearly always win.
How can you tell if the content you’re creating is high quality? Look at data. Are people re-tweeting your content on Twitter? Are they promoting/sharing the content on Facebook or LinkedIn? Are people citing to your content in their own blog posts or newspaper articles? These are all good signals to help you gauge the quality of your content.
Strategy And Tactics To Distribute And Promote Your Content
Many small businesses and startups can create lots of high quality content, but never implement solid strategies for distributing and promoting their content. If you are the only one reading your content, it’s not content marketing.
There are many ways to distribute and promote your content. Not all are equally effective. For example, in U.S. B2B marketers use numerous social networks to distribute content.
The goals of this post isn’t to give you an indepth tutorial on distributing and promoting content – we’ll leave that for a future post. But there are many different channels for you to share your content, including social networks, email marketing, events, pay per click advertising (PPC), and even long-tail opportunities like search engine optimization (SEO).
If you’ve read this far, thank you! Now it’s your turn – go create some great content and develop a strategy to promote and distribute it. If you have any questions or other suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.