This week in small business: Content marketing matters for small businesses. A lot.

smb3Small business marketing as a whole has changed significantly in just the last few years, and as some new technologies have started to mature, they’ve redefined how businesses are reaching their customers. In particular, marketing a small business is much more content driven today, due to changing consumer tastes and the availability of new channels.

Content marketing – the great business leveler
Small businesses know they can’t compete with their larger competitors by outspending them, or by throwing a seemingly endless well of manpower and time at a problem. But at the same time, potential customers still want to work with the best option around.

This is where content-driven marketing comes in. As John Meyer, a marketing executive at The Company Corporation, wrote in his most recent LinkedIn article, content is arguably the most vital component of an overall marketing effort. In this instance, Meyer takes a broad view of content marketing, defining it as any channel through which customers interact with a business’s messaging.

Here are some ways in which a well-executed content marketing strategy can help a small business position itself as THE solution for its customers’ problems.

  • Look the part. How a small business comes across in its content – videos, blogs, websites, print collateral, etc. – will play a big role in determining how customers feel and think about it. Meyer wrote that if a small business wants to appear as trustworthy and knowledgeable as its larger competitors, everything about the content it puts out – from the logo, to the text and overall design – should position it as such.
  • Boost credibility. A small business should use its content to craft a narrative about how it came to be the expert solution in its space. Sharing a convincing story builds credibility, which is necessary for any small business that wants to be its customers’ trusted partner.
  • Focus. Great content means nothing if the right people aren’t reading it. Small businesses must take advantage of the plethora of inexpensive analytics tools available to ensure they can learn as much about the composition of their audiences and where those people are so they can target them.
  • Project expertise in a niche. Most small businesses are very specific in what they deliver due to the inherent limitations of their resources. Their content, then, should project an extremely high level of expertise in whatever niche they operate within.
Looking at the year ahead for small business content marketing

It’s one thing to make great content that projects trustworthiness and expertise. It’s another thing to make that content presentable on all of the right channels. The nature and number of¬†touchpoints through which consumers expect businesses to reach them has evolved and grown tremendously in just the last few years.

“While blog posts and other long form pieces will certainly have their place, there’s no denying that visual content like infographics and videos are starting to cement themselves as the preferred way of consuming content for many customers.”

An article in Small Business Computing looked at some of the trends that will dominate small business marketing in 2015, and found that these still-expanding channels, especially mobile, are going to play a big role in how content is created and distributed.

One of the big trends featured in the article is the rise of visual content. While blog posts and other longform pieces will certainly have their place, there’s no denying that visual content types like infographics and videos are starting to cement themselves as the preferred way of consuming content for many customers. Small businesses, then, should start figuring out the visual angle of their marketing as soon as possible.

Instagram, Vine, Pinterest – all of these are going to play a bigger role in content marketing than ever before. One tactic that is gaining popularity among small business marketers is to use short videos on these channels that act as teasers for bigger pieces of content or special announcements later on.

Another major trend is the increasing prevalence among consumers of mobile devices as a means of discovering and viewing content. But it’s not just a matter of having a mobile-friendly website. Everything part of a small business’s marketing mix must take the inherent limitations of the touchpoint. All content, then, should be highly visual, short and actionable to help cut through the clutter and distractions that abound on mobile channels.

smb4Given how easy it is for customers to create their own content using nothing more than the cameras on their smartphones, it’s expected that user-generated content will become much more prominent. Small businesses should embrace this trend by partnering with and featuring their most devoted fans. Generally, consumers trust the words of one another much more than those coming from a business, so tapping into their enthusiasm could be a powerful, inexpensive way to market a small business.