After I joined the Relevance team last August, a lot of my friends and family were keen to understand how they could apply “content marketing principles” to grow their own businesses. While some of these people held positions of seniority in large companies, many others were just starting out on their own. But both groups had one thing in common: they felt that both social and content marketing had unproven ROI and wanted a “TRIAL RUN” or, to paraphrase, minimal budget and resource commitment projects to see if they actually worked.
Now in traditional marketing, the only thing that can truly replace or even beat resource constraints is out-of-the-box, sensational creativity ( yes, you call also call it strategy). Or a $250 budget campaign needs to be a hell of a lot smarter than a $2500 one to achieve ANY results, leave alone the same. But here’s the thing – Content Marketing works differently.
A home baker that simply messages popular party theme ideas (along with customized cake images, of course) to all her customers with birthdays in the coming week will actually achieve MORE success than an automated emailer from a larger cake shop with the exact same content.
Once I started thinking about small budget ideas, I realized that content is actually the empathetic salesperson AND the snazzy showroom AND the line at the purchase counter, AND the helpful support guy in the digital space. And if being able to do that in the smallest of budgets that does not level the playing field, I don’t know what else ever will.
Even the fanciest addresses (Google Rank #1 anybody?) is more content dependent than ever before. And while all marketing dollars have an opportunity cost, content marketing may have the lowest to start with in most scenarios.
Please find below my top 5 tips for what I think would be a great way for any business – big or small – to get their toes wet with social content marketing, if they are not doing it already.
TAP INFLUENCER NETWORKS WHILE YOU BUILD YOUR OWN
In the words of Joe Pulizzi, “you can build it, or you can buy it”! Most business will always experience a point where they do not have the aspired eyeballs for their product or service through their own website, profiles, and associated networks. Now they can wait to build this or they can seek opportunities for content creation and placement with those that already do. So a design house or upcoming designer could pay an established fashion blogger and a newly opened restaurant could court a celebrated food critic. Not only does it give you immediate visibility, it also provides the credibility halo of the “influencer” whose network you tapped into. And yes, I just explained Influencer Marketing!
EMPLOY A DIFFERENT ETIQUETTE FOR PERSONAL NETWORKS
Because of its ease and near-zero cost, TOO many business owners have confused content AND social marketing with simply bombarding their personal contacts with relentless updates that are just tiresome, if not downright rude. Given the size of an average person’s circle, the referral potential of these interactions is really small and the actual purchase potential is smaller still. To leverage the power of this group adequately, it is especially important to be creative and produce only personalized, highly actionable content. For example, an upcoming chef could host a “Learn to pair wines” class for a select audience. This has a FAR better chance of success than posting the 37th picture of a gourmet meal you just cooked. And on the subject of success, it is important to understand that the metrics for this group cannot and should not be monetary – Gains will come in the form of feedback, ideas, and, hopefully, positive word of mouth.
INVEST IN YOUR OWN NETWORK
Even as you leverage personal relationships and piggy back on other people’s good will, it is important to also invest in creating your own business audience. Since we are covering small businesses, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping your business page and personal page separate with content customized and separate for the two. And while social profiles like the Facebook business page can be a great way to generate business in the absence of a website or retail store, the content needs to be actionable and relevant. So again, no daily or even weekly posts on product images. Instead try exploring a trend through a poll or a contest like “3 ingredient cake” or comment on the downsides of ongoing trends like bell or bishop sleeves. One great way is finding an overlap between an ongoing social issue or topic of interest and your brand relevance. Trump pudding, anyone?
MAKE CONTENT WORK HARDER
While small businesses may not have the ability to generate reams of content on a daily basis, be on the lookout for opportunities. Have someone tape you while you are teaching that class of 6 year old or turn a cake order into an opportunity for a “How to make gum flowers” video. Instead of posting pictures of your cakes, try and post a picture with the birthday girl blowing candles on it- This may require following up with the customer but it will get far more engagement and interest than a lonely cake shot. Also, every good worker multitasks … so should content. Repurpose, recycle, and share everything again on peer networks and then link out your new content to your published pieces. So post a recipe video on your own profile, share in on every baker and mommy site that accepts it, include it as a link in the brochure for your next class, and then further use the links in ongoing posts. Once you begin, the ideas are, frankly, limitless.
PERSONALIZE THE STORY
As a small business, it is critical to maintain a database of your customers and communicate with them strategically. You content marketing could take the form of a sugar-free menu to your diabetic customers or “Frozen” themed cupcakes the week the movie releases near you. This requires taking the time to understand and record customer preferences and lifestyles to tailor make content that converts. It may mean communicating differently with regular customers as against those that order once a year as also your relatives and close friends. Most of all, it means taking time to write messages or content to suit their unique life journey and your relevance within it. This is one area where a smaller growing business will always have an edge over a more automated established store and is, therefore, the sharpest quiver in the bow.
THE CONTENT IS THE PRODUCT
Last but not the least, I would urge all small businesses to seriously consider updating their website or profile pages with user relevant, persuasive, and meaningful copy every chance they get. When interacting digitally, customers have no idea how smooth a texture is or how beautiful the dress makes them look. It is the descriptiveness of the text, the quality and angle of the supporting images as also the ease (or complexity) of navigation that will determine the brand experience and ultimately drive purchase. So, look for ways to upgrade this interaction – be it in the form of adding customer reviews, a bold lettered RETURNS policy, or just a more detailed About Us section where you share your vision and passion for doing what you do!