Hello to the small business owners, solopreneurs, marketing lone rangers, and other resource-challenged professionals out there trying to promote your products and grow your organization without much time, budget, or help. This is the blog series for you, and today we are talking about content.
By the end of this post, you will know what “content” really means and why it’s important to the success of your business. We’ll also address some of the common objections to creating content – objections that you may be silently yelling at us right now.
Then in our next post in this series, we’ll help you draft a basic content plan (and we’ll include the link here when that post is live).
Sounds at least a little exciting, right?
Fair enough. This concept of content in marketing, and in business in general, can seem vague and even frivolous. You’re trying to keep the lights on and make customers happy, and we’re saying “content,” a word favored by celebrity YouTubers and TikTokers.
But content is essential to every business today, from local mom-and-pops to big, well-known brands. So with this post, we’ll do the following:
Define content as it relates to small businesses, and list some content types.
Explain why you should care about content.
Address a few common objections to creating content.
Let’s get going!
What is Content for a Small Business?
For any business, content is three things:
Content is What You Say About Your Product or Service
The most basic and critical thing you have, small business owners, is your product or service.
But the second most basic and critical thing you have is what you say about your product or service.
Content is your messaging. It’s everything you want people to know about your product or service, such as its:
- Features and price
- Uses and benefits
- Specialties and uniqueness
- Customers and track record
- Quality and value
- Evolution and future
Further, content is everything you want people to know about your company, which is an extension of your product or service. It is the people, teams, culture, and ongoing processes and systems you’ve built to create, deliver, and service what you are selling.
Content is a lot! It’s everything that relates to and supports your product or service.
Content is How and Where You Deliver Your Messaging
In addition to what you say, content is also how and where you say it.
Fans of “The Office” might remember this scene:
In this episode, Creed encourages Michael, who has been living way beyond his means, to declare bankruptcy. So Michael strides to the middle of the office and literally shouts, “I…declare…bankruptcyyy!”
It’s funny because it’s ridiculous. Everyone knows it’s pointless to shout a statement into the void and expect it to be official.
Your content is the same way. You have to capture it in an official format and distribute it on an official platform, or it’s just shouting into the void.
In broad terms, content can take two forms: content assets and recurring content:
Content assets are pieces of digital or physical collateral that serve as key calling cards for your business, such as:
- Your website
- Brochures or sales sheets
- Ebooks or hard-copy books
- Articles or white papers
- Keynote speeches or presentations
- Courses or webinars
- Long-form blog posts or blog series
- Video series
Recurring content is digital or physical collateral published on a regular and repeated schedule, such as:
- Offers, promotions, and advertisements
- Social media posts
- Google My Business posts
- Blogs, videos, and podcasts that you create and publish predictably
As you can see, there are many options for content. Now is a good time to start thinking about what content formats might be a good fit for your business, or what content you may already have that you can work with. This will come in handy in our next post in this series, when you’re making your content plan.
Content is Fuel for Your Marketing Goals
Your car goes nowhere without gas. In the same way, your marketing goals go nowhere without content.
Truly, your marketing goals are dead on arrival if you don’t power them with content. Let’s revisit the four main marketing goals from way back in Part 1 of this blog series:
- Increasing awareness of and affinity for your brand.
- Building your thought leadership in your industry or area.
- Generating high-quality customer leads that turn into sales.
- Delighting customers to retain them and grow their value.
To pursue any of these goals, you need content:
- To increase awareness of your brand, you need to meet people where they are with compelling content. Otherwise you’re just hoping people stumble across your business.
- To build your thought leadership, you need to create and publish expert content. Otherwise you’re just hoping people trust you without evidence.
- To generate high-quality customer leads, you need to reach people through engaging, detailed content. Otherwise you’re just hoping people buy from you on impulse.
- To delight and retain customers, you need to create regular touchpoints with them. Otherwise you’re just hoping people remember you without any communication.
Does all this hoping strike you as a way to intentionally grow a business?
Also, let’s recall our most recent post in this series, where we discussed how to optimize Google My Business with things like posts and photos. Those things are content, and your GMB listing would be blank and dormant without them.
Now that you know what content is, including its important role in your marketing goals, let’s talk a little more about why content matters to small business owners.
Why Should You Care About Content?
This is a fair question, especially for small business owners, who often feel compelled to put their limited resources toward products, customers, and employees rather than content.
But there are several reasons for you to put resources toward content too:
You Care About Customers
Consumers today are confident, self-serve participants in the information economy, and you want to give them the content they’re looking for:
- Almost half of all buyers analyze three to five pieces of content before they ever reach out to a company.
- Even when they’re ready to buy, consumers wait much longer than in years past to contact a company salesperson, preferring instead to educate themselves. So even if your sales team is equipped with the perfect pitch, they have fewer opportunities to use it.
- Consumers award business to authentic brands they trust, and they use content to judge authenticity and trustworthiness.
You Believe in Your Business
You started a business, or you run one. Perhaps you personally build products, or help customers use them. Or all of the above.
You know what you bring to the market is worthwhile and good. It solves a real problem, and it has attributes you’re excited about.
You want to communicate all that, right?
You have ideas and experience to share, and you want to tell the world about them.
Content lets you do that.
Your business deserves intentional, unique content beyond the quick and easy messages about sales or promotions. Any business can compete with those – and you’re not like other businesses.
You Want To Control Your Own Message
If you decide not to create content, you forfeit your message. You leave a content vacuum that will be filled by:
- Your competitors, who will shape the narrative in their favor.
- Customers you never captured, who will fill the review landscape with content about competitor products.
- Customers you do have, who will create content for you in the form of reviews that you never speak into.
- Your silence, which potential customers, investors, and industry influencers will interpret as a lack of activity, expertise, and passion on your part. Meanwhile, you know you have an abundance of all those. Ouch.
You Can Run Only So Many Ads
Ads are content too. Both digital and print ads are a legitimate part of any business’s marketing strategy.
However, ads are paid content rather than organic content. There are several reasons why they shouldn’t serve as your primary content channel:
- Consumers tend not to trust ads, and usually scroll past them in search results. Only about 15% of Google searches result in a click on a paid ad.
- Those 15% of clicks come from consumers less willing to buy than consumers who click on the organic search results below the ads.
- Ads cost you money every time you run them, but they’re not the long-term investment that organic content is. Ads are rented digital media, while content is owned digital media.
Content has clear benefits for your business:
- Brands that create content convert prospects to leads, and leads to customers, at a rate six times higher than brands that don’t.
- Content marketing generates three times the volume of leads as traditional marketing, but costs about 62% less.
- Companies that blog get 55% more website visitors and 97% more inbound links than companies that don’t.
- Content allows you to compete with much larger brands. There is no barrier to entry when it comes to showcasing expert content on a website – you can do this on yours as well as big brands can do it on theirs. And bonus: your content can emphasize the personal service you offer that larger companies can’t.
Objections to Creating Content
Here’s a live shot of what you may be thinking right now:
Let’s address the two objections to content creation that we hear most often from small businesses:
Objection #1: Content Takes Time and Focus Away from Your Core Business
It’s true that content takes time and energy to create. But it isn’t the either-or situation you think it is.
You don’t actually have to decide between creating content and improving your product, or creating content and serving customers, or creating content and managing employees.
Instead, recognize that content supports all of those activities:
- Content about your product does improve it. Product content is a differentiator and a complement that can be packaged along with your product or service.
- Content for your customers does serve them. For example, how-to content helps customers learn and use your product more readily. And case study content helps them visualize how your product can work in their own circumstances.
- Content that features or involves your employees is a business win for you all around. It supports recruiting, helps set company culture, and is a fantastic use of employee expertise.
Objection #2: Content Gives Away the Secret Sauce
In short, no it doesn’t.
But let’s look at all the reasons why not:
Quality Content Is Not the Same Thing as Proprietary Content
We encourage you to create high-quality content that is genuinely useful and valuable to customers. (Side note: consumers also demand this kind of content, and search engines reward it.)
We do not encourage you to publish the code behind your groundbreaking software, or reveal the formula behind your miracle product. Of course you should protect your intellectual property.
At the same time, you should not hold on so tightly to all your expertise. Sharing it via content only helps your business – you gain authority, trust, followers, leads, and sales.
Quality Content Does Not Replace You
No do-it-yourself piece of content can serve as a substitute for your experience, knowledge, skill, time, one-on-one attention, or unique product. It certainly can’t stand in for all those.
There are endless examples of this truth. Here are three:
- The explosion of Pinterest has actually helped, not hurt, design businesses.
- The rise of online recipes, food blogs, and cooking videos has increased cookbook sales, not dampened them. This has been consistently true even before the pandemic.
- The growth of the no-code movement, which enables amateurs to design apps and websites, has only freed professional developers to focus on more complex jobs that pay better anyway.
It turns out that if you create good content, consumers become more interested in your business, and more aware of their need for your services – not less.
Two additional reasons why content can’t replace you:
- Consumers appreciate your expertise, but most don’t want to spend the time trying to mimic it. They have their own businesses and lives to run.
- You actually don’t want customers who think content is a substitute for you. These customers undervalue you, and tend to demand a lot for a little.
Your Content is Out There Anyway
Allow us to gently suggest that you may be overestimating the need or value of secrecy.
Behold one of the most excellent examples of all time: the executive chef for McDonald’s giving away the literal secret sauce recipe for the Big Mac, on video.
If this is how one of the world’s most famous companies approaches content on one of their most iconic products, maybe it’s time to recognize that transparency should be embraced rather than feared.
The fact is, whatever your product or service, the internet is full of articles and videos that aim to help consumers do it themselves. So consumers will get the content they’re looking for. The question for you is, do you want them to see you, or someone else, as the friendly expert who provides it?
That’s our primer on content, small business owners! We hope you’re excited about creating your own, because in our next post, we’ll walk you through how to draft an actionable content plan that you can use to market your business.
For now, keep those content ideas percolating. We’ll be tapping into them soon.
This post is part of our “DIY from DYI” (see what we did there?) collection, which features do-it-yourself marketing tactics for small business owners in Pittsburgh PA and everywhere.