08/04/2021 by Michael Halyk
How small businesses can sell more with content marketing
Small business owners are busy. I mean, really busy. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Between being experts in their profession and having to run a business - a small business owner needs to be a jack of all trades.
That’s why many small business owners don’t prioritize activities that do not provide direct, measurable value to their bottom line. And can you blame them? This is especially true in 2021 as some small business owners are in survival mode.
While I don’t claim to know what every small business owner should focus on in their day-to-day, I’d like to point out a few high-value activities that often go overlooked when running a small business.
Marketing isn’t what it used to be
Don’t get me wrong - marketing has never been more important for small businesses. But the definition of marketing for small businesses has changed dramatically in the last 5 years, especially in the last 12 months.
What do I mean by this? I mean the 4 P’s are dead. Well, not exactly, but a little hyperbole helps to drive this point home.
Traditionally, marketers and small businesses owners (who are marketers in their own right), needed to focus on:
- Product - what you are selling;
- Price - how much it costs;
- Place - your sales channels;
- Promotion - how you get your name out there.
This will not come as a surprise to any business owners out there. The problem is that this model, which is used to demystify the complex world of marketing, fails to address the rise of service-based business models and the new cornerstone of digital marketing.
Digital marketing is content marketing
So what does digital marketing have to do with content marketing? And what is content marketing for that matter?
To the first question - everything. To the second question, let me explain.
Content marketing is the creation and distribution of digital content to promote your business. Think blog posts, downloadable content, videos, social media posts, and more.
Essentially, content marketing encompasses nearly everything you do online as a business, including your website and all of the content of your web pages. Content marketing is the new battleground for businesses of all sizes, which is why your website should be a top priority.
Why should you spend time on content marketing?
Content marketing aims to create content that is both relevant and valuable to your target audience so you can strengthen your brand and ultimately sell more.
Let’s say I own a shop downtown Toronto selling fixed-gear (fixie) bikes called Mike’s Fixies. I have a very basic website that shows our store’s location on Queen Street, with some outdated opening hours and another page showing some of the custom bikes I’ve built for my customers.
This website provides almost no digital marketing value beyond the point of simply having a website for the sake of it (again, hyperbole).
If I were to take a content marketing approach to promote my business, I would focus on something that requires no monetary expense, only time.
I would start a blog where I post regularly. By regularly I mean at least once per week as we do with Mono Weekly. The Mike’s Fixies blog would focus on bicycle culture in Toronto, different types of bikes, how they are made, and why people should choose a fixie bike over a regular road bike.
I would include pictures, videos, and put them together with customer stories. I could even highlight local Toronto bikers.
Why bother with this? Isn’t a blog a nice-to-have more than a need-to-have?
Put simply, no. And this is where we bring in search engine optimization.
Content marketing is search engine optimization
You may have heard of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is simply the process of optimizing your web content so that it can more easily be found in search engines like Google.
SEO is a little bit like ‘gaming’ the algorithm that search engines use to rank links on the search engine results page. This is where things can get complicated, but let’s bring it back to content marketing.
Google (and other search engines) prioritize some types of content over others. Video, for example, is ranked more favorably than text, so if your website has a video that is relevant to the search keyword, it will likely be ranked higher than a similar website with only text.
The frequency and relevance of your website content are both important factors when it comes to content marketing and SEO, so let’s go back to our business, Mike’s fixies.
Writing blog posts is not enough to have an effective content marketing strategy that contributes to SEO. You need to be creating content that is relevant to your target audience. Mike’s Fixies’ clientele is mainly urban dwellers, between the ages of 25 and 40 who live in Toronto and commute to work by bicycle.
Before you start your blog, you need to have a good understanding of what interests these people. Chances are if you have regular communication with your customers, you already have a good idea of what they are interested in, but you also need to know what types of keywords people are searching on Google when they are in the market for a new bike.
This can be hard, and there are entire books written on this subject alone, but here are a few keyword research tools to get started:
Content marketing and your bottom line
Now let’s get to the good stuff. How can content marketing directly affect your bottom line? Well, I would argue that the activities listed above will go a long way in strengthening your brand and getting more traffic on your website.
But, and this is a big but, In 2021, website traffic is only valuable if it can be converted. What I mean is that when you get more website traffic (no doubt due to your content marketing efforts), you need to provide the visitors with a call to action (CTA).
Calls to action could be as simple as joining a newsletter list, downloading a free piece of digital content, or joining a loyalty program.
Let’s look at a simple lead nurturing flow from the perspective of someone who is looking for a new bike:
Sarah’s bike is old and rusty. She uses it nearly every day to get to work and move around the city, but it’s on its deathbed. She needs something new and has some friends that swear by fixie bikes.
She decides to Google “fixed-gear bikes Toronto”, and finds an article on Mike’s Fixie’s blog with the title '5 reasons why fixed-gear bikes are the best way to get around Toronto'.
She’s interested and clicks on the link, where she is directed to a short blog post with text, images, and a video showing people biking around Toronto on fixie bikes. At the end of the post, there is a link to sign up for the newsletter to get notified about promotions at the shop. This is perfect for Sarah, as her budget is slightly lower than most of the bike’s selling prices.
Mike’s Fixies continues to send relevant newsletter emails to Sarah until a promotion catches her eye. She is offered 20% off all bikes from last season. She visits the store and buys a bike.
In reality, the customer journey is not always this simple, but this scenario illustrates what happens when content marketing works.
Now, let’s make things even more efficient.
Content marketing and e-commerce
Mike’s Fixies only sells bikes out of a physical store, but now it can no longer do that because of government restrictions. So now the shop is in a tough spot. The only option is to start selling online.
Any good website builder will have a built-in e-commerce and appointment scheduling functionality, so the owners decide to sell both bike kits to be sent by post and pre-assembled bikes that can be scheduled for testing by appointment.
Just like that, two brand new sales channels have been made possible with the right tools, and when combined with your content marketing strategy, you can get a constant stream of leads booking appointments and buying bikes through your website.
Now, the customer journey looks like this:
Bill is in the market for a new bike, and he Google’s “online fixie bike store Toronto pickup”. He finds your blog article with the title 'How curbside bike pickup works in Toronto.'
At the end of the article, there is a link to the e-commerce shop where Bill can either schedule the testing of a pre-assembled bike or get a bike kit sent to his apartment. He chooses to schedule an appointment to test a bike, shows up at his booked timeslot, and buys it.
I started this article with my opinion that the 4 P’s of marketing are outdated, and should be replaced, or at least viewed through a digital marketing lens.
The next takeaway is that digital marketing is a general term, and can sometimes be equated with content marketing, a complex set of processes that should be a priority for small business owners.
To understand content marketing, you need to understand search engine optimization, or SEO, which is critical for the long-term success of businesses in the post-pandemic digital age.
Lastly, and most importantly, we discussed how content marketing and e-commerce are the one-two punch for actually increasing your bottom line. This is facilitated through the digital tools you use, like your website builder, e-commerce, email marketing, and appointment scheduling tools.
About the author
Michael Halyk is the Acquisition Marketing Specialist at Mono Solutions. He is from Toronto, Canada, and has worked in several software companies across Europe and North America to develop high-performing marketing and sales funnels. With a background in digital marketing and customer experience management, Michael provides a customer-centric perspective on best practices for lead generation, covering relevant topics in SEO, marketing automation, funnel architecture, and more.