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One of the most important jobs facing any online entrepreneur is self-promotion. Naturally, you want to increase public awareness of your company and begin to build up a reputation for your company. More importantly, you need to start pulling new customers to your website so you can start growing an active customer base. Of course, the trouble is you’re not the only business owner trying to raise your banner above the parapets. It’s a crowded field, and you’re just one of an increasing number of eager players vying for the public’s attention. 

So, how do you get the word out about your business? How do you increase brand awareness, establish yourself as a leader and influencer in your industry, and build a thriving customer base? It seems like a very tall order indeed.

Paid Advertising vs. Content Marketing

Paid advertising is probably the most obvious solution to your business’ marketing dilemma. Paid ads will get your company’s name in front of the public, and if you’re lucky they may even drive some much needed traffic to your website. But it’s going to cost you, and your advertising reach may not be as broad as you might think. The growing popularity of ad blocking software means that a wide swath of your target audience may never actually engage with your ads, regardless of how carefully they’ve been deployed. 

So, what’s a savvy business owner to do? If paid advertising isn’t delivering the goods how are you going to promote your brand and market your wares? Well, content marketing is the answer you’ve been looking for.

What Do We Mean by Content Marketing?

Content marketing simply refers to the creation and publication of unique content with an eye toward building a stronger and more productive relationship with your business’ target audience. The goal is to create a reciprocal relationship with the customer, where they look to you for more than just products and services and begin to accept your company as an authority and an influencer within your industry. 

Blogging is probably the most recognizable example of this, though a good content marketing strategy should really embrace a variety of formats and platforms. For example, a comprehensive content marketing strategy might include a combination of four to five of the following:

  • Blogs
  • How-to… Videos
  • PDFs (testimonials, case studies, product reviews, etc.)
  • Infographics
  • Slide Show Presentations
  • Q & A forums
  • Listicles

Does Content Marketing Make Sense for Smaller Businesses?

Content marketing isn’t the exclusive bailiwick of Fortune 500 companies. True, many of the finest examples of using quality content to drive sales and build brand awareness can be attributed to larger organizations with deep pockets and a global reach. But using content as a marketing strategy is equally well suited for smaller businesses. 

On a purely financial front, content marketing delivers three times the ROI for every dollar spent when compared with paid search and Pay-per-click advertising. That’s good news for smaller businesses with limited marketing budgets, providing an actionable opportunity to get the most out of every advertising dollar spent. 

Of course, creating a successful content marketing strategy does require a fairly significant investment of time and energy. Fresh content must be generated on a regular basis if your strategy is to succeed. But over time that investment will be rewarded with the kind of tangible results every company hopes for – increased conversions and a rising online profile for their business. 

But beyond the obvious cost-benefit analysis, lets look at some of the other ways your business can benefit from a dedicated content marketing strategy.

Promote Your Business Without the Hard Sell

The average consumer can easily be turned off by the hard sell techniques that are so prevalent in today’s marketplace. Even those that have an interest in your product don’t want to be subjected to a barrage of paid advertisements. Content marketing allows you to connect with the public in a meaningful way without resorting to the hectoring of pay-per-click advertising. True, your products and services are a valuable commodity, and in the final analysis they are at the core of what you are selling, but by playing the long game you can attract more customers to brand and establish a more robust reputation in your field. 

Sprout Funding logoWith content marketing are selling something above and beyond your basic product line. You’re providing valuable content to the public, typically in the form of blogs, videos or infographics, which is purposely designed to answer a specific need. You are providing information that should, ideally, solve the problems that brought them to your company in the first place. That kind of content gives people important reasons to pay attention to your company, even when they are not actively traveling through your sales funnel. But by creating that kind of visceral connection, you build a greater pool of primed consumers who will think of your company first next time they need to make a purchase.

Expand Your Audience and Reach New Prospects

One of the biggest parts of a sound content marketing strategy is tying your published content into your social media network. If you develop a reputation for delivering high quality content your existing audience will take note and start sharing it across with social media groups. This exposes your brand and your products to a whole new group of people who can be cultivated as fresh prospects to grow your business’ customer base. Moreover, that sharable content continues to reach new prospects long after it is initially published. 

Compare that with traditional paid advertising. Once your ad campaign is finished the return on your investment is done. The advertisements stop, and there are no more prospects to mine. However, with content marketing the articles and videos you create that get shared across social media continue to deliver measurable results keep your initial ROI rolling on into the future with minimal effort on your part.

Nurture Your Leads and Build Brand Trust

One of the key differences between traditional advertising and content marketing is the ultimate goal of the exercise. With PPC advertising the goal is clear and simple – drive customers to site to make a purchase. Period. Content marketing, however, plays a longer game. The goal here is to nurture customers over the long-term, building a strong relationship that will not only translate into new sales but will lead to larger per transaction totals. 

Businesses that routinely publish interesting and engaging content are actively working to build trust with consumers. As the content becomes more popular, and is shared over social media platforms, brand recall and recognition is increased. This becomes magnified over time, and customers learn that they can return to that business for actionable solutions to their perceived needs. This trust factor naturally leads to customers spending more time on your website, engaging with more of your content, and completing more conversions over time. Moreover, because of the trust that has been engendered in your customer base future conversions tend to be more substantial, especially when compared with transactions generated by traditional advertising campaigns.

Improve Your Organic Search Results

One of the challenges facing small businesses is increasing their online visibility. Ecommerce promised to level the playing field, giving small business greater access to consumers and putting them on a more competitive footing with their larger counterparts. That promise has been fulfilled to some degree, but businesses still have to struggle with getting their brand noticed on an increasingly crowded world wide web. 

Every business owner wants to score some prime real estate on page one of Google’s search results. After all, very few people scroll past the first page or two of their search results. Showing up on page one is ideal, but it is an extremely tall order. Of course, you could always choose the paid advertising route. That will get you pride of place on page on of a Google search, but it will cost you plenty. More importantly, the public has become fairly savvy, and people are starting to scroll past the paid ads that sit atop their search results pages. 

So, short of paying for expensive advertising space what is the best way to improve your organic search results? Naturally, that answer is content marketing. Publishing a steady stream of high quality content is the most effective, and cost efficient, way of boosting your organic search results. Google and other search engines filter user searches according to relevance and quality, so websites that offer something of real informational value to the public can gain extra traction in their search algorithms. 

Using content to improve your company’s search engine results does take time, however, And a lot of work will need to be done to achieve the desired results. This is not a quick fix. But the results are longer lasting than paid advertising, and the benefit to your business’ online visibility and overall brand recall should not be ignored.

Keep Your Website Fresh and Relevant

Nothing is more detrimental to a business’ online performance than a stagnant website. Consumers quickly lose interest in a site that looks like it hasn’t seen fresh content in months. Tired sites, delivering little or no fresh content, are a definite turn-off for consumers, and they’ll happily bounce off-site and make their purchases elsewhere. 

Google also has a profound disinterest in websites lacking in freshly updated content. They see static websites as less relevant to their users’ search requests, and those sites accordingly. By producing a steady stream of new content, along with regular updates and new links, you keep your website fresh and relevant. When Google is assessing websites and their content, and deciding what should or shouldn’t be returned in a user search, this greatly improves the odds that your site will make the cut.

Conclusion

Every business, regardless of size or industry, can benefit from a dedicated content marketing strategy. Producing high quality content, in a variety of user friendly formats, offers a cost-effective way to boost website traffic, build brand recognition, and solidify yourself as a trusted leader in your field. That ultimately translates to increased sales and higher profits for your business, which will propel your into a more productive and prosperous future.

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sprout-fundingThe Sprout Funding blog offers tips, reports, insights and other ideas to help small business owners learn and grow. Have a question for our team? Email us at: info@getsproutfunding.com, and tell us how we can help you.
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