Content marketing is a customer acquisition strategy that most businesses know about but few take advantage of.
(If you’ve never heard this term before, content marketing generally refers to blogging, videos, podcasting, and even print.)
Content marketing works by positioning your business as an expert in your industry.
When your prospects are looking for information, and they keep coming across results from your website, eventually they associate your business as being synonymous with your industry.
Most business owners I run across have years, if not decades of experience in their field. They hear the same questions from different customers throughout the year, but few businesses make the effort to publish answers to these questions.
Because there is a low number of businesses publishing answers to the questions running through the minds of their prospects, the opportunity is still high across all industries.
Even when you look at companies in marketing, web design, and web development — the numbers are slightly better, but there remains a golden opportunity.
What are some of the reasons businesses fail to realize the potential of content marketing? And what sorts of results can you expect from your content publishing efforts?
The Main Obstacles
There are three main reasons I see businesses either abandoning content marketing and blogging too early, or never even starting at all.
These are lack of time, lack of resources, and unrealistic expectations.
Lack of Time
Especially at the small business level, there’s always more work to do. There’s never enough time to drum up more business, except when you actually need to.
Every business has a busy season and a slow season. The slow season is when most businesses start to think about customer acquisition.
Customer acquisition and marketing shouldn’t slow down when you’re at your busiest. In fact, that’s the time you should be stepping on the gas.
Marketing of any kind precedes the intention to buy. You have to raise awareness of your service before your customer base needs it.
Small businesses usually run very lean, and there isn’t a lot of time left over to market, especially through something like writing, is there?
If you’re working an insane amount of hours trying to keep up with your workload, and you’re hesitant to hire more help, there can be different reasons why.
Every business is different, but consider this — If you could increase your revenue even more than what it is now, could you find a way to either hire more help, or find time to market your expertise through blogging?
Food for thought.
Lack of Resources
Let’s say you’re a small, but growing business. You have a few employees, but you’re still at the point where you are handling the work load. Marketing or blogging may not be something you budget time for internally.
In the worst case scenario, perhaps you pay a cheap marketing company to write articles about your industry. These can actually hurt more than they help you, if they sound thin, inaccurate, or disingenuous.
You can hire decent copywriters or marketing firms to write and publish for you. If you want topical, authoritative articles that save you the time and inconvenience of doing it yourself, these firms generally require a healthy budget.
If it’s truly a choice between spending a small amount on outsourced content, and not doing it all, I’d rather see businesses not do it at all. Publishing robotic sounding articles will position your business as the opposite of experts, and that’s not what you want.
A half-assed content marketing effort can be worse than no effort at all.
Here’s another scenario: you run a business, and you do understand the value of content marketing. You publish on your company blog (or have other employees take turns writing), but you still aren’t getting the results you’re looking for. What’s not clicking?
In some cases, it could be that the people writing posts are looking at it as another thing on the to-do list, and not putting enough information into the posts to be of much value to prospects.
Many people have heard that blog posts should be about 300 words or so. You have to make sure that your staff isn’t simply hitting a quota of words, and hitting publish. You’ll need to take a hard look at your office culture and see if your staff is being given ample time to write something that your customers will actually want to read.
Another thing to keep in mind is that writing or speaking publicly is a muscle that needs to be exercised. When a person only gets to write something three times a year, they may not get better at articulating their knowledge.
Remember that we’re living in a time when every business is also a media company, and more data is published every few years than was published in the previous millennium. You have to practice honing your voice in order to stand out from the crowd.
Even if you have all the resources in the world, but if you don’t commit to the long-term game, all will be for naught.
Many business owners and marketing directors hear that blogging and YouTube videos are a great way to generate traffic and interest in their services.
What they don’t realize is how long you have to consistently publish material on a subject to grow an audience or position yourself as an authority.
I’d wager that most businesses publish less than ten posts or videos before throwing in the towel on attracting customers through content.
The reality is it takes a lot longer than a few weeks for the world to realize you’re actually an authority on your subject. It takes a lot longer than a couple of months to develop a voice in your writing, videos, or podcasting.
The quick win doesn’t happen with content marketing.
Human nature makes us impatient, and because of that, many people pull the ripcord too early. As a result, their potential customer base has no way of telling if their business is any different from the dozens of others competing for the same attention.
How can you avoid these pitfalls and actually win at content marketing?
Crushing It With Content Marketing
One of the first things I’d identify is who you want to attract to your blog. Write things that those personas would be interested in.
If you keep track of questions that your customers ask you frequently, bingo. You’ve got yourself your next round of blog posts.
It’s also a good idea to keep track of who your current readers are. Are they the same people you’re trying to attract to your website?
On this website, there are two general persona types that read articles: business owners or marketing managers, and other web designers and web developers.
Both types of personas are looking for answers to questions. The articles that generate the most traffic for me are those that answer specific questions. The types of questions they ask are slightly different, but both types of traffic are relevant (for different reasons).
Consistency Is Paramount To Growth
One thing to keep in mind with any form of publishing — blogging, YouTube videos, or podcasting — is people like consistency.
If you can only publish once a week, then do that. If you can publish three times a week, even better! Figure out what sort of schedule you can commit to, and stick with it.
It takes a long time to build an audience. It usually takes about two years of publishing consistently on the same platform to start generating serious growth. (Maybe this is why businesses burn through ridiculous amounts of money on paid advertising and PPC?)
To illustrate this, consider the traffic on this site. Two years ago in 2012, I was only getting about 600 visits a month. In 2014, I was up to about 3500 visits a month. This year, the site is getting about 7200 visits a month (so far).
Focus On A Topic
No matter what business you’re in, there’s a primary topic that you have expertise in and that drives your revenue.
Focus on your primary topic, and position yourself as an expert on that subject.
Though you have one main topic that generates your cash, and that you want to be known for, there are likely five or six complementary topics that also drive customer acquisition. These, along with your primary topic, should be the bulk of what your publishing efforts focus on.
The more you publish, the more opportunities you have for people to find you. The more opportunities you have to show your expertise. The more opportunities you have to establish your subject authority in the search engines. The more pre-qualified your customer prospects will be when they contact you.
Content Marketing Is A Grind
You’re an expert at what you do. Even if you don’t think you have a lot to say to your customer base, you probably have a lot more to say than you realize.
Content marketing is a grind, but it rewards businesses that embrace it.
By demonstrating that you know more about your field than your competitors, when customers have to make a choice, it won’t even be close. You’ll already be positioned head and shoulders above the competition.