So your business plan is ready and working and you're rearing to start your dream venture. Or maybe you've just started one and you're desperate to crank your marketing efforts up a few notches. Meet Content Marketing, the current "It" girl in marketing circles, and the new best friend of successful entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Content marketing is the act of brands using different forms of content on different platforms to convey their messages and engage with their target audience.
Content forms can range from articles, news snippets and blogs, to photographs, videos and games - and all the things in between. Platforms can include magazines, books, websites, newsletters, events, facebook pages, twitter feeds, YouTube channels, etcetera etcetera. (These days it's near impossible to keep up with the digital options at your disposal).
Great content marketing happens - and leads to engaged, more loyal customers and therefore more sales - when a brand or business uses the right type of content in the right way in the right place to engage these customers.
Think about it: are you likely to buy paint from that random company with the annoying (and relentless) TV ads, or the small hardware shop with the blog that you turn to daily for décor inspiration?
Content marketing is not difficult and not expensive - but doing it right can and will make a huge difference to your business. Here are a handful of tips to get you going:
Cover your bases
Make sure you have a website and a social media presence. Consumers are spending as much time cruising social networks as they do googling potential service providers. But remember, once you've grabbed them on facebook or twitter, you will need to send them somewhere. Your own website, where it's far more difficult for them to get distracted and far easier for you to really engage them, is the best place.
Know and share your story
Who isn't gripped by a great story? Not your consumers, for one. Great content marketing is an ongoing process of storytelling - engaging storytelling. If you identify your story early on, it makes the process much easier and more likely to lead to your business booming. So think about your story - is it about your personal passions? The people who work for you? The people whose lives are changed by the work you do? Find it and tell it.
Do it yourself... or not
When you've just started a small business, it's difficult to hand over large sums of money to a content marketing agency. Fortunately it's quite easy to set up and maintain a free blog or website or any of the social media channels. If however you are not so confident about your technical or creative abilities (or don't know how to work the spell check on your computer...) consider calling in some professionals. Basic web design, copy writing and social media management is not expensive - and better, more engaging content will lead to increased sales and quickly pay for itself.
Have a clear strategy
Make sure you have a clear idea of exactly who your consumers are and where and how they want to consume information about your business. Are they online? Do they use facebook? Do they even know of the existence of YouTube? And if that is the case, do they have enough bandwidth (and patience) to watch videos? It's important to know so that you don't spend time (and money) on platforms not frequented by them.
Make use of a content calendar
Use your strategy to draw up an editorial or content calendar - plotting when, where and how you are interacting with your audience. It doesn't have to be elaborate, it needs to be clear and manageable and leave room to grow.
Keep at it
No one has enough time. Especially not when they've just started a business. But meaningful content is an important part of growing your business, so make time for it.
Your consumers are also time-pressed and - more importantly - easily distractable. So make sure that the content you're offering them is relevant and interesting.
Have your ear on the ground
...and the twitterverse. If a consumer asks a question to which your product or service can be the answer, then you need to be there to interact with them. Great interactions lead to phenomenal sales.
Don't get too swept up in the process of creating content - make sure you have enough time to consume some too. You'll be informed and inspired - vital for your own content creation - and might pick up some business leads.
Anelde Greeff is the content director of Eat Out and Woolworths W (and organising committee member of Content 2013 - the conference). Content 2013 is taking place in Cape Town on 25 and 26 February. Visit www.content2013.co.za for more info.
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