Content Marketing For Small Businesses: Why Is It Essential?

Writer:
Ellie Diamond
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Published: Oct 30, 2023
Last Updated:
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Every marketing dollar counts when you're a small business owner. You need each strategy to work hard on multiple levels, from driving sales to boosting your reputation among your target customers.

That's the power of content marketing for small businesses.

Content marketing shows audiences what you know and what you have to offer, and it works across multiple platforms. Most importantly, it spreads the word about your business long after you've put down the megaphone. 

Why Content Marketing Is a Powerful Tool for Small Businesses

Marketing for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can feel like an uphill battle. You want to rise above the noise and make a name for yourself, but there's always a bigger fish in the pond.

A small business content strategy levels the playing field. If your high-quality content provides value to your audiences, it will help you reach your goals. Consider these top benefits of content marketing.

Increase Brand Awareness

Driving brand awareness is an essential goal of marketing for SMEs. Brand awareness refers to how well your target audience knows your brand, what it does, and what sets it apart.

According to the Content Marketing Institute's (CMI's) 2023 reports, 81% of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers and 83% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers successfully drive brand awareness through content. These marketers use blog posts, newsletters, videos, and more to demonstrate their brands' expertise and offer valuable insights.

Content marketing is an ideal awareness booster for small businesses. It creates touchpoints at every level of a buyer's journey, gathering new audiences and staying connected with existing followers. A how-to video might solve a problem for a previously unaware consumer, while a monthly newsletter shares updates about new products or services.

Improve Search Engine Ranking

Google determines your search ranking based on your value to readers. The more high-quality content you publish, the more chances people have to discover you.

Discovery is a crucial element of any content marketing strategy for small business. Each potential customer searches differently, and you want to reach as many as possible. Business content creation lets you show up in more searches, getting you on more pages and in front of more eyes.

Boost Website Traffic

Content marketing drives traffic by creating genuine value, which motivates shoppers to stay connected. When an audience member realizes you understand their problem and have unique insights to offer, they want to know more. They click your call-to-action and visit your website, which reinforces your expertise.

Ads can drive traffic, too, but content is more trustworthy because it drives value first. Plus, while ads stop driving traffic when you stop paying, content stays out there and is available for those who need it. You might get more traffic years down the line with no additional expense.

Content can also boost your search rankings by earning you backlinks. A backlink is a link to your website from someone else's page and is an essential aspect of search engine optimization (SEO). When someone links to your content, it shows Google that others trust your expertise. 

Build Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty happens when customers feel an emotional connection with your brand. That connection drives them to choose you over the competition.

Nearly two-thirds of CMI survey respondents — 63% — have boosted their customer loyalty using content. Each content piece is an opportunity for a positive interaction with your brand, even if the consumer doesn't make a purchase. Content is one of the only marketing strategies that builds appreciation and connection without a transaction.

Famous brand loyalty examples show how the process works. Businesses earn their target audiences' love and commitment by standing out and providing meaningful connections.

Master Lead Generation

Lead generation is an essential element of marketing small businesses. It attracts potential customers to your door in a way that clues you into their needs, allowing you to follow up appropriately and nurture them toward a purchase.

Content is a powerful lead-generation tool because it starts with an offer, not an ask. You share your knowledge about a topic related to your business, and someone with a related need finds that content. If it's trustworthy and valuable, they'll come to see you as an expert. 

By the time they've finished engaging with that content piece, you've already helped them. They know you have something valuable to offer, so when you ask for their contact information or invite them to click and learn more, they have a reason to trust you.

Increase Sales and Revenue 

Bottom-line growth is the ultimate test of any marketing tactic, and content rises to the challenge. Of the CMI respondents, 42% saw a direct revenue increase from content marketing in the past year, on top of the less measurable indirect effects.

Content does all the revenue-building activities that are hardest to quantify. It builds relationships, increases brand awareness, and helps you rank higher in search. Not everyone remembers at the moment of purchase that they first heard about a business via a blog post or YouTube video, but that content was instrumental nonetheless. If it hadn't existed, that sale might have gone to a competitor.

You can measure the success of your performance by tracking customer journeys and asking people how they found you. Google Analytics is a great way to view how people reach your site, including what content campaigns drive the most customers to purchase.

Tracking is essential because it helps you invest in content smartly. Among CMI's B2B respondents, 80% of top performers measure their content's performance carefully and accurately, compared to 19% of poor performers. 

10 Types of Content and Their Value for Small Businesses

No matter what industry you're in or how your audiences consume information, there are content types that will resonate. 

1. The Value of Blog Posts

When you think about content marketing, you probably think of blogs. They're a perennial favorite format for a reason — they're affordable to create, easy to share, and quick to update. 

They also reach a large audience. A recent survey showed that 83% of people read blogs at least sometimes, and 18% read them daily. Those numbers show no signs of slowing down, with 91% of people reading at least as often as last year.

Blogging has one of the highest returns on investment (ROIs) of any content format, mainly because blogs don't cost much to create or update. You don't need expensive equipment or technical knowledge to write a blog post, and most platforms make updating an older post with new information easy.

Plus, blogs are perennial. You could write a post today, and someone five years from now could find it in a Google search. They'll click and potentially convert if it's the closest match for their needs. All from a modest marketing investment five years in your fiscal past!

Blogs are also valuable to your audiences. When you create a blog page on your website, you offer a free resource that people can tap into anytime. The more you post to that blog, the more opportunities you have to strengthen your relationship with audiences.

2. The Value of Email Marketing

Email marketing is an essential strategy for keeping in touch with existing audiences. These are people who have signed up to hear from you. Some have purchased, while others are newer to your brand. Either way, email helps you stay at the top of their minds.

Unlike nearly all other types of content, email is one-to-one communication. Your message goes directly into recipients' inboxes, and 88% of people check those inboxes daily. Almost 40% check their email three to five times a day.

Whether people will read your email depends on the quality of its content. If you consistently deliver valuable messages, subscribers are likelier to open your messages when they arrive.

Staying current with email marketing best practices will get you the opens and clicks you need. That includes:

  • Segmenting your list into customer interest groups so you send the right content to the right people
  • Making your emails visually exciting and easy to read with contrasting colors and concise, engaging text
  • Collecting customer data so you can target messages to your customer base
  • Providing information your subscribers will value, including educational content and promotional offers

Most email service providers, such as Constant Contact and Mailchimp, provide analytics tools showing your content's performance. This data lets you do more of what works and less of what doesn't, maximizing your ROI.

3. The Value of Social Media Posts

Social media is a versatile content format. It lets you deepen relationships with current followers through posts and interactions while reaching out to new audiences with paid advertisements. 

Social media ads are cost-efficient and easy to customize to your needs. They're pay-per-click, so you won't overpay as you're finding what works. 

Also, most social media platforms let you customize your audience. For example, if you sell hand-knit sweaters for pets, you might show your ad to dog owners in states with colder winters. You can even set a budget so you don't pay more than you can afford.

Most importantly, social media analytics makes it easy to track the results of your campaign. For instance, if you advertise on Facebook or Instagram, the Ads Manager page shows updated data on every campaign. View everything together or analyze specific ads, metrics, or campaigns.

4. The Value of Video Content

Video marketing is at an all-time high and shows no signs of slowing down. In a 2023 WyzOwl survey, 96% of businesses reported that video is an integral part of their marketing strategy, and 92% of marketers said it offers a good return on investment. Among those who didn't use video, 70% planned to begin within the year.

Video is trending among marketers because it's engaging and valuable to audiences. Consider what WyzOwl respondents reported about the results of their video campaigns:

  • 96% said video improved consumer understanding of company offerings
  • 95% noted that it improved brand awareness
  • 91% said video increased traffic
  • 90% reported that it generated more leads
  • 87% said it increased sales
  • 87% noticed it increased dwell time on their websites

In other words, video can effectively do anything you want content to accomplish with less investment. Many respondents started using video in the past year because it's easier, faster, and more approachable than ever.

5. The Value of Infographics

People love data, especially when they can digest it in an easily understandable format. Unsurprisingly, more than half of CMI survey respondents used infographics, charts, and other data visualizations in their marketing this year.

Infographics are valuable and don't require much time to consume. They're also highly shareable, especially for savvy content marketers who add a social media button or a link that people can copy and paste. Each share spreads the word about your brand and helps you establish yourself as an industry expert.

6. The Value of Podcasts

Podcasts are an increasingly popular form of content. In 2022, 42% of people 12 and older reported listing to a podcast in the past month, and 32% reported listing in the past week. Both of those numbers have risen 10 percentage points since 2019.

The growth of podcasting is good news for content marketers. Launching a podcast about a topic related to your business can build a loyal audience of people who listen to every episode. 

Podcasts are perfect for audience members who appreciate valuable information but prefer to listen versus read. Listeners can take their podcasts anywhere, including on their commutes and to the gym, and they love to share their favorite episodes with friends and family. Each listen and share increases your impact.

7. The Value of Case Studies

Case studies detail how a business solved a specific customer problem, explaining the original situation and why the solution was effective. They almost always include quantifiable proof, such as the amount of a B2B client's revenue increase.

Creating a case study takes longer than writing a blog post or posting on social media, but you can get plenty of traction from a single study. For example, you might:

  • Create a case study page for your website
  • Offer case studies as downloads for new mailing list signups
  • Summarize a new case study in a blog post or video
  • Highlight a case study in your email newsletter

Case studies are more in-depth than other forms of social proof, so they usually target leads further down the sales funnel. They're ideal for potential customers who are comparing multiple options or need a bit more convincing that you're the right solution.

8. The Value of Ebooks

Like case studies, ebooks are longer content assets that target interested prospects. They detail a particular topic and are typically educational instead of promotional, though they can include company service references.

For example, if you own a small financial advisory firm, you might write an ebook on the basics of investing. You might link various sections to blog posts where you talk about each topic. In the conclusion, you'd invite people to contact you for a personal consultation.

Businesses often use ebooks as lead magnets — content assets someone can download if they submit their email address and join your mailing list. They're also valuable as free downloads or gifts for joining a webinar, Facebook group, or listserv.

9. The Value of White Papers

White papers are in-depth explorations of complex topics. They're most common in B2B, where buying teams need much information before deciding. Writing a highly successful technical white paper for a B2C audience is also possible, especially if you have a writer skilled at boiling down complex topics.

A white paper discusses a problem common among a business's audiences. It then describes a solution to that problem, including explanations of how the solution works.

White papers are explicitly educational, not promotional. It doesn't sell the business's services or urge people to buy, though it may mention your product and why it solves the problem better than other options on the market.

White papers are top-of-funnel content. Remember that you're not talking to someone almost ready to buy. Instead, aim to spark the person's curiosity and make them want more information. Then, encourage them to visit your webpage or request additional material to keep learning.

10. The Value of User Generated Content (UGC)

Some of your most valuable content marketing may come from outside your business. User-generated content (UGC), such as product reviews or unboxing videos, can drive content precisely because it comes from someone you didn't pay to make it.

That said, your business can leverage UGC to reach more people. You might share user videos, photos, and blogs that praise your business, products, or services. Some companies even solicit UGC with promotions such as video challenges or photo contests. 

11 Tips to Master a Small Business Content Marketing Strategy

Content is effective when it meets prospects' needs and encourages them to take the next step. To create that kind of just-right material, you need a digital content strategy rooted in your audience's core needs.

1. Create a Plan With Goals and KPIs

Goal-setting is the first stage in developing a small business content strategy. The more specific you can get about what you want your content to accomplish, the better.

For example, you might want to:

  • Increase site traffic
  • Grow your contact list
  • Rank higher in search
  • Get more social shares

Begin with one or two primary goals, then identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you track them. Choose quantifiable content marketing metrics you can track over time so it's easy to see the effect of each content piece. Examples include

  • Unique page views: The number of people who viewed your content
  • Click-through rate: The share of content viewers who click from your content to your website
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of your audience that takes a specific action, such as purchasing or signing up for an email list

Start tracking your chosen metrics before you launch your content strategy, then see how you do.

2. Define Your Ideal Customer Profile

To create content that resonates, you need to know who you're talking to. One trick that successful content writers use is a customer persona.

A customer persona, also called a user persona, is a character that represents your target audience member. They have all the traits your best customers share, but you conceptualize them as a person rather than a group. 

A  user persona template can guide the process and ensure your profile is as detailed as possible. Think of that fictional person as you develop your content strategy or create new content. Experienced copywriters and content writers use this technique to personalize their writing and sound more authentic.

3. Match Your Content With the Buyer's Journey

You've learned about content types that work at different stages of the buyer's journey. It's time to create a content marketing funnel that addresses each step. That includes:

  • Top-of-funnel: Awareness-building content, such as blog posts, social media ads, and how-to videos
  • Middle-of-funnel: Content for people who are considering their options, including email newsletters, ebooks, and white papers
  • Bottom-of-funnel: Decision-finalizing content, such as competitive comparisons, explainer videos, and testimonials

Top-of-funnel content needs to show up for people who don't know about you yet, while bottom-of-funnel content targets your contacts. Mid-funnel customers may be on your list or not. Browse content distribution strategy tips to help you finalize what goes where.

4. Build and Implement a Social Media Strategy

Social media content creation has one primary goal — to generate engagement. Your job is to decide which audiences you want to engage and what type of content will get them talking.

Your first decision is which social media platform to use. Choose one or two to start, ensuring they fit your target audience and brand well.

Use a social media content calendar to plan your first few weeks of content. Aim for a consistent schedule that feels approachable, even if it's just one post every few days. Consistency matters more than frequency.

Keep an eye on comments and shares, setting reminders to check your accounts if necessary. Respond to comments if it seems appropriate, even if it's just a quick thank you message to someone who gave you great feedback.

5. Add Value With First-Hand Experience and Stories

As a small business owner, you have something the "big guys" never will — you're relatable. You've created something that meets a real need, and you're helping real people.

Share that story with the world. Tell audiences why you started or bought your company and what you love about running it. 

Add other perspectives, too. If you create a how-to blog post with tips related to your services, include an anecdote about a customer or team member who used that technique successfully. Be sure to ask permission and change names if preferred.

6. Ensure Every Piece of Content Is Authoritative and Valuable

If there's one rule of content marketing for business, it's this — make trustworthy content that helps people. Audiences love helpful content, and so does Google.

Plan each piece of content by asking yourself how to help your readers. A practical jumping-off point is keyword research, which lets you determine what terms your audience uses to search. 

Plenty of free and paid tools online help you find potential keywords. Look for less competitive keywords that let you discuss topics you and your team know on an expert level. Authoritative content that reflects your expertise is more helpful to audiences and better for SEO.

7. Encourage and Share Testimonials and Reviews

BrightLocal's annual report shows that 98% of people read online reviews when choosing a local business. Three-quarters read them "regularly," and 21% read them daily.  The number is even higher among online shoppers, 99.9% of whom read reviews "at least sometimes."

Search sites like Google and Yelp! for reviews of your business. Ensure you've claimed your profile on both sites and others where you frequently get reviews. 

Copy the links to your review pages and share them widely. Email invoices are a great place to include those links and ask for a review. Post your best ones with a customer appreciation email or a big thank-you on your website.

8. Keep Your Audience on Their Toes With Email Newsletters

CMI data shows that 69% of B2B and 68% of B2C marketers use email newsletters to distribute content. Newsletters help you stay top-of-mind with people who have purchased or opted in to hear from you, even if they don't need to buy very often.

Newsletters should be consistent — anywhere from once a week to once a month. Be realistic about how often you can send, but remember, these are great content pieces to outsource.

Keep a running list of newsletter content ideas so you always have something to discuss. Add details to your thoughts whenever inspiration strikes, and only publish audience-relevant content.

9. Organize Your Content With a Content Calendar

Keeping your content strategy organized can be challenging, especially when you post on multiple platforms. A content marketing calendar shows your full publishing schedule at a glance, making it easier to prioritize tasks and balance your content mix.

Content calendars also make it easier to adjust your strategy quickly. Many things can prompt a strategy shift, from a big news story breaking to a change in a new product's release date. If you know what's on your content to-do list, you can shift things around as necessary without losing anything important.

10. Repurpose Your Top-Performing Content

Not every content piece has to be new. In a recent study by SEMRush, 42% of respondents said they'd boosted their content marketing value by updating existing content. Repurposing saves money and time while showing audiences that you've been driving value for a while. But what to update?

Doing more of what works is a classic approach in content marketing. Run a content audit to find older content pieces that drove higher-than-average traffic, then consider how you can update it for today's audiences. 

Maybe an old blog needs updated statistics, a section on current tech tools, or an infographic to boost visual interest. You might even turn it into a video for some multimedia interest.

11. Establish an Iterative Optimization Process

Iterative optimization is the process of improving your content marketing plans. It pushes you toward better results with more minor changes that even a busy small business owner can handle.

Check your content performance data regularly and track progress toward your goals. If something about your strategy isn't moving forward, plan to test a few minor changes. For example, you might change the layout of your landing page or add a video instead of an image. In time, minor alterations like these can drive significantly better results.

Examples of Great Small Business Content Marketing Campaigns

You notice a few common threads when you look at great small business content ideas. They're all highly targeted to their audiences and provide trustworthy information packaged to communicate the brand's identity.

Take Termly, for example. As a small business needing to educate its audiences about changes in data privacy, Termly has to be impeccably authoritative while explaining complex topics in simple terms. Working with Compose.ly writers, Termly created a campaign about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe's data privacy law. The campaign boosted Termly's organic traffic by 165%.

Next, let's look at content marketing for small companies with a more casual brand voice. Dollar Shave Club has one of the most-referenced campaigns, and for good reason. With a minimal budget and skeleton staff in its early days, Dollar Shave Club created a video campaign that established its brand identity and landed 12,000 customers in two days. It's a top-notch example of content marketing for startups. 

Your story won't look precisely like these small business content marketing examples, and that's good. The best content ideas for small businesses come directly from a brand's experience serving customers — what makes it unique and why people value it. 

Improve your Content Marketing Strategy ROI With Compose.ly

So, what do you do with all these content marketing tips for small businesses? Turning them into a top-notch strategy can feel overwhelming, especially when running your company.

Compose.ly can help. With a team of vetted industry-expert writers and savvy editors, we can create unique content that resonates with your clientele. Whether you need help crafting a strategy or don't have time to write a blog post yourself, we'll take on the legwork so you can focus on running your business.

To learn more about how you can make your content marketing efforts drive stronger results, take a look at Compose.ly's managed services.

Need help developing and executing your content strategy? Compose.ly has you covered.
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