For small business owners who are not 100% up to speed on the online marketing world, all this talk of content marketing may be a little confusing.

Your business is online, and you’re on board the social media marketing bandwagon, surely that’s enough to keep up with your competition?

Perhaps it is. But who wants to just “keep up” when taking action on new knowledge can keep you ahead of the game?

Hear more about content marketing with Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, on the eleventh episode of The Bcast, Bplan’s official podcast (at 14:02):
Click here to subscribe to The Bcast on iTunes »

Content marketing can help you get there. Here are just a few of the things it can do:

  • Pull in unexpected customers
  • Help you establish yourself as an industry leader
  • Help you build better relationships with your customers
  • Position you as a helpful resource
  • Improve your ranking in the search engine result pages (ensuring that you are “on the map”)

The benefits of content marketing are many and varied.

What is content marketing?

According to the Content Marketing Institute,

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

The company goes on to explain that content marketing is all about the art of communication—talking to your customers without constantly trying to sell them something.

Instead of hounding them with advertisements that extol the virtues of your products or services, the idea is to provide them with information that is useful and that will help them make more informed decisions. Do it right, and your customers will reward you with not only their business, but their loyalty.

Even if none of this is news to you, you might still be thinking that it doesn’t apply to your business. I think you’re wrong—and I’m going to show you how by sharing with you a few content marketing case studies. This will show you that others are using this marketing tactic, but also give you ideas for things you might consider doing yourself.

If you’re ready to delve into content marketing, but need a little inspiration to get you going, why not take a look at what the big name brands are doing? You might not have their budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them.

Content marketing tips SMBs can learn from the big boys:

Salesforce

Salesforce is a brand that does content marketing extremely well—their content is useful and search engines love it. Even though they’re in a competitive market (customer service and sales and marketing), they manage to produce valuable content that both their customers and their peers love (and love to share), namely educational and informative eBooks that genuinely help their customers achieve their goals.

So how does this relate to small businesses? Well, we’re not telling you that you have to go out and create a series of eBooks; by simply taking a leaf out of Salesforce’s eBook (pun intended), you can develop an entire content marketing strategy.

Why not become an authority on topics that are relevant to your industry? If you’ve got the know-how, then share it!

  • Find a topic you can own.
  • Discover what questions your customers are asking. What do they need to know?
  • Answer those questions, whether that’s through a “how to” blog series, or posts with titles like “10 things you should know about X.” But remember, your content has got to be credible. Fact check, acknowledge your sources, and don’t forget to include a link to your site if you’re publishing on another site.
  • Share your content on social media, and be consistent in your production—you don’t want to leave your audience wanting.

Firestone

If there’s one element of content marketing that small businesses should most certainly get behind, visual content is it.

We already know that a picture is worth a thousand words, so images are perfect for capturing the attention of your audience. Short attention spans mean that lengthy explanations are not always effective, and compelling visuals can be processed 60,000 times faster than text.

Firestone is a great example of a big name brand using visual content effectively. They’ve recently produced a fantastic interactive visualization to portray “The Story of America’s Car Giants,” and its proven to be extremely effective. Relevant to their customers and easily shared, this fascinating content fully embraces storytelling.

Even if you don’t have Firestone’s budget, you can still introduce some visual content into your marketing strategy:

  • Create your own visualization using your market research data—there are lots of tools available online that can help you do this without breaking the bank.
  • Get some customer generated visual content—perhaps hold a photo competition of customers using your product!
  • Have a go at creating some “how to” videos—useful visual content that will give your brand a human face.

If you don’t consider yourself an expert at actually being able to make visuals, there are plenty of free platforms you can use to help you along the way. We recommend taking a look at Canva, Infogr.am, Piktochart, Easel.ly and Visual.ly.

Patagonia

The third and final brand we’re going to look to for inspiration today is outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, as they’re a great example of how storytelling works in content marketing.

For their “Worn Wear” campaign, they asked brand advocates to discuss their outdoor adventures, basically telling the stories their gear would if it could.

The campaign had two parts: A YouTube documentary which told the stories of seven adventurers, as well as a dedicated landing page where readers could scroll through user-submitted images and “Dear Patagonia” stories.

Now, we’re not saying you have to create a documentary, but you can use storytelling to promote your brand. Outdoor clothing might not be the most interesting product to sell, but the stories around these products certainly are!

Perhaps your product or service doesn’t lend itself as easily to exciting stories as Patagonia. The truth is, if you give it enough careful thought, even the most “boring industries” or products have a unique story to tell. The trick is doing the initial legwork. This Forbes article will help you write a great brand story. Quick and easy tips from the article include:

  • Think about what your product or service allows people to do. Could they do it without you?
  • Why do you do what you do? Having a purpose other than profit can cast your brand in a more appealing light.
  • Show your customers how your brand can help them overcome their problems, whether in a video or a written story. Remember to keep it subtle.

You don’t need a big brand budget to reap the benefits of content marketing—follow these tips and you could see a significant impact in your bottom line.

Give it a go and let us know how you get on! Do you already use any of these strategies in your business? Would you like to learn more about content marketing? Tell us in the comments!

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Brittany Klontz
Brittany Klontz

Britt Klontz is a Digital Content Strategist at Distilled, an online marketing company. Say “hi” and give her a shout @Britt_Klontz, she’s always up for having a conversation about digital marketing tactics and social networking in general.