Content marketing is on the rise. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 77 percent of B2C marketers are using content marketing, while 69 percent are creating more content now than they did a year ago.
Whether due to limited resources or limited geographic range, using blogs, videos, infographics, and other content to attract the interest of customers might seem like a less-than-effective option for small or local businesses (or one with less value for small businesses than for national brands). But there are plenty of scenarios in which local businesses can benefit from content marketing, especially if they approach it in a smart and effective way.
For example, take a business in the service industry. Demonstrating expertise through tips or best practices can be a differentiator. “Using the Internet limits consumers’ need to speak with sales reps, so content plays a bigger role in their education,” says Kevin Sangsland, founder and principal of Livonia, MI–based marketing firm Anura Strategies.
He urges local marketers to use content that combines expertise with aspects of the local community — supporting “both topical expertise and geo-relevance.” Sangsland gives the example of a local tree-cutting service that might focus content around a species common to the area, discussing, for example, how the local climate makes the trees more prone to disease.
Local marketers should showcase their connection to the local community, including interviews or case studies that connect their business to the neighborhood. This approach should extend to social media as well. That means joining Facebook and LinkedIn groups that target the local community, such as the local sports team or chamber of commerce.
“As long as a small or local business leverages that natural place in the community, the community in which it resides will be more likely to engage with the content and therefore increase its chances of being effective,” says Douglas Lee Miller, senior marketing strategist for marketing firm WSOL. He adds that for marketers, it’s worthwhile to reach out to local businesses with content marketing opportunities. That frees the business owner to do what he or she does best, leaving the content part of the work to the specialist marketer.
Creating a steady and engaging amount of content can be time- and resource-consuming, so a local business should seek out ways to repurpose and spread the word as much as possible. A local exterminator that published a story on bedbug warning signs might get additional mileage from the story by creating an infographic that illustrates the story’s key points. To help manage the time-consuming nature of content creation, marketers should consider tapping content discovery services like Outbrain, which can geo-target, and can cost less than the equivalent outlay for Google AdWords.
But content marketing is not for everyone. Consultant Rob Watson, who runs U.K.-based Click to Sale Digital Marketing, emphasizes that the approach is best used for big-ticket products or services, where customers are making careful, well-reasoned decisions. In these cases, a primer on the product or what they should look for when selecting one, will prove valuable to prospective customers.
Other scenarios that might be well suited to content marketing include:
- Long sales cycles where it may take months or years from initial contact to purchase completion.
- Situations where customers can’t switch suppliers quickly or easily and therefore need to get it right first time.
- Bespoke products or services where customers can’t simply check prices online and buy elsewhere.
- Instances of clear product or service segmentation, meaning companies can create very specific content for each niche.
- B2B organizations selling complex and typically high-consideration products.
“Any content that helps to simplify or bring people’s attention to a specific issue or step in the buying process, can help,” says Watson. “This might be as small as a tweet linking to a third-party site, or a blog post on your own site, right through to a lengthy free guide or a video. As long as it helps customers in the buying process, it is worth considering.”