Should SMBs Get Into Content Marketing?

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“Content marketing” has become the new mantra for brand marketers — people everywhere are trying to come up with viral marketing sensations like the Old Spice Man to reinvigorate tired brands. I attended the Content Marketing Conference this week, where the focus was adaptation to a new marketing paradigm that uses content to engage, and more importantly transact, with consumers. And in many ways, these marketing concepts being taught to brand managers with national accounts are also applicable to small business owners.

Rebecca Lieb from Altimeter Group set the stage with research supporting the consumer attitude shift taking place. Online ads no longer work: 77% of Internet users do not engage in online ads. Meanwhile, a survey of marketers by Altimeter (below) gives traditional advertising a vote of low confidence as persuasive marketing content.

altimeter group content marketing chart

Content marketing is really an old strategy with new tactics. Bill Flitter, the conference organizer, points out that the steps in the process, like ad production and media planning, have updated to accommodate online and mobile channels.  For the conference, Bill created a graphic (below) that illustrates the tactics that are evolving around the new marketing discipline for executives trying to devise content marketing strategies.

content marketing life cyclet

1. Strategy and Creation. Ads are no longer limited to 30 second spots. Nigel Morris of Aegis Media America urges us to watch a CGI-enhanced 3 1/2 minute “movie” produced by Cartier that has been viewed over 15 million times. Five years ago, there wasn’t a practical media channel to run a long commercial like this, but YouTube is now proving to be a far more flexible and inexpensive channel than the traditional media ad placement.

2. Curation. Content production is expensive. It’s now easy and cheaper to leverage good existing content to accentuate a brand’s marketing points and reinforce their position of media authority within their domain. AmEx, whose target customers are small business, developed by curating writers from business sites (including Street Fight) to create content around small business issues. And many startups, like Kapost and Curata, have popped up to deliver real-time curated content for brands.

3. Management and Distribution. Content is text, pictures and video, and it needs to managed across multiple devices and distributed across multiple channels. Media planners used to buy ad placements and manage the logistics of videotape delivery. Now content is managed online and promoted via social media. And monitoring is far more complicated. Ad campaigns just focused on view and conversion metrics, now brands need to react and respond to the social web to ensure campaign engagement success.

Small businesses need to think like the brands they are. They should be following the same protocol now being established by these big brands when it comes to marketing with online content. To do so, they first need to create a portfolio of content — blogs, videos, webinars — and use the new distribution channels and social media to get the word out. Next, learn how to curate; For example, an indie home and garden store should syndicate gardening content and create a local social arena discussing home and garden for their community.

By moving into content marketing, small businesses can become more than simply a storefront — they can be a local media resource revolving around their products and services. That can be much more persuasive than simply placing an ad.

Patrick Kitano is founding Principal of Brand into Media, a strategy group for social brand management solutions, and administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of Media Transparent, and contributor to Social Media Today, Daily Deal Media, and The Customer Collective. He is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email [email protected].


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