Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our New Content Marketing Certification, Josh joins us this month to discuss the most effective Content Marketing techniques for driving sales, engaging consumers and improving ROI.
Successful small businesses tend to have a common denominator in their marketing strategies, and that is content.
A well-planned content marketing strategy can mean the difference between a brand that’s perceived by consumers as a thought leader, and a brand that’s perceived as a thought follower. The current emphasis placed on thought leadership means that a vitally important part of conducting a business is developing a unique brand voice and brand mission: a scope that reaches beyond the realm of product sales and into the realm of touching hearts and challenging minds.
Having a scope that goes above and beyond consumers’ expectations is especially necessary for companies that cultivate an online presence and develop a broad-based content marketing strategy. As more and more companies venture online, such a strategy has become essential to small business brand-building. Here are two big reasons why:
1. Consumers Crave Intellectual Stimulation
Almost 9 out of 10 U.S. citizens have a high school education, while 4 in 10 U.S. citizens have a college degree or higher. Mounting levels of educational attainment have meant that a greater portion of American consumers is well-educated. As the bar has been raised for education, so too have the standards which consumers hold businesses to. Compound those rising buyer standards with the widespread availability of consumer rankings, reviews, and other data that can be found at the touch of a screen, and we see that consumers have been conditioned to crave intellectual stimulation by the wealth of information at their fingertips, which allows them to think big about small business.
The big implication is that the more educated consumers become, the more content they expect to satisfy their demand for quality information about what they buy. The essential task for small businesses is satisfying consumers’ growing demand for quality information, as well as their sense of intellectual curiosity by filling the online void surrounding their brand names with as much authoritative content as possible. Accomplishing this task with consistency of voice, quality control, and an ability to ignite audience passion is essential to the success of any content marketing strategy. This is best accomplished by publishing information that strikes a balance between education and entertainment.
The Metrics Principle states that while publishing content for consumers is great in principle, it’s even greater when that content can offer measured feedback about consumer preferences and behavior. While this level of consumer insight is easier to come by for big businesses who have the money to spend on market research, it’s not so easily attained by small businesses. When juggling the costs associated with starting a small business, marketing is usually (and sometimes rightly) the first cost to cut. Focusing effort on developing a product that "markets itself" is the more pragmatic route a small business can take early on, because it is more prudent to measure quantitative progress in terms of product sales than it is to measure the qualitative progress of increasing the space a small business occupies in popular imagination.
In the long run however, product sales alone don’t allow us to see the whole picture surrounding the success of a small business. In fact, many small business owners have weathered times when product sales were low by developing content marketing strategies that expanded not only the space their brand occupied in popular imagination, but also their customer bases. The additional consumer insight that such strategies afford via social media data, search engine rankings, and online consumer reviews also provides an ample window for prospecting future avenues of small business development. Because having qualified leads is absolutely essential to making decisions about the long run, small businesses need this kind of consumer insight in order to plan for the future.
These extra layers of consumer expectation can become a liability for small businesses who either refuse to develop a content marketing strategy or do so poorly. The good news is that developing an effective content marketing strategy is one of the easiest ways to build a small business.