Online is where many of us spend a LOT of time these days. Whether we’re shopping, entertaining ourselves (or the kids), or learning something new, most of us turn to the internet. Statista tells us that in 2021, the average person spent 3 hours and 12 minutes each day on the net. That’s across mobile devices and laptops, with most internet time being consumed over a mobile device. It’s easy to see it’s true – just look up from your screen next time you’re on public transport, or waiting at a café for a friend.

What do people do on the internet?

The UK has one of the highest internet user penetration rates in the world. 92.17% of the population access the internet regularly. And when they do, aside from checking and sending emails (85%) and chatting with our friends and family (70 – 71%), they’re spending their time finding out about goods and services (81%).

The internet has become Britain’s favourite way to window shop. It’s easy and there’s no annoying salesperson letting you know they’ll be “just over there” if you need anything.

But what has that got to do with your small business selling widgets to a local market? A lot actually.

Today’s customers like to learn a little about the things they’re contemplating buying from the comfort of their own homes. That means looking at all the different types of widgets and widget making companies over the internet before deciding which of them understands them best. Invariably, the one that understands them best is the business that gives them enough value in relation to that product, before they even think about opening their wallet.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is the subtle sister of the advert that shouts ‘We’re the best! Buy this now!’ Instead, content shows the world that your business and products are the best. Content marketing lets customers know that not only do you know your stuff, but you know them – what they need, what they want. It talks to them in a way they love being spoken to.

You increase the value of your business in the eyes of your target market with content – blogs, videos, guides. Content marketing is all about adding value and building a relationship with customers all before you know their name. This is done by being relevant and useful – giving essential information about your products and services away for free.

The internet is a busy place, a little like Oxford street on Christmas Eve. Rammed even. Lots of people and businesses are creating all sorts of content. Some of it helpful, lots of it not. But that’s not a reason to step out of all that traffic, that’s a reason you should be getting on the road. But don’t go jumping on the motorway without a map. You need to know where you’re going (and why) if you’re going to spend money on filling up your tank.

Connect the dots with a content marketing strategy

When we buy a product, it’s usually one of the final steps in our customer journey. That’s the movement – both physical and mental – from becoming aware that we want or need something to obtaining that thing. As we make this journey, which often starts on the internet, we consume information.

Remember that 81%  of people spending internet time finding out about goods and services? That is likely to start with a search engine query along the lines of ‘best kind of widgets for___’ and then travel through a couple of other areas. Each of those areas is filled with pieces of content that not only teaches the searcher about the thing they’re interested in, but also builds trust and encourages another action.

When the customer is ready to buy their widget, who do you think they’re more likely to purchase from; the business who answered all their questions before they even knew what their questions were or the widget business next door? You guessed it, the one who went out of their way to help and provide everything they needed to connect all the dots on their customer journey.

To be able to do this effectively for a potential customer – connect the dots from ‘I think I need a widget’ to ‘I know I need X widget now’ – you’ll need the right content. How do you create the right content? With a content marketing strategy.

A content marketing strategy helps you get found

When we want to know something, we want to know it now. We want things to be easy to find, and may even sometimes expect things to come to us without us going looking for them. That’s where personalisation and ‘like’ audiences come in, but that’s a topic for another time.

Content marketing helps you get found. How? By including the right words and phrases. The very same words and phrases that people use to find the products and services you sell. Sounds a little like Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to you? Well, that’s because it is. Content marketing and SEO are the best of friends.

How do you know which words to use in your content so that you can get found? You listen to the customers you have, you do a little keyword researching and you brainstorm all the words and questions someone might have about your widgets. Then you get busy creating the content that answers those questions using those words.

How do you make sure every single one of those words is included in your content marketing somewhere? With a content marketing strategy.

Add value with quality content

If you’re a small business, there’s probably not a lot you can or want to give away for free. You’re trying to turn a profit right? But giving help for free is one of the ways we build trust and relationships. People do it socially every day, a small favour here, a tidbit of information there. We build trust and relationships with give and take. It’s just the way we’re wired.

As a small business, you can tap into that behavioural psychology by giving away your expertise for free. It adds value for your product or service – even if your product or service is based on your expertise and what you know. Which, let’s be honest, it probably is because that’s why you do what you do.

The bonus to adding value by giving away your expertise is that it will position you and your business as leaders in your space. That makes you even more trustworthy. The content you are giving away becomes even more valuable. It starts to be a self-feeding loop.

But how do you know which of your expertise to give away to add value? By doing a little topic research. Seeing what people want to know about your product or service and then creating content – blogs, guides, informative clips, checklists – and giving it away.

And how do you make sure that value doesn’t get lost along the way of the customer’s journey to being your customer? You guessed it, with a content marketing strategy.

Connecting the dots, getting found and adding value are just three reasons you need a content marketing strategy for your small business. There’s also the benefit of knowing where you are, where your going and understanding when you’ve arrived. A content marketing strategy won’t keep you on track and keep customers flowing to you all on its own though. You’ll need some content to fill that strategy up too.

Need help with all that? Let’s chat.