Get the Words Out: Content Marketing for Small Businesses

March 12, 2018 | Stephen Jackson

One of my favorite scenes in Mel Brooks’ classic Star Wars parody Spaceballs is the one in which Brooks, playing a send-up of Yoda (named Yogurt), takes the lead characters through a souvenir shop of the movie itself. In all his fourth-wall-breaking glory, Brooks explains to the hapless explorers that the key to everything in business is “merchandising,” as he points out a bounty of Spaceballs paraphernalia. It’s comedy gold.

And while merchandising might not always spell success in business, something else does: an effective marketing strategy.

Of course, marketing isn’t a panacea for sluggish businesses, but it’s certainly an important aspect of running a business, along with keeping good books, implementing effective management, and maintaining a solid product. But these days, marketing is in a state of flux, and the major trend points to the rise of content marketing.

In case you’re not familiar, the Content Marketing Institute defines this concept as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content marketing is all about creating valuable content that resonates in an authentic way with the audience you’re trying to reach. This is executed through developing a bona fide content strategy and hiring a team of content creators, including writers, videographers, graphic designers, and even podcasters.

In this world, many things can be considered valuable content, and different types will resonate with different audiences — all with the ultimate goal of getting consumers to do something you’d like them to do, which can include anything from sharing an article on Facebook to purchasing something on your website.

But what are some best practices when it comes to content marketing? There’s tons of stuff out there, and it can be hard to wade through. In an effort to save you some time and energy, I went ahead and reached out to an expert — Lisa Oda, Upwork’s Director of Content Marketing and Strategy.

It’s Not As Easy as It Looks

Content marketing traces its roots back to a cost-effective way to capture search queries by maintaining relevant content on one’s site. However, it’s evolved into what seems to be a necessary practice for any company trying to build a legit online presence. To this end, some organizations develop the false view that “more is better,” and just try to churn out as much material as they can.

“This idea increases the pressure to create more content, faster than ever before,” Oda says. “But the reality is that with increased content production, the need — and bar — for unique, quality longform assets is rising rapidly too. While ever popular, it’s worth noting that staying true to the needs of your prospects and using content to answer questions or their concerns will reward the publisher and brand in the long run.”

Simple Rules to Live By

Creating authentic content while implementing an effective content strategy takes a lot of skill and experience, so if you are planning to head in that direction, it would behoove you to hire an expert in the field.

Oda shared some valuable advice when it comes to businesses improving their content marketing efforts:

  • Conduct research to develop topics that align with your business

  • Focus on in-depth, authentic, quality content — always

  • Don’t forget to promote your content via social channels and partnerships for visibility and shares

  • Analyze results, iterate and optimize

  • With the proper CMS, content is never really final

  • Have fun!

Of course, these compact statements all require further research and unpacking, but they are certainly good road signs to follow as you build out content on your site.

The Big Picture

While it’s important to be committed to creating quality, relevant content, it’s also crucial to really understand the big picture and what content marketing is all about.

“Content is often talked about in terms of blog posts, articles, and ebooks. But content not only supports brand, product, and sales, it also drives traffic, conversion, and amplification,” Oda says. “It’s the landing spot for media and paid-search prospects, the anchor on search results pages to provide validity for your brand. Someone might not click the paid ad, but they might click your article link right below it.”

So, is content marketing something you should be interested in? The answer is likely yes. And even if you don’t have the budget to hire a full-time marketing wiz, it might be a good idea to reach out to a freelancer to help you out. There are tons of them on Upwork, or a number of other online marketplaces.

Either way, just remember that “fortune favors the prepared mind,” and content marketing doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.