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Content Marketing Tips for SMBs: Staying A Step Ahead Of Your Competition

James Devonshire / Content Marketing

When it comes to content marketing, simply publishing a short blog post each week no longer cuts it. Your online audiences are hungry for information and if you are the brand that satisfies said hunger, the benefits to your business are exponential.

The really good news is that you don’t need to invest significantly more in terms of time or money to take your content marketing game to the next level. You simply need to understand what your audience wants and give it to them in a format that they can easily consume.

Where People Often Go Wrong With Content

Before we look at how content marketing is evolving and what you should be doing to connect with your ideal customers/buyers through your content, let’s first focus on some of the areas where your current strategy might be falling down.

Your Content Isn’t Relevant (To Everyone)

Unfortunately, while you’ll inevitably have your ‘ideal customer’ – a specific persona and demographic you’d like to aim your products/services at – not everyone who is interested in what you’ve got to offer is the same. And while that’s good because it means you can potentially benefit from a more diverse pool of customers and prospects, it can pose a challenge when you’re crafting content.

So what do you do? Create content that sings to your ideal customer, yet misses the mark completely with others? That is what some brands do and it works for them because they generate enough sales via their ideal customers to justify neglecting some prospects.

However, a more intuitive approach and one that many companies adopt is to tailor content according to the audience it is aimed at (more on this later).

Your Content Isn’t Timely

If you picked up a newspaper in a store and it was a week old, would you buy it? Chances are you wouldn’t simply because you’ll have probably heard about all the stories already and/or you just don’t want to be reading old news.

The same often applies to online content too – especially when the subject matter is a recent news story, event or trending topic. So, for example, if there’s an important event happening in your industry that your followers are likely to want to know about, make sure you get some related content published ahead of time, during the event, and immediately after.

Of course, evergreen content that isn’t bound by time constraints or associated with trending topics can be published at any time and will enjoy a lot of interest into the future (providing it’s high quality, original and provides real value).

Your Content Isn’t Responsive

More people than ever before are consuming content on their mobile devices. This fact alone needs to be at the forefront of your mind when you’re creating content for your small business.

For a start, mobile devices have much smaller screens than laptops and desktops, which makes reading content on them more difficult. While a responsive website is an absolute must, also think about your sentence and paragraph structure. Enormous walls of text with few breaks don’t lend themselves well to being read on small screens.

Try reading different pieces of content on a mobile device yourself. Some will seem like they were born for it (and they probably were), while others may have you shaking your head in disbelief because they have completely neglected mobile audiences.

Your Content Isn’t Consistent

Your followers – whether that’s social media followers, blog followers or email contacts – will have come to know how you write and will be expecting a similar tone, style, and approach in everything you publish.

This consistency is actually a really important aspect of your written content. Not only does it help to instill trust, it also gets people familiar with your brand voice. That’s why being consistent in your writing is so crucial for connecting with and holding the attention of your followers.

The real benefit of developing an individual brand voice and using it consistently is that it helps put a face on your business. In turn, this helps boost engagement and creates a deeper connection between your business and its audiences.

How Content Marketing Is Evolving & What You Need To Do

Like most aspects of digital marketing, content marketing is evolving. In fact, it’s gone through quite a transformation in recent years. Dead (I hope) are the so-called blog farms that used to churn out crap content in an attempt to get backlinks and the seriously low-quality content produced by spinning software.

Now, it’s all about creating informative, valuable, high-quality content that resonates with its intended audience and naturally drives engagement.

Long-Form Content

It used to be enough to write and publish a 500-word blog post each week. Nowadays, though, a definitive steer towards longer pieces of content has occurred.

The bottom line is consumers and B2B buyers alike want to feel informed and the best way to do that is with longer, more in-depth pieces of content. While 500-word blog posts still have their place, longer content has a better lifespan.

Indeed, Orbitmedia’s yearly blogging survey reveals that the average length of a typical blog post has increased from 808 words in 2014 to 1,142 in 2017.

Quality Over Quantity

You might be thinking, how on Earth can I produce a 1500-word blog post every other day? The good news is you don’t have to.

Longer, more in-depth content, as we’ve already mentioned, has a longer lifespan and that means you can afford to post less frequently. Remember, it’s all about providing value.

So, if you’re currently producing three 500-word blog posts each week, why not shift to publishing one 1500-word post? Think more value, more consistency, even if it’s less frequent. Don’t publish something just for the sake of it – especially if it will actually provide little in terms of tangible value.

Social-Centric Content

With organic reach for brands on Facebook at an all-time low, we are seeing more and more content created with social in mind, first and foremost. If you still think you can publish a blog post on your website, post a link to it on Facebook and enjoy lots of organic traffic, think again.

We’ve seen a lot more content being published directly on Facebook’s Instant Articles platform, for example. Not only do they load instantly, but according to Facebook data, they enjoy more exposure (20% more read on average) and they are 70% less likely to be abandoned.

For brands looking to establish themselves as thought leaders and provide genuine value to their audiences, instead of just driving traffic to their websites, platforms like the Instant Articles one are a great way to attract more readership.

[Related reading: Why & How Smart Brands Will Adapt To The Recent Facebook News Feed Change And Shine]

Lots And Lots Of Video

It’s no secret that video content is super powerful. And nowhere is this better highlighted than in Facebook’s Bringing People Closer Together blog post published in January 2018. This is the post in which Facebook officially announced that Pages would more than likely see their organic reach decline.

However, a glimmering light in the aforementioned blog post is how Facebook specifically stresses that “posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed.” There’s then a mention of how live videos enjoy a lot of interaction (hint, hint).

In other words, even if you’ve only got a small business and live video has never really been on your social media radar, maybe it should be going forward. You don’t even need to overthink it. It could be something as simple as ‘going live’ during the day and letting your customers see behind the scenes of your business. This is great for portraying your business as one that’s fun, as well as allowing your audience to see some of the faces who help your business tick.

Personalized Content

Personalization is powerful, and this notion absolutely applies when you’re creating content. You need to create content that your customers (and prospects) want to consume. Not sure what they want? Ask them!

What better way to understand the topics and types of content your audience wants to read than by asking them. It doesn’t even need to be a lengthy survey, a simple social media poll will do. It’s just so you can craft content that people actually want to read, rather than what you think they want to read.

According to recent research by the RAIN Group, 67% of B2B buyers want to see content that is 100% customized to their specific situation before they accept a meeting invitation or other invitation to connect. In fact, 100% customized content was only edged out by content that describes a provider’s capabilities and primary research data relevant to the customer’s business, cited by 67% and 69% of B2B buyers respectively.

Image credit: RAIN Group

Your Takeaway Content Marketing Checklist

  • Be personal
  • Be timely
  • Fully accommodate mobile users
  • Be consistent
  • Create long-form content
  • Aim for quality over quantity (frequency)
  • Create content with social in mind
  • Utilize live video