According to the Content Marketing Institute, 94 percent of small businesses use content marketing. Then there’s that 6 percent I usually encounter as a freelance journalist. While most of their competitors are using content marketing to get their message across, they instead have great declarations about why they just don’t need to do everything the competition is doing.
I am passionate about seeing small businesses succeed. They account for more than half of all jobs in the United States. When these businesses don’t invest in content marketing, they are losing loyal followers and customers to the competition.
For those who need convincing, let me address three excuses I have heard first-hand from small business owners (and why they don’t hold water):
‘We’re not a media company’
Yes, it’s true that the local baker, auto repair shop, tax attorney or wedding photographer never got into the business because they thought they could be the next Associated Press. That’s not the point.
These businesses have great information they can share and stories to tell. Storytelling via content marketing is a great way to convey your unique position in the industry. Providing this kind of content engages and informs your audience and creates value.
Stories emotionally engage people and create brand loyalty. Readers begin to know you can provide insight and it’s dependable. When you provide prospects and customers with something to read that relates to your business, you pull them in, educate them, develop a relationship and improve customer retention.
Content is essential for conversion to sales because more than half of website visitors aren’t ready to buy. According to entrepreneur Saad Kamal, you need to create: awareness, interest, desire and then you get action (making a purchase).
Content makes prospects aware of the product or service. When you promote this content via social media and newsletters, you create valuable landing pages where you can also gather information such as names, email addresses, companies, zip codes, etc. that further assists your marketing efforts.
‘We’ve already tried advertising’
Maybe you bought an advertisement in print, radio or television that didn’t bring in a good return on your investment. Now, you’re convinced it was a waste of good money.
Content marketing is not advertising. Don’t confuse the two.
When you advertise, you put your message out there and try to sell yourself to customers. With content marketing, you share information and tell a story. You strive to get customers to understand and interact with your brand.
The “selling” takes care of itself as customers come to trust you, your message and information. When they value it, they start to share what they like. They become “influencers.” Word-of-mouth spreads quickly online when people can take a content link and pass it around.
‘It will cost too much’
Content is not free. It will cost you something and, as with everything else in business, you get what you pay for.
Additionally, content marketing takes time. You’re not going to have thousands of new customers by the end of the week because they read your blog post. Most experts say you need three months before you start to see an uptick in website views and data gathering (like subscriptions to your mailing list).
Related: Isn’t ‘Win-Win’ Winning?
It will take about six months of consistent content that’s promoted on social media before you start seeing a more of a difference. But remember, you’re building a brand. Most people will not be ready to buy when they come to your website and read what is there. Relationships cannot be rushed.
The good news is that KISSMetrics finds that generating a lead through traditional marketing costs $373, but getting that lead with content marketing is only $143. Additional research shows content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads.
If the majority of your competition is already using content marketing to generate sales, you need to rethink your game. And, as the saying goes, “You have to spend money to make money.” Marketing expert and author Cathey Armillas notes in her book that when your company isn’t making a lot of money, your first investment should be in marketing.
Of course each business has to weigh the ROI, but in order to compete, you have to be in the market. Remember, no customer will find you out there if you aren’t out there. So what’s that really costing you?
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