Content marketing for small businesses sounds overwhelming and time-intensive, and so puts many off before they even get started. But a strong content marketing strategy is a vital tool for small businesses - and it’s pretty likely you are already doing it!

What is content marketing?

‘Content marketing’ can sound like a scary term to small business owners. It sounds overwhelming and time-intensive, and so puts many people off before they even get started. However, the premise is very simple. A better question to get a grasp of the content marketing definition would be: what is content?

Content is everywhere on the web. It’s what makes up the results of every Google search we make. No matter what your informational needs are, Google prioritizes content it sees as the most relevant and valuable to your search query. (Remember these words - they are at the heart of any good content marketing strategy!)

But not all content is created alike. The phrase ‘content is king’ has become very overused by professional marketers. Especially in discussions about SEO and domain authority. It’s true that content marketing for small businesses can be a massive source of organic traffic - but only if the content resonates with your target audience!

This is the essence of what content marketing aims to achieve. It’s a content creation strategy which works hand-in-hand with Google’s mission to provide searchers with high-quality results. In short, content marketing is supplying your intended audience with timely, relevant, and most importantly valuable content which drives trust, and ultimately profit, for your brand.

Open store sign Why is content marketing important for small businesses?

Content marketing for small businesses has very quickly become a necessity. Retail is a competitive business, especially for lifestyle brands with a mostly eCommerce presence. Uniqueness no longer comes from product offerings, but from how you articulate your brand vision. So, it’s very likely as an independent retailer that you have some form of content marketing strategy already.

One of the biggest challenges for any growing business is brand storytelling. Finding ways to cut through the noise to reach your target audience has never been harder. So, whether your focus is on social media marketing, or making informative blog posts for your community, these content creation efforts give you a vital platform to engage potential customers and generate leads.

close-up of Apple keyboard How does content marketing work?

One of the reasons small businesses find content marketing confusing is because marketers rarely discuss it from the perspective of a customer during their buying journey. Let’s take a look at an example:

Someone is fitting out blinds for their new house, but they aren’t sure of the pros and cons of each style. You are a business that sells curtains and blinds, and have written a blog on your site about this exact subject. This person clicks on this post from the search results and finds the content useful and relevant to their inquiry. From this, they are encouraged to check out your product range, and ultimately end up making a purchase a couple of weeks later.

It’s clear that content marketing for small businesses is very different from ‘outbound marketing’ strategies. These are designed to be disruptive and pitch a product or service directly. For example, the pop-up ads in your web browser, or the 30-second clips which play before a YouTube video. It’s safe to say that most of us find outbound marketing efforts annoying rather than informative. It’s the marketing equivalent of throwing pasta at the wall and seeing if it sticks!

By contrast, content marketing is a form of ‘inbound marketing’. It aims to draw customers in as a part of their web journey, rather than interrupting it. This is why inbound marketing typically generates three times more leads than outbound marketing efforts. The biggest difference between outbound and inbound marketing is that the latter isn’t aiming to produce direct sales. Rather, it stimulates brand recall through informative content that consumers want to engage with. This is why your content strategy kicks into play when customers are already underway with their buying journey. Instead of pushing ‘stuff’, you are selling your brand identity and authority.

When content marketing is done right, your business will pop up on your customers’ radar when they have recognized their need and are looking for information on how to fulfill it.

Laptop screen with social media dashboard Types of content marketing

As we’ve already mentioned, the vast majority of small businesses engage in some form of content creation already. However, they might not realize their efforts fall under the umbrella of ‘content marketing’. One of the biggest misconceptions about content marketing is that content needs to be thousands of words. But ‘relevant’ and ‘informative’ are what matters!

On-site blogging - this is the most synonymous with content marketing, especially in discussions about on-page SEO versus off-page SEO. It’s important to note that building a blog with strong traffic takes a lot of time and effort. But it’s well worth it. Why? Because quality, long-form content is like a fine wine - as it matures, it only becomes more valuable! Long-standing, cornerstone blog content establishes your brand’s authority in the most direct way possible. For more on the virtues of starting a company blog, you can check out our dedicated post.

Social media marketing - Your social media channels are a key method of driving customers back to your site. So, it should feature heavily in your content marketing strategy as a small business. Whilst it doesn’t have the longevity of a blog post or other on-site content, social media allows you to generate brand awareness on a larger scale than search results alone can offer.

FAQs - As we showed in our example, FAQS are some of the most ‘relevant’ and ‘informative’ content you can offer. Quick, informative answers on concerns that determine your brand’s viability to a consumer, such as product sourcing or delivery information, is one of the best forms of content marketing for small businesses. Just be sure to target those keywords!

Case studies/testimonials - Before we buy a product or service, what do we do? Check out the reviews! Having a collection of customer testimonials is a fantastic content marketing technique. It’s a much less time-intensive content creation strategy than starting a blog from scratch. From an SEO perspective, it’s also an easy way to build the number of indexed pages on your site. For some examples, check out noissue’s own case study series!

Email marketing - email marketing sometimes gets a bad reputation as ‘spam’ email. This puts many small businesses off using it in their content marketing strategy. But well-targeted email flows, personalized to your customer, are a great way to promote the other forms of content in your broader content marketing approach. Your emails can easily link to blogs, Pinterest boards, high-performing Instagram posts or vlogs which are likely to be of interest to your customer!

Person writing on glass board Top 5 content marketing tips for your small business:

1. What does your target audience want?

You can’t create relevant and valuable content if you don’t know who your customers are! Content creation can end up being motivated by who you think your audience is, rather than who is actually coming to your site. It’s important to make the most of free content marketing tools such as Google Analytics, which allow you to see what searches are driving organic traffic to your site. These search terms naturally lend to their own content topics, and are far easier for your brand to capitalize on!

2. Take stock of your current content creation

Before you rush to start a blog or newsletter, hold fire. First off, you need to take stock of the content marketing your small business is already doing. If you are a small team or a single-person operation, your bandwidth is going to be more limited. So, a good content marketing strategy will maximize the areas you are currently focusing on. Could you up your social media marketing, and perhaps create some more varied content? Would a monthly email update be of value and interest to your customers? Even small efforts will make a big difference to your brand authority!

3. Build a content calendar

It’s virtually impossible to have any kind of content marketing strategy if you have no organization! The main battle of content creation isn’t so much the execution, but coming up with innovative, on-brand ideas. So, a well-done content calendar addresses both of these issues. It forces you to carve out some time during the week to brainstorm content ideas, and so put together a much more cohesive content strategy. Even if you don’t do this year-round, it’s especially important during busy retail periods like the holiday season!

4. Go for quality over quantity in your content creation

It’s tempting to go all out and set very ambitious content marketing targets for your small business, but this can backfire. For one, it’s very stressful if you are setting goals you can’t possibly reach. It’s also very likely to dilute the quality of what you are producing. As any content marketer will tell you, one long-form, well-written blog a week is far more valuable to your audience than three shoddy, badly-produced ones! It’s important to be more conservative in your approach until you get a feel for your content creation capabilities.

5. SEO is where it’s at

It’s impossible to get away from SEO when it comes to your small businesses’ content marketing strategy. One simply can’t survive without the other! Many try dodging discussions about SEO, believing the myth that paid advertising is more effective. But a strong keyword strategy should be part-and-parcel of how you decide what content topics to target. You can create the greatest content in the world, but no one will see it if you aren’t targeting the right search terms! This might sound intimidating, but there are some great free resources on Moz and Search Engine Journal to help get you started!

The Wrap Up:

Content marketing for small businesses is a big time investment, but it helps you to sell your most important asset; your brand. If your brand has no authority in the eyes of potential customers, then it doesn’t matter how great your product range is! By offering relevant and valuable content, you are helping consumers to build trust in your brand, and ultimately to choose you over competitors.