• Robin Kastengren

Content Marketing: How it All Works

For many small business owners, the idea of trying to get new customers while competing with bigger businesses and loftier budgets can be disheartening. All those guys have to do is fork over a bunch of cash and the clients come pouring in, right? Ok, maybe it’s not quite that easy, but it can feel that way when your advertising budget is only a few hundred bucks a month and you know you’re up against competitors who have thousands.

That’s where content marketing comes in. It’s the best secret weapon that small businesses have, especially considering that it costs more than 60 percent less than traditional marketing and it provides better lead generation, too.

Content marketing works using a bit more effort than money, and if you’re a small business owner, then you are already very familiar with that method of operation.

The Three Steps of Content Marketing

HubSpot has long been considered one of the leading voices in content marketing and they have spent years developing methods, courses, tutorials, free guides, worksheets, and countless other aids for people who want to get into the game. They’re also an incredible case study in the power of content marketing as their core product is actually software packages for sales, service, and marketing.

However, HubSpot puts out so much content on the subject of content marketing and have built up an enormous amount of brand recognition and trust that most people in the industry turn to them for answers even if they’re not looking for software. Of course, many people are on the market for these types of software solutions (or they will be once their businesses grow a little bit), and who do you think these people will think of first? HubSpot.

Anyway, HubSpot rounds out a comprehensive digital marketing strategy into an entire theory called Inbound Marketing. The three steps of Inbound are attract, engage, and then delight:

  1. Attract: Bring more of the right kind of people to your website using content strategies to get the word out to the best slice of your audience while minimizing attention from people who won’t be interested in your products and services.

  2. Engage. Use tools such as calls-to-action, forms, and lead flows to gather information from prospects visiting your site and interacting with your content so you can begin building relationships and convert them into paying customers.

  3. Delight. Along with providing superior service to any buyers, this step uses content to keep relationships strong, build revenue from upselling and repeat business, and to create ways for customers to share their experiences with friends, family, and colleagues so you hopefully gain new customers from referrals.

The Perfect World Workflow

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, but for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend that we do so we can look at the path or journey a buyer would take to become a customer. In a perfect world, a person would find one of your blog posts and head over for a read. Maybe they got a link sent by a colleague, saw a post on one of your social media feeds, or did a Google search and your title was the most interesting. (Attract)

Next, they would read the blog and be really impressed with what you had to say. You solved a problem, answered a question, confirmed a hunch, or otherwise sparked some interest. At the bottom of the blog or on a sidebar, you have a pretty box letting the reader know that they can get more information on this topic by giving you their email address, and they go for it. (Engage)

Then, you send an email that blows them away, and they click a link to sign up for a consultation, try a demo, or otherwise make direct contact with you. (The handoff from Engage to Delight)) Lastly, you knock the sale out of the park, deliver fantastic customer service, and get a 5-star Yelp review. Over the next few weeks, you send a couple more emails talking about related products. The customer might make another purchase, or recommend your solutions to a friend. Perfection.

In the real world, some of these stops will be repeated and there’s probably going to be some circling back, taking breaks, and involving other people in the decision-making process. Or, maybe your sales process is much shorter and the customer goes right to the sale after reading the first blog. How much has to happen between the first contact and the sale will depend completely on what kind of business you have. But the basics are the same for everyone.

Content for Every Step

The method is simple on the surface, but there are a lot of moving pieces. The good news is that these moving pieces are tremendously simplified for small businesses so your job is going to be a lot easier than managing a complex assortment of pieces that big business requires. Over the next several weeks, I’ll get into the weeds a bit more so you can understand the mechanics of the process and put it to work. Today, we’ll stick with the basics so you can see how it all fits together to form a cohesive strategy that gets results.

Step 1: Attract

The bulk of the content you create will be focused on the first step: attracting people to your website. The main tool for this step will be your company blog as it will often be one of the first stops for new visitors as well as a place where repeat visitors can look for more information. It will also house the majority of the content, although it won’t necessarily be the home of your most important pieces.

Beyond blog posts and other longer-form pieces of written content, you’ll also want plenty of visual content to get attention. Videos, photos, images, memes, infographics: all of these will play a role in reaching new people as they are all easily shared throughout various digital channels, including social media.

Step 2: Engage

What this step looks like will be a bit different depending on your industry and the audience you’re targeting. For most small businesses, it’s a quick stop on the buyer’s journey and you won’t need a tremendous amount of content to get the job done. Instead, you’ll want to focus on having a handful of highly effective pieces that are specifically designed to target and convert.

In here, you’ll be focusing on building relationships with real people rather than “an audience,” and your primary tools are going to be email and social media. In most cases, you should have been able to squeeze out anyone who isn’t interested in your solutions so you can start including a bit of selling in your content, but never the hard sell until the very end.

Step 3: Delight

This zone is the lightest on content and should be the easiest step as you’ve already done the work to overcome all the roadblocks that stop people from making a purchase. If your products and services are solid and you do a good job of delivering them, then you’re talking to a happy customer and we ALL know those are the most fun to talk to.

Your primary tools here are going to be email and social media again. Email will be infrequent and targeted based on what the customer bought or did. Social media will be used to keep the relationship fresh and keep brand recognition high. Both will also provide opportunities for customers to share their experiences and recommend you to others.

Does it Work?

Yes. This blog you’re reading right now is my content marketing. There’s no way I could afford to take the time to write all these blogs for my website if it didn’t result in new clients. I would need to spend this time writing for money just to keep the lights on.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word on it. Here’s some backup from other sources:

  • 55 percent of marketers say blogs are their top inbound priority.

  • More than 75 percent of internet users read blogs regularly

  • Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13 times more likely to see a positive return on their investment.

  • Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search.

  • More than 80 percent of marketers say inbound practices provide the highest quality leads.

  • Growth in unique website traffic is almost 8 times higher for content marketing leaders than for others.

  • Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing while generating 3 times more leads.

  • Conversion rates are almost 6 times higher for those who use content marketing versus those who do not.

Let's get to work.

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