Does content marketing really work for small business?
That’s a question I hear all the time — and it’s a good one.
You see huge players like American Express and IBM creating loads of amazing content…
…but they have the resources and money to throw at it.
What about the little guys — the solopreneurs or small businesses of two to ten people? Can content marketing work for them?
I’m here to give you an absolute, undisputed YES!!
However, there are a few caveats (there’s always a caveat, right?):
- You must commit fully to content marketing. Content marketing institute found that just 21% of content marketers in North America are “extremely” committed to content marketing. The other 79%? They’re just wasting their time (and everyone else’s, too).
- You have to spend more time promoting than creating content. One of the biggest content marketing myths is “create amazing, out of this world content, and the readers will come.” This is FALSE! Unless you promote that content, NO ONE will see it, share it, or convert on it — period.
If you’re ready to finally commit to content marketing and stop wasting everyone’s time, read on.
In this article, I’m going to explain the benefits of content marketing, give you a few success stories to inspire you, and give you an action plan to get started right now.
Here’s a clickable index so you can get straight to where you wanna go:
- Benefits of content marketing for small business
- Small business content marketing success stories
- How to get started content marketing right now
Now, let’s talk content!
Benefits of Content Marketing for Small Business
Why would you even want to commit to content marketing? What can you look forward to if you fully commit?
Oh, there’s a lot. How does this sound:
Increase your traffic by 800%.
That’s right. Neil Patel found that content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders. Not too shabby, eh?
Rank higher on search engines.
Without content, it’s going to be very difficult to rank your site on Google or Bing. Content gives you the extra, well, content needed to optimize your site and appear on search.
Establish authority and thought leadership in your industry.
Who do you view as an authority in your niche? If I asked you why I bet I’d know your answer — you see their face on high-quality, authoritative content across the web.
Generate more leads — and more sales.
HubSpot found that businesses with a regular blog generate 126% more leads than those without. With more leads, you get more chances to sell.
Receive big benefits for a small investment.
Content Marketing Institute found that “While content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates more than three times as many leads.” You can create content on a very small budget and still get results.
You can get all of this and more, despite being a small business, if you fully commit to content marketing.
I won’t lie to you — it’s not going to be easy or quick. Some believe it takes at least six months to see results from a content marketing initiative.
Personally, I’ve seen it done in weeks. It all depends on the amount of time and effort you have available to invest.With the right content and the right promotion, anything is possible.
Small Business Content Marketing Success Stories
What would I be if I didn’t back up my claims with real-life examples? A fraud, that’s what. As such, here are five examples of small businesses using content marketing for huge success.
I really look forward to CoSchedule‘s new blog post every week. It’s always informative, easy on the eyes, and actionable.
What I love about CoSchedule is that they committed to writing content before they even wrote their first piece of code. They started blogging before their product was launched, back in March of 2013 — just two guys telling the world about their ideas.
Three years later, in July 2016, they reached 100,000 blog subscribers and $2 million in recurring annual revenue. In short, they went from a two-man team with an idea to the fastest growing tech startup in North Dakota — all thanks to content.
Groove is a helpdesk software company that almost went out of business soon after their launch.
The story of how their startup almost died is an interesting one. You see, they tried content marketing. They seemingly did everything right… but it wasn’t enough. Traffic wasn’t increasing.
Their biggest mistake? They didn’t write about what their audience cared about. They chose unappealing topics. Not on purpose, of course — they didn’t know better.
So, how’d they turn it around? They started asking questions. They asked their customers what they needed help with, and scoured forums like Reddit to find what people were struggling with. Then, they directly answered those questions with their blog.
Now, they have 250,000 subscribers and over $5 million in recurring annual revenue — again, all thanks to content.
Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club is one of my personal favorite content marketing success stories. You’ve seen their viral video, I’m sure — you know, the one with the bear, machete, and raining money. No? Here it is:
I know what you’re thinking: “But Bill, that’s just one viral video. How is that content marketing?”
Yes, the video put them on the map. However, they create a lot of social media content. (Remember, content marketing doesn’t just mean blogging!)
Best part? Their social content has the same sense of wit and random awesome-ness of their video:
Dollar Shave Club started in 2011 and now has over $140 million in annual revenue from 2 million subscribers. Content is powerful!
River Pools and Spa
For fans of Joe Pulizzi’s book Content Inc, you’ll be familiar with the story of Marcus Sheridan and his company River Pools and Spa.
Long story short, this small company of 20 people was at risk of closing their doors for good — they were overdrawing their checking account and only had a few months left before they couldn’t afford to continue. It was 2009, during the recession, and people simply weren’t buying fiberglass pools.
That’s when Marcus decided to start his blog. He answered every conceivable question they’ve ever gotten around fiberglass pools. One of their articles, “How much is my pool really going to cost?“, is now on the first page of Google for the broad search term, “Fiberglass pools.”
Fast forward to 2011 — they did over $5 million in sales when other pool and spa companies were down 50 to 75 percent, all while reducing their marketing spend from $250,000 per year to $40,000 per year.
Noticing a trend?
My fifth and final example is Monetate, a tech company that helps brands personalize themselves through dynamic testing and conversion rate optimization.
Since launching in 2008, Monetate has “kicked content marketing ass“. Their secret?
“Don’t talk about Monetate.” says Rob Yoegel, Monetate’s content marketing head. This is a truth in content marketing: If you want to be successful, don’t talk about yourself — talk about solutions.
(Need more inspiration? Check out this list of 20 small business content marketing successes by Aaron at SEMrush.)
I hope by now you’re convinced that content marketing works. Let’s move on.
How to Get Started Content Marketing Right Now
You’re inspired, fired up, and ready to get started. That’s awesome!
So, what are the steps to creating a content marketing strategy for your brand?
It boils down to five steps:
- Creating content
- Promoting your content
- Measuring the results
- Tweaking your approach based on the data
- Rinse and repeat
However, before you even create your first piece of content, I highly recommend creating a content marketing plan. To create an effective plan, you need to figure out:
- Who you plan on writing for (i.e. your reader persona)
- What you plan on writing about (i.e. your main content topic)
- How often you’ll create content (I recommend at least once a week, but no less than once a month)
- What keywords/phrases your customers are using (search on Reddit, social media, Google, etc.)
- What your goal is (i.e. brand awareness, traffic, subscribers, conversions, etc.)
- What metrics you’ll track (pick two to three metrics and stick with them)
As an added bonus for making it through the whole post, I’d like to give you my personal content marketing plan template, no email required. Swipe it, use it, and enjoy!
Featured Image: Bill Widmer / billwidmer.com
Screenshots by Bill Widmer. Taken December 2016.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!