When was the last time you clicked on an ad? There are around 4.84 billion pages on the World Wide Web, and most of them run ads. Yet the click-through rate for online ads is a dismal 0.06%. Some marketers have responded by making ads more intrusive, so it’s no surprise that nearly 200 million Internet users now use ad blockers.
Perhaps a decade ago, ads were valuable for building brand value. No more – today’s sophisticated consumers do not care for, or even notice ads anymore. So if you’re trying to grow your computer services business and want people to know about you, what are you to do?
As I’ve mentioned before, the Web is a wonderful thing, because it’s compelling businesses to be more authentic. Today, selling is about long-term relationships. The Web is where people go to get entertained, to learn something new, share their thoughts and find solutions to their problems free of charge.
To get the attention of customers, you must entertain them, share your knowledge, have conversations with them and offer something for free – in other words, create excellent content that checks all these boxes. Share-worthy content gets you free publicity on social media, and what’s more, Google values good content over ‘keyword stuffing’, click-baiting and such. In the long term, uploading valuable information on your blog, video channel, podcasts and social media profile is the only reliable strategy for staying at top of page-rankings and thus getting more customers.
Without much ado, here are 5 rules of thumb for getting started with content marketing:
Rule 1: Categorize your audience
Your customers are probably a mix of businesses and residential, and broadly speaking, you cannot communicate the same message to them in an appealing manner.
Even if your business operates purely on a B2B or B2C model, you must categorize your customers based on what messages they need to hear. The needs of small businesses, which must watch their budget carefully, are different from larger companies that use complex networks and specialized software.
For consumers, you’ll want to create brand awareness among new customers and offer special discounts to your most loyal ones.
So before you create content, you must decide who you’re creating it for. The great thing about content marketing is that it costs you nothing to maintain more than one list.
Rule 2: Choose your content marketing objectives
As you build an audience of followers and potential clients, it’s easy to lose sight of why you are creating content. How many times have you seen a growing business share cat memes on their social media profile to get more likes?
As part of your content marketing plan, you must carefully decide what your objectives are, before you ever send out your first email. Your objectives will vary for each customer category. Where possible, include a measure of success so that you can track the effectiveness of your communication.
For example, your list might look something like this:
Category: Potential customers
- Raise awareness for my brand: I want more people in a 50 mile radius to know about my business.
- Generate leads: Gain the interest of customers by demonstrating my knowledge and competency. Have emails and blog posts translate into website clicks and inquiries. Measure of success: more web traffic and inquiries via web forms, Twitter and phone.
- Engagement: Engage customers on my blog and on social media. Measure of success: More comments and likes on my posts. Any questions in comments answered within 4 working hours.
Category: Existing customers
- Retain loyal customers: Reward preferred customers to retain loyalty. Address their problems on high priority. Measure of success: no loss of (desirable) customers to competitors. No unanswered reviews (positive or negative) on social media. Discount offers translate into contracts with at least 30% success rate.
- Encourage customer evangelism: Offer special discounts especially for leads recommended by customers. Measure of success: Emails forwarded to new leads.
- Up-selling and cross-selling: Create content that encourages customers to upgrade or buy more services.
When you know your objectives, you’ll be able to plan how many email lists you want to create, and what your content should be, and in what proportion.
Rule 3: Own your online real estate
It’s shocking how many business owners are perfectly content to restrict their media presence to a Facebook page and a Twitter account. If you want your business to grow, you absolutely cannot restrict yourself to social media. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Firstly, you don’t own the content on your Facebook page – Facebook does. If they remove your page one day, block your access, or even suffer an exodus of users in the future, you could lose years of your work, customer records and painstakingly fostered relationships. Secondly, you should not be satisfied blogging on a ‘free’ service. Whom would you rather hire to build your house – the guy who blogs at happyhomes.blogspot.co.uk or the owner of www.happyhomes.com? A domain name is worth every cent you spend on it and more.
It’s also my view that you should get a .com domain, even if a .net or .biz domain seems more appealing. A .com domain is the default that someone would enter while navigating to your website. Anything else would just make brand recall that much harder. Make your website the hub of all your social media and email engagement. All outreach must make it stupid-easy for customers to navigate to your website. Tech Site Builder is a great platform on which to set up your website, but if you’re more of a tinkerer, then you can set-up a website yourself on WordPress.
You do not need to be present on every social media platform either. A Facebook page is often a must-have, but if you are strictly B2B, it makes more sense to focus on LinkedIn or Twitter. Secondly, you must decide if the format of a social website works for you. Will you ever be sharing enough image-based content on Instagram? Do you really have the time to regularly create videos on Youtube?
It doesn’t make sense to have all those social media buttons on your website, and then have customers land on a Youtube channel with maybe two videos on it. Whatever your social media mix, make sure it works for you.
Rule 4: Ask for and respond to feedback
Asking for and responding to feedback is an important part of content marketing. There’s the obvious reason – customers will share their feedback through whatever medium they find most convenient, and you must respond to it if you want to grow your business.
Feedback will also offer ideas for topics for you to blog about. Every once in a while, actively seek feedback through polls or surveys to make your communication more effective.
Rule 5: Create an editorial calendar
As your business grows, it might get harder to find the time to create new content. Time flies when you’re busy, and the stress of growing a business is not exactly something that helps with writer’s block. This is why it’s a good idea to prepare an editorial calendar. This will maintain a schedule of when and where you need to post new content, and what you need to be writing about.
Remember that high-quality, helpful content is more important than creating something every day, or even each week. While posting regularly is important, not getting flagged as spam is even more so.
The first thing that you should do is to use a ‘single source of truth’ for managing all your content – blog posts, emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc. While your audience is still small, you can manage all this information in a simple spreadsheet (later, you could consider investing in content marketing software).
To be more efficient, consider writing a bunch of articles (or noting down ideas) when you are in the right mental state, and stagger their posting over a few weeks. As your business grows, you’ll have more cash to spare, so you could hire freelance business writers and cheaply outsource your social media management.
This article was a brief overview of what content marketing is, why you’ll benefit from it, and how to get started with it. In the near future, we’d like to do more posts on focusing on specific topics.
If you have any thoughts, questions or post ideas, please share them in the comments. Thanks for reading and happy writing!