As any marketing professional will tell you, in this era of 24-7 media access, traditional marketing has become more and more of a challenge. As a business, you vie with legions of competitors for a tiny piece of a savvy and jaded consumer base. Some professionals will even go so far as to say that traditional promotion-based marketing is dead. They argue that advertising and other high-concept push-gimmicks don’t work in the digital age. Whether or not this pronouncement is accurate, what is clear is that outbound marketing no longer works on its own. Businesses can no longer just thrust their message into the faces of consumers–we need to entice. Enter content marketing: the pull to promotional push, the lure to draw your new customer base in and keep ‘em hooked.

What is content marketing?

“Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior.” CMI

Content marketing involves offering your customers free, interesting and useful content related to your brand. The content you offer may be original or information you’ve found (as long as you have the right to disseminate it and it’s properly credited, of course).

Consider community-building. Sixty years ago, the town hardware store might have been a community epicenter. People would stop by to pick up some nails, discuss lumber, and find out how the new addition over at the Malachi house was going. More importantly, for our purposes, the employees at that hardware store were understood to be experts, the ones to direct you to just the right hammer or tell you how to caulk a tub.

As a business, you want to be seen as the digital equivalent of that hardware store. That’s where content marketing comes in. You are already inherently a part of a community of like-minded individuals and companies. It’s important that you:
Be an active participant in that community
Be recognized as an expert in that community

Whether you sell nails or app design consultation services, in offering up curated content, you establish your business as an essential hub—the epicenter of your community.

Ready?

As a fledgling business with limited marketing resources, how can you implement a content marketing strategy? One of the best features of this marketing technique is its low cost and high ROI. There’s no need for glossy circulars or even flashy websites. The biggest expense will be in time. It takes time to create or find good content, and then to get it seen in the digital space. Luckily, once you get over the initial hump of discovery and implement a publishing calendar, things will get a lot easier. Following are some strategies for kicking off your campaign.

Know your community, both online and off
As a small company, you need to be very precise about who you want your initial customer-base to be so you can maximize your energy and resources.

Consider what kinds of content you want to offer
Highly professional, expert articles? Witty, engaging humorous blog posts? 200 Tweets a day about furniture repair? Whatever you decide, your tone is essential and should be determined by your demographic.

Reach out to the established experts
Remember, you are trying to be a part of, and eventually a leader in, a community. Be nice. Be upstanding.

Lean in to your social media campaign
Optimizing your social media is one of the best, and least expensive ways to get your content seen.

Of course, these tips are just the beginning. As with any marketing strategy, your campaign will require some careful planning. For more guidance, read this, and this, and many other online resources. Good luck! Have fun! And I look forward to looking you up when I need a new hammer!