Internet Marketing Is Really Content Marketing
Small businesses in the U.S. are relying more and more on marketing to their customers through the Internet. The trend for small businesses to have a greater online presence locally and nationally means small business owners need a deeper understanding of Internet marketing, also known as digital marketing.
As of 2014, an impressive 59 percent of small businesses—those with 10 or fewer employees—had created their own websites with do-it-yourself tools, according to Webs.com. Of these, nearly 80 percent manage and operate their own websites.
Small businesses also increasingly rely on social media as the primary tool for reaching customers, with roughly 46 percent having online social media profiles, 88 percent of those on Facebook. The allure of social media as a marketing tool isn’t surprising given that Facebook and most other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, are available for free and are relatively easy to use.
Most of these small business owners out there in the Internet jungle rely on their own skills to develop their Internet marketing for existing as well as potential customers.
Internet marketing vs traditional marketing
Traditional marketing methods often mean sending tangible materials like mailers, postcards, and paper ads out into the world, and then…waiting to see if your they resonated with anyone. In the last ten years, websites, social media, and analytics that offer insight into your followers—Internet marketing, in other words—have revolutionized the way small businesses are able to target customers.
Today, small business owners can collect information about visitors to their website through Google Analytics, target ads to specific demographics on Facebook, and segment email marketing campaigns. (“Segmenting” is breaking up a list of recipients into groups with similar behavior and/or demographics and targeting them with messaging specific to that behavior.)
3 Internet marketing challenges for small businesses
While some small business owners have taken to the Internet like ducks to water, not everyone is finds the Internet such a welcoming or easily navigable space. Townsquared hears from many of our thousands of members again and again that tackling the challenge of Internet marketing is anything from unappealing to impossible. Nonetheless, your customers are out there, and of course, small businesses need to be where their potential customers are looking.
First and foremost is the challenge that vexes any small business owner: time. There’s not a lot of it and what time you give to one task often means another equally important task will not receive the same attention. Another challenge is the learning curve. Unless your small business is a digital marketing agency, it’s unlikely you have the background or technical skills to simply implement the many of the internet marketing tools available. The third challenge: Even if you can build your website and create digital marketing campaigns like a whiz, you may not be doing it optimally, perhaps not seeing any or enough results from all that time and labor.
The good news is that there are a lot of things you, even the Luddites among you, can do to get your business on the Internet and give it a digital footprint.
The trick is not to start by setting up a Twitter account or start a blog. The first step is what you did when you started your business: create a strategy.
For expertise, we turned to Townsquared member Gregor Schmidt, of Studio 5 Innovation (S5i), also known as the “highly caffeinated agency.” (They they are in Seattle, after all.) Not only is S5i itself small business, but the S5i team supports small businesses by hosting free educational workshops for small business owners.
Internet marketing = Digital marketing
So far, we’ve been talking about “Internet marketing” and while this is a term that covers the topic, it’s not actually the term used by marketing experts. Marketers and most references on the web refer to any electronic media marketing—from email to website to social media—as digital marketing.
“Digital marketing” is an umbrella term for the targeted, measurable, and interactive marketing of products or services using digital technologies to reach and convert leads into customers. The usual objectives of digital marketing are to promote and build brands and increase sales.
Our friends at S5i lay out the foundations of what a small business needs in order to build a great digital marketing strategy:
- strong brand
- responsive website
- regular blog
- active social media presence
These are the keys to a successful digital marketing strategy but, in order to get there, small business owners need to lay a foundation of great content that provides value to their target customers.
Content marketing for small business
At its most basic, the Internet is a collection of information gathered from every point on the globe. In order to organize this information, we rely upon search engines like Google to go through these billions of packets of information. We ask Google a question or give it a word or phrase, and we expect it to serve us that information up in a relevant and targeted way. Thus, the more relevant and robust your content is, the more likely it is to be at the top of that list the search engine generates for the end user (i.e., your potential customer).
Quality content simultaneously creates value for customers while also creating a robust online presence for you.
Small businesses need content that is relevant, timely, focused, and crossing media channels to be effectively served up to your customers. According to the experts at S5i, there are four basic steps to follow when it comes to content marketing.
- Content Strategy
- Content Creation
- Content Repurposing
- Content Distribution
Content strategy for small business
The first step is just like the first step a small business owner takes in starting a business: come up with a plan. And, like any good business plan, you need to know who your target market is. S5i recommends answering these five questions to begin strategizing effectively for content:
- Who is your audience?
- What do they want to hear?
- When do they want to hear it?
- Where do they want to consume it?
- How do they want to receive the information?
Once you know who your customers are, what they’re interested in, when they’re looking for what they’re interested in, where they’re going (email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) to find it, and how they want to see information (text, images, videos, mobile, desktop), you’re ready to curate your content to your audience.
Content creation for small business
Storytelling is the basis for great content. Humans are essentially a storytelling species and we rely on stories to convey ideas, concepts, and emotions. A digital story relies on the same basic best practices. Don’t believe us? Here’s some science…
When telling a story to your customers through digital media, it can be tempting to try and tell the story that you think they want to hear. Don’t give in to this temptation because inauthenticity is a killer. Your customers are smart and savvy, and they have a lot of options. The greatest courtesy you can do them, and yourself, is to be authentic.
For a small business owner, this shouldn’t be too much of struggle given that starting a business is all about passion, and you know why you do the hard work you do. S5i offers these simple tips for storytelling in your content whether it’s through a long-form blog post, a Facebook share, a video in Instagram, or even a 140-character tweet on Twitter:
- Be Yourself
- Be Informative
- Be Entertaining
- Be Practical
- Be Visual
- Be Interactive
- Be Timely
Repurposing small business content
We’ve said before and we’ll say it again, small business owners are perpetually short on time. So, don’t lose an opportunity to maximize good content across multiple digital media channels!
Let’s say you’ve written a great blog post that’s up on your website. It’s getting a lot of good comments and driving a lot traffic to your site. Why let the good times stop there? You could break that post up into a slide presentation and share the it with your customers or other professionals. Or, you might break up the blog content into sections and share a section every week on Facebook. Put the post in your next email newsletter to get it in front of people who may not have come to your website organically (by using a search engine). Better yet, do all of these things! This is what repurposing content is all about it, taking what you already put the time in for one medium and re-using it for other media.
Content distribution for small business
But the greatest content might as well not exist if no one sees it, so the next step is content distribution. Distribution is all about getting your content in front of the right people: your customers. It means you can take the reins when it comes to driving traffic to your business, instead of putting the content up and crossing your fingers that Google recognizes it. It gets your content and the value of your business in front of your customers everywhere they are in the digital world. No digital marketing efforts can succeed without a solid distribution strategy.
Taking on distribution is all about mastering those digital tools, like your website, email, and social media.
Bring on the digital!
Okay, maybe you’re not that enthusiastic yet. But if you’re ready to dip your toes in the waters of distributing your awesome content, check out Understand Facebook Insights and How to Get Customer Follow Up Right, on email marketing.