What is Content Marketing? [A Small Business Guide]

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've likely heard a lot about content marketing. However, in my time as a content marketing writer and strategist, I've found that the definition is often confused and misused. So, if you find yourself wondering, "what is content marketing," here is a guide specifically for small business owners. 

The Definition of Content Marketing

Here is the definition of content marketing according to ContentMarketingInstitute.com

"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."

This is an excellent definition of content marketing that incorporates many key phrases. Here it is again with the most important words in bold. 

"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."

I'll be diving deep into what each of these phrases mean in relation to content marketing and how you can use these ideas to improve your content marketing efforts.

Strategic Marketing

Every piece of content that you put out on social media, via email, on your blog, etc. should be a strategic form of marketing. Now, keep in mind that this doesn't mean you have to be selling something directly. Its purpose can be to build your brand, connect with your audience, attract leads, add people to your email list, do market research, etc.

However, whatever you're creating should have a purpose behind it. When you produce content with no strategy in mind, you will often find yourself failing to get a return on your time or financial investment because you did so with no idea of what you hoped to gain. 

That's why it's vital to develop a content marketing strategy/content marketing plan so that everything you create has a purpose and is working towards helping your business reach its goals. 

Creating and Distributing

We often talk about content marketing in terms of what we record, write, or film. Still, you also have to consider how you're distributing your content.  

There's nothing worse than creating a fantastic piece of content without ensuring that it's distributed to the right audience using the best platform. Along the same lines, if you don't spend enough time promoting your high-quality content, it might not reach its full potential in terms of R.O.I. So, be sure to incorporate in your content marketing plan both what you'll be creating and how you'll be distributing it. Click here to download a free content marketing planner to help you map out what you'll be creating for your business. 

Valuable, Relevant and Consistent Content

It's time to take it old school with the V.C.R. Your content should be valuable, consistent, and relevant. 

I know you've heard it time and time again, but be sure to provide value. Serve your audience. Help them achieve mini or major wins with your content. 

Make it relevant to their needs. Be sure you're doing market research to understand not just their demographics (ex. age, gender, educational background, city of residence, etc.) but their psychographic needs and desires (ex. Their hopes and dreams and struggles). If you're creating content that doesn't relate to their needs, then you'll fail to connect with them, and in that case, there's no reason in spending your time and energy creating content. 

Consistency is one of the biggest struggles I've found business owners have with content marketing. If you pop in every few months or if your posting schedule is all over the place, it can be hard for your audience to keep up with you. They might forget about you or question your professionalism and commitment to showing up. 

To help combat consistency struggles, I always suggest that you develop a plan. Having a plan for your content will give you a roadmap to follow, which can boost your confidence in this area. Take that first step by planning, and don't be afraid to scale back your content creation. No one said you have to be creating every type of content every day. Do what you can do consistently. 

Attract and Retain

With content marketing, you want to both attract new people to your tribe and retain current members. That means you create content that is valuable enough for people who have never heard of you to check out what you're doing while also providing enough new value to keep those who've found you around. 

When you develop your content plan, you can be sure to map out content that will do both.  

Clearly Defined Audience

Everyone is not your ideal client. There's power in niching down with a clearly defined audience.  

Now, your definition of having a defined audience and your business bestie's might be different, and that's okay. What's important is that you're able to clearly identify exactly who you're speaking to, so your content resonates with them.  

Remember the fact that your content has to be valuable and relevant? It's easier to create relevant content that attracts your ideal clients and customers when you have a clear idea of who you're speaking to. 

Drive Profitable Customer Action

Finally, your content marketing should drive profitable customer action. As a business owner, you want to make money. While you might have a greater goal to change lives, help people identify their purpose, etc. you're charging money to make it happen, so profits are nonnegotiable. 

When you're creating content, you want to be sure that you have a purpose behind everything you create that will ultimately lead to profits. Your goal could be to build your brand, which will help to connect you with your audience to build your know, like, and trust factor. Alternatively, it could be to get people on your email list so you can build a relationship and sell

products/services via email. Or, it could be to make a direct sale through your content. 

Part of your content plan development should always be to outline the purpose of what you're creating and a relevant C.T.A. that will eventually lead to profits. 

The Content Marketing Breakdown

Now that you've gotten a clear breakdown of what content marketing is, hopefully, it will help you as you move forward in your content planning and creation efforts. Content marketing is a powerful tool that allows you to build a relationship with your audience by providing value. As you provide your audience with strategic content, you help to develop a relationship with them and eventually make a sale. At the very least, you'll be developing a supporter who will share your business with others who might find what you're offering to be just what he or she needs. 

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