Effective Content Marketing for Small Business: 9 Ways to Get Started

Content marketing comes in a variety of forms, ranging from blogs to videos. Part 2 of our content marketing series covers 9 formats for your small business.

In part one of our series, we summarized content marketing as Leveraging relevant, sharable content, based on insights, to educate customers/prospects and leave a lasting branding impression.” Today, we’re going to focus on various vehicles that you can use to market your content to others.

Before you get started, you should know this secret to effective content marketing: If people know you’re selling to them, you’re doing it wrong.

Although I hate to say it, I’m selling to you by writing this blog post. Here’s how:

  • If you don’t have an online store with us, after reading this, you now know of Volusion and will likely consider us as a shopping cart provider in the future.
  • If you’re already a Volusion client, you’re receiving tips to help keep your store open, which helps us retain you as a customer longer.

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But notice how I’m never “hard selling” you. That’s not what content marketing is about, especially for small businesses. While it’s perfectly acceptable to push for a sale in your content, it should never be the focal point.

With that knowledge in hand, here are 9 formats you can use to start your content marketing efforts.

1.  Blogs
If you’re not already blogging, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to reach new customers and please the search engine wizards. Blogging allows you to create new content on a daily basis, and is easily sharable across multiple outlets, like social media. Blogs are also an excellent way to build a community and establish thought leadership in your industry. For smaller businesses, it’s a natural way to help build awareness. So get out there, find a blogging platform, and start writing.

2. Case Studies
Case studies are documents, usually 1-2 pages that tell the story of how your business or product has helped a client resolve a problem. This approach establishes credibility for your business since readers can relate to the featured client. Case studies typically outline a problem, detail the solution, and summarize results. This form of content marketing is particularly useful if you’re is in the B2B market or sell a product with a longer buying cycle.

3. Lists
A list is a piece of content that ranks various facets of a particular topic. For example, Inc® releases their list of the 500 fastest growing private companies each year. Other ideas include ranking the top 10 fashion trends for fall, the most important points in the history of photography, or anything else you can think of. The key to an effective list is to have solid research and explain the methodology of your rankings.

4. Podcasts
Podcasts are audio (or video) files that can be downloaded and played on a computer, MP3 player or mobile device. Think of a podcast like a radio talk show, where experts come together to discuss topics of interest. Podcasts usually last from 5-30 minutes, depending on the topic and the audience. All it takes to launch a podcast is some basic recording equipment (like a web microphone) and the ability to upload the file. This form of content marketing works best on a continuous basis and for audiences that are already engaged with podcasts.

5. Webinars
The word “webinar” comes from combining “web” and “seminar,” so it makes sense that a webinar is a digital presentation. Webinars are usually delivered as a live event, facilitated by a webinar software. This content vehicle presents a prime opportunity to explain detailed information about various topics related to your industry, especially educational topics. It’s also a best practice to record your webinar and post it for future views.

6. White Papers
White papers are one of the oldest and most well-known forms of content marketing. White papers are detailed documents, typically 7-10 pages, which explain complex topics or research findings. These documents can take a variety of formats and designs, and are useful in establishing thought leadership in your niche. They’re also helpful for creating brand awareness when your white paper is referenced in research. Some ideas for white papers include analyzing an emerging trend in your industry, explaining a benefit of your product, or detailing new ideas to revolutionize the industry.

7. Microblogging
Twitter introduced and revolutionized microblogging, which is the idea of sharing content with minimal characters (140 to be exact). Microblogging can be used by any business to promote new blog posts, build relationships, and gain exposure in the growing social sphere. Microblogging also allows you to keep tabs on new trends and topics. Better yet, there’s no monetary investment and you can communicate with other microbloggers 24 hours a day.

8. Videos
Did you know that approximately 24 hours of video are added to YouTube every second? Clearly, videos are becoming a major player in the content marketing game. They’re also fairly simple and fun to make, especially with basic editing tools that come preinstalled on most computers. Videos are also easily sharable, and are effective devices for product demonstrations and overviews. They also allow you to establish brand personality by putting a face to your business.

9. eBook
An eBook is a glorified white paper, ranging anywhere from 12-40 pages. This type of content marketing is normally placed in a visually appealing format and distributed as a PDF document. eBooks also include images, graphs and tables to help illustrate the information. Creating a document of this length and detail allows you to establish expertise on the topic at hand, and is a solid cornerstone for future content.

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If you just read through these ideas and thought, “There’s no way I have time for this!” you’re not alone. Yes, time investments are involved, but remember this: content marketing gets much easier once you have content to work with.

For example, you could take a series of blog posts and repurpose it as an ebook. Or, you can take a video you made and share it on a microblog. Why not take the information from a webinar and turn it into a white paper? The combinations are endless.
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Another thing to consider is the selection of the right vehicle to deliver your content, since it’s of equal importance to the content itself. For example, if your audience is comprised of senior citizens, webinars and podcasts wouldn’t be appropriate. If you’re selling to a younger, more technical audience, providing a 40 page eBook would prove to be a waste of time. Thus, considering how you deliver the message is critical.

To sum it up: Achieving the perfect mix between message and delivery makes for a truly effective content marketing strategy.

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Stay tuned! Next time we’ll discuss various ways to help you build that truly effective content strategy, including selecting the right channels.

Happy selling!
-Matt Winn, Online Communications Specialist, Volusion

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This article is a part of our Effective Content Marketing for Small Business series. Please check out the other posts and share them with anyone who may be interested.

Effective Content Marketing for Small Business:

Volume One: What Is Content Marketing?
Volume Two: 9 Ways to Get Started
Volume Three: 6 Steps to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
Volume Four: 4 Ways to Break Through the Content Clutter
Volume Five: 9 Simple Ways to Spread Your Content Like Wildfire
Volume Six: Metrics You Can Actually Use
Volume Seven: How to Stay Committed to the Cause

About 

Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

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