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    The essential small business guide to Content Marketing

    The essential small business guide to Content Marketing

    How do you help your customers love your brand? It is, of course, a task that has a lot to do with the quality of your product, the level of service ...

    How do you help your customers love your brand? It is, of course, a task that has a lot to do with the quality of your product, the level of service you provide, and more. But there’s another important point on this list — the way you organize your Content Marketing. For your customers, it’s something that provides additional value on top of your product. In fact, many brands approach content as another product!

    In this article, we’ll talk about Inbound Marketing, which is set to attract your potential customers via creating quality content. The path of the customer in this case would be to see your content, gain interest, reach your website, discover details about your product or service, and, ideally, make a purchase. 

    Inbound Content Marketing has evolved with the development of internet technologies. Back in the day, there were no podcasts or videos, but now, the list of possible Content Marketing channels grows every day — you just need to choose the ones that best fit your strategy. 

    This guide will provide you with a thorough understanding of what Content Marketing means, its benefits, as well as list some practical tips and ideas on how to do Content Marketing well.

    What is Content Marketing?

    “Marketing” refers to the process of promoting goods and services, and making them available for clients. It’s the process of making your target audience (TA) interested in what you offer. But what is “Content” and “Content Marketing”?

    Content is any type of information presented in a intentional way and meant to be distributed to the target audience. The many faces of content include everything from movies to book posters and social media publications. Content can come in different forms — written, visual, audio, and more. Essentially, content aims to get a message across to the target audience. 

    The podcast you were listening to this morning is an example of content. The ads you see while strolling down streets are also content. Even the movies playing at the cinema are content. In 2022, almost everything is content.  

    Content Marketing is the process of promoting a business strategically via different types of content. It’s the process of getting your target audience interested in your products, services, or brand by creating relatable, useful, and relevant content, and getting it to reach the right people on the right platforms. 

    Common content used in these marketing efforts include blog posts, case study PDFs, emails, podcasts, infographics, and more. Yes, this article is Content Marketing at work. (Pretty meta, huh?)

    Small business benefits of Content Marketing

    More and more entrepreneurs are interested in getting their Content Marketing machine up and running. But what are the benefits of using Content Marketing for small businesses? 

    • It attracts your target audience. Once your audience finds your content relatable, you’re going to grab their attention and lead them towards making a purchase, if you can take them through the funnel correctly.
    • It informs, educates, and engages customers. Content Marketing builds on keeping your audience informed, educated, and engaged with your business.
    • It turns your followers into leads and generates sales. As you gain trust from your audience with the help of content you produce, you can turn them into leads to sell your products and services to. According to Semrush, 79% of companies use Content Marketing to generate quality leads. 
    • It raises awareness and helps build a solid brand. With Content Marketing, you build your brand through reputation and establishing your expertise. This then adds credibility and attracts people to your product. 

    According to the Content Marketing Institute, the top 3 goals marketers achieve through successful Content Marketing are generating brand awareness, building credibility and trust, and educating audiences.

    The fundamentals of Content Marketing for business

    Let’s summarize the basics of Content Marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

    • Content Marketing is a way to stimulate potential clients to make a purchase via creating relevant, useful, and valuable content.
    • Content Marketing requires a comprehensive strategy that lists your goals, a customer persona description, as well as tools for setting the goals and tracking results to improve effectiveness.
    • Content Marketing types include content for blogs, podcasts, videos, social media, infographics, and email marketing. 
    • In Content Marketing, it’s best to start small, DIY like a pro, and do your competitor research to see where you can stand out and which gaps you can fill with your content.

    Content Marketing is best for raising brand awareness, building great relationships with your customers, and adding value to your brand. 

    All Content Marketing ideally includes a visual component. If you’re a small business owner or an entrepreneur, there are some excellent free tools to help you visualize your ideas — like VistaCreate. Head over to our library with thousands of unique content design templates, and get your one-of-a-kind, on-brand design ready in minutes. 

    For comprehensive guidance on all things Content Marketing, let’s dive in.

    How to do Content Marketing well

    Be informed: Types of Content Marketing

    There are many Content Marketing types you can use. It pays to know that Content Marketing can be done either with one or with a combination of different content channels. 

    As you mix these content types for your goals, you’ll be present where your customers are most likely to engage with your content based on where they are in the conversion funnel. Below, we’ll give you a brief overview of the different types of Content Marketing and what they’re best for. 

    Social media Content Marketing

    Good for increasing brand awareness and engaging new prospects to begin interacting with the business (driving link traffic)

    With over 4.6 billion social media users, this type of Content Marketing is one of the most popular. Social media is essential for sending quality signals to search about your brand and content, especially if you have a blog. It also makes your domain rank better in search over time and brings more organic traffic. Social Media Marketing is a wide net that captures interest and brings people closer to the brand. Via your social media, you can also promote your blog subscription, podcast, and more. 

    Check out our ultimate guide on Facebook Marketing for small businesses in 2022.

    Blog Content Marketing

    Good for educating your audience and driving domain traffic

    If your company has a website, it pays to create a blog section and share articles that feature your expertise with your audience. Create different content aimed to educate, inspire, or inform people about your latest news, useful tips, and insights. Add different features like interlinking, social media buttons, and subscription options. Done well and consitently, Blog Content Marketing can drive enough traffic to be a lead magnet for your business. Blogs also allow you to clarify your market proposition and messaging to filter more engaged customers or brand loyalists, and move them closer to making a purchase.

    Infographic Content Marketing

    Good for engaging your audience and building brand expertise

    An infographic is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to Content Marketing. It helps you present tons of data in an easy, digestible format, while getting your core message across to your target audience. Infographics are also engaging and meant to be shared, which makes them a great option in your Content Marketing activities. Plus, infographics are an evergreen piece of content, so you can create them once and then reshare via different channels — like your blog or social media.

    Podcast Content Marketing

    Good for educating your audience 

    You can also market your content via podcasts. They are relatively easy to create and convenient to consume, allowing you to meet your target audience while away from their computers — while driving or preparing their meals. In the US, 28% of the population listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. You can promote your podcast via your website, social media, or email campaigns. 

    Need to design a podcast cover? Check out our article on why podcasts need good design, too.

    Video Content Marketing

    Good for educating your audience and driving traffic

    With people becoming more and more. . .and more interested in video, many businesses are rolling out their Video Content Marketing strategies. Videos are great since they educate and inform your audience, and can be distributed or published via almost any platform, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or a blog. Video Marketing also raises awareness for your brand, while building strong ties with your audience. As an added benefit, video normally drives higher engagement rates to move customers down your conversion funnel. 

    Email Content Marketing

    Good for nurturing leads and building retention

    Emails are a great way to build retention and minimize churn. Collect data, invest in researching your audience’s preferences, and send out tailored email campaigns. Add CTA buttons, link your content from other platforms, and don’t forget to track your performance. With emails, you can also send out A/B campaigns to see which content/headings perform best. Via email, you can both inform your new customers and maintain relationships with your existing clients. Check out our guide on Email Marketing for small businesses

    Interested in more? Learn how to repurpose your content to expand its reach.

    Get organized: Content Marketing Strategy

    Now that you have an idea of what’s possible with content, let’s dive into how you can create your Content Marketing strategy. Keep in mind that some of the essential steps here should also be part of how you develop a business marketing strategy

    Content strategy vs. Content Marketing strategy 

    Content strategy includes the types of content you want to share with your target audience, while a Content Marketing strategy is about the ways of distributing your content so that it effectively reaches people. 

    Content Marketing Strategy is essentially your way of getting from point A to point B in your market path. It’s a well-planned scope of activities you undertake to set Content Marketing objectives, implement your vision, and measure its effectiveness.

    1. Build customer personas 

    Your target audience (TA) or customer persona is a picture of your ideal customer and is on top of your Content Marketing strategy. To define your TA, we suggest you conduct research answering these questions: 

    • Who is the target audience for my product or service? 
    • What are my audience’s core aspirations, values, and beliefs? 
    • Why would my customer want to use my product? 

    It also pays to know the demographic data on your ideal customer persona — where they live, how old they are, how they identify themselves, their favorite activities, etc. But here, it’s values and beliefs that are the most important. 

    For example, a customer persona for a beauty brand can look like this: 

    Kate, 31, lives in Nebraska. Kate works as a fitness instructor. In her free time, she enjoys nature, live jazz concerts, and sewing — and sharing about her experiences on Instagram and Snapchat. For Kate, brand XX is a go-to option for choosing quality beauty products at a reasonable price. 

    Many businesses create bio sheets, placeholder names, and even avatars for their personas. 

    2. Commit to good competitor research

    As you set up your Content Marketing strategy, be sure to research your competition. You want to know how your competitors are acting in the market, what tactics they use, what content they share, what channels they use, and how they distribute their content. Consider your top 5-7 competitors for detailed research. As you finish, summarize your findings and come back to it once in a while to drive insights and ideas — particularly how to stand out from the crowd.

    3. Set goals and track your performance

    Every great achievement begins with thoroughly set out goals. We recommend you use the SMART method to set your goals. That is, you want your goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For instance, a goal for Social Media Marketing can sound like this: “Achieve 3% growth in average post likes per month by the end of Q3.” With goals laid down like this, it will be easier for you to track your progress and performance. 

    Aim for no more than 3-4 goals in a given time period. Don’t forget to prioritize them. 

    4. Select appropriate content channels

    Once you’ve set your marketing goals, it’s time to determine which channels you’ll use. Select between a blog, podcast, social media, and more. To choose appropriate channels, do some research answering these questions first: 

    • Where does your audience spend time? 
    • How does your audience consume content?
    • Where will your content be most relevant to your target audience?
    • What type of content can I create for the business now, considering my time and budget? 

    For small businesses, we recommend you aim to handle 1-2 channels well, instead of trying to cover all of them. Since you might be limited in time and resources, it’s best to prioritize your efforts. 

    5. Allocate a budget

    Your marketing budget is yet another aspect of your Content Marketing strategy. As a small business, you want to thoroughly plan for every spend. As you start, try to allocate a certain amount of money for your first campaign, then track its performance, make adjustments, and launch another one. Keep track of your budget expenses in a separate file. 

    6. Plan and create content 

    The next thing to do is, of course, plan. It’s best to adhere to a well-structured plan, so you know exactly what to do next. Create a thorough content calendar and plan the content you’re about to publish ahead. As for the visual component of content creation, you can always rely on VistaCreate for thousands of readily available templates — from blog headers to podcast covers. 

    7. Check your progress (metrics) and improve your performance

    In Content Marketing strategy, it’s essential that you introduce and track the metrics of your performance. For example, for social media, you can track your engagement rate. For blogs — the number of readers and conversions from the articles. For podcasts — the number of listeners and so on. Make it a habit to track this data every 2 weeks or every month and introduce appropriate changes.

    Let’s review some of the common metrics you want to track across different channels:

    Social media:

    • visibility
    • engagement rate (comments, likes, shares, total views)
    • unfollow or hide rate
    • Click-through rate or CTR (for content shares to your domain)

    Blog:

    • page views
    • time spent on page
    • bounce rate (the % of users who skipped your content)
    • returning visitors
    • pages per visit

    Infographic:

    • pageviews
    • social shares
    • backlinks

    Podcast:

    • subscriptions
    • listeners per episode
    • average listening time

    Video:

    • engagement
    • play rate
    • watch time
    • social shares
    • clicks and CTR
    • conversions

    Email:

    • open rate
    • conversion rate
    • CTR
    • bounce rate
    • list growth rate

    Get inspired: Content Marketing examples and ideas

    Practice time! Below, we’ll list some Content Marketing examples for your inspiration as well as offer a number of Content Marketing ideas that you can implement for your business.

    The best Content Marketing examples 

    Video Content Marketing

    Here are examples of Content Marketing from Rick Blyth and ALLSET.

    Rick Blyth YouTube Channel, an example of video content marketing

    We love how Rick is creating content with passion, open for his customers, and always ready to explain complex ideas in simple words. 

    Interested in Rick’s path? Learn his story here.

    In this example, we love how ALLSET creates a practical, comprehensive video piece, giving the audience an overview of what it needs to know about running.

    Blog Content Marketing

    For blog Content Marketing, Keychron is coming up with a guide on selecting their products. YogaStudio is educating their customers on what Yoga Nidra is, and Route8Barbershop is advising how to choose a barbershop. In these pieces, brands are doing their best to create a content that is useful and relatable to their followers. 

    Social media Content Marketing

    There are endless examples of great social media Content Marketing, but we’ll focus on these three: Boo’s Toy Shop, DYIVinchi, and Bonjour Quilts. We love how their content is on brand, conversational, and, essentially, fun. 

    Check out the full story on Boo’s Toy Shop growth here

    Find out more about DYIvinci in our article.

    Wonder what Bonjour Quilts is about? Check out their story here

    Podcast Content Marketing

    Podcast marketing is yet another way to make your brand noticeable. Learn from these podcasts by Anything Goes, where we notice great podcast design, and The Pitch, with its practical value for the entrepreneurs.

    Infographic Content Marketing

    People just love infographics. See how Beautybossnikki and MounikaStudio create to-the-point visual pieces to engage their target audience.

    Email Content Marketing

    Look at these email marketing examples from Niantic, which has a powerful call-to-action, and Backslash, which shares a YouTube video showcasing great cross-promo activity. 

    Content Marketing ideas for small businesses

    As a small business, you have to constantly search for content ideas, especially with the amount of channels available. We’ve got you covered. Explore our list of Content Marketing ideas below. 

    Social media
    • Create a post on “X ways to use your product”
    • Discuss how your team works with a behind-the-scenes video on the team’s routine

    Need more inspiration? Discover our lists of ideas for different occasions:

    Make sure to check out our detailed guides on promoting niche businesses on social media:

    Podcast
    • Publish a sincere talk with one of your customers
    • Get people to listen to advice from your CEO
    • Talk about current trends in your industry

    Just starting out with your podcast? Make sure to read our article on the growth of audio influencers.

    Need inspiration? See our article on 37 Facebook Ad examples you wish you made.

    Infographic
    • Visualize the “XX benefits of using your product”
    • Design your product evolution timeline

    For more, check out our articles:

    Video 
    • Film an unboxing video with your product
    • Publish a video guide on using your product

    Working with video? Check out a list of 12 proven strategies for promoting your business YouTube channel.

    Blog
    • Publish company news articles
    • Write about X ways your product is different from your competitors’
    Email
    • Send out monthly updates on your product features
    • Assemble a list of your new blog articles
    • Offer a discount for your products

    Eager to push your Email Marketing further? Check out our article on the 5 hottest email design trends for 2022.

    The list of ideas is endless — just keep trying different content formats and ideas to see which ones meet your audience’s needs.

    Work smarter: Content Marketing tips for small business

    Now that you have your strategy set out, it’s time for some advice on organizing your work. Discover 5 tips on Content Marketing below. 

    1. Track your results

    How are you supposed to know how you’re doing if you don’t track your performance? Make it a good habit to regularly review your results via different analytics tools — like Google Analytics or Facebook Insights. Make conclusions and changes to your strategy accordingly. Start by tracking your performance every two weeks or month. 

    2. Start small

    As you’re starting off, it pays to be a little humble in your aspirations. You can aim for the stars, of course, but try to set realistic goals and tasks for your business. For instance, if your average engagement rate is 2%, aim to make it 3% the next month, not 5%. Success doesn’t come overnight (but it will one day), and you have to remain patient along the way. 

    3. DIY like a pro

    As a small business, you’re probably handling lots of things yourself. Ordering packaging, doing client research, and even serving as a courier to make sure people receive their goods on time. Are we right? Here, it’s best to simplify some activities. With VistaCreate, you can get your marketing templates ready in minutes, while saving time for other essential tasks.

    4. Study your competitors

    To succeed in your business, you need to research the tactics and strategies of your competitors — the more the better. Learn the takeaways from their practices, explore what updates they are making, and think how you can introduce some of those into your routine. 

    5. Make good use of user-generated content

    As you’re starting small, you may lack resources to create great content yourself. Look at what your users are doing! Think of all the content types they create around your business — photos, videos, quotes, memes…And see if you can integrate them into your content schedule. 

    Need advice on your growth strategy? We’ve listed some more digital marketing tips.

    Common mistakes people make with Content Marketing

    Sometimes, when you’re unsure of what to do next, it pays to at least know what not to do. Let’s list some common Content Marketing mistakes that are better to avoid:

    1. Disregarding analytics data

    Working without analytics is like trying to get to your destination point with your eyes shut. You need to monitor data about your brand. How is it perceived by your customers? What is happening with your engagement rates on social media? Is there a rise in website traffic after launching an ad campaign? Bottom line — monitor, adjust, repeat. 

    2. Generalizing your target audience

    Have you ever heard this: “Our target audience consists of women from 18-65, who live in big cities and have dogs”? This TA definition seems too broad and generic. How do you target all these women, then? Instead, aim for distilling your target persona — and focus on your audience’s character, aspirations, values, and beliefs. 

    3. Not taking SEO into consideration

    SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is yet another important term to know when it comes to Content Marketing. As you create your content, you want important machines (like Google) to find and understand it, right? Use online tools like SurferSEO or Ahrefs to find keywords to include in your posts, blog publications, and other materials, all to make sure you’re easily findable by search engines. 

    4. Making poor use of user-generated content 

    Again, we stress the importance of using user-generated content in your marketing strategy. Not only does it add more content rubrics to your plan, it also helps establish warm, friendly relationships with the audience whose content you share. 

    __________________________________________________________________________

    Content Marketing is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. It pays to invest in Content Marketing since it can add to your overall brand awareness, lead to better relationships with your clients, and stimulate the purchase process along the way. 

    To do Content Marketing well, start with a thorough understanding of your strategy, goals, and customer persona; plan your content calendar; and keep tracking your results to see how to better your performance. 
    Interested in more? Subscribe to VistaCreate email updates for more design, business, and marketing tips.

    Mariia Shnyrkova

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