Your small business needs to be a content creator. Read why, what kind of content your business needs, and how to use it to use it to get leads and sales.
When I was growing up, businesses and professionals didn’t talk about content creation, content marketing, or publishing content.
They were doing it. They were writing ads, distributing flyers, pamphlets, and sending out sales letters. Attorneys and other professionals were submitting articles to professional journals for name recognition and bragging rights. And experts in various fields sought to get books published.
They just didn’t refer to what they were doing as creating content or content marketing back then.
Instead, the terms content and contents, usually referred to things like the table of contents in a book or magazine — or the stuff like soup or beans that was inside a can. And publishers were companies that created and distributed books, magazines, and newspapers. Not everyday businesses.
The Internet has changed all of that. Today, anyone can be a “publisher” on the Internet. The term content refers to anything one can post online or communicate in any other way. More importantly, all businesses need to be content publishers.
Why your business needs to create content
Businesses need to create content to make customers aware of their products, interest them in learning more, and convince them to buy.
Whether you sell to consumers or to other businesses, your customers use the Internet to discover and research things they buy. At each stage in their buying journey, they’re being exposed to information that helps them discover, evaluate, and compare products. To get the sale, your business needs to produce content that attracts and engages your customers at each turn in their path to purchase.
What is content, anyway?
Content, the way the word is used today, is pretty much anything anyone can read, see, or hear on the Internet. It’s information that builds awareness, explains features and benefits, answers customer questions. It includes things that entertain, build name recognition for your company, and ultimately leads to the customer making a purchase or taking some other action you want. (For example, getting visitors to a website that makes income through affiliate sales.)
It can take the form of articles and blog posts, images, email newsletters, product descriptions, videos, and podcasts. Customer reviews, social media posts, checklists, templates, and product comparisons are all content, too. So are ads and catalogs.
Where should you put content?
Your business content can and should be available in many locations. It should live on your own website and on shopping sites where you sell your products, if different. It should be on your SEO channels, in email, in search results, and in all the various places your customers and prospects are likely to find it.
What makes content effective?
The role of business content is to capture attention, build trust, and get customer to make a purchase. To achieve those goals, your content needs to feed the customer’s self-interests. It has to help answer customers’ questions and satisfy their informational needs at every step of their buying journey. That journey – and the content needs along the way — typically looks something like this:
For some products and services, you need content that attracts a customer at the beginning of their buying process and guides them through twists, turns, and detours they take before they make a purchase.
In other cases, the right way to capture a customer is to hit them with content (often an ad) that addresses their immediate need, and makes them confident that yours is the right solution. Depending on what you’re selling, you might also need content that helps them justify their purchase.
Related: Need help creating content? Older workers can help.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Not every customer will follow the same buying journey. Some will spend little or no time searching for alternatives.
Customers who buy on impulse, for instance, aren’t likely to spend much time shopping around. They’ll be pulled in by a combination of content that focuses on reasonable pricing or text or images that make them imagine how they’ll look or feel after making a purchase, or how they’ll save time, or solve some other non-urgent need.
Similarly, the customer who has an urgent problem (the roof is leaking, and water is dripping into a room) isn’t going to spend a lot of time researching alternatives. They’ll go to Google or Bing and search for a roofer. They’ll click on whatever ad or search result listing indicates the company is nearby, does same-day roof repair and give free estimates.
But in other situations, the same customer might do a lot more research and shopping around. The homeowner who wants to replace their roof before it starts to leak is going to look for information about how to choose a roofer, what roofing materials are best, whether they need an attic fan, and what’s it all going to cost and what financing options are available. They’ll probably check reviews, too and may turn to social media to ask for recommendations.
Your business needs content that will grab your customer’s attention and provide the type of information they want in order to make a buying decision.
Developing Content for Your Business
Creating and distributing content for customers can seem like an overwhelming task. But it doesn’t have to be. The key to success is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about the problem, need, or desire they have and how they’d go about deciding what to do and buy.
Is your customer a consumer or a business? Who actually buys this product or service, and does anyone assist in researching or making the buying decision? Do they already have a vendor, and are looking for alternatives? If so why?
If you need help understanding customer needs, put AI to work for your business to do some research., Start by using the AI features of Bing and Google to help determine who needs your type of service and what features they look for.
If this is a new need or desire, how would you go about acquiring the product or service? Where would you turn? What questions might you be asking yourself (and what words would you be typing into search engines)?
- How do I (solve this problem, feel better, etc.)
- Where can I research the problem and a solution?
- Who sells it?
- Where are they located?
- Can I trust them?
- How will I benefit / how will the company help me?
- Does this do what I want/have all the features I want?
- How long have they been in business?
- How fast can I get it?
- Is this the best price?
- Are there other models?
- Is your service available on weekends?
- How can I see a demo?
- What kind of guarantee do they offer?
- How do I reach them for more information, or if I need help?
Make a list of all questions your existing customers ask and all the questions you think someone looking for your type of product or service might ask. Then write responses for each question. The questions will help you understand what content you need and where to put it. Your responses can be used as the basis for content you’ll create.
Company information is content
Some of the responses to those questions will consist of basic company information such as your business name, description, address, contact information, and hours of operation. Those facts are information you need to publish on your website. If your business is a local business, make sure the name, address and phone number appear on every page of your website. It will help with getting found in local searches.
Copy your basic business information and business description and paste it, along with your logo, to your social media pages and profiles, your Google and Bing business pages, and the membership listings for any Chamber of Commerce or other business groups you belong to. It should also be on printed material you hand out. The more places your information appears, the easier it will be for potential customers to find you.
Create Content from Responses to other types of questions
The information you would use to answer other kinds of customer questions can all be turned into content, too. You can create text, images, and video to show prospects the benefits of your products.
If you sell various models of a product, or various levels of a service, create a chart that shows the differences side-by-side so customers can easily compare and choose.
You can take a list of questions your customers often ask and turn them, along with your answers, into a FAQs page on your website.
Responses to individual questions can be expanded converted into blog posts. For instance, questions about when to send email campaigns could become a blog post titled, Best Time to Send Email Campaigns. Inquiries from local businesses about how to use digital marketing could be turned into a blog post containing digital marketing tips for small businesses.
Webinars, podcasts, and videos you produce can be transcribed and posted as articles or blog posts.
To distribute the content beyond your own website, post a short introduction, an image, and link to the blog post, on your various social media accounts. Or, post short videos, or photos of your work to social media.
Depending what your customers typically ask, you might want to create how-to guides, checklists , or video demos. Still another idea for website content: create a glossary with brief definitions of industry terms and lingo that might be unfamiliar to a first-time customer.
Start your content creation by focusing on the top customer touch points and the information that’s most important to the customers at each of those points. Once you’ve got that basic content in place, add additional content that will appeal to customers.
Make your content drive sales
Content can get your name known, create interest, and build trust. But by itself, it won’t, necessarily, bring in immediate sales or leads. Once you’ve attracted and informed the potential customer, you need to lead them to the final step of making a purchase from you.
How you do that will depend on how complex the sale is and how much information the customer needs. In some cases, all that requires is strategically placed CTAs (calls-to-action) such as Buy Now, Contact Us, or Call Us buttons.
In other situations, you need to link from one piece of content to another to lead them through your sales funnel. For instance, if you’re in the pest control business, you might have an article on your website about household ants that identifies the types of ants that come into homes, and what to do about them. That article might link to a separate article all about carpenter ants and the damage they can do to homes. The carpenter ant page might have a link to an article on how to tell whether you have carpenter ants or termites and why it matters.
Each of those articles or blog posts appeals to the reader’s self-interest (What are these things? What do I do about them? How dangerous is it if I don’t do anything?). And each article helps build up your company as an expert in the customer’s eye.
But to get the customer to actually call you, you would want multiple CTAs on each of the pages. Some might be about why they need to call your company now to solve the problem. (Images that show the problem — say ants crawling on a counter, or termite-damaged wood — can trigger emotions that encourage people to click the CTA buttons.) Other CTAs might promise new customers a discount or offer a free estimate.
Ask for the customer’s email address
One of the CTAs that should be on every page of your website (and wherever you can include it on social media) is an email list or newsletter signup form. The reason: Someone who’s found your website or social media and is interested in your product or service may get distracted and leave. When they are ready to purchase, they may not remember your name, or website or social media page. But if they’ve signed up for a newsletter, you immediately sent them a welcome email and follow-up emails, as appropriate, your company information will be where they’re likely to see it — in their inbox.
Always Focus on the Customer
Content creation and marketing can be complex. But even a small business can do it successfully. The secret is to create content that feeds customer’s self-interests and put the content in the places they’re most likely to find it. Then, once you get their attention, use your content to lead them to choose your product to satisfy their need.
© 2023 Janet Attard
Image sources: Top image: Deposit Photo. Bottom image: created by Janet Attard using Sketchwow.
Note: Janet Attard is a solution provider for Constant Contact and receives a small commission if you sign up through our link.