Content Creation and Marketing Guide: Tips and Strategies for Small Business

Infographic showing steps in the customer journey.

Your small business needs to create content and be a content marketer. This guide describes the role of content, the kind of content your business needs, and some ways to use content marketing to get leads and sales.

If you’ve been in business for more than a minute, you’ve probably heard how important content marketing is for your success.  But unless your small business is in the marketing industry, you may not have a good handle on what content marketing is. Or, if you understand the term, you may not know what kind of content your business should create. 

In either case, these tips will help.

What Is Content Marketing

The simplest way to think about content marketing is that it means using content to help grow your business and make sales. You create content that interests your target audience and put the content where your audience will find it.

Content marketing is important because your prospects and customers make decisions about what to buy based on information (content) they read, see, or hear. No matter what you sell, one of the main places your customers search for that information is the Internet. 

The Role of Business Content

The role of business content is to attract, inform, and win over customers as they traverse the winding path that culminates in a purchase. That path is often referred to as the buyer’s journey or the buying process.

What Kind of Content Should You Create?

To accomplish those goals, you need to create content that feeds the customer’s self-interest at each stage of their buying journey. That content has to do three basic things:

  • Provide the factual information the customer seeks.
  • Appeal to the customer’s emotional needs.
  • Make your brand memorable

Take another look at the path a buyer often follows in their journey to make a purchase. (Note: I’m repeating a portion of the picture at the top of the blog so you don’t have to scroll up.)  

Infographic showing the steps in the customer journey. These include identifying a problem, researching, evaluating, deciding on the solution and making the purchase.

At each point in their journey, they gather information to help them move towards their goal of solving a problem or satisfying some need.  Thus, you should be creating content that feeds the customer’s self-interests at each stop in their journey.

Although not every customer follows the steps in the buying journey, you should produce content for all of the steps. The reason: the more frequently prospects encounter helpful content from your company, the more familiar your products become and the more likely it is that the customer will consider buying from you.

Different Content for Different Customers

To gain the most benefit from content marketing, you need to understand your customers and how they make purchase decisions.

 Not every customer will follow the identical buying journey. Some will spend little or no time searching for alternatives. Others will want detailed information to compare offerings from several different providers.

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, reliable, and does same-day repairs.  For that customer, your primary piece of content might be a search ad like this:

Reliable Roofers, Inc. – North County
Roof repair specialist. Fast service. Warranty.
Free estimate. 17 years in business. Call now.

But even for impulse buys and need-it-now purchases, customers often want information to justify their purchase. That’s another reason you need content for each step in the buyer’s journey.

In other situations, the same customer might do a lot more research and shopping around. For instance, the homeowner who wants to replace their roof before it starts leaking is going to look for information about how to choose a roofer, what roofing materials are best, whether they need an attic fan, what’s it all going to cost, and what financing options are available.

Like the person who already has a leaky roof, they’ll probably search online for roofers. (They’ll look for a roofer who does new roofs and well as roof repairs, however.) They’ll probably look at reviews, and may turn to social media to ask for recommendations.

Your business needs content that will grab the attention of and provide information to each type of customer you typically serve.

What Does Content Consist Of?

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 product 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, calling you to make an appointment.)

Content takes many different forms. Articles and blog posts, images, email newsletters, product descriptions, videos, and podcasts are all forms of content.

Customer reviews, social media posts, checklists, templates, and product comparisons are all content, too. So are ads and catalogs.

Although many marketers associate content marketing today with the internet, it isn’t new. Content marketing was done long before computers and the Internet existed.

Developing Content for Your Business

Creating and distributing content for customers can seem like an overwhelming task. But it doesn’t have to be. Look back at that chart above. Then put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

Think about the problem, need, or desire they have related to your products and how they’d go about deciding what to do and buy

Is your customer a consumer or a business? Consider who makes the purchase decision and if anyone assists in researching or making that decision? Do they already have a vendor, and are looking for alternatives? If so why?

If you need help understanding customer needs, use AI to help you research your target customers’ needs. 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.

Another tactic: imagine you are the customer. If you decided you needed or desired what you sell, 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.

Related: Using Generative AI to Create Content for Your Business

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.

More Content Marketing Ideas

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. You can also post short videos, or photos of your work to social media, or create longer videos and upload them to YouTube.

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.

The best way to accomplish that goal will depend on how complex the sale is and how much information the customer needs.

Use CTAs

You must be proactive to get website visitors to identify themselves and become prospects and/or customers. You need to convince them to take an action such as making a purchase online, making an appointment with you, or signing up for an email list.

The methods you use to get customers to act are called Calls to Action (CTAs). There are various types of CTAs. Links, buttons, banners, or forms that you place on your web pages are examples. Ideally, you’ll have several on your content pages, some of which are in highly visible spots such as the middle of an informative article or blog post.    

Some can be as simple as a Contact Us link and phone number. Or you might have a photo of your work, with a button next to it saying, “Get a Quote.” Still another idea – a photo of someone doing a hated chore such as mowing a lawn on a hot day.  Below it, run a big bold caption with a call to action such as, “Spend time with your family instead of the lawn! Call us at XXX-XXXX.

Other CTAs might promise new customers a discount, offer a free estimate, or free information.

Internal Content Linking

In other situations, you need to link from one piece of content to another to get customers to act. Linking between pages is called internal linking.

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?). Each article will help build up your company as an expert in the customer’s eye.

To get the customer to actually call you, you should have 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 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 sign up for your mailing list and you immediately send them a welcome email and follow-up emails later, 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.

Where Should You Put Content?

The short answer: Every place you can.

Your business content can and should be available in whatever locations your potential customers might encounter it.

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, on video sites, and in all the various places your customers and prospects are likely to find it.

For many businesses, that means at least some of your content should still be in conventional formats such as slide presentations, and print, too. Online content marketing isn’t a replacement for traditional marketing.

Embrace Content Creation and Content Marketing

Content creation and content marketing aren’t that difficult if you break the tasks into small steps. Start today by putting one piece of content on your website, and making a post about it on your social media pages. If you do that once a week, at the end of the year, you’ll have 52 pieces of content to attract and interest customers in your products and services.

© 2024 Janet Attard

Image source: Images were created by Janet Attard using Sketchwow software.

Note: Janet Attard is a solution provider for Constant Contact and receives a small commission if you sign up through our link.

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