Content marketing, particularly of the digital variety, has become an increasingly popular item in modern marketers’ toolboxes.
While many larger organizations have been quick to embrace content marketing strategies, smaller local businesses often underestimate its potential or remain unsure about its relevance to their operations.
This is particularly true considering the level of effort and time it has traditionally taken to produce content in its many forms; from blogs and social posts to podcasts and videos.
Small business owners and managers may be unsure of content’s value and the return it will provide.
They may be asking questions like, “Who has the time or wants to read, watch, or listen to my content?”
However, as consumer behavior and search engine algorithms continue to evolve, content marketing, when done correctly and purposefully, can be an indispensable aspect of a local business’s overall success.
Unique, relevant, entertaining content can set a local business apart from its other small local or big box competitors.
Let’s delve into the reasons why a content marketing strategy is crucial for local businesses and consider a few practical tips on how to implement effective content marketing strategies to boost brand awareness, establish online authority, engage customers, and drive business growth.
Why Do Local Businesses Need Content Marketing?
Regardless of the size of a business, there are a set of common business drivers content marketing can positively influence for those willing and able to employ it.
Establishing Local Authority
Content marketing offers local businesses the opportunity to position themselves as authorities in their respective industries and communities.
By creating valuable and informative content, businesses can showcase their expertise, address common pain points, and provide solutions to their customers’ most pressing problems.
When consumers are able to find and reference helpful content from a local business, they will be more likely to trust and choose said business over its competitors, who may not be providing the same.
Establishing authority will naturally require consistently creating high-quality content customers want to read, like, and share.
While it takes time and requires patience to establish authority, the payoff is high for businesses that become the go-to source for answers to customer questions.
Enhancing Online Visibility
Organic search visibility is understandably key to any business’s long-term success. Small business owners recognize the importance of showing up in search results when their customers are searching for their services.
Content marketing plays a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO), as Google and other search engines reward the E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) it can create.
By producing high-quality, keyword-rich content that resonates with their target audience, local businesses can improve their search engine rankings and appearance in Google Maps results.
It can be argued creating and posting content to a Google Business Profile (GBP) is as, if not more important than any other type of content marketing a local business can do.
Google rewards those businesses that are active and engaged with their audience via their GBP.
Driving Organic Traffic And Conversion
Organic search is a valuable traffic source for any local business as it tends to convert at a higher rate than traffic from other channels.
As noted above, through content marketing efforts, businesses can create content targeting relevant keywords and addressing customer needs, thereby building their authority, enhancing their visibility, and driving organic traffic to their website and Google Business Profile.
While it takes time and requires patience to establish authority
Building Customer Relationships
Effective content marketing enables local businesses to engage and build lasting relationships with their customers.
Social media posts, blog articles, email newsletters, and videos can all be used to foster a sense of community and encourage two-way communication.
Responding to customer comments, questions, and reviews demonstrates a business cares about its customers, thus fostering loyalty and encouraging repeat business.
Customer testimonials and case studies have the multiple effects of highlighting partner successes, building authority, and establishing trust.
It never hurts to make your happy customers feel special by putting them in the spotlight.
Nurturing The Sales Funnel
Content marketing enables businesses to guide potential customers through the sales funnel.
By tailoring content to different stages of the buyer’s journey, businesses can attract leads, nurture them with informative content when needed, and eventually convert them into paying customers.
Educational content, product comparisons, and customer success stories are some examples of content that can move prospects closer to making a purchase decision by supporting them with answers to questions they may have at each stage.
How Should Local Businesses Implement Content Marketing?
Having established an understanding of the “why” of content marketing for small businesses, the question is often “how” can businesses implement effective content marketing strategies on top of the daily running of the business?
Know And Build Your Audience
Understanding the target audience is the first step in any successful content marketing strategy.
Local business owners or those they employ should identify their ideal customers, their preferences, pain points, interests, and digital whereabouts.
This information will guide the creation of content to resonate with the intended audience, leading to higher engagement and conversions.
Knowing where customers tend to “live” or visit online, socially or otherwise, will also help build an audience to which content can be targeted.
Content shared into a void will not be read, liked, or shared.
Develop A Content Plan
Consistency is key in content marketing.
Local businesses should establish a well-thought-out content plan, including a content calendar, an outline of the types of content to be produced, the platforms it will be shared on, and the target publishing schedule.
Planning content in advance helps to ensure the business remains organized and consistent in its messaging.
Create “Your” Unique Content
So, if content marketing has become so important that everyone is starting to do it, how do local businesses differentiate their content from all the rest?
This is certainly one of the dangers and challenges with the content explosion we’re all experiencing. But every business has and should focus, where possible, on sharing their stories and perspectives.
Leading digital marketing expert Mark Schaefer touches on this in a recent post titled “How to beat ChatGPT and the new wave of Content Shock.”
The key to topical authority is expertise-backed advice, opinion, and experience.
We’ve alluded to the importance of case studies and customer success stories.
Each piece of content should include whatever uniqueness a business can lend to it.
It’s not enough to simply create content. It needs to be your content.
Diversify Content Formats
Different people prefer to consume content in a variety of formats.
To cater to the broader audience, local businesses should diversify their content types.
This may include blog posts, case studies, videos, podcasts, or other formats.
By doing so, businesses can keep their audience engaged and interested in what they have to offer.
Distribute Content Via GBP
We’ve already discussed the importance of GBP to local businesses from a visibility perspective. However, GBP is also an important content distribution vehicle.
Any digital content local businesses create should be shared within the context of a GBP post, including a strong call to action linking back to this content wherever it may be hosted.
Leverage Social Media
Social media platforms can be powerful tools for content distribution and customer engagement for certain types of local businesses that take the time to build a following.
At a local level, this should include identifying, following, and supporting other local businesses and organizations that can help to boost your visibility.
Partnering with local influencers or complementary businesses can help expand the business’s reach and credibility.
Additionally, collaborations can introduce the business to new demographics, driving more foot traffic and online interactions.
Social media is effectively about community building; locally, this simply becomes an extension of the physical community.
Sharing authoritative and/or entertaining content, engaging with followers/customers, sharing user-generated content, and running social media contests or promotions can boost brand awareness and foster a loyal customer base.
Monitor And Analyze Performance
The final, but crucial and ongoing step, in any effective content marketing initiative is performance monitoring to enable continuous improvement and understand return on investment (ROI).
Local businesses should track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as website (and especially organic) traffic, conversion rates, social media engagement, and customer feedback.
This data can provide valuable insights into what content is resonating with the target audience and what areas need improvement.
Get Help As Needed
The challenge for many local businesses considering content marketing or digital marketing in general is the time, effort, and know-how required to plan and execute these types of strategies.
Luckily, the growth in these areas has seen a similar influx in content marketing tools (including the recent rise in generative AI options like the aforementioned ChatGPT) and experience-based digital agency support.
In short, local businesses are not alone. They should look to leverage the tools and people available to make the most of these opportunities, keeping in mind they still have to add their own unique perspective when and wherever possible.
Content marketing is a vital strategy local businesses should prioritize to thrive in today’s competitive digital marketplace.
By focusing on creating valuable, relevant, and engaging content, local businesses can establish themselves as local industry authorities, increase visibility, drive organic traffic, build lasting customer relationships, and achieve sustainable business growth.
Implementing a successful content marketing strategy requires a clear understanding of the target audience, creating unique, relevant content, consistent effort, and a willingness to adapt and improve based on performance data.
By embracing content marketing and leveraging its potential, local businesses can effectively navigate the digital landscape and secure a strong foothold in their respective markets relative to their competition.
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