You can do more for your small business marketing by establishing yourself as a trusted advisor than any other single thing. Prospects come to the digital world for information, and often react badly to “being sold”. So by offering authoritative, well-written content, your business builds brand and trust at the same time. You become a thought leader in your industry.
Elements of Expert Content
Good content is never a quick task, and expert content takes that much more effort. However, the elements of it are easy to understand. The four “cornerstones” of expert content are:
You really need each of these components to turn your content into new customers. And, as you develop and post your “expert” content, your customers will expect it—then consistently posting winning content becomes an expectation. And that’s actually quite a good problem to have.
Writing great copy isn’t easy, and it takes time. Whether you are a ‘natural’ when it comes to writing, or somewhat less blessed, great copy is much more a matter of process than inspiration.
This is not creative writing: you’re writing as an expert on a subject of interest to your customers. In fact, those are the first two of six things that make great “expert” copy. Here’s the whole list for visual learners.
Nothing does more to add authority to your content than reputable sources that support the points your writing is making. Curating good content should be an ongoing activity and is a key part of your small business marketing. In addition to staying current on trends that are important in your market, you are (or should be) capturing the thoughts from the industry thought leaders. (In fact, it is your goal to become one of them.)
Read more about content planning and curation in our earlier post here.
It is the content itself that will establish your brand and leadership in the market. You need to take the time to produce a quality product. More is not better in content production; it’s a fact, a good post will do much more for your company than three generic posts.
Remember, in the digital world, it takes one click to leave your post for somewhere else. Organize your content so that readers know right away that it’s information they want, and then add increasing detail through the piece.
Some readers will only need a little information. Others will be looking for much more, perhaps to support product/service comparisons. Your content must meet the information needs of each type of reader to be seen as “expert” content.
Proofreading is a necessary evil for professional and effective content. Truly no one really likes to do it; but it must be done, and done correctly. The only “rule” about proofing content is:
Never, ever have the author do the only proofreading. Always use a second set of eyes.
It is also worthwhile to carefully monitor the sophistication of the information in your content and compare that to your buyer personas. If you’re writing over their heads, or “dumbing down” the content, you may be making a big mistake.
If we’ve not already convinced you that proofreading is important, review some of the following examples of where it was not done well enough.
Hopefully no one forgets that they are really writing for a purpose: to market products/services. So all of our content development must occur with that in mind. There may not be garish calls to action, large blinking buttons to sign up for a free offer, or anything like that; nonetheless, the content should drive the business forward.
Do that by integrating brand and message through the content. Combine subtlety and consistency for the greatest effect. Too much branding will turn off readers and risk the content being viewed as advertising and not information.
Following is a link to a great post that helps you determine if you’re advertising or informing.
A key element in great content is great media. And the types of media available to digital marketers is more diverse than ever. Good content leverages media to explain, to enhance, and convey at a glance.
Sure, a chart can display your data, but an infographic can help your reader understand the data and its significance. You can tell customers how to install replacement parts, but a 5 minute video can show them how. Plus, the statistics are compelling, posts with media content are more likely to be opened, and much, much more likely to be shared.
Links for two excellent guides to creating your own media content follow.
Aside from getting good media, the biggest headache with media is compatibility with all the devices your readers will use to view the content. For example, how will your image display on a mobile device? Will your video play on a tablet correctly? To test this, use an emulator like Responsinator (www.responsinator.com).
Also, social networks have varying image size requirements (and they change fairly often). Following is a recent guide.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the “behind-the-scenes” work we do to inform search engines about our content so that it is displayed in search results. SEO is an industry all its own. but there are basic steps you can take to ensure your content is found.
There are two kinds of SEO: on-page and off-page. On page SEO has to do with including keywords in the text (naturally, so that they flow with the writing), meta/ALT tags for media, and including links to credible external sites. Off-page SEO relates primarily to the SEO title and the meta description.
Your keyword should be present in the content, but not scattered everywhere. That risks a Google penalty. Make sure it naturally flows into the writing. Ensure that all media has ALT tags so search engines know what it is about. And those external links are critical to build credibility and support the points you’ve made in your writing.
A link to a basic primer on SEO follows.
Aside from doing your SEO work to assure your content appears in search results, you should take every opportunity to promote it actively. And, as your reputation for providing great content grows in your market, people will seek you out for information or to cite you as an expert.
Like most promotion in the digital world, there are the free kinds of promotion and the kind you pay for.
Organically promoting your blog through social media doesn’t cost a cent and has knock-on benefits for your social presence.
There are a number of pieces of software that will automatically repost your blog content onto social networks. You’ll want to check with your web developer or site manager as to which are available to you. And remember, although it is tedious, you can certainly do the posts manually.
For especially newsworthy content, you may wish to consider engaging a firm that will disseminate press releases for a fee. Two companies that offer the service are PRWeb (PRWeb.com) and PRNewswire (ireach.PRNewswire.com). Typical fee per release is $100 - $150.
Once you establish yourself (or your firm) as an expert in a subject area, there are always writers looking for quotes, insight, and analysis for pieces they are authoring. A good site for that is Help A Reporter Out (helpareporter.com).
Developing quality content is neither an easy nor a quick process. But it is critical to your small business marketing. Prospects do not like being sold to, and in the digital world can “leave your store” with the click of a mouse.
But if you post great content and publicize it effectively, you can become a thought leader in your industry. And before you know it, that great content will have been worth all the effort.