Ep#17: Content Marketing for Small Business, an Introduction

What is ‘content marketing’ and why is it something that small businesses should be interested in…

This week I chat to Steve Davis from Baker Marketing about Content Marketing for small businesses. My interview with Steve will span two episodes, with part 2 coming out next week. In part 1 we cover an introduction to content marketing and some of the basics, including;

  1. What is content marketing?
  2. Why is this something that small businesses should be looking into?
  3. How does ‘content marketing’ fit into a broader marketing strategy?
  4. Is it primarily for online marketing or does it have a place in the offline world too?
  5. Who should write/create the content?

Links & Mentions;

Tune in (download) next week for part 2 of ‘Content Marketing for Small Businesses’ where will discuss the steps for getting your content marketing strategy started.

Nick Morris interviewing Steve Davis about Content Marketing

Steve Davis (right) and I, Nick Morris (left) at Tranquilo in Stirling in the Adelaide Hills

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Nick: Welcome back to Episode 17 of the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. Over the next 2 weeks, we’re going to be talking about Content Marketing for Small Businesses. Content Marketing is a great marketing strategy that pulls together many of the things we’ve been talking about throughout the first episodes of this podcast. So, that’s Social media Marketing, Search Engine Optimization. It all comes together and fits in together under Content Marketing.

So let’s go to Part 1 now.

My guest this week is Steve Davis from Baker Marketing and our topic is Content Marketing for Small Businesses. We’re here recording from the Tranquility Café in Stirling in Adelaide Hills. You might hear a bit of ambience in the background.

Hi Steve, welcome to the program.

Steve: Nick, thank you.

Nick: Before we get started on the topic, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and about Baker Marketing?

Steve: Okay. We’re a team of about 14 people, seem to change every now and then, but just around about 14 on average marketers based in Adelaide. We position ourselves as the Outsourced Marketing Department because since we began in 1998, our sole focus has been small to medium business and small organizations.

Typically, that can’t afford to have their own marketing staff in-house so they like to have expertise they can call on in little pin chips if you like. So, get someone to help with a particular project or use us as a trusted advisor to get a, bounce some ideas off right to doing full blown marketing plans, websites etc. We’re there to help them as much or as little as they need and every day is different and I’ve been with the team since 1999, so out on parole team.

Nick: Good one. Let’s get into the topic of content marketing. Now, before I ask you to define content marketing, let’s first define content. What do we mean by content in this context?

Steve: I think content can be as narrow or as broadly defined as you like. I think of it being in parallel with the messaging that you think is really important to get across to your target market. Messaging can take all sorts of form, but when I use the term message from a marketing perspective, it’s because it is linking back to the goals of the organization, the marketing goals you want to achieve, so we can’t just communicate with people telepathically, so those messages, that content has to take form in some way or shape and so when I think content, I’m thinking of ideally at it’s foundation, the core sense of what a message might be but then it might be, manifest in many different ways. It could turn into a brochure, it could be photography, it could be spiel that sales people learn to talk with people on the shop floor. It is many varied things.

Nick: Great. So, what then, is Content Marketing?

Steve: The thing is, we just talked content, then people can hear that Instagram is really popular at the Olympics and Mc Donald’s did a whole lot of really good stuff with it. It’s like, “Okay everyone, we’re just going ahead and take photographs.” That’s content on its own but Content Marketing is two fold. It’s thinking strategically about what content is going to actually have a strong what’s in it for me factor for your target market.

It’s going to answer some questions as they move along the sales funnel from not even knowing that they need your product or service to hunting around to choose a vendor to provide that product or service. So, first of all, it’s actually relevant in that part and secondly, it is laid down on their pathway somewhere strategically, so it intersects with them. So, it could be coming up through Google search, it could be appearing in forms where people are, it could be emailed out to them, shared through social networking etc.

Nick: Great, great and why is this content marketing, why is this a strategy that small businesses should be particularly thinking about?

Steve: I think small businesses benefit if they’re in that phase where they are already starting up and everything is just running at full passion, or they’ve been going for a long time, worked out that things have hit the doldrums and people have been avid to re-tap into their passion again as to why on earth we’re doing this enterprise and so, to me, the common thing is passion.

If there is a strong passion and commitment to whatever product or service is being crafted and provided, we’ve got normally an overflow of great insights, of experience, of understandings that help make sense of the world through the focus of their product or service and that information there is just gold. It’s absolute gold for prospective customers who are still on their pathway to choosing a product or service. They don’t know what to ask for yet, so in doing their research, they might come across a handy guide to buying widgets that answers a few of their questions, narrows the field for them and that actually makes them a better customer to deal with because it’ll ask smarter customers and they’re not going to get, they’ll be less likely to be swept up by buying something on a whim, and actually buy something that is useful to them, which is a better outcome for all of us.

Nick: Great, great. It seems like probably smaller businesses are more likely to have that passion that you mentioned than say, a bigger business where they have many different working parts and like the Marketing Manager may not necessarily be as invested in the business as say, the owner the business would be in a small business case.

Steve: I think you’re right. I heard an interview recently with one of the head guys at Twitter and another gentleman, whose name escapes me now, talking about strategy and the different types of CEO strategy there are. There’s peace time and war time strategies, and peace time is when we’re in this corporate land where things have settled, the companies are established and I find sometimes, this might just be my quirk, but I find that sometimes inside the halls of a bureaucratic corporation, there are people who are marking time.

There are people who are doing things because they can, not because they should. Someone who sells, let’s say Bass Advertising takes a sales person out for a, wine and dine them, and so they end up getting some business that way, whether or not it’s actually the right thing for that client, that company to do. There’s a lot of that, that goes on. That’s not always and I don’t want to be hunted down in the dark alleys of corporate land for having said that, but I think there can be a distance from the mission on the road that actually made people seek out that product or service in the first place.

Compared to small business, where often, the founder is still there, there’s fire in the belly, there are people gathered around trying to build something and they’re tracked in light by the people. Now, on the gold, rosy-colored glasses there because I’ve also, in the decade plus that I’ve been doing consulting with Baker Marketing, I have met people who seem burnt out, who seemed to have built themselves a job rather than still tap into that passion that’s trying to make a difference in a sector they care about.

So long answer, but to me, when you’ve got the ability to turn the boat around quickly, re-sharpen things quickly, that is a gift for small business.

Nick: Great, great and how would you say that content marketing fits into a wider marketing strategy?

Steve: To me it’s, where the rubber hits the road in many ways. I do probably take more of a holistic view of content marketing than some people, because I believe once you have sat down and done your marketing plan, you’ve worked out who the target markets are that are important to you. You understand how you need to be perceived in the market place by those segments and you can work towards that, you’ve got a vision for the company of where you’re heading. The thing that connects that esoteric collection of insight to sales ringing over in the cash register is helping people join the dots out there and understand that you are a service provider worth connecting to, that your product is one to seek out.

So, content marketing really is when you sit down and you put the, you look into the future over the next say 12 months and you work out your marketing schedule. A lot of what’s going to be down there, will be content, content creation and content dissemination in all sorts of ways and shapes, as I mentioned earlier.

Nick: So, the way that I’ve been getting into content marketing recently is really in the online world, doing internet marketing, but does content marketing work in the offline world too?

Steve: Absolutely. I’d say content marketing is quite agnostic if you’d like, when it comes to the channels through which you’re going to be pushing it, promoting it, creating it because content can be in the form of brochures, it can be loyalty cards, it can be material that people take away and read. It can be training sales people in all sorts of chunks of content writing there, people doing key-note speeches, travelling around, running workshops.

To me, they’re all part of the school of content marketing but to be fair, I think it’s the online genre where it’s most accessible to small business, because although there is a commitment, a serious commitment needed in head space and some time to pull content together that makes sense and to plan what you can realistically achieve with your resources. The overhead’s beyond that, negligible, so it makes it much more sustainable.

Plus, also, sorry, one other thing is, the reach, the potential reach of online is global. So, although, if you’re going to be manifesting a book or brochures, that’s going to be tied to a very, very small market unless you’ve got huge deep pockets for big budget, whereas, you craft content that might be for example, some video, and that video is available worldwide. Now, you may not have distribution worldwide, so that might be irrelevant, but you can at least expand to as far as your target market is.

Nick: One thing that I always was sort of wondering at the beginning when I first came to content marketing is something that, business owners might be thinking as they listen to this is, why would you create the content yourself as opposed to say, buying advertising in the newspaper or industry publication where they sort of have professional writers who have a built in audience and they already know about the content they’re creating?

Steve: I think, that’s a good question. I think it’s both end. In fact I know it’s both end. There is a time and a place for advertising, and I should probably point out, when I’m thinking content marketing, I’m not including advertising in that. I’m focusing solely on information that A, is meeting the needs of the business, the business goals but is actually helpful, interesting or entertaining for the audience, for the recipient. So, it is a joy to consumer, it’s something we want to consume because it meets a need.

Not everybody but hopefully people that you’ve identified in your target market will find it that way. So, it’s different from advertising, advertising is something that is forced upon us, against our will, its quid pro quo for watching a TV show for free otherwise, and so you’ve got to do your best to skip it and fast forward as much as you can or turn the newspaper page over, so, I think of them in different terms. Now, with that clarification out of the way, I have missed the point of your question, haven’t I? What was the question again?

Nick: You’ve mostly hit it. Why should people do content marketing in sales as in creating the content themselves as opposed to advertising in a number?

Steve: There are 2 parts to that. So, advertising versus content marketing, I think I’ve covered that one, but outsourcing the production of content.

Only recently have I softened my stance on this. I have for a long time believed, that content marketing or the content that a business creates should only be created in-house. I think that the authenticity that comes from having someone who is an expert in their field break things down and make understanding easier for us trying to decide what we need or how much we need of it or how we should apply something for example. That’s the call, that’s the call phase. There are people I trust, they understand it. To be fair though, there are new skills that are needed to do that in a way that actually makes it readable. Just because someone has domain expertise, doesn’t mean that they know how to communicate with to those of us who don’t have that same level of understanding.

One of the things I often open up within my workshops, is often the greatest obstacle we face in business is we know too much, when it comes to our online marketing or any marketing. We know what people should be searching for, what questions they should be asking and often they don’t and so our job is to be, I guess keyed in to where people are at and what sort of questions you’re likely and most attractive type of customer is looking for and there’s a great discipline there.

That’s the marketing discipline, really. I suppose it’s been tattooed on me for many years at Baker Marketing that we’ve been marketing as the guardian of the customer. So, every single operation within a business should be consumer centric, should be focused on how is this helping the consumer, the person you’re trying to court and the same goes with the marketing creation. I think, we’re at a point in business now, we all wear two hats, whether we like it or not. The hat of our expertise, what we do, and the other hat of learning these skills bit by bit to write a blog, to take photographs that are helpful, to share video etc, tools in making it easier and easier. If you are coming from a point where what you’re crafting is aligned with what your business needs and what influences your target market, its full ticks all the way, it’s magnificent.

If you’re struggling, then yes, get in some expertise to help you perhaps create some framework in how to craft this content would be my first option, because my dilemma in outsourcing all your content creation, is it’ll be schmick, it’ll be beautiful we hope, but it will probably lack some of that authentic connection to the enterprise itself and can often be credit for its own sake. Using the certain flows and patterns of that particular content creator always uses and that might not be the same rhythm of talking the same interest and passions of the target market, which we hope the small business is more keyed into because that’s their bread and butter.

Nick: Definitely, definitely. I agree with that. I have something I also want to say on that point is that one of the disadvantages or one of the problems with outsourcing all your content is that your competitor can easily do that as well and then you don’t really have some sort of advantage over them but doing it sort of yourself or at least part by yourself gave that sort of authenticity you talked about. You can sort of make it your own and make it harder for your competitors to copy.

Steve: That is such a good point and if you’re just going to go to the market for the same old, same old, then it will be the same old, same old. Often there’s a quirk, there’s something unique that you or someone in your team can create. They’ve got a different way of viewing them, part of that is access. I’m working with a fishing charter company up in Darwin and they just had some of their clients come on and they all had go-pro cameras on their hands etc.

They took some amazing footage, which they’ve bundled together and is now out there helping promote their business in a way that would have been too expensive for them to hire in a film crew to come and shoot that but here’s just the natural cup and thrust of life, some clients they’re going to roll with. I mean these operators could have done this themselves because they’re out there all the time and that’s the sort of access. That’s what I mean when I tell people in business, “You are sitting on a gold mine of content. There are so many interesting things that you take for granted.”

In this fishing case, how you got your fish when you come back to shore, what preparation you put on to the clothes you choose, the insect repellant you choose, all that stuff is the sort of content that me, as a potential customer, I can’t get enough of, as I’m making my decision. Either I’ve bought and I’m preparing to come and do my trip, so I want to soak up as much as I can to enjoy the most or in choosing operators, “Oh I get a chance to taste and try before I buy”, that’s going to lean me towards this company over another one that’s just got the standard list on their website or worse deal, the boring copy you see where it says, “We’ve been running fishing charters since 1973” and you’re half asleep before you finish that sentence.

Nick: Great. Well, that’s been a fantastic introduction to content marketing. We’re going to stop this episode now and we’ll continue with more of the how to do it in Part 2 of the content marketing topic.

Thanks Steve for joining me.

Steve: Thanks Nick, time for coffee.

Nick: I hope you found that introduction to content marketing useful. Remember to tune in next week for part 2 of the content marketing discussion.

Until then, have a good week!



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