How Small Businesses Are Levelling the Content Marketing Playing Field

According to recent statistics published by the Content Marketing Institute, small businesses are leading the way when it comes to implementing content marketing strategies. Following last year’s Content Marketing Awards, when asked how small businesses can compete against larger brands in the pursuit of marketing glory, CMI founder Joe Pulizzi replied:


‘There were a number of small companies that won Content Marketing Awards — they were not all big brands. In my opinion, the battlefield is equal, depending on the niche and the type of content.’


As a freelance copywriter and a small, online business owner myself, this response instils in me, a hopeful feeling for the future. Coupled with Google’s recent algorithm updates, it looks like the little guys are starting to see the benefit of producing high quality content in favour of older, outdated SEO strategies.


And this is how it should be.


Who says that creating a successful business online has to be about big marketing budgets? Well until recently, Google said so. The more money companies could afford to spend on SEO backlink strategies, keyword research and pay per click advertising, the greater their chances of establishing their brand as an industry leader. However, as more and more smaller businesses come to realise that they too, can cement themselves as industry authorities without having to break the bank, we’ll hopefully start to hear more small business success stories like the ones told at the Content Marketing Awards.


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As CMI’s statistics show, across B2B organizations of all sizes, small businesses are the most likely to have a documented content strategy. Some 48% of small businesses have a documented strategy, compared with only 41% of larger, enterprise marketers. So, it looks like smaller business are beginning to fancy their chances against the Goliaths of their industry.  But what else can small businesses do to give themselves a leg up in the content marketing stakes?


Standing Out From the Crowd


When first launching a business website, many marketers opt to produce industry-standard content – the ‘how-to guides’ and the ‘top ten’s’ – and there’s nothing wrong with that. These types of posts are among the most popular in any given industry. Whereas replicating these posts may get your website ranking a couple of positions below the most popular in your niche, it probably won’t establish your brand as an authority. By finding your own voice within your industry and sharing original ideas, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition and differentiate yourself from other companies who may already be several years worth of content ahead of you. Remember, nothing inspires brand loyalty more than original thinking.


Adopting Industry Trends


Keeping on top of industry trends can establish your business as the ‘go to website’ for the latest industry news and opinions. Putting your own spin on recent developments will help set your brand apart from others. There’s a lot to be said for being the first to report on new trends within an industry.


Of course, it does take a lot of time and effort to keep abreast of such movements and a lot of small businesses don’t have the capacity to constantly check their news channels and social media pages for new trends to write about. However, by choosing your topics wisely and setting up Google alerts for your industry, this approach to content marketing can really help build your authority. Choose which trends to write about based on your own ability to talk about them. Have you experienced these developments yourself? Perhaps you’ve become an early adopter to the latest buzz? Maybe you just have a really strong opinion on a recent news piece? Writing about something that interests you is easier than producing something for production’s sake. In content marketing, passion translates into audience engagement, content interaction and brand authority.


Guest Posting (Gasp!)


Creating high quality, original content is all well and good but if you don’t yet have the readership to engage with, you might find your efforts have been in vain.


The solution? Guest posting.


An approach drenched in controversy recently, following Matt Cutt’s announcement that guest posting is dead, publishing your content on other websites can still be a great way to spread the word about your brand and expose your content to a wider audience. Despite Mr Cutt’s ‘stick a fork in it’ message to digital marketers, taking a more considered approach to guest posting can be great for building brand authority.


What we’re trying to do here is what traditional PR companies do all the time – expose your content to as large an audience as possible – just don’t go fishing for any anchor text links in return. Try to avoid websites that build their reputation on offering open invitations for guest posting as more than likely, these post won’t be moderated and are likely to be penalised by Google in the near future. Also, make sure that the website you post on has strong metrics in the form of a responsive audience and be sure to engage with any comments your content receives. Developing new relationships is what it’s all about and if you really must put a self-promoting link in there, make sure it’s in your author bio and not in the body of the article.


Returning to the Content Marketing Institute’s research, the future looks bright for small businesses over the next 12 months. Some 60% plan to increase their content marketing budget in 2014, compared to 52% of their enterprise peers.


What do you make of these statistics? Do you think that a smart content marketing strategy holds the key to small business success online? What strategies do you plan to implement as a means of building your brand authority? How do you plan to stand out from the crowd? I’d love to know your thoughts.


Jamie Thomson

Jamie Thomson is an award-winning senior copywriter and the owner Brand New Copy copywriting studio. With over 15 years professional writing experience, he helps companies engage with their target audience through tailored content strategies and exceptional copywriting.

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