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Most entrepreneurs understand why content marketing is important, but when it comes to explaining what it is and how to utilize it to grow their business, many don’t know where to begin. While there are a lot of common myths surrounding content marketing, at its most basic level, it is about using content strategically to build an audience and influence their behavior over time.
This can be through blogs, video, testimonials, photo galleries, etc. — any asset that marketers can use to bring the advice, knowledge and inspiration their businesses possess to life. Content marketing is a way for businesses to show an understanding of the challenges customers face, empathize with their position and offer solutions.
Entrepreneurs who understand the value of content marketing are able to attract new customers, improve retention and drive more sales, but many fall victim to content marketing misconceptions.
Let’s discuss some of the most common myths I hear from small business leaders and how believing these can be harmful to your content marketing and overall business growth:
Myth 1: Content is the same as content marketing
This is probably the most common misconception I hear from novice marketers. To help differentiate the two, think about it like this: content is just “stuff” while content marketing is “stuff with a purpose.”
It’s a subtle difference, but a content-focused mindset will take up a lot of time with little return while a content marketing mindset always builds on the strategy for getting the right content in front of prospects and customers.
Marketers who develop their content marketing strategies with a plan of action that is customized to fit the goals and needs of the business fare better than those who do not. Using this approach, you’ll have a set of criteria and goals to revisit as you hit certain milestones.
As entrepreneurs, it’s important to remember that the foundation of a successful content marketing strategy relies on our ability to connect with our audiences, show them how we can help and why to trust us.
Myth 2: You need a huge library of content to be successful
Another common misconception is you need a huge library of content to be successful. The reality is: you should start by providing value to the people you’re trying to reach. By strategically creating content that meets your customers’ needs, you’ll see better results that eventually allow you to grow a library of content over time.
Identify the strengths of your business and what your customers respond well to, then focus on delivering value in those areas. That might mean publishing content less frequently, but that’s OK. You’ll want to take the time to focus on creating pieces that provide the audience with the best possible answers to their questions, and be thoughtful about what gets published. The content library itself is not the goal. Rather, learning what resonates best with your audience and paying attention to their feedback so you can better address their needs should be the priority.
The content library is the byproduct that comes from organizing the best content in a way that makes it easily accessible to new readers. You don’t need a content library to be successful, but you’ll be building one over time that highlights your brand as a resource for the people you’re trying to reach.
Myth 3: Your content strategy should be separate from your e-commerce strategy
If done right, content marketing is actually one of the most cost-effective ways to convert your audience into paying customers, and it can be a powerful tool for expanding your e-commerce strategy.
The goal is to create assets that encourage readers to visit an online store, specific products or shoppable landing pages after they finish reading or watching that content. Instead of navigating away from the website, photo or video, enabling the user to easily continue further down the funnel increases the likelihood that they will convert at the end of their experience.
For example, if you’re an outdoor apparel company, you’d want to target an audience that is adventurous and likes to travel and be active. To promote your online store, you might consider developing a blog post on “all the things you need for an adventurous camping weekend” that links to the product pages for some of your most popular items.
Once your audience engages with the content and sees you understand what they’re looking for — both specifically and at-large — having direct links to buy items mentioned can influence purchase behavior without requiring much additional effort from the reader.
Myth 4: You need to push your content on every platform for it to be effective
The first place to publish your content is on your website. Having a single hub makes it easier for prospective customers to find your site when they organically search for information related to your content. Once that is in order, it’s time to think about broadening the channel mix.
Social media promotion grows more and more critical, but businesses often stretch themselves too thin by thinking they have to be everywhere at once. Instead, only choose the platforms where your target audience is most active, and focus on cultivating your presence there by sharing engaging content.
While social platforms can help create more awareness and are an essential part of content marketing, not all of them will work for you. Different platforms provide different user experiences, and content should be customized toward the specific channel that provides your business with the best return on effort.
Myth 5: You will see results right away
Content marketing is a long-term play to organically grow your customer base, build loyalty and influence behavior over time. Developing brand loyalty takes time and multiple positive brand interactions, so plan to invest 12 to 18 months to really see your efforts bear fruit. Conveying your experience, empathizing with your customer’s situation and sharing helpful content builds brand trust and improves long-term retention.
If you do want to see results right away, growth can be accelerated by allocating a budget to promote your content. To get started in paid search or social, experiment with dollar amounts that you’re comfortable with, measure performance and adjust. Over time, businesses get better at customizing these efforts depending on the needs of the business and the resources available.
Key takeaways: Make content marketing a priority
While there are a lot of myths surrounding content marketing, once you have a strategic approach in place, it can be extremely rewarding for your startup business. Putting in the time to understand what’s most valuable to your customers and developing a publishing strategy that works for you will help ensure you’re maximizing your efforts and building for an even more successful future.