Over the last three years, content marketing has grown from a niche marketing strategy into a staple source of new customers and revenue for many businesses.
There’s a wealth of information online about content marketing, ranging from how-to guides to detailed analysis on its efficacy and results. There’s just one problem: almost 100% of content marketing advice is aimed at large, online businesses rather than small, local businesses.
This is a shame, because content marketing can be an extremely valuable asset for a small, local business. By creating and leveraging content, your local business can attract the interest (and later, the loyalty) of your community, fuelling a source of leads and sales that can last for life.
Below, we’ve outlined three strategies that your local business can use to turn content into your best source of new customers. Our advice is aimed at local businesses of any type, meaning it’s just as valuable for a florist or mechanic as it is for a local bicycle store or car dealership.
If you run a business that depends on your local community, these strategies can help you grow your business and scale your marketing efforts in an efficient, cost-effective way, fuelling growth that lasts for the long term and becomes more effective as time goes by.
Let’s begin with our first strategy, which is also the easiest to implement: using content to give your business a noticeable, measurable edge over its competitors in local search.
How to use content to stand out from the crowd in search results
The key to using content to grow your local business is something we call the local authority model. The idea behind it is simple: every piece of content your business publishes needs to reinforce the belief that you are the local authority on your product and/or industry.
Here are several examples of how the local authority model can work, and how it can make a significant difference in the way local customers approach your business:
Example #1: A local music store
Imagine you’re a consumer in your city interested in buying an electric piano. You’re familiar with the music stores in your city and have a reasonable, but not great, understanding of the type of piano you’d like to buy.
You search for “electric pianos in Sydney” on Google and click on two of the top results. The two websites couldn’t be more different:
- One website is a barebones local business website, with little more than a list of different pianos and their prices.
- The other website has the same list of products and prices, but also has buyer’s guides for people searching for pianos that make specific recommendations and provide useful, actionable advice. At the end of each guide, there’s a contact phone number.
Of the two websites above, which is more likely to help you as a customer? Which is more likely to inspire you to take action? Which website is more likely to convince you that the business is a local authority when it comes to electric pianos?
The answer is obvious: the second website. Because it has more compelling and helpful content than the competing search results, the second website is much more likely to motivate you to go down to the store and talk to the salespeople about electric pianos.
From the perspective of the music store, an inexpensive piece of content can be a very valuable asset for acquiring customers. Better yet, because it presents the business as an authority in its industry, it gives customers the confidence they need to keep coming back time and time again.
Example #2: A local automotive mechanic
Imagine a similar situation to our music store example above — you’re a car owner looking for a reliable local mechanic to service and potentially repair your car. You search and open the first few websites for mechanics in your area. The results are a mix of different websites:
- One is a simple local business website, with the mechanic’s address, phone number and open hours. Beyond a list of the services they offer, there’s no real content on car care or maintenance.
- The other is much the same — a simple website with the business’s location, open hours and a brief summary of their services.
- The third result is packed with information beyond the usual location, open hours and list of services. There are guides to every aspect of car maintenance, articles that document the importance of maintaining your car and real examples of work the shop has done.
Just like above, the choice is obvious. The third website, which uses content to establish itself as a local authority in its industry, is the most likely to get your phone call and eventually earn your business. Over the long term, that content can turn you into a loyal customer for life.
A real example of the local authority model in use
A fantastic example of the local authority model in practice is the website of Market Lane Coffee, a boutique café and coffee roaster in Melbourne. Instead of the usual cafe website, which lists a location and open hours, Market Lane has built a detailed authority website focused on coffee.
It has a gift guide for coffee lovers, profiles of the people that grow the coffee sold in the café, as well as brewing guides to help customers prepare Market Lane’s coffee at home.
Instead of just giving customers directions to the café, Market Lane Coffee’s website brands the business as an authority on the subject of coffee. As a result, when a potential customer thinks of good coffee, they’re more likely to think of Market Lane than the competition.
Since customers return to cafés frequently, the engaging content on Market Lane’s website can draw in new customers worth hundreds of dollars each to the business over the course of every year. Over a decade of business, a single customer could make the café thousands of dollars.
This is the power of the local authority model — once you’ve elevated your business above the rest of the field, you’ll win over customers that stick with you for years, and in many cases, life.
Putting the local authority model into practice
If your local business already has a website, putting the local authority model into practice is a simple process. In fact, there are only three steps involved in executing this strategy:
- Identify the biggest concerns and top questions of your target audience.
- Create content that clearly addresses these concerns and answers these questions using language your customers can easily understand (this means no jargon).
- Make it as easy as possible to find this content from the homepage of your website.
If you’ve already been in business for years, you probably already know the top questions asked by customers. To start turning your website into a local authority asset, write a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions by customers and commit to writing a guide for each of them.
If you’re a new business in a crowded market, you can use online tutorial websites like WikiHow and eHow to identify topics within your industry that people are interested in. You can then use these existing guides as a blueprint for your own educational and informational content.
When several options are available (as they are in most cities), customers will almost always opt for the shop they perceive as the authority within its category. Use content to brand yourself as a local authority and you’ll win over customers that might otherwise go to your competitors.
How to use content to engage and motivate your social audience
Does your local business have a presence on Facebook? If so, creating and sharing content is by far the most effective way to connect with your audience and build a strong relationship with your existing customers that keeps bringing them back to your business.
If you don’t already have a Facebook Page, our guide to using Facebook Ads to generate leads and followers for your business is a great resource to start with.
By leveraging your Facebook audience, you can drive people that are already familiar with your business to your content to build a stronger connection. This can have a huge positive effect on the average lifetime value (CLV) of each of your customers.
Combined with great content, Facebook is a powerful delivery method because it allows you to reach people who you’ve already earned as customers.
As marketers in all industries will confirm, there’s no better audience to market to than people who’ve already bought your product or service.
There are several ways to use Facebook to share your content with existing customers. We’ve outlined some of the most effective ways to combine content marketing with Facebook to grow your business below:
Promote action-oriented content
Content can be designed to achieve several things. For the local authority model we explained above, the purpose of content is to set your business apart as more knowledgeable, trustworthy and authoritative than its competitors.
You can also use content to inspire your existing customers to return to your business. Here’s a great example of a Sydney dental clinic reaching out to its Facebook audience to share a video about Invisalign — one of the dental products it offers:
This clinic has a following of just under 3,000 people on Facebook, meaning its content will be seen by several thousand potential customers. Because these people are already familiar with the clinic itself, they’re far more likely to respond than a cold, unfamiliar audience.
Promote informational, authoritative content
Remember Market Lane Coffee, the café chain we mentioned earlier that uses content to beef up its websites and standard apart from the competition? Their content isn’t just made to draw customers in from search — it’s also designed specifically for social engagement.
Here’s an example of how Market Lane Coffee shares their content on Facebook to an audience of more than 7,000 people:
With each informational post, Market Lane Coffee reminds its following that it’s an authority on all things related to coffee. In this case, the café chain is using informational content to stay in the minds of its target audience and reinforce its position as their choice of café.
The best part of this technique is that it isn’t just highly effective — it’s also synergistic with the local authority model we outlined above. If you run a local business with a local Facebook fan audience, you can use the same content for retention as you use for search authority.
How to keep your social following engaged using content:
Because every local business is different, there’s no “best” way to keep your audience engaged and active through content. However, here are some of the most effective strategies:
- Share guides, tutorials and other useful content that helps your audience achieve a goal that’s related to your product. For example, if you operate a local gym, your tutorial could be a simple guide to clean, healthy eating aimed at people in your community.
- Share promotional content that your audience will respond to. For example, if you run a dental clinic and want to bring patients back in after a long period of inactivity, a video or blog post with an offer for teeth cleaning is a great way to ‘reactivate” old customers.
- Share content made by other people and businesses that your audience will like. This is a great way to maintain a steady flow of content and keep your business in the mind of your target audience without having to continually create your own content.
How to use content to build a loyal, email-based audience
Facebook is just one channel for sharing your content and connecting with your customers. One other channel — and one that any business should aspire to grow — is email. By combining great content with smart email marketing, you can create a continual flow of local customers.
Content marketing can give your business a substantial edge in search and on social media, but the ultimate goal of any content marketing campaign you launch should be to develop an email list of customers you can contact at any time.
As the Content Marketing Institute says, the most profitable online click isn’t “like” or “purchase” — it’s “subscribe”. An email list of customers let you talk directly to the people most likely to buy your products and services, making it an extremely valuable asset.
By far the best way to develop and grow an email list for your local business is through useful, informational content. Below, we’ve listed two ways you can turn your content into an asset to collect local customer emails and build a valuable marketing list.
Turn your content into a content offer, like a downloadable eBook
One of the most effective ways to build a loyal customer list through content is to offer visitors to your website downloadable content, like an eBook or video, in exchange for their email address.
This technique has been used for over a decade in online marketing, but it’s still rarely used by offline, local businesses. The idea behind it is simple — by downloading your content, a user is telling you that they’re:
- Likely to be interested in your product or service
- Interested in learning more about what your business does
- Motivated to make a decision about your product or service in the near future
The key to an effective content offer is relevance. Ask yourself: What questions do people in my target customer audience need answered?
Here’s an example of an effective content offer, from a cleaning service company called Lease End Carpet Cleaning:
This content offer works because it’s directly related both to a question a target customer needs answered — how to choose a good carpet cleaner — and because it’s related to the service that’s on offer.
The same company also uses another content offer to collect email addresses from customers — this time, with an even more direct appeal to the customer’s concerns:
Here’s another great example of an effective content offer, this time from a cosmetic dentistry clinic. Just like with the examples above, this type of content offer works very well because it’s directly related to the product (or, in this case, a service) being sold:
Do you think the type of person that downloads a guide to teeth whitening could potentially turn into a loyal cosmetic dentistry patient in the future? It certainly seems likely. “Locking” your best content like this is a great way to collect leads and build a sales funnel for your local business.
One of the best aspects of this content marketing strategy is that it can work for any type of local business:
- If you run a local mechanic and auto repair garage, you can provide a free report on the “Five Most Common Causes of Breakdown and Engine Wear” to build a list of people in your area with an interest in keeping their vehicles in good condition.
- If you own a musical instruments shop, like in our electric piano example above, you can provide a free buyer’s guide about the “Five Key Features to Look For in a Great Electric Piano” to build a list of local pianists and music students.
- If you run a local gym, you can provide a free report on the “10 Exercises That Will Help You Get in Shape for Summer” to build a list of people in your local area with an interest in health and exercise.
Beyond the fact that it helps you build a valuable marketing list, one of the biggest benefits of a content offer is that it strengthens the local authority model. People love to receive an exclusive guide, and giving one to your visitors strengthens your position as a local authority in your field.
Use an email marketing tool to build a list using your public content
Even if you prefer to keep your content easily visible to customers instead of locked behind an email opt-in form, you can still leverage it to build a list of prospective customers.
Email marketing tools like Drip and ConvertKit make it easy to add opt-in forms and pop-ups to your guides, blog posts and other content. You can even pair your public content with a content offer, like in the ConvertKit screenshot below:
These tools are designed to automate every aspect of your email marketing, letting you create a campaign and automatically send notifications, discounts and useful content to your list on your own schedule. This is great if you run a local business that depends on routine, regular demand.
If you use WordPress to run your website, you can also use plugins like Optin Cat to send leads straight from your blog to your Aweber, Campaign Monitor or MailChimp list, making it quick and easy to build a valuable list of local customers.
There are two ways to apply this tactic to your local business website. The first, which is also the most effective, is to combine an opt-in form with a content offer. The second is simpler — let your readers know that if they’re interested in your content, they can opt in for free email updates.
Both techniques have their advantages and disadvantages, and both will help you achieve the same goal — building a valuable email asset from your content that helps your create long-term customer relationships.
What type of content performs the best?
This is one of the most common content marketing questions — “What type of content is the best at producing leads, sales and revenue?”
Like most marketing questions, there’s no one “right” answer. Luckily, there’s one strategy that’s effective for every type of business — publish as much quality content, in as many different forms, as you can.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most effective forms of content — both written and visual — that local businesses can use to build and retain a loyal audience:
- Lists. Lists are easy to read, easy to share and ideal for quickly drawing in people with an interest in your product or service. Write lists that are closely related to your products (for example, “The 10 Best Electric Pianos” for a music store) and you’ll quickly attract a motivated audience of people who are interested in your product or service.
- Guides. People love to learn how to do something, and there’s no better medium to use for teaching than a written guide. Adding “How To” content to your website is one of the most effective ways to brand yourself as a local authority and win over more customers.
- Case Studies. If you run an agency or service business, case studies can be extremely effective tools for turning visitors into new customers. Show the results you’ve produced for others and you’ll start to notice new clients flocking to your business.
- Interviews. If you have access to industry leaders, publishing interview content on your website is one of the easiest ways to piggyback on their reputation and strengthen your position as a local authority in your industry.
- While video is a format rather than a type of content, video-based tutorials and guides can be extremely useful tools for building your customer base. Show someone a new skill or demo a product in video form and it could quickly translate into real sales.
- Facts and Figures. While no one likes to be bored with endless numbers and statistics, blog posts that contain useful, actionable facts and figures can be valuable content that fuels the growth of your local business.
When done right, content marketing can be the single biggest source of growth your business will ever discover. It can generate new sales leads, bring returning customers back and let you “reactivate” segments of your customer base that have long been inactive.
Take any of the three content marketing approaches outlined above (or better yet, all three of them) and you’ll fuel your local business’s growth to new levels throughout 2017.
Learn more about how you can use content marketing to grow your local business
We specialise in helping Australian businesses generate new leads and increase revenue using online marketing and SEO strategies like content marketing. Contact us today to learn how your business can develop a loyal, lucrative audience of local customers through targeted content marketing.
On – 17 Jan, 2017 By