Marketing is a fickle animal. The multi-headed hydra of analytics, theory, and outright instincts leverages our understanding of human perception to the betterment of brand perception. With an explanation like this, it’s easy to understand why copious, dense volumes of information and thousands of pages of research exist to help explain the science of crafting sentiment and currying favor.

But as a small business, you probably don’t have time for this kind of in-depth reading. You need answers that will positively affect your business and you need them now. With content marketing demonstrating its potency as one of the most effective methods of appealing to customers, here’s a quick reference that should get you marketing faster than you can say “multi-platform brand identity integration”.


Know Your Value

Content marketing is, at its core, the delivery of your unique value in multiple formats in order to dynamically engage customers and shape brand perception. The linchpin of any good content marketing strategy involves understanding what you have to offer; what you give to your customers that no one else can.

If you haven’t identified this yet, the process is actually quite simple. For B2B businesses, your value likely lies in your authority as a center of knowledge and know-how to your industry. For B2C businesses, your value lives-and-dies with your ability to fulfill a particular lifestyle that resonates with your customer base. If you feel that you don’t, at present, offer a significant value in either of these sectors, do some research and look for space in the market to fill with your expertise or unique identity.


Know Who You’re Writing For

Once you have this value established, you’re ready to take the first steps in creating content. But before you begin, it’s important to understand how content marketing works. The act of putting out valuable information or photos that enshrine some lifestyle or ideology engages customers based on fulfillment of their wishes. The key is to deliver the value you identified initially to your customers in real and tangible ways.

To this end, it is essential to always remember who you are creating for: the customer. For a B2B business, self-aggrandizing posts or rote description of your current practices focuses far too heavily on yourself. Try branching out by offering industry insight and case studies on successful members of the industry community. For a B2C business, any content you release that doesn’t somehow enable the lifestyle you prescribe is wasted space. For clothiers, for example, effective content marketing may include style showcases incorporating your pieces alongside items from other retailers. Doing so not only enables the creativity of your customers, but demonstrates your desire to help them, not simply push product.


Format Matters

Now that you understand what your content should contain, the next step is understanding how to express it. For many, it may be tempting to simply start a blog and push helpful and knowledgeable pieces of information or fun posts about trends and news. Unfortunately, while all of this may be enjoyable to write, or even engaging to view, the Internet reader is extremely fickle, distracted, and picky. Knowing how to play the game is vital to making good content stick.

A simple rule of thumb can help guide your decision: video and photos rule. This rule is comprised of two facts. The first is that video has an immense impact on sales, driving engagement and fueling customer sentiment due to its digestible format and capacity for expression. The second is that photos, both by themselves and used in tandem with text pieces, resonate. Since browsing eyes tend to skim, photos offer a quick infusion of communication that can rapidly lead to engagement. In fact, photos receive 53% more Likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs than any other format, both by themselves and as a hook for a text post with the link in the caption.


Building Volume

The bustling din of the Internet poses a real challenge for businesses trying to make their voice heard. Creating unique content with specific promised and fulfilled value are a start, but the visibility is not simply determined by quality.

To a large degree, what determines the visibility of items on the Internet is a sort of game. When someone types something into Google, results are returned based on a number of factors, including popularity, number of inbound links, and relevance based on keywords on the page. Blogs and YouTube channels function through organic traffic, which comes from search queries that ping terms contained therein. In order to appear in the top part of Google’s page rankings, blogs and YouTube channels must build a sufficient volume of content, reinforced by strong keywords, so that the search engine values them as relevant.

The topics of search engine optimization and search algorithms could span volumes. For the sake of your endeavor simply understand that building a following for your business blog or video content takes time. Constructing a volume of work sufficient to garner organic traffic is the name of the game so keep chugging away with this in mind.


Understanding Metrics

Finally, once all of your hard work is out in the universe, it’s essential to identify hits, busts, areas for improvement, and so on in order to tailor more successful content in the future. The problem is that most analytics don’t offer the kind of insight we think they do. In general, site traffic and specific page views are seen as the holy grails of metrics, but knowing the value of other, more nuanced statistics can steer your ship to greater effect.

For the sake of brevity, we’ll highlight three particular metrics of note: bounce rate, average time spent on page, and click-through rate. Bounce rate is a percentage that indicates what fraction of total visitors to a particular page viewed the content and then immediately left the site. You want this metric as low as possible, since consequent visits to other parts of your site means that your content was engaging enough to inspire further exploration. Average time spent on page is pretty self-explanatory, demonstrating whether or not visitors actually viewed the content or simply made a snap decision based on an element they didn’t like and left. Finally, click-through rate relates to your requests that customers check out product information, subscribe to your YouTube channel and so on. In order to encourage engagement, good content should inspire action, and this metric demonstrates whether or not that call was heeded.

And that, as they say, is that. Content marketing’s capabilities are astounding, provided that the concept is leveraged correctly. Identifying your unique value and delivering it to customers will help build your image as an involved, human, resource. Using attractive formats can help motivate content views while building a volume of work will help drive organic traffic. Finally, understanding the value of particular metrics will help formulate strategies more effectively moving forward. While more in-depth resources exist that help enlighten the concept further, knowing even the basic framework of content marketing can get your efforts moving and your business growing in dynamic and exciting new ways.