Last month I talked about how social media can also be used by local businesses to grow locally. This month I want to talk about content marketing for local businesses as part of my local business marketing series. In this post I’ll explain:
• What content marketing is.
• That it’s not just for big brands and businesses.
• What types of content you can create to drive more customers & potential clients to your local business.
• I’ll also give you tips to get you on your way.
“I created this series because I think there is still a big gap between the information on these subjects —social media, content marketing & branding— and local businesses.”
I created this series because I think there is still a big gap between the information on these subjects — social media, content marketing & branding — and local businesses. Most tips are focused on bigger brands with big budgets. But anyone at any budget can make content work for them. I also see and hear a lot of local businesses and brands who don’t know what they can do or what they’ll get out of it.
In this article I want to show you how content marketing can help you grow locally. And if you’re lucky, you might just make a name for yourself globally. Because content can travel fast & far.
WHAT IS CONTENT MARKETING
So what exactly is content marketing? Google gave me the following definition:
“Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”
Although it’s a very clear definition of content markering, I do have two sidenotes:
• Offline content is also part of content marketing. It’s not specifically just for online. A printed brochure or flyer for example can also be part of a content marketing strategy.
• It’s not just about creating and sharing content, it’s about creating valuable content that you share strategically.
But overall, that’s exactly what content marketing does: it’s a tool you use to create awareness around your brand, product or/and service. The more valuable content you create, the more likely it is that clients will trust your expertise and will do business with you.
CHOOSING THE BEST TYPES OF CONTENT
It doesn’t really matter if you’re a big multinational or a local grocery store, everyone can use content marketing to their benefit. Creating valuable content for your ideal clients that evoke emotions are new ways to get in contact with them. I personally call them brand touchpoints. Every piece of content you share should represent your local business and is a way to connect with your ideal client.
That’s why it’s important to be strategic with content marketing for local businesses if you want to drive more customers or clients to you. You need to think about:
• Who are our local clients or customers?
Even before you start thinking about content marketing for your local business, ask yourself who your clients or customers are. Younger people tend to wanted more snippy, easily digestible content for example. This has a huge impact on what type of content you want to create.
• What are the questions they have and are there problems we can solve for them? What information do they need?
When you talk to customers or clients, what questions or remarks do you often hear? Is there a problem you can help solve for them? You want to create content that is valuable for your ideal clients or customers, so listen to what they say & pinpoint what they want or need.
“You want to create content that is valuable for your ideal clients or customers, so listen to what they say & pinpoint what they want or need.”
• How can I reach them or where do they ‘hang out’?
As I said above, younger people like short form content. That’s why you can reach them better via social media channels & short form video like Snapchat or Instagram Stories. An older clientele may still love their traditional media. Find out where your ideal customers & clients consume their content.
• And what type of content do we have the means for to make?
It’s all fun and games when you find out that your audience loves to watch high quality videos but if you don’t have the budget, it’s probably not going to happen. What can you do to make something more budget friendlier? Your ideal client may love a long form blog post but do you have the time to write a new one every time? Make sure that whatever you create is within your budget & you have the time to create something of value.
Types of content
Here are some examples of types of content that I think are beneficial for content marketing for local businesses with the most important pros & cons:
A blog is always a good idea if you want to work on your SEO. If your target audience loves to read, it’s even more perfect! You can go for long, informative blog posts or short, interesting articles.
+ Good for the SEO for your local business if the content is valuable.
– It’s time-consuming to write posts, optimize them and think of new topics.
Obviously you need a website. That’s just standard theses days but you can make your website even more searchable and relevant by adding specific landignpages for special events or popular products.
+ You can easily highlight an event, product or service.
– Doesn’t do a thing if it’s not optimized.
You might have heard about the statistics that videos are the bomb dot com & you need to invest in them if you want to win at content marketing. You have many forms of video but these are the most interesting ones for local businesses: vlogs, branded video & short video (Instagram Stories or IGTV).
+ Videos are by far the most engaging content form. Plus with Instagram stories & many simple to use apps, you can easily make short form videos.
– For a branded video you need to hire a professional which will cost money and time.
From young to the older crowds, almost everyone is on social media these days. Not only do most people have a social media account, they spend a lot of time on their devices scrolling through their feeds
+ You can easily reach a very specific demographic and advertising on most platforms isn’t that expensive. It’s also a great tool to create brand awareness.
– With algorithms changing and favoring personal posts over branded ones — this means posts that are very promotional and not valuable content like an interesting article — it’s harder to get your social posts noticed.
Next to video, you also have live video. Live video is simply making a video in the moment. You can use it to talk about a subject, promote something, do a live report of an event or a Q&A.
+ Live video is growing fast, you don’t need to invest a lot of money in it & it’s easy to get started with.
– You need to have a very engaging following to get something out of it.
People often overlook offline materials in content marketing because most articles are focused on bigger budget companies. For a local business like yourself, offline materials can be a great tool to reach out to your local clients and customers. This can be in the form of a voucher or flyer but also a mural where people can take photos in front of.
+ You can get creative with offline materials & they often stand out more than your online efforts.
– They are costly — you need to print flyers or vouchers for example — and you can’t really measure your efforts (unless you combine it with an online campaign).
User-generated content is content that is created by someone who used your product or services or visited your local business. Most brands have a branded hashtag to collect all the content. Make sure you always ask the client or customer if you can share their content. I’ve had a brand — that I really love — use my social images to promote their products. This is a big no-no for me from a creator point of view. Make sure that if you repost content that the user knows what they’re singing up for.
“Make sure you always ask the client or customer if you can share their content. I’ve had a brand — that I really love — use my social images to promote their products. This is a big no-no for me from a creator point of view.”
+ Doesn’t cost you anything to make — unless you promote it or want to use their images for promotion — and gives you a stream of content to share
– You have to really strategize how to reach your local clients & customers. Plus the images or videos they post might not fit in with your brand
There are many other different types of content but these are the ones that I think can make a true difference for a local business.
TIPS TO GET STARTED WITH CONTENT MARKETING FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES
Want to dive into content marketing? All the tips below are focused on content marketing for local businesses. Often times when you read content marketing tips it’s much more focused on bigger brands. Which is such a shame because as a local business you can definitely also use content to drive more customers to your local business.
So here are my top content marketing tips:
Be strategic with your content
I’ve said this before on the blog but I will mention it again: be strategic. Always have a plan that’s based on your business goals. Next to having a plan, I would highly recommend to make a checklist that you can lay alongside your content to check if it’s on brand & matches the goals you want to achieve.
Don’t use content because you want to do something with it or you think you should do something with it. Creating & sharing content aimlessly will not help your local business. It just means you’re wasting time & effort on something that will not help you achieve the goals you have for your business.
Use a mix of branded & local content
You should use a mix of branded content & local content. If you’re wondering what the difference is, it pretty much speaks for itself: branded content is content related to your brand & story and local content is focused on your local marketing.
Using branded content gives you the advantage of getting known outside of your local community and local content connects you more to your local customers and clients. Branded content is more focused on the story behind the brand and local content is content that focusses on the local community. For example: one day you post a branded video where you show how a popular product is made & the week after you post about a local market where you’ll be selling your product.
A good example is Alfred coffee. Who doesn’t know their ‘But first, coffee’ cups? They’re a hit on social media, as well as the interior of the shop. People pay a higher price for their coffee just so that they can go to Alfred’s. It’s a business that went from local business to global business just by creating opportunities for clients to create content to share —among them famous fashion bloggers. It went from a local coffee shop to a hotspot in a matter of time & is now growing into its own brand.
Find local creators
If you don’t have the time to invest in content marketing but you do have a (small) budget, look for local creators. Think of influencers or bloggers but also local content creators like copywriters, graphic designers or photographers.
You can look under location tags to find them or google creator type in city or town where you’re located. You can also check out the local competition or in neighboring cities or towns to see who they’re using. This way you know that the creator has experience in your branche.
When you want to work together with a local creator, make sure you know what you want them to help you with and what your budget is. Go over these 5 questions to makes sure you have a vision for your content. This makes the negotiations go a lot faster and smoother. Also, check out their portfolio to see if their style matches with your brand or business. Most creators have a certain style that makes them stand out. Honor that & only contact the person who’s portfolio matches your vision.
Host an event for local media & bloggers
Another popular way to create content is to host an event for local media & bloggers. Influencer marketing is hot & happening. Lots of bloggers go on press trips or go to events to create content for their readers or viewers. As a local business it’s always a good idea to create relationships with local press, bloggers & influencers. And what better way to get acquainted by meeting them in person?
As a local business you need to research who you need to contact. Look for bloggers & press that match with your brand. Research their content and make the decision if your local business would be interesting for them. If you make handcrafted goods you probably don’t want to invite someone who is into shopping at high street brands. If you have a vegan restaurant you want to find vegan bloggers or media in your area. But also look at the quality of the content. Does it match up with your brand? Is it content you would want to share with your local community? You’re essentially merging two brands together, so make sure it’s a mutual beneficial relationship.
When it actually comes down to realizing the event, think of content opportunities. The whole point of inviting them is for them to create content during the event & put your local business on the map. This means that your local business should be aesthetically pleasing. If you’re not sure how to deal with it, ask one of the local bloggers to consult on the event.
Share your content
Once you’ve created content for your local business, share it wherever you can & as many times as you can without overdoing it. So many times content gets created, shared once it’s online & then it disappears. I’m sometimes guilty of this as well.
When you have a piece of content make sure you share it once it’s online, another follow-up share the next day & remind people of the content a month later. Make sure that when you share it that you switch up your caption and images so it doesn’t feel like people are getting the same content every time. For example I like this method by Zoe Linda for sharing a blog post:
• First time: caption about what the reader will get from the post with an embedded link
• Next day: an important quote with a text link & photo from the post
• A month later: caption with a reminder & an embedded link
You also want people to engage with your content. Reach out to your local clients & customers and engage with their content on social platforms. Same goes with local press, bloggers & influencers; engage with them. You can also send them products to try or just a little present if you know something special has happened in their lives.
The more you share & engage with all these groups of people, the more likely it is that they are willing to share your content and engage with it.
Optimize your content
ALWAYS optimize your content! You can write the best blog post or the wittiest caption under a photo on Instagram but if you don’t optimize your content it will disappear in the sea of content. It’s just as important for content marketing for local businesses to optimize as it is for bigger multinationals.
Some content optimizing tips:
• Local hashtags & location tagging on social media
You can use international hashtags but it makes much more sense for a local business to use local hashtags. When I post a gram of Amersfoort I always make sure that I use all the popular Amersfoort related hashtags. Also, tag the city or town where your local business is located. You can also tag your business address — which is fine for your local content — but if you want to reach more potential clients & customers it’s wise to use the location hashtag for the town or city.
• Use local keywords
Using popular keywords for SEO is great but using local keywords is much more efficient for local businesses. In my case it could be ‘graphic designer in Amersfoort’ or ‘branding in Amersfoort’.
• Linkbuilding in the local community
Are there other businesses in your town or city that you have a good relationship with that have the potential clients or customers you want to reach? Get in contact & try to get a link on their website or leave flyers for people to pick up. If you’re a restaurant it might be a good idea to connect with your local, smaller cinema for example. Or if your local business is a wedding venue you might want to get in touch with local florists, photographers or bakeries. As local businesses you want to join forces instead of competing.
• Pivot & build on results
Having a working content strategy has everything to do with trying out things, analyze it & pivot what’s not working or build on what is working. Did a post tank? Than you know that you don’t want to create this type of content. You need to pivot to go into a different direction. Is something giving you amazing results? Build on that piece of content. Start analyzing what it is that makes it an engagement magnet. Is it the subject? The type of content? And then create a list of new content ideas.
Consistency is key
Want to see results? Be consistent with your content. Especially on social media you get points when you’re consistent in putting out valuable content. Make a schedule that’s realistic for your local business & stick to it.
And that’s it for the second part in this series.
If you want to work on your social media, check out this post on how to use social media to grow locally.
Next month I’ll release my last article in the three-part Local Business Marketing Series. It’s going to be all about branding and how you, as a local business, can use it to your advantage. Stay tuned!