What is content marketing? Time and again we find ourselves building beautiful websites with pictures, headlines, and call to actions and then they sit like a piece of cyber drift wood with no traffic. The argument today is that we shouldn’t be buying or building backlinks and the only way to rank your website is to pay for Google, Bing, or Facebook traffic. This is crap and far from the truth and here’s why.
If you’re a local business looking to increase market share and stand out from your competitors, even the national brands, without spending a big chunk of your budget on advertising, here is what you need to do instead of buying backlinks.
Big Brands vs. Local Businesses
We don’t have to travel far to notice that the big company marketing goals follow the same basic principles as a local business – they want to become a brand leader in all markets and target demographics they serve. The key difference with a local business is that you are looking to get maximum brand exposure to your customers on a much smaller level – big brands want to be recognized all over the world and have the budgets to do so but you just need that same type of recognition but on a smaller scale.
This is where you can separate from them and beat them with your content.
Content is Everything
One of the greatest failures in content marketing campaigns is that we think of “content” as whitepapers, articles, images, the text on your webpage. When you have this much of a restricted view your not going yield winning results because you are thinking too linear.
Here’s what I am referring to:
- Content is the staff within your business.
- The design and layout of your office
- Your products and services
- The menus you hand out to customers
- the values of your company your customers
- it’s EVERYTHING
Let me take a minute to explain and describe what I am referring to above. Let’s use a local bakery for this example.
Turn your staff into content
Most local businesses take the time to deliver exceptional customer service so that they can gain positive feedback in order to get referrals. The amazing opportunity to boost the awareness of your business is exactly through this type of content.
Within a bakery, the staff are just as important as the donut or loaf of bread itself. In many cases they are more important.
How to be creative with your staff
For years, big brands have found ways to differentiate themselves from competitors. Take for example the Blue Man Group; everyone recognizes them for their outfits and blue faces. They may not know what kind of entertainers they are but they definitely recognize them. The one thing that got them where they are today besides their talent, is their colorful faces.
I’m not saying that you should make your staff paint their faces blue, but the point I’m trying to make is to giving your staff something that sets them apart, a unique edge, a piece of creative content. For example, if you have a restaurant you could put a big QR code on the back of your staffs uniforms that says “scan me for a 10% discount.” When the code is scanned it takes you to your Facebook page where they need to like it to receive their discount right then and there.
Turning your business into a content machine
Like with your staff, your place of business can become an amazing example of content. Like our example of a local bakery, you can get creative easily on a small budget to get the attention of people. Don’t be afraid to do something different or taking a risk to create a unique style. Also, don’t forget to make it easy for people to associate with you online like they can offline. Tie your branding together. For example, you can paint your Twitter handle on the floor or wall. Display a chalkboard and write out the tweets in real time – do something to engage with your customers within your shop and I guarantee you will get people talking about you.
You can also make the design of your shop or back office unique. It will become one of the best content assets you could have – and I’m not saying put an Xbox and TV in the breakroom or have free coffee for your staff. The above photo is one from the Laundromat Cafe. This is a wash house combined restaurant – something that you don’t see everyday.
How about putting a slide in your office! This will certainly get people talking and doing more work longer. While not always realistic for local businesses, the idea is relevant.
Your products are content
Most businesses don’t think of their product or service as content but they are in their own right. Even if you don’t have the most unique product or service in the world, for example a coffee shop, you can do something to make it stand out.
This reminds me of the movie ELF when Will Ferrell runs into the coffee shop and congratulates them for having the worlds best cup of coffee because that is what the sign says. That’s not what I mean!
Let’s say our coffee shop owner has the best coffee but there’s heavy competition. It’s hard to differentiate based on quality so they need to get creative. Why not try something different?
How about latte art? Maybe you thought that was just in the movies but it’s real and it deserves to have it’s picture taken and shared on social media!
Unique decorations or flavors are also another form of creative content and stands out in a crowd. This local cake shop posts their flavors daily on their Facebook page.
Your collateral can be content
By now you can imagine where we’re going with this.. no matter how boring or plain you think it is, you can always make it fun and unique! Take a menu for example.
Myself, I love picture menus so naturally if I have to read the menu it takes me much longer and I’m more indecisive.
I would be in heaven if every place I went out to eat had a menu you like this. The one featured in the video is from the Global Mundo Tapas restaurant in a hotel in Australia. You can view their entire menu on the iPad.
Just remember the more unique you make the experience for your customer the better chance you have to boost your reach for your brand.
Your branding is content Think of national brand slogans, visions, or tag lines that we can all rattle off in seconds. For example famous ad slogans that stick like the $5 dollar foot long commercial from Subway or the breakfast of champions. You can do this too for your local business, but on a different scale.
A funny example of good branding where I live is from a car dealership. Now car dealers have to be crazy on television to catch your attention but these guys consistently use the tagline, “Where You Come First!” This is a good example where they have probably taken one of their core values from their mission statement and incorporated it into their commercials.
Another great example is using your company name and turning it into a tagline. A local remodeling company called Boak and Sons does a good job on their vehicles and commercials by using the tagline, “If it’s not Boak, don’t fix it.” Where they fail however, is that it’s not incorporated in any prominent places on their company website.
Branding your content the right way is a great way to build positive PR around your company, especially in your local community.
Your customers are content
This might come to you as a surprise but your customers are your great advocates of content. If you run a local business, it’s a great way to make a life-long impact within the community.
You can do this by having contests and giving away a prize, your company could sponsor or participate in local charity events or what I find has the most impact are hosting events and getting everyone involved.
One of our local farms, White House Fruit Farms, does a fantastic job of hosting events several times a year. They even hold an event for the farm dogs birthday. This attracts hundreds of people who turn it into a family event. Not to mention their blueberry donuts are out of this world!
Content is EVERYTHING
SO hopefully by now you realize that content isn’t just simply another 500 word article, infographic, or uploading your television commercial to YouTube. Content takes on a variety of roles both offline and online. The thing to understand here is having a goal with your content as it ties into your overall marketing strategy for your website, social media, and SEO campaigns.
Running campaigns on their own, content marketing, social media, website design, signage, and collateral it can get very expensive for a local business. Having a plan and meaningful purpose, you can integrate these marketing channels together and take full advantage of resource.
Both the cost and effectiveness will yield far greater results. Go ahead and make a case study out of it. Test and track your results. But remember to do it on paper and on purpose first otherwise you will quickly burn out and think that the whole internet thing doesn’t work for your local business. Don’t be fooled.
Actionable content ideas for your local business
- Create a unique look and feel for their uniforms to get people talking.
- Encourage your staff to engage and interact in a personal and meaningful way, even if they’re having a bad day.
- Record tutorial videos of your staff doing something behind the scenes. Think like your giving a presentation to a school field trip.
- Leverage your star players in your office. Help them become well-known in your community. For example, community meetups, coming up with secret menu items, etc.
- Run annual themed events on-site, invite the community and tweet updates about it live.
- You know your business better than anyone else, your front line staff knows your customers better than you.
- Encourage creativity from them and reward them for it.
- Get your staff to speak at local events. Keep track of it and recognize them for this.
At Your Location:
- Have a local artist come in and paint a mural. Create something funky.
- Promote your social media handles within your decor. For example, put your twitter handle on your menu on the side of your truck.
- Kick it old school style with a chalk board or something retro.
- Make a live video feed of your shop running all day on your website or Google Hangouts.
- Make a themed event once a month, something more than a Mariachi band or kids eat free. Take lots of pictures and share them on Instagram.
Your Products & Services:
- Offer discounts for 1st time customers or returning customers and share them on social media.
- Do something different that will get an emotional response, for example, latte art.
- Send out free samples to other local businesses
- Run a small focus group in your community. Record it and post it online. Of course you’ll need everyone’s permission first.
- Local television news crews love to help promote local businesses. Call the station manager and schedule something.
- You could run a Groupon or Living Social campaign but these are rarely profitable. Your main goal is to attract people who never would have visited you without this deal. Make their experience memorable and you’ve earned a new repeat customer.
- Update your menus so they don’t look 30 years old. Spice them up with social media links (or pictures for people like me!)
- Skip the QR codes (I think they are a dying fad)
- Create a new slogan or tagline for your company, something that stands out and not a crazy eddy or cheesy television jingle.
- If your business serves families with small children, consider creating mascots and give them a back-story. Look at Great Wold Lodge as an example.
- Don’t include your pets, they just make it awkward.
- Don’t be afraid to survey your customers and publish their results on your website AND social media channels. You should welcome negative feedback too.
- Encourage your customers to participate in your social media campaigns.
- You can create a customer of the week promotion
- Give away something free or discount for their birthday
- Invite the local bloggers to the shop for something free and allow them to blog about their experience.
- Send a hand written thank you card!
Thanks for reading, now what?
If this is your first time reading through this I know it can be overwhelming. The best thing you can do now is gather your business analytic data, review, and take your staff off-site to share your goals and create a game plan. Inconsistency is your enemy so whatever you decide to implement, your staff needs to buy-in to your vision, and reward everyone for reaching the goal together.