Attracting Growth Opportunities with Content Marketing

Don’t believe content helps grow your business?
The data (and competitors) say otherwise.

What’s holding your company back from growth? Maybe you’re struggling to step out of the shadow of well-established enterprises. Maybe it’s hard to stand out from other small and midsized businesses (SMBs). Maybe it’s keeping up with pricing or services.

How do you plan to overcome these challenges? New products? Expanded services? More competitive prices? Stronger coffee? We won’t knock any of these ideas (especially the coffee). But no matter what’s on your launchpad, customers still need to find your amazing brand. Not only that – you’ll need to make an impression and keep their attention in order to win them over.

That’s usually where the rubber meets the road. Without the right strategy and tools, growth goals are little more than wishful thinking. Whether you’re a business-to-business (B2B) company, eCommerce shop, or anything in between, you need to feed your big plans with ample opportunities. That could mean:

  • Increasing market visibility or brand awareness to penetrate a crowded market
  • Generating more opportunities and leads for purchases and partnerships
  • Attracting higher quality opportunities
  • Improving closing percentages or fulfilled eCommerce orders
  • Accelerating the sales cycle (even transactional online shops have a cycle)

If these are your goals, you’re likely thinking about how to work marketing into your business. But, not just any marketing will do. From brand awareness to a closed sale and beyond, we believe content marketing is the key to many of the doors blocking growth for many SMBs.

Here, we break down how content marketing creates a customer base, and we offer data from businesses using a content marketing strategy to achieve real results. (For the marketing doubters out there, that includes revenue.)

Interested? Let’s dive in.

Content Marketing Crash Course

We know marketing is a strange field with twisty-turny lingo, so here’s a quick primer on content marketing so you know exactly what we’re talking about …

What is content marketing?

At its heart, content marketing creates opportunities for businesses by building trusting audiences through genuinely helpful, non-promotional content. We stress non-promotional, non-sales content because it’s hard to build trust when you’re constantly pitching a product. Because you’re not discussing your products directly, content marketing supports business goals like generating website traffic, email subscription opt-ins, or other audience-building goals. But, you’d be surprised at how well a content marketing strategy helps close sales too. We cover how content marketing applies to each stage of the buyer’s journey, so you’ll see what we mean in a bit.

How does content marketing work?

Content marketing is a strategy that advances an audience’s knowledge – helping them make better decisions. This works for transactional eCommerce businesses, B2B companies with sales cycles spanning months or years, and anything in between. Why? The underlying theory is that most people start a purchasing or partner decision with a need. It could be as simple as, “I’m out of batteries” or as complex as, “I need a SaaS partner to help me manage my entire business operations.” Both scenarios start with a challenge – a need. Content marketing addresses these needs. Not with a product or solution, but with information.

This is the core of content marketing. When you help someone make a more informed decision, you gain credibility. By providing useful information without pushing your agenda (i.e. your product), suddenly your brand isn’t a random self-promotional URL on page three of a search engine. You provided real value without being “salesy.” From here, you have an opportunity to build a relationship with potential customers.

The business value of honest information

The business goal could be generating website traffic, subscriptions to a newsletter, less abandoned carts, a demo of your solution, or virtually anything else. No matter the result, success starts with providing great information. Nobody likes being hard closed on a sale. People want to make informed decisions. But more than that, they want to feel good about their decision and where they spend their money. So after you provide value with solid information, do it again, and again, and again. When you connect at this level, customers are more willing to overlook price gaps or if your brand hasn’t built a reputation for the last 100 years.

As you help move people closer to a decision, readers turn into attentive audiences. As trust builds with your audience, these people become red-hot leads or primed consumers. After becoming a customer, your audience is used to engaging with your content, giving you plenty of opportunities to create loyal customers and brand advocates. 

Lay the groundwork: Solve a question; show value; build trust. Then, people will be much more receptive to working with you.

Content marketing, market visibility, and brand awareness

For many SMBs, search engines are the ultimate battleground. According to Google, 53% of people always do online research before making a purchase. People trust their search results. So if you want to gain market share, it’s critical to win searches.

How do you climb search result ranks? Content marketing. As we mentioned earlier, content marketing is all about providing knowledge and resources to address a need. In the simplest of explanations for how search engines work, when you build information that addresses people’s web searches, you climb search engine rankings.

Improving your search engine dominance drives your brand awareness and market visibility. As you claim more digital real estate, website traffic improves organically. Site traffic is so important to exposure that it has become the top indicator used by B2Bs to measure overall content performance. Why? Because when readers snack on your juicy information, you gain an opportunity to showcase:

87% of B2Bs succeed in creating brand awareness with content marketing

-Content Marketing Institute
  • Industry expertise: Tapping into the knowledge in your organization solves people’s challenges and proves you know the trends and challenges. You also show that you’re a partner that can help overcome their challenges in the future.
  • Your values: Most people make emotional decisions, even in business, and rationalize those decisions later. If you have a cool brand story or noteworthy cause, weave it into your content marketing to make those connections.
  • Market position: Your angle on a topic may be different because of your unique market position. Be different, and show why that’s valuable to those you serve.

In short, if you gain clicks, you have someone’s time and attention. From there, the door is open to creating a lasting relationship.

But, why climb search results when I can buy them?

You could buy ad space to jump the line in search engine results. In fact, we encourage companies to use pay-per-click (PPC) as a complimentary strategy while your content marketing warms up. But, there are some disadvantages to solely using digital advertising. For example, there’s: 

  • Renting attention: With ads, you don’t build an audience that you own. You don’t have email subscribers, names (unless they fill a form), etc. So, if you’re ad doesn’t convert then and there, that click is a sunk cost. 
  • Scattershot results: Ad targeting is getting better, but you don’t really know who you’re advertising to.
  • Bigtime costs: Ads are a “pay-to-play” strategy. You’ll gain opportunities, but the ad spend will burn a hole in profits. 

Content marketing and new sales opportunities

If you see the value of content marketing for market exposure, it’s not a stretch to see how companies earn more opportunities to increase leads and sales with this strategy. Backing that up with data, 75% of B2Bs successfully generate demand or leads with content marketing. 

We’re not saying content marketing should be the only source of marketing materials. Brochures, case studies, competitor comparisons, and other sales materials are great. But, content marketing offers the icebreaker so many businesses need. 

People guard their personal information closely. Think about it: Are you more likely to sign up for a newsletter from a trusted or random website? Would you rather do business with a brand you identify with, or from an unsolicited advertisement? 

At some point, you’ll need to ask for a meeting, demo, newsletter subscription, form fill, or other call to action. Content marketing lays the foundation for the ask. By building up your credibility beforehand, you’re more likely to get a positive response. And for eCommerce businesses where there isn’t necessarily a call to action, content marketing brings in more site traffic and helps people find the right solution.

Content marketing and opportunity quality

60% of businesses use content marketing to successfully nurture leads and subscribers.

-CMI

More website traffic will certainly help search engine rankings, but can it lead to real customers? The short answer is, yes. 

Some consider site visits as an empty or “vanity” metric, as it does not directly influence a business goal or revenue. But, content marketing does more than lead the horse to water. After bringing traffic to the site, the materials earn trust that could lead to outcomes like opt-ins for an email newsletter. That means that if people aren’t ready to make a purchasing decision, content marketing keeps you in the game with opportunities to nurture audiences into buyers. 

While customers are in control of the sales cycle, content marketing influences the outcome. Again, it’s all about providing the right information at the right time. If you’re helpful as the customer gets ready to make a decision, you have a chance to showcase your value  and compete – even when customers are considering larger competitors. 

Not all opportunities are created equal

While it’s impressive to see big eCommerce order volume or lead queues in your reports, that can be misleading or even harmful to growth. An uninformed customer or unqualified lead clogs your business.  

Think about the cost of a “bad” customer. For example, in eCommerce you want to avoid returns at all costs. The reverse logistics and poor customer experience affects your revenue and reputation. It also jams inventory and supply chain resources. Building the shopper’s knowledge leads to stronger purchasing decisions and maybe a few upsells for accessories or commonly batched items. 

For other businesses, sales teams only want to deal with the best leads. Someone that has been engaging with newsletter content or a multitude of materials on the website is a far stronger prospect than a cold call or someone that filled out a form to access a single piece of content. If the business has visibility into the content consumed, you also gain critical context into the prospect’s challenges for better follow-up conversations.  

Content marketing helped nearly 80% of B2Bs successfully educate audiences.

-CMI

Content marketing and closing more deals

A content marketing strategy typically focuses on building audiences and generating high-quality leads. Other types of content, such as competitor battlecards or case studies are typically associated with closing a sale. However, content marketing materials are proven sales enablement tools, even if they don’t talk about a product directly. 

Just because you’re not talking about your solutions, that doesn’t mean you can’t tee up success for your solutions. Content marketing covers what people need to know and how they can address their challenges. Then your product materials and sales team can help identify what solutions are the best fit when someone is ready to act. Also, fresh content is a great way to follow-up with people to keep your brand top-of-mind. This is particularly useful in longer sales cycles. 

Content marketing directly helps 51% of B2Bs generate revenue.

-CMI

Content marketing and brand loyalty

After a completed order or signed contract, the work is only just beginning. It’s well known that the cost of a new customer is far greater than keeping customers. Just as content marketing is great for nurturing and improving lead quality, these materials help build loyal customers.

Transactional eCommerce customers often make choices based on price and delivery convenience. However, if you can follow-up on a purchase with content that helps them get more out of a product or information that helps them stay on top of a topic, you could become their next favorite brand. In the B2B world, providing industry trends, tips, and other useful tidbits shows you’re invested in long-term success that goes beyond closing the customer. In both of these scenarios, you may also create upsell and cross-sell opportunities while providing useful information post-purchase.

Nearly 70% of B2Bs build brand loyalty with content marketing.

-CMI

Why it’s time for content marketing

At the risk of sounding salesy, it’s time for SMBs to consider how a content marketing strategy can fit in their business. We wouldn’t say something so directly promotional if we didn’t have a good reason for it.

  • 27% of small businesses and 33% of medium-sized businesses grew their respective content marketing teams in 2020. (CMI)
  • 30% of businesses put more money into content marketing budgets in the second half of 2020. Only 12% decreased spending. (CMI)

why its time for content marketingThe most telling part of these facts is that SMBs did this during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that your competitors are leaning into uncertain times by investing in content marketing. And if you didn’t know, large companies and enterprises are further along in content marketing adoption than SMBs. In short, competition is heating up and businesses are understanding how web content is the best way to connect with customers.

Combine this with how more transactions are happening online in B2B and B2C than ever before, and it’s clear that businesses need to build the tools to offer the right information, in the right place, and at the right time. And at this point and time, that information needs to be online and optimized to be found.

We hope this guide gave you new ideas for how to meet your goals using content marketing this year! If you’re looking for more information on how content marketing helps businesses or applies to your field, let us know. We’re committed to helping SMBs leverage content marketing to grow.

Big shout out, thanks, and official citation credit to our sources for this e-guide: