Content marketing isn't just for for big brand budgets. Small and medium sized businesses can also leverage it with well-planned video marketing campaigns that resonate with audiences, and help generate awareness and boost engagement.
There are numerous examples of big companies using this tactic, but there are notable exceptions when it comes to smaller brands. A law firm in Savannah, Georgia, managed to rise above the noise of over 900 Yellow Pages listings with a viral video that’s been watched by millions and discussed in national media. The spot was controversial but generated a lot of attention in the local market.
It’s no surprise that a majority of small businesses are increasing their video marketing budgets this year, and have already embraced some form of a content strategy. The Georgia law firm is a prime example of how content marketing can propel smaller brands into the spotlight and help to level the playing field; although, that type of viral opportunity doesn’t just happen.
The campaigns that have received viral buzz have almost always been tied to paid media and creative story telling (or really useful information). However, content may also be owned media that your company hosts on its Web site. It all begins with thorough and strategic content planning. A content strategy should answer the question of what’s useful or entertaining for prospective customers in a fresh way, in conjunction with well-coordinated social media, PR and paid media strategies that support it. Content is at the center of it all.
Here are the steps that you can take to craft and implement an effective strategy.
Small Brands: Get to Know Your Audience
Good planning will maximize results. The plan should include content development and distribution strategies that craft content that is targeted and relevant to your audience. Customers may be looking for your services, but they may also stumble upon you from related content. SMBs should make sure they’re “discoverable” both ways. Instead of hard selling your product, ask, “What would people search for in order to discover your content?”
That question will help you to better understand how your audience is finding content that is relevant to your business. Next, think about how your product relates to their problem or interests and craft your content and ad creative accordingly.
Embrace Multiple Channels in Order to Reach Your Audience
Real, credible content builds relationships with customers and publishers. However, the content explosion has upped the ante. Your content must be excellent; it must engage the right audience at the right time, and fill in gaps in your audience’s knowledge.
Don’t be afraid to get edgy or creative: a brand can use humor to create engagement. Oscar Meyer is a big brand, but it’s also a good case study for that type of strategy. It published funny videos of bacon-scented alarm clocks and its iconic “Wienermobile” to promote contests that have reinforced its position as a “top of mind” brand for consumer products.
Successful engagement can be accomplished on a much tighter SMB budget. Globe Fire Sprinkler, a Michigan manufacturer, has scored high in this regard by embracing high school football as content. Football is the big local pastime, so video highlights from grudge matches and accompanying contests raised awareness of the business as a good corporate citizen and would-be employer. Globe also sponsored radio spots (an example of paid media) for the campaign, which was well suited for the local market (content mediums can vary depending on the type of business).
Globe followed the best practice of deploying multiple vehicles. Your business may want to examine whitepapers, e-newsletters, blogs, videos, and webinars that are discoverable online. Those assets can be included in both paid and hosted campaigns. Hosted content resides on your company’s website, and you can maximize search engine optimization (SEO) by following a holistic approach where your website and related content complement each other. A recent Millward Brown Digital publisher survey revealed that site content and brand perception increase the effectiveness of online advertising. In essence, your site is its own brand.
That same approach also benefits your paid media strategies. An advertisement is more likely to be considered “premium inventory” by ad networks (that would drive traffic to your business) if the visitor experience on your site is meaningful and as well conceived as any other product. For example, Bell Environmental, a local exterminator in New York City, ran a successful campaign using Roscoe the bed bug-sniffing dog.
Roscoe has his own landing page with informative and fun content. Customers can visit the site to experience the Roscoe “brand” to learn about the bed bug problem, which can be resolved with Bell’s bed bug removal services. That approach is more likely to get Roscoe (and by proxy, Bell) noticed by consumers. The Millward Brown study found that that the most established site measured had an online ad-awareness score 128% higher than brands that had invested less into a content strategy.
Of course, Roscoe had originally been featured on local TV, which kick-started the online campaign, but Bell Environmental has taken it a step further with the supportive activities that we alluded to earlier. The company is now promoting Roscoe on YouTube and on its website, and has learned that content is discovered in many ways, including through social media and relevant ad placements.
Smart search (SEO and SEM) plus strategically placed media can maximize the right consumers or business clients’ ability to ‘discover’ an SMB’s content. It’s about being found in the right place and context, and the right place may not be the most obvious one.
Deploy an Impactful Distribution Strategy
YouTube isn’t the only option to get your content noticed - there are more opportunities than ever for small businesses to appear on premium sites through ad networks, and advanced targeting technologies can be affordable for the SMB. An advertising platform that’s driven by a semantic engine will allow you to promote your brands in the most relevant places, because it can ‘understand’ concepts and relationships between words. This ensures that your sponsored message is distributed and targeted adjacent to most relevant content, alongside topics you may not have even thought about when if you were only limiting yourself to keywords.
Don’t forget to leverage social media to distribute content and reward your loyal followers. Tap the power of customer relationships. As a small business, you have the advantage of creating personal relationships with your consumers. Get to know them and reward them with promotions that are relevant to their passions and interests; use the information you gather from social and in-store surveys to do this. Big brands don’t have the opportunity to truly understand customers; instead, they rely on data points – but machines aren’t personal.
Whether you are a small law firm, a Michigan manufacturer, or have bug-sniffing dogs, it holds true that online video can be a powerful tool to reach consumers. Your unique understanding of the local market and relevance are your biggest advantages. Creativity, planning, and distribution go hand-in-hand to make regional brands are noticeable as really big businesses.