I’m a big believer in content marketing — the practice of attracting leads and nurturing them from introduction through purchase by creating and distributing informational content composed for your identified audience. I’m a content marketing fan because of its affordability. You can get started with content marketing with a small investment and commit more funds as you expand. The other reason I like content marketing so much are the results I’ve seen for my own small business. I’ve landed clients and created many leads that came from my content marketing efforts.
Of course, content marketing isn’t the only way for print/mail service providers to create leads. Business owners have plenty of choices. COVID has temporarily eliminated some of those options, but you can choose from a variety of promotional and advertising methods to bring in more customers.
At a time when you might be super-cautious about expenses, I believe a small investment in content marketing is something nearly every print/mail service business can manage. I’m not suggesting content marketing is free. Success probably requires enlisting some paid outside help for a few things, some online services, and time. But you can get started with content marketing at a manageable cost, even if the pandemic has cut into your net profit.
To keep things simple and inexpensive, I recommend you confine your initial content marketing efforts to three areas: your website, a newsletter, and social networks.
Every company has a website. Some are quite good. Others need a facelift. A few of the printing and mailing industry sites I visit do a great job at convincing prospective buyers about the benefits of their services. Unfortunately, others aren’t convincing, or they haven’t changed in the last 10 years.
Websites aren’t the only place to promote your business. But if yours looks old, includes outdated information, or seems interchangeable with websites of your competitors, this is where I’d start. The reason is simple. Regardless of how they learned about your company, nearly every potential new customer will check out your website before they ever return a salesperson’s phone call or email.
Once you update your site, you will probably notice that you don’t have enough content. I work with lots of companies in the document business and very few have all the bases covered when it comes to website content. Fresh, relevant content is important for two reasons:
1. Keywords in your website content help you rank higher in the search results when customers are looking for services you provide. The search engines want to connect searchers with sites most likely to provide relevant and reliable information. They analyze your site looking for keywords, recognizing new articles, and noticing if other sites are linking back to your content. If you have no relevant content, or you have published nothing recently, the search engines won’t think much of your website. You’ll find yourself lower on the list of search results.
2. Customers want to know if your company is one they should consider when they go shopping for print and mail services. They want to learn how you’ve helped others like themselves Testimonials and case studies serve this purpose. They want assurances that you are experts in areas important to them. White papers and ebooks fill this role. And customers must be impressed that your company is helpful, aware of current trends, and will be there to help them solve their problems. This is a job for blogs and videos.
If your company website doesn’t have the necessary content and isn’t publishing consistently to a blog, you’ve got some work to do. Find someone internally or get outside help, but make it a priority.
All your competitors are probably vying for attention using the same keywords you’d like to use. Getting ranked on the first page or two of organic search results for the terms customers enter when seeking print and mail services is a difficult task. Instead of relying heavily on search, I recommend print/mail service providers take the extra step of regularly publishing a newsletter or an email blast. I like newsletters because it’s a direct line to your customers where outside entities aren’t trying to distract readers with pop-ups, banner ads, and animated GIFs.
Newsletters don’t require extra content. Most of my clients publish articles to their blogs and then link to the blog articles from emailed newsletters. Once you set up your email template, it’s a matter of updating the informational content and sending it to your updated contact list at least every month.
I’ve worked with clients in the print/mail industry that had virtually no presence on social media. I think that’s a mistake. Social networks require no out-of-pocket expense to reach your audience. Your prospects may spend a good portion of their day on social platforms, so your company should be visible in places like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
Social takes time, however. Someone has to make sure you’re posting, working on expanding your network, and interacting. Tools exist to help with these efforts, or you can assign someone in your organization or hire an outside person to handle your social accounts for you.
Most of my clients use their social networks mainly for brand awareness and to drive traffic back to their websites. This doesn’t take much extra time. We even handle a good portion of this task for them. In this way, social networks are treated more like a broadcast channel, but for interesting and relevant content, not advertising.
Simply posting content on your social networks is a good place to start. Those blog posts, ebooks, and other content you create for your website can be leveraged and re-purposed for social media. Stretch your marketing dollars and get the greatest benefit from your investment in custom content.
Content marketing seems complicated. That’s one reason companies don’t take the time to develop a content marketing strategy. Just learning how to optimize your website for search engine optimization (SEO) can get you quickly into the weeds, surrounded by mysterious-sounding topics and practices that seem like black magic. Marketing experts can also complicate aspects of content marketing by focusing on areas that don’t matter too much to small and medium-size businesses in the document industry. You can get 80% of the benefit from content marketing by taking some basic steps. Tackle the remaining 20% later.
If you address only your website, newsletter, and social media, you’ll be miles ahead of competitors who aren’t doing much of anything. Keep it simple and do one thing at a time. Find someone to help and start with manual efforts before you invest in expensive marketing automation software. Taking on too much is overwhelming. That causes people to give up before they see results.
Content marketing is available to any size organization, with any size budget. I don’t think you can ignore the value a simple content marketing strategy can bring to your business.
Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at www.printmailconsultants.com and www.pmccontentservices.com. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.