This year marked the fifth anniversary of Small Business Saturday in the UK. An idea initially conceived by American Express in the US, this side of the pond it’s a grassroots initiative designed to highlight small business success and encourage consumers to support small, local businesses in their communities.
Last year, Small Business Saturday saw an enormous £717 million spent with small retailers across the UK. Over the past few years we have seen how B2B businesses have contributed to the initiative by offering free talks, advice and workshops to businesses looking to grow.
This is a timely reminder about the power of using relevant content to engage and be useful to your target audiences. Businesses are often put off by the word ‘content’. It sounds like something requiring a huge investment of time and resource, ending up at the bottom of the marketing to-do list. It doesn’t have to be that way, and those organisations who get it right will not only drive awareness of their business but attract new sales leads and be able to convert them.
There’s no better time for businesses to think about deploying a smart content strategy. Here are three things B2B SMEs in particular should start thinking about:
Digitalise – and get to know – your audience
Whilst it may sound simple, it’s all too easy to forget that before you can start sharing award-winning content, you need to have a receptive audience ready and waiting to engage. The first step for any business, regardless of size, is to think about understanding – and growing – your network.
Start by building a community online; from using CRM tools to developing a strong brand presence on professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn. As well as increasing your business presence, use your employees, they can often be your biggest advocates – encourage them to develop their own professional profiles, engage their connections online and start sharing content.
Building networks online not only gives you access to new buying audiences via established connections, but also enables an entry point to national, and even international expansion.
Once you’ve identified your audience online, spend time really getting under their skin and understanding what they care about, what makes them tick and the types of content that interests and excites them. Knowing the issues and subjects being discussed – as well as the tone, style and length of content your audiences prefer – gives you an easy route in to be a part of the conversations they’re already having.
Develop a publishing strategy
When it comes to sharing relevant and interesting content, it’s not always essential to invest in high-budget technologies and marketing tools. Online networks and social media platforms are an easy and inexpensive way to get in front of prospective customers and demonstrate you know your stuff, especially for B2B businesses. According to the State of Sales report published by the team at LinkedIn earlier this year, 88% of B2B buyers are more likely to buy from someone who shares relevant content.
The idea of sharing regular, relevant and engaging content may seem daunting, but start by putting together an editorial calendar – a tool that you and your team can use to map out content for the entire year. Identify topics that work for both your business objectives and your target audience, then audit the content you’re already developing and see how you can make it work harder. If you’ve got a long report being published, split it into multiple blog posts. Or if you’re running a webinar, turn that into a Q&A style blog post. And don’t be afraid to try out different forms of content, whether a long form thought leadership post or a short video clip filmed on your smartphone.
Crisp, a global authority on social media risk, is a great example of a small businesses getting it right. They sought to acquire new leads, targeting senior social media and digital marketers. They understood that attracting this sophisticated audience would require powerful content in order to stand out and provide value to the reader. To do this, they created toolkits and guides specific to key industries, offering advice and sharing examples of how to promote and protect your brand on social media. In addition to regional industry-specific information, the reports were based on data collected from the top 1,000 brands on social media, which were analysed by Crisp systems and the social media team. As a result, Crisp generated huge number of leads and increased their brand awareness.
Make it integrated
In larger corporations, the roles of sales and marketing have traditionally been kept very separate. This no longer makes sense. Sales teams need to know who is engaging with your business’s content and marketing teams should be aware who sales is targeting. Yet in reality, the two aren’t always working together.
Smaller businesses have a huge advantage when it comes to integrating sales and marketing. Being small, flexible and nimble means that it is far easier to break down barriers between teams and create new, more efficient ways of working. Make sure those responsible for sales and marketing are not only working side by side, but sharing objectives and, where possible, budgets to increase accountability.
Today’s customer journeys can take years and rely on multiple decision makers. With SMEs front of mind following Small Business Saturday last weekend, grab this golden opportunity to reignite your approach to content, in a bid to not only raise the profile of your business but attract new business leads as 2018 fast approaches.
Tom Pepper is director of LinkedIn marketing solutions in the UK