Why content marketing will make your small business sexy

By {grow} Community Member Craig McBreen

There’s a monumental shift going on and it’s affecting my little world in a profound way.

The world of visual branding solutions is kinda, sorta my bailiwick.  I work with a company on their positioning statement, logo, tagline, and a website. You social media pros might call this horse and buggy stuff.

But here’s the thing. The type of companies I work with are finally beginning to smell the new media scent wafting into their little realm.  I’m even getting inquiries about this supposedly newfangled term: content marketing.

So why is a “visual” kind of guy excited about content?  Digital online marketing energizes me because I see the endless possibilities and guess what? It all revolves around this soon to be ubiquitous term, content marketing.

What really gets me going is transforming a company’s brand into something with a little emotion and that’s a heck of a lot easier than it ever was. Why? Because we have this wild and wonderful world of new media … and standing out involves telling your story.

Sure a firm can dive into analytics to measure traffic, find the search words people are using to find them, and the type of content they seek.  But if you only focus on the numbers, you’ll miss something important.

Telling stories is fun. Fleshing out a company’s essence and making them shine kinda rocks, at least for me.

Tooting the company horn and telling the world how special you are is not passion. That’s milquetoast, downright boring and frankly won’t cut it much longer.   You get that, right?

There’s a crap ton more to your little brand than the company mission statement or a well-crafted “About Us” page.  It’s about telling a deeper, more meaningful story. And social media is the platform many small companies need to embrace, but also the medium so many get so wrong.  In fact they are royally blowing an opportunity to be the cool, black sheep that breaks from the flock.

Brand differentiation is now easier and a more enjoyable process than ever and our friend, social media, um, content marketing, is the ticket to the dance.

So, how does your little company break from the flock?

1. It’s all about the content
I don’t think every small company needs a blog, but I strongly believe most need a content strategy.  It’s part of that old fashioned thing we call branding.  It might take the form of a well-developed PR page or even better, crafting an in depth success story about a client. If you don’t have time, why not focus on micro-content?

2. Learn to tell your unique story
What if your engineering firm has a strong focus on community? Bring some visibility to that not just by writing how generous you are. Instead focus on the groups you’re supporting, or better yet, individuals within those groups. Or write about why you are so passionate about giving back. Let that emotion seep out, people love that and want to do business with folks they know and trust. Be human.

3. Discover your sweet spot of delivery.
If you own a basement waterproofing business, why not put your own gurus in front of the camera? This delivers your expertise and shines a light on your own wizards. With that comes personality and your company’s essence will come out in a way that just might surprise you.

4. Find your home-grown brand evangelists.
There might be several people within your company who posses an undiscovered talent. If you have a new content focus, why not test it and see who wields the golden pen? Part of a brand story is getting employees on board and what better way than to let them tell this story in their own special way, right?

Say you own an accounting firm and one of your employees is positively bat crazy about Auditing and Assurance? Sounds like a great blog post, at least with the accounting crowd. Why not write a 10-step plan about the process and allow users to download it. Maybe it could become a series of 10 blog posts.

I’ve been in the traditional world of branding for a while. I now want my clients to get on board because I see this as the only way forward. But the added benefit is this: Businesses have the ability to truly stand out like never before. Each company has its own special form of genius and what better way to make it shine?  Embrace the content.

Is your company finding any content successes yet? How are you telling your story?

Craig McBreen is the owner of McBreen Design and writes at craigmcbreen.com. A Seattle-based branding consultant who also likes to write about social media, breaking out of routine, and the power of creativity as a daily practice. You can follow him on Twitter @craigmcbreen.

Illustration courtesy of BigStock Photo

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  • My question Craig is what kind of content marketing are you going to be advocating the most?
    Audio has been getting the nod from some of the leading voices and with mobile coming along like a bowling ball through a hose pipe, I’d like to hear what you do with this medium.
    Video is in the same situation it would seem, and I’d like to hear what you imagine for a small brand in the context of content marketing.
    Writing is something basic to the ideas of content marketing and you seem to have made this the most prominent idea here today. What do you consider the singlemost important idea for content creation with words?
    By the way. I enjoyed your article on logo’s recently and I don’t think they will die anytime soon. 🙂 Billy

  • Craig,

    Great to see you here buddy… And I couldn’t agree more. Yes to some of us “Bloggers” and “Social Media Uber Users” the level of brand imaging and development may seem like using the Telegraph but it’s the beginning. You are doing an amazing service to your clients by helping them build a solid base with which grow their content marketing strategy.

    Good stuff buddy…

    Ryan H.

  • Love how content marketing is not only becoming more mainstream but also bridging various mediums — like videos, micro content, downloads, etc… It’s not just about blogs or articles anymore. 🙂 And you are so right, with social media and sharing so integral to content marketing, it is more important than ever to have content that is compelling and exciting – with REAL emotion. No matter what your industry.

  • Yes! Content marketing will become more and more important as companies embrace social media. This ties in perfectly with yesterday’s post about content curation. It’s not just about finding content that relates TO your business but content that reveals WHO your business is and why anyone should do business with you.

    And Billy, I personally believe video is the way to go.

  • davethackeray

    I think you’re all talking a lot of sense so I’m happy to chime in here.

    I published a book last month called Sharing Superheroes that debunks the myth that owned media is the bastion of the elite, the big box brands, and that anyone with a pulse can let rip, right now.

    I’m actually working on a second version of the book because after launching it I had another epiphany that needs to get out there.

    Agree that audio, video and blog reinforced by social stream activity is just about the most intoxicating concoction of marketing there is right now. Excited what the future holds.

    Great blog – love it!

  • Hi Billy,

    Thanks for dropping on in. For now I’m focusing on what I know best, and that is writing. This has always been important when creating an effective visual branding strategy, but now I’m lasered in because: 1. It’s more important than ever and 2. It’s becoming a “must” for most small businesses. When a company wants to talk about graphic design only. Well, that’s my queue to bring up what I’ve written about here. I think this is where the focus should be in any initial client meeting.

    I’m paying attention to video and I think the example I linked to in the post is a great example of that. More to come for sure … 🙂

    I wrote this post because my industry is changing so rapidly and like I wrote, the smaller clients I work with (mainly B2B) are finally realizing how great this is and how it all works, or at least they are curious.

    Thanks for mentioning the logo piece 🙂 I agree with you, but think the shift just means the old logo has dropped from the top spot.

  • Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for stopping in. I figured you would agree … and you are doing an amazing job of this yourself! Esp. with regard to video content.

    You’re right … this is strange turf for many of the people I work with, but they do have an amazing opportunity and many have joined the party, so the convincing is not so hard 😉

    Thanks again and great to see you here!

  • By the way, I love this:
    “… coming along like a bowling ball through a hose pipe”
    Can I use it … 😉

  • Hi Tara,

    You’re right, it’s certainly not just about blogs anymore … it’s become a treasure trove for clients dipping into this really, but it can be overwhelming.

    I think some businesses don’t think about creating content based on story, but that’s what interests people and helps create sticky content. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out, huh?

    Thanks for the comments!

  • Hi Alys,

    I thought Mark’s place was perfect for this topic. Yes, creating a narrative is something any business can do and it doesn’t have to be blogging only. So many tools / mediums.

    Re: Video. I think the SalesLion story I linked to is a prime example of this and one of the commenters, Ryan, has done a great job of this himself.

    Thanks for stopping in.

  • Hi Dave,

    Thanks. It’s early here and I’ve just had coffee, so I’m just hoping my responses make sense … 😉

    YES! I wrote a post about that topic many weeks ago. It is time to bypass the gatekeepers and you’re so right, anyone with a pulse can jump in and let ‘er rip with so many media channels and such amazing technology at our disposal. It’s a great time to be alive.

    Love to check out your book. Audio, video, blogging, etc. … it is a gold mine, isn’t it? 🙂

    Thanks for the great comments, Sir!

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  • You are certainly right about the joy that comes from story telling. That is truly special and quite useful.

  • Hey Craig, thanks for the reply. I will be following your next moves at your blog with interest. Billy

  • As we used to say in the Royal British Navy “fill your boots” and of course that means for sure…:)

  • Nice play on words 😉

  • So glad you’re interested! Fun times coming up.

  • From one of the best story-tellers out there! Thanks, Jack 🙂

  • “Auditing and Assurance? Sounds like a great blog post…” That’s a phrase I’ve never heard before. 🙂

    I like the premise Craig — this sort of holistic view of a brand and the ever-increasing role content will have in crafting and maintaining a brand’s identity. I still think the visual aspects are important. As information continues to increase, our brains will need visual shortcuts like logos to identify brands even more than they do now. To me, where content comes in, is in creating the association (brand identity) that the visual is eventually anchored to.

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  • Craig, I like the ideas here.

    Applying this in a larger firm that is slowly embracing social is a big, big challenge. The guys I work for (national firm 500+ employees) see the potential but are not there yet with a content policy that is ready for the outside world. We have employed an intranet which has been the first step in testing internally what the flavour for storytelling is from the perspective of the employee base. I think, personally, that this is a great, yet secure, step to see how the firm responds to developing content.
    Of course, I am an evangelist in this regard! It is getting there.
    I can see for small to mid-size businesses where the employee base is likely holistically like-minded the fever can be contagious and in some way easily regulated to ensure compatibility and that relevant content is pushed out regularly and with clear direction.

    I love the intent and clearly these ideas resonate with this audience which is awesome. Just wondering if there are some strategies that cross the boundaries to bigger firms or if you see any scalability (is that a word) in your ideas here?

  • Hi Adam,

    I stole that from one of my accounting clients … 😉

    The visual aspects are extremely important, but there’s so much more added to the mix. For me, building a powerful and cohesive blend of elements starts with copy, or at least design in conjunction with copy. Nice point about Visual Shortcuts. A lot of those visual shortcuts come from following brand guides, which most clients need … now those have to be updated for mobile, etc.

  • Hi Ralph,

    I can only imagine how tough that is, as I’m usually working with companies with less than 100 employees, but the occasional large companies I’ve worked for … well, let’s just say the approval process often took longer than expected. Trial by committee, legal, etc. Whey would it be any different with social, right?

    At least it sounds like things are in motion … now I’ll think of you as that internal evangelist moving the big machine … 😉

    You’re right. When you work with small groups, they are usually … usually like-minded souls so once they are on-board you feel like your half-way there.

    Well, Sir. I’m all in and will be rolling out more services in the next few months. A talk and more to push the agenda. And of course will be writing about it all. Stay tuned!

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  • Mark

    I really liked what you had to say. My Town Tutors is a small company, but we are putting a great emphasis on “inbound marketing.” We want to write great blog posts and attract other knowledgeable individuals to share their expertise.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  • yoavburger

    Hi Mark, this is the third of your blogs I have included in ‘Best of the Web’ http://j3webmarketing.com/best-web – the other two are ‘Twitter will be transformed by the Olympics’ and ‘5 Big Problems with Content Curation’. Great article on content marketing – I think as long as you understand the content you are writing about, stay authentic and fresh and have a compelling way of telling your story then the readers will follow (along with social media and SEO to help push the message). Thanks for this great blog, Mark.

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