Content marketing and using social media for business are no longer novel ideas. On the contrary, it seems like everyone is doing it; you can follow your favorite laundry detergent on Twitter, read blog posts from multibillion-dollar companies and "like" the corner convenience store on Facebook.
Of course, the fact that nearly everyone is doing it only reinforces the idea that content marketing is now one of the main ways to reach customers and is the direction to go in order to grow your business in today's marketplace. But with so many companies and so much content competing in the online space, how are you supposed to make your business stand out from the crowd?
Competing With the Big Boys
With more Goliaths moving into the content marketplace, small business owners may be concerned about how they can compete for attention. In many ways, however, content marketing gives smaller businesses a relative advantage.
Local HVAC contractors who already have established blogs may find themselves ahead of the game in comparison to slower-moving corporate giants. For example, the Coca-Cola Company recently consolidated its blogs and boasted that it now has 18,000 blog visitors per month. That may sound like a large number, until you remember that Coca-Cola is one of the best-known brand names in marketing history with billions of customers and 146,000 employees. When company size and customer base is considered, many small, local HVAC blogs would be considered relatively huge in comparison.
Building Upon Your Strengths
Being smaller and more nimble can also help you stay ahead of the game, as long as you stay abreast of changes in SEO and social media, and produce quality content that plays to your company's strengths.
Below are a few ways that you can make your company's content marketing stand out of the crowd.
• Be yourself. The one thing that no competitor can ever beat you at is being yourself. There's a real person and a real personality behind that web page, and people are much more interested in dealing with a real person than with some faceless corporate entity. This is especially true for local contractors, since customers and potential clients often do see you face-to-face. So, unless you really are generic and bland, try not to let your content come across that way.
• Tell stories. One way to have personable and engaging content is to tell stories. People like hearing stories; the entire entertainment and publishing industry is built upon that fact. So don't be afraid to give examples, share anecdotes and relate important events in your life or the life of your company.
• Be local. There are many HVAC companies out there doing similar things, but only a few of them are local to your area. Focusing on the specifics of your city will help you stand out in local searches. Participating in and reporting on local events and trends reinforces that you are a neighbor and are on your customers' side.
• Interact with customers. The CEO or V.P. of Marketing at Coca-Cola is not going to respond to one lowly customer's online comment or question. But you can. That kind of personal connection is powerful. Besides, if a question is on one person's mind, it has probably occurred to other people as well. Having the answer posted online produces a resource that other people might be searching for.
• Learn from the competition. Perhaps the most useful thing about having your competitors engage in content marketing is that you have the opportunity to learn from them. Preferably, you can learn from their mistakes; more likely, though, you'll be able to learn from the successes of those who get it right. Pay attention to which competitors are having success in the marketplace, and mine their sites to see what content or keywords they are using that you are not.
Content marketing still has a lot of growing left to do, but it's definitely here to stay. By making the most of the opportunity it affords, you can use content marketing to keep your company growing and help ensure that it is likewise here to stay.
Chris Vaughn is the Content Marketing Director for DigitalSherpa, the world's largest content marketing provider for small businesses. With the recent acquisition of SocialTract, DigitalSherpa is thrilled to welcome the HVAC community in to our client family. Learn more about content marketing and check out our free e-books and whitepapers at http://digitalsherpa.com. Connect with Chris and the DigitalSherpa team on Facebook and Twitter or e-mail Chris directly at [email protected].