by Valeria Beussinkler_25smaller

Are you providing real value to your customers or just trying to sell your product?

In this highly competitive economy, brands need to better understand lifestyles of their consumers and help them solve their problems, in order to convert one-time buyers into loyal brand fans.

The Custom Content Council recently reported that 61% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that create and share custom content online. So what is content marketing?

Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior, according to the Content Marketing Institute. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.

In essence, it is believed that if you are delivering information that helps customers make their lifestyle choices on an ongoing basis, they will reward you by being loyal to your products or services.

Content marketing is not just for some of the most valuable global brands, but is also being successfully used by small businesses around the globe.

Not sure where to start? Here are some tips that can be used even by small businesses and organizations:

1.  To be successful and provide valuable content, you need to identify and speak to the passions and needs of your true audience.

You can do it by adding Q&A plugins to your website and generating content based on the insights you gain from these tools.  Answerbase, Shapado and Qhub are easy plugins that can help you build community on your website and get to know the interests of your website visitors.

You can also use the insights gained from Google Analytics or Facebook Insights to paint a picture of the demographics and locations of your audiences.

If you need inspiration for your next blog post, you can make a great use of a free keyword tool Ubersuggest. Just write a word or phrase into the box and it scrapes Google Suggestions to offer the hottest related topics real users are searching for.

2. If creation of purely new content is too resource demanding for your organization, blend your efforts with curating content produced by influencers in your industry.

Your subject matter can rotate depending on what is newsworthy or fresh at a given moment, but offering topically focused collection of information to your audience will help you create a stronger and more consistent brand.

Lee Odden shared a great collection of sources for finding fresh content to curate on TopRank Online Marketing Blog:

  • Industry specific newsletters sent to you via email
  • Links to content and media shared on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Reddit and other social sharing websites
  • Google Alerts, Google News or Google+ Search
  • Curation tools: Flipboard,,
  • Real-time search engines: Topsy,
  • Niche topic blogs
  • News aggregators: Alltop, popurls, Techmeme
  • Bookmark and or subscribe to updates from industry news, magazine and blog websites
  • Press Release Distribution Services like PRWeb, PRNewswire or Marketwire
  • Review competitor websites and monitor for mentions of their brand terms in though Google Alerts and social media monitoring tools like Trackur or Radian6 to see what kind of curation tactics they’re using

3. New content is produced on the web every minute, if not second. If you want to get the most out of each piece of content you publish, you need to be in front of your audience to help them get your content discovered.

Simply sharing your blog post, video or podcast on your social media accounts is a great place to start, but there are many more other easy to implement distribution channels available to effectively market your business.

  • Use Yahoo Answers or Quora to reference your content when answering related questions
  • Create a newsletter to bring your content directly to your audience, but include only certain pieces of the content to create incentive to visit your website or blog
  • Include links to your content in your company’s email signatures and customer service correspondence
  • Make your content easy to distribute and do not forget adding social sharing buttons
  • Write guest posts and connect with influencers on social media by sharing each others` content

Need more inspiration? Check out how some brands create and curate content for their audiences: A Bullseye View by Target, iQ by Intel, Kraft recipes on Pinterest.