What are some tips for small business owners who want to work on their content marketing efforts? This is what three industry experts, Alma Asinobi of Chess In Slums, May-May Ogoigbe of The Fifth Alley, and Technical Content Marketer, Folashade Daini have to say.
Kindly introduce yourself
May-May: I am May-May Ogoigbe, CMO of The Fifth Alley. I am fascinated and passionate about small businesses, and I’d love to really shine a lot of light on the impact that small businesses are making and how content marketing can really improve their processes.
Folashade: My name is Folashade Daini. I’m a vet doctor turned content marketer. I studied veterinary medicine in school and I practised for about two years before I got into tech as a content marketer. It’s been a ride, I mean, coming from medicine and entering the tech space. But I find it very exciting to create content, basically telling stories that resonate with people and converting them into customers.
Alma: My name is Alma Asinobi. I am a Travel and Lifestyle Content Creator. I am also the Product Marketing Lead at Kingdom. I also lead Global Communications at Chess In Slums.
What are the most important aspects of content marketing and how do they help small businesses grow?
May-May: Small businesses face a lot of struggles when it comes to creating content for the audience that they have decided to serve. One of the most important things that can help solve that problem is for these businesses to have a deeper understanding of who their audience is. I’ve been on social media long enough to know that businesses sometimes mix up their audiences. They think that a particular content will appeal to their audience but at the end of the day, it’s another type of content that will appeal to them. For example, a fashion accessory merchant could think that writing is the best way to promote their business online, meanwhile, if they focus on video content that showcases the items they sell, that would convert more customers than content in the writing format.
So I think one of the fundamental problems that small businesses face is having a deeper understanding of their buyer personas.
Folashade, as someone who’s in the content marketing space, what would you consider the most important aspect of content marketing?
Folashade: For me, coming into the content marketing space as a doctor who knew nothing about the B2B space and the lingua, what I found most challenging was understanding the space and the people you’re selling to. Knowing your target audience is winning half the battle and then breaking down the content in their own language, such that they are able to relate to it and willing to take action is the other half.
What advice would you give to a starting business owner who knows nothing about content marketing?
Alma: I have the advantage of experiencing being both a creator and working with brands. So I’ll say I have a balanced view of what each side entails. Importantly, they need to know their own value. Before asking what you should be doing or who you should be talking to, understanding your value, many times, would direct you in the right way. For instance, you’re selling hair, weaves, wigs and all that. Are you selling just hair or are you selling a sense of prestige, and belonging? A person could go to a party somewhere in Ikoyi or attend a meeting in Lekki, and they could go wearing a sort of hair that doesn’t give them confidence. So as a hair seller, you’re not just selling hair, you’re selling a sense of self togetherness and confidence.
So, understanding your value is looking beyond the product that you’re selling and looking into the reason people want that product and what problem it’s solving for people. Understanding your value also helps you to determine what to charge for your product.
Folashade: I like to approach it from this perspective. You have a product you’re selling, that’s settled. The first question to ask yourself is, “What problem is my business solving?”. Make a list of your pain points. The truth is, people are selfish, and so they’ll only be interested in what your product can do for them. For example, as a skincare product seller, your customers are not just looking to have a clear face, they’re also looking to restore their confidence, to glow, to be attractive. So when you make a good list of your pain points, you’ll find out that you can generate content from those problems your product is solving. Then I always say, talk to your customers. Ask them questions about those pain points you’ve listed. Make it fun and interesting. Ask them what mode of content they’ll like to see from you. In conclusion, put your people’s problems first and figure out their best mode of receiving content from you.
What would you say are the unique advantages content marketing gives business owners?
May-May: We talk about content marketing a lot, but there’s little focus on content distribution. It’s easy to create content, but it’s hard to distribute content. I think there’s absolutely no point in creating a content marketing strategy without creating a content distribution strategy. Great content marketing can get you followers, can drive traffic to your website, can get conversations started on Twitter. But what sets the precedence? It’s content distribution. You want to make sure that the content you’re creating can flow through different channels. Create your content in such a way that whatever you’re sharing on Instagram can also be shared on Twitter, and Facebook. There has to be this omnichannel method that allows your content to travel far. So if we base our conversation on the benefits that content provides small businesses, we have to talk about distribution. So we need to ask how small businesses can distribute content to the point where the content generates results for them, and one way to do that is to have a plan. A plan to help your content travel far to places where actions can be taken on them, and then we will find those advantages there.
Talking about those advantages, content marketing helps small businesses communicate their value better. When they focus on the value that they have proposed to their audience, they can get a lot of traction and engagement. Another advantage is conversations. I like to call conversations catalysts for engagement or virality. We’ve seen time and time again, how conversations are generated from Twitter, go viral and end up being shared on other platforms like Instagram, Facebook. So, if you want to get people talking about your brand, that’s something content marketing can do for you as well.
Another advantage is that you can position your brand better than your competitors. For instance, if your competitors are focused on creating youtube videos and driving people to their Youtube channel, you can focus on generating conversations through podcasts. So what this means is you can generate conversations differently from your competitors.
What challenges have you faced with content marketing and how did you overcome them?
Folashade: The biggest challenge was coming into a field that I knew nothing about. There were times I cried out of frustration and questioned what I was doing in this space, but I think one thing that really helped was always that I kept seeking to learn. I took a lot of free courses. I was always online, always reading. But despite how challenging it was, one thing that proved to be a lot of help was talking to someone with field experience.
‘Content Marketing for Professionals’, the book I wrote with Dada Ben, came about because I reached out to Ben when I entered this field. He was someone I knew had been in the space and was doing well. I had taken courses but there’s nothing like talking to an experienced person and learning from them. It took time to learn the ropes and overcome the challenges, I mean it’s been almost 3 years now since I professionally started content marketing. And I think if I could do it, coming from pharmacology, then you can too. Just talk to someone in the field and learn from them.
What advice would you give to small businesses about finding the right kind of content strategy to fit their brand?
Alma: First off, I’ll say that when you break down content strategy to the finest minimum, you’re speaking to people. Regardless of their demographics, their lifestyle or what they do, you’re speaking to people. Now, it’s important that you do a lot of research that is particular to the type of service you’re offering. This is to learn what people in that field are doing and how results are being gotten.
Another thing is to understand your tone, and how you intend to pass across that message. Essentially, you’re communicating your value and you have to communicate it in a way that people would make the best use of it.
So, you need to understand your story or the problem you’re trying to solve. And when you discover the people you’re trying to reach, you need to know how best they like to be spoken to. There’s no one way to do it, but these are the things that remain at the core of it. And you can build your strategy up from there.
May May, as someone who runs an agency and has to deal with creating content marketing strategies, what particular content format do you advise small businesses to focus on?
May-May: I would advise small businesses to start at their own pace. Don’t take too much of everything, that can become cumbersome and overwhelming. I’ve been opportune to talk to a couple of small business owners who are struggling with content ideas. Don’t be pressured to deliver more than you can chew. Of course, you want to give quality but start at a level that you can always build from. I remember when I started my professional career in Marketing, I hated coming live. I just didn’t see the point. But today, it’s a part of me. So take your time and try a couple of content types. And once you discover the type of content they prefer, start to double down on that. Try out articles, twitter spaces, Instagram lives, Facebook lives, and Medium posts. The good thing is that content marketing is cost-effective. The only thing you’ll be spending time on is the effort.
Is there something terrible you’ve noticed businesses and brands do that you'd like to advise them to put a stop to?
Folashade: I would approach that from something I wished more brands would do, and that’s genuinely seeking out to help people. I know there’s a lot of hype around content marketing because it has proven to bring results, and because of that, a lot of people jump on it because they know it works, but I feel there’s a better way to approach it and that would be to create content because you genuinely want to help people solve a problem.
And that would do something for you, it will help you build a community of people that trust you. Because the truth is, whatever you’re doing, you have competitors, so what’s going to set you aside from them. People need to sense the genuineness behind your content. Don’t just be salesy and put out content because you want to sell. Educate people.
Yes, you might sell if you put out content just for ‘sales’ sake, but you’ll also be missing out on the bigger picture which is building a community of people who love your products. People that would choose you over and again. So I think that’s a benefit to look out for. One other thing we emphasized in our book was understanding your target audience. Stop copy-catting. Don’t start doing reels because someone else is doing it and it’s bringing them results. Understand your own audience. Go to where they are and speak to them.
Alma: Honestly, I think what they should stop doing is giving up. I’ve had people consult with me about growing their brands and after discussing the brand strategy and even drawing out a content plan, they come back after two weeks and say they are not growing. So they need to know that it might be tough when they start. Some people get lucky with their first video, they could wake up to see it go viral, but it’s also 50/50 because the only way to ensure that luck stays in your favour is by being consistent. There are days, even weeks where you may not get any messages, any orders, but you just need to keep going. At a point, all of those things will come together and someone will find your page and be confident to stay or buy from you because of the effort you have put in.
Personally, I learnt this the hard way. This is an off-topic example, but growing up, my parents wanted my siblings and I to learn the piano, and they got a lesson teacher. I was so excited and I thought the teacher would come on the first day and I'd magically be playing the piano in two seconds and become a pro. And then he came and gathered us around the piano - we were three- and he told us to bring a piece of paper and draw our hands. He started teaching us keys, showing us E, F and I was just like, “What is this? This isn't what I'm here for. Teach me how to press this thing”. And so, I just lost interest and dumped it. The result of that right now is that every single person in my house can play the keyboard except me. And this is because I wanted it to happen overnight, right there on the spot. I wasn’t patient enough. But it’s paying off for my brothers now because they can pick up any instrument at all because of the principles they’ve learnt from playing the piano.
So, consistency is key and the law of compounding will always apply. I’m going to recommend two books, the first is ‘The Dip by Seth Godin’. The second is a trilogy by Austin Kleon. The titles are ‘Steal Like An Artist’, ‘Show Your Work’ and ‘Keep Going’. They’re short books and you'll find them really helpful in content marketing.
Is there any valuable tool or resource that you use in content marketing that you think would really benefit small businesses?
May-May: There is no way we can talk about content marketing without social media. Social media is the fundamental tool for all things content marketing. I’ve met a couple of small businesses that are not even on social media and I’ve tried to convince them that, “Look, even if you have a brick and mortar store, you still need an online presence”. So social media is the first tool. It’s a levelling field, and it’s free to use. And it gives everyone the opportunity to become whoever they want to become.
Then we have other content creation tools like Inshot, Canva- which will always be my favourite content marketing tool because there’s almost nothing you want to create that you won’t find there. I think Canva should be every small business’ friend. There are also content creation scheduling tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite. There are also tools that help with analytics. As someone who intends to be serious about content marketing, you need to track what your content is generating. You want to be able to know which content is performing better and which you should stop. Reports give a deep insight into how your content is performing. I know that most social media platforms allow you to check insights, but I use a third party software- Emplify. It’s very easy to use and I’m able to download reports in PowerPoint. I think that small businesses overthink content marketing a lot. A lot of these tools are free to use.
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