How can Small and Medium Enterprises leverage content & digital media post COVID?
Given the way the entire world has been hit by COVID, virtually every business has been affected. For the global corporates and multinationals, the challenge is different; It is most likely about sustaining the weight of huge operating costs. For SMEs and independent business owners, (let’s call them SMEIs) the challenge is more existential. SMEIs not only have to worry about operating costs, but also about their advertising budgets. Major cuts in ad budgets would make it extremely difficult for them to reach out to potential new customers; critical from a SMEI sustenance standpoint.
Speaking of digital media, generally, most SMEIs invest significantly into paid advertising and perform outbound reach to get potential customers into their website and digital assets. This stream of potential customers is the “paid traffic”. While this is great, the harsh truth is that almost the entire traffic may cease once the ad budget is cut down. Companies (Even many large global corporates) tend to overlook the latent goldmine that “organic traffic” possesses. Organic traffic comprises of people that engage with the digital assets of a business without being advertised to. Organic traffic “walk in” and learn about the business voluntarily and once the steady flow of organic traffic rises, the search engine bots and digital media algorithms automatically start recommending the website and digital assets to other potential customers. Once the stage is set, businesses can see an abundance of organic traffic and the birth of a self-sufficient cycle.
Post COVID, businesses with an underwhelming organic strategy, especially SMEIs, may start to suffer with ad budgets likely to take a hit for many of them. Hence, it is crucial for them to implement a strong content strategy and build a steady stream of organic traffic. SMEIs with a strong content strategy will have an edge. Using a well-thought out funnel approach along with an organic content strategy can be a game changer.
What is the Funnel approach for organic content strategy?
The Google Search Engine is bombarded with an astounding ~6 billion searches per day! Each search delivers a vast number of results, each leading to websites. The results are displayed taking into account a lot of factors, including user experience, web design etc. A major factor is the relevance of the search results. This depends on the keywords and overall content on each of the websites and how relevant it is in comparison to the search query. Imagine this: If you are a business, at any given time, someone, somewhere in the world has a chance to discover you simply because of the content you put on the website. SMEIs can play it smart by analyzing the most trending keywords related to their business and supplement it by developing genuine and authentic content around it. I stress on “genuine and authentic”, else it sticks out like a sore thumb. If you put content just to “trend”, your traffic will bounce off and the results can quickly go down south.
Hence, it is a strategic decision to select the type of content businesses want to put on their digital assets. This doesn’t mean businesses have to churn out content at the rate of knots, they have to be selective, strategic and of course- authentic. It is also very important to optimize the content pieces on the website as they decide the user journey for the organic traffic. Once businesses develop a robust content production mechanism and optimize it per the best practices, it will lead to a steady and constant flow of organic traffic. What makes the organic traffic special is that they walked in at their own will and they will keep walking in even without paid advertisements. Similar to the traditional sales cycle, the people who walk in organically constitute the top of the funnel traffic. The mission is to push this traffic further into the funnel and convert them.
How can SMEIs convert top of the funnel traffic into customers?
Conversion may include a variety of outcomes and it purely depends on the business. Conversion is getting the traffic to take a desired action and it ranges from product/service purchase, to getting users to subscribe to a blog, to get them to make an inquiry/ phone call. How businesses get the traffic to perform the required action is where strategy comes into play. For example, a business that wants the top of the funnel traffic to purchase their products may direct them to subscribe to their emails and then use email marketing to get the conversion. Businesses can also segregate traffic based on the behavior shown and retarget them through pixels to convert them. Conversion is basically setting up the entire roadmap by visualizing all possible outcomes and developing the ecosystem surrounding to it. Automation is critical when it comes to scaling conversions.
What businesses/ product categories does this apply to?
You don’t have to be a sexy product category to attract traffic through content. My passion point is to observe content focused SMEIs and analyze the demand for various kinds of content. I have seen ardent followers for some very unique businesses. I recently saw a shoe repair business use videos of them performing complex shoe repairs to generate traffic engagement. I have seen beekeeping businesses use content from their day-to-day activities to generate inquiries for their business. Such content not only builds engagement and trust among the followers, it also leads to increased conversions. Every business has a potential audience and there is no better way to tap them than using content they want to see.
As cliched as it sounds, the world’s boundaries have been nullified due to the penetration of internet and digital media. You never know which part of the world could attract a potential customer. Content has the power to build trust and engagement with the world outside that paid ads cannot.
Is it hard for SMEIs to obtain the know-how to grow using content?
The efforts by digital media giants of the world is applaudable. Not only have they made it feasible for every business to promote themselves and generate awareness, irrespective of their size, but they have also made it immensely accessible for them to obtain the know-how. Each renowned platform has exhaustive courses to enable learning from any corner of the world. For example, Google has certification programs for all its marketing solutions. Same for Facebook, LinkedIn and TikTok. Each of these platforms have literally built mini Universities. On top of this, there are scores of instructors who impart knowledge for free through blogs and videos. There are tons of bloggers, vloggers who produce and share knowledge on how to ace these platforms. There are thriving online communities where it is feasible to get advice for custom situations and requests. In a nutshell, knowledge is available on the internet to learn almost anything related to digital media: from basics to the most advanced practices. We are living in a democratized world where accessibility to knowledge as well as the means to promote one’s business is easily obtainable. SMEIs don’t have to spend a lot to acquire the knowledge and know-how. The budgets can be allocated towards media spends.
Final advice for SMEs looking to use content strategy
Marketing is intuitive, the process has been democratized. The world is wide open, the people on the internet are content-hungry. Businesses may not go “Viral” immediately with a content strategy, but it will definitely keep bringing in new potential customers with increased quality. An important clarification: Organic strategy works best when complimented with a well implemented paid marketing strategy. It is not about picking one or the other, it is about using both of them optimally.