The web has created an explosion of opportunities for small businesses to create meaningful relationships with current and potential clients. With so many competing for attention and exposure, generic articles no longer cut it, which is why more small businesses are starting to hire content marketers to write relevant, high quality content.
GuestDriven is a small business following this trend. Founded in 2010, the Montreal company creates mobile apps for hotels and has 27 employees. Growth has been phenomenal and they have increased in revenue between 150 per cent to 200 per cent each business year.
"We don't try to sell anything with our content – we just try to provide value so that we can start communicating and furthering relationships by building trust," says Mark John Hiemstra, former marketing communications manager at GuestDriven.
Mr. Hiemstra adds: "our goal is just to make people aware of the product so if they are seeking an answer to a specific question and come across our content they learn about who we are."
For companies to buy into the idea of content marketing, Mr. Hiemstra feels that bringing someone in-house is crucial. "You don't get the level of intimacy with a service or product from being outside the business. Water cooler conversations or mundane chats can often lead to really interesting ideas that can be expanded on."
John Blown is managing director at 6S Marketing in Vancouver and he agrees with the importance of creating content in-house. The 33-employee company specializes in digital marketing services and was founded in 2000. Revenue is between $3-million and $5-million annually.
"The content we are producing is very specific to the digital marketing industry. There are various specialties within that industry and we have our experts in those areas to create content and write articles. I don't see how anyone else could create the type of content we want which is leading edge, new, and experimental," says Mr. Blown.
6S Marketing uses the 80-20 rule when creating content. But content must always be valuable, quality-driven and relevant.
"Eighty per cent is useful, educational content and 20 per cent of the time we'll do something that is more self-promotional, but still educational like a case study," says Mr. Blown. "If you are not providing value you are going to lose readers."
Attracting followers means winning their hearts and minds by producing content that really makes a difference in their lives, says Donald Cowper, head of content marketing at ClearFit.
The Toronto-based company, founded in 2006, is a patented hiring platform designed to help small and medium sized businesses quickly and easily find applicants and make better hiring decisions. The company has approximately 30 employees and is on-target to quadruple growth this year.
Mr. Cowper believes there are a few reasons why small businesses have begun to hire more content marketers in-house.
"To produce content that is philosophically aligned with the organization and consistent with the brand requires a deep understanding of the company and that's difficult to do unless you have somebody inside," he says.
He also thinks it's practical. "You might as well have people in-house because you will be using them all the time." With more and more platforms and channels for content Mr. Cowper only sees an increase in the future workload.
Eden Spodek, a digital communications and marketing strategist, sees a growing trend for hiring in-house content marketers, but stresses that every company is different.
"There are different company cultures and to some it's very important to have an in-house team and there are others who feel that they need to focus on their key areas and get outside experts to help them."
She does agree with is that hiring in-house allows for more agility and flexibility. "They can react and respond quickly. If something needs to be done they are right there."
The need for content marketing will only increase as traditional media opportunities shrink. The Internet is the ideal platform for organizations to tell their own stories and build relationships. When done right, small businesses can use these stories to gain new customers and credibility, be seen as an industry leader, attract quality new hires and sit on top of the always important search engines.
Ms. Spodek offers the following tips for small businesses considering hiring a content marketer:
1. Ensure the candidate has excellent writing and editing skills. Experience with multimedia storytelling is an asset.
2. Hire a digital strategist who understands community building and how to approach social and digital media strategically. Having ten thousand followers on Twitter isn't enough. They need to understand how to use the tools to achieve results.
3. Find the right fit. Trust is critical. A content marketer will need buy-in from your employees who are the subject matter experts in your organization and required for stories and story ideas.
4. Look for someone who understands your business and shares your passion. They'll need to be enthusiastic about the subject matter in order to write about it continuously and encourage others to do the same.
5. Hire a life-long learner. The industry is in a constant state of flux. Although best practices are being established, optimal approaches and tools are changing every day and ideally you want to hire a leader who will innovate and stay ahead of the curve.