I never thought I would find myself looking forward to receiving emails from a yoga studio.

I’ve never done yoga. I don’t know anything about yoga. And something tells me I wouldn’t be very good at it.

But when my girlfriend Ashley told me I had to see the emails from her favorite yoga studio, I decided to check them out.

Ashley knows, that as a Constant Contact employee I’m always on the lookout for cool things small businesses are doing to market themselves. And when she saw her yoga studio, Treetop Yoga, was a Constant Contact customer, she knew I’d be interested.

Like with most things, she was right.

Their emails were packed with great information and content that I found interesting, even without any prior enthusiasm for yoga. I learned about their different classes, read inspirational quotes, saw pictures of their studio, and read interviews with yoga instructors.

Soon, I found myself clicking to open each time an email landed in my inbox. And that was just the start.

A few months after signing up, I was looking for a gift when I received an email about buying gift certificates for Treetop Yoga online.

I decided that a gift certificate and a new yoga mat would make a good gift. When I went to the store to buy a mat, the staff was very friendly and asked which studio Ashley went to. All of a sudden, I was engaged in a conversation, talking about all of the cool stuff going on at Treetop Yoga.

Within a few months of joining their email list, I had not only purchased a gift certificate but I was also a loyal fan who hopefully helped introduced the studio to a new student.

But what does this have to do with my marketing?

When most of us hear the term “marketing,” we immediately think of our own experience as a consumer. The only problem is many of these experiences aren’t always great.

From commercials on TV, to ads that pop up when we’re reading or watching something online — many of the marketing messages we receive get in the way of the things we want to do.

But what if the marketing you created was actually the sort of stuff customers looked forward to?

What if instead of constantly trying to convince people to buy your products or sign up for your services, you took an approach like Treetop Yoga and created an experience that entertained, informed, and engaged the people you were trying to reach?

It worked for this yoga studio, and it can work for any business willing to give it a try.

Let’s take a look at how you can put a similar strategy into action:

Step 1: Think about the audience you’re trying to reach

Start by thinking about your ideal customer. Who are they? What are they interested in? What problems can you help them solve?

Relevance is one of the most important factors of any successful marketing campaign. But more than that, the goal of your marketing should be to create something that customers and potential customers will thank you for.

That’s the type of experience people are going to pay attention to, and it’s also the best way to bring customers back.

Step 2: Match their needs, interests, and expectations to your business goals

Once you’ve shifted your focus to meet the needs of your audience, you can then start to match these ideas with your business goals.

Here’s an example to consider:

If I’m a potential student who signed up for a yoga studio’s email list but I’m not familiar with the different types of classes, it’s unlikely that I’m going to be receptive to an email asking me to sign up for a new class.

But when I receive an email from a yoga studio like Treetop Yoga, and it not only explains what the different classes are but also includes information about the instructor, her experience, and philosophy — it’s much more likely that I’ll pay attention.

Whether you’re trying to fill a class, generate sales, or attract new clients, you’ll be much more successful when you put the needs of your audience first, and then match those to needs to your business goals.

Step 3: Plan your content

The type of experience that’s offered by businesses like Treetop Yoga, is part of a marketing strategy known as content marketing.

Content marketing is different from traditional marketing, because it’s about providing value to your audience as a way to create and grow relationships. You still leverage popular channels of communication — like email, social, mobile, and web — but instead of putting a generic ad in front of them, you use content to showcase your business’s personality and expertise.

The content you create can be something simple, like a post on social media, or something a little more extensive, like a blog post or an article in your email newsletter.

Then there are things like photos, videos, how-to guides, quotes, blog posts, infographics, and podcasts.

But content marketing isn’t just about creating more content. It’s about creating content as a way to move your audience to take action.

As Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute explains in his book Epic Content Marketing:

“Content marketing must work to enhance or change a behavior. If it doesn’t, it’s just content.”

Step 4: Do the work

Even the best marketing strategy won’t do you any good if you’re not willing to follow through.

The good news is that as a small business owner, you’re in the ideal position to create marketing messages that people look forward to.

You know your customers. You understand their needs, interests, and expectations. And you create memorable experiences every single day.

It’s okay to start small.

Choose one channel — maybe it’s email or one of your active social networks — and look for ways to give something valuable to the people you’re trying to reach.

For Treetop Yoga, that value comes in the form of helpful articles, engaging stories, and a good balance of informative and promotional content.

Finding the right balance for your business could mean more opens, more clicks, and most importantly — more opportunity to do more business.

Ready to get started? Download our new guide, Overcoming Your Content Challenges: How to create engaging content for your marketing campaigns.