This week, I sat down with someone who knows content well, Constant Contact’s Senior Manager of Social Media and Content Marketing, Dave Charest, to find out why he thinks content is such an important piece of your marketing efforts.

Find out what Dave had to say and get his best advice for getting started with creating content of your own in this week’s Ask an Expert.

Why is content so important when it comes to marketing a small business?

I think content is so important for your marketing because it gives you an opportunity to stay in touch and in front of your customers without it always being about asking them to buy something, or asking them to do something that’s self-serving.

Using content that’s relevant or useful or otherwise entertaining to your particular audience or customers is really just a great way to keep your business top-of-mind and help build connections with people. And that will serve you when the time comes that they are looking to buy something your company offers or something your nonprofit organization does.

That’s why I think content is really important.

Could you give an example of how a small business could use content in their marketing efforts?

Sure. I’ll start with a personal experience with a nonprofit organization first.

Wearing other hats, I’ve been a marketing director for a small nonprofit theater company in New York. And one of the things we started to do was really use content as a way to get people excited about upcoming shows, rather than doing what we would normally do.

Normally we would send an email newsletter when we had a show coming up, and every newsletter would include an image of the show and then ask them to buy tickets.

But instead of doing that, what we did was create a plan where we would start to use content. We would run our own interviews with the creative people involved with the show, we would interview the actors, and we would create behind the scenes videos of what’s going on with the shows, use pictures…. And we were able to use all that stuff over the course of multiple weeks leading up to the opening of the show.

That way, we would have reasons to contact people more frequently and wouldn’t just be saying, “Buy tickets to the show.” We would actually be sending them stuff they would be interested in. What was also good is we would be sending them stuff they actually wanted to share because again, it wasn’t just saying “buy tickets!” It was giving them insight into the show. It was letting them see their friends who were participating in the show and bringing that story to life—allowing them to read interviews with them and learn about their work process and their creative process that way.

It really ended up being a situation where over the course of time we were doing that, when the time comes, when we do ask to buy tickets, they had heard about the show, it’s familiar to them, and they would think, “Oh yeah, I really want to see that.” It helps them make that purchasing decision.

It’s the same for a small business. You may be doing some behind the curtains stuff—you may not be interviewing so much for a creative process like you would do with something like that, with a particular theater company—but what you would be doing is demonstrating your expertise. You may be giving them information or sharing content with them that helps them achieve something, and helps them also understand how to use your product better or get more use out of that.

So, its stuff they’ll find relevant and useful, which is the key to any of your content.

What advice would you give a small business that’s just getting started with creating marketing content?

Don’t be afraid to get started. That’s the big thing.

A lot of times we look for PR or we look for people to write about us, or people to share stories about our business. But the great thing is now all these tools are available that allow you to create it.

So, take your destiny into your own hands and learn how to create it and start to get the word out on your own. Start a blog, start an email newsletter, and just think—if you’re really stuck about the types of things to write about: ask your customers. What questions do you hear from customers all the time? Because a lot of the time it’s as simple as just answering one of those questions, setting up that problem, and giving the solution with your answer because you have that expertise.

I think that’s the easiest way to get started.

Bottom Line

Creating content isn’t just about finding stuff to fill up your newsletter or populate your website or Facebook Page.

It’s about providing something of real value to your customers, and building the type of relationships that will actually work for your business. Whether it’s a newsletter article, a blog post, or just a photo or video you share on your Facebook Page—creating content gives you the chance to offer something more than just a sales pitch, which will help you make a real connection with your target audience.

Want more help getting started creating content? Here are five posts to help get things going.

  1. 5 Ways to Create More Engaging Email Content
  2. How to Build a Content-Rich Email
  3. 5 Ways You Should Be Using Your Smartphone to Create Fresh Content
  4. How to Curate Content in 30 Seconds or Less
  5. 4 Places to Find Inspiration for Content (When You Don’t Know Where to Look)

Do you have other questions you want to see answered on an upcoming edition of Ask an Expert? Post them in the comments below and we’ll get you the answers you’re looking for.