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Good Content Marketing Starts With Knowing Your Customers Small businesses should get to know their clientele when crafting their strategy.

By Jim Joseph

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The following is the second article in the series, "Content Marketing Like the Big Brands," in which marketing master Jim Joseph discusses ways that small to medium businesses can create compelling content for their customers to generate breakthrough business results.

All this fuss about "content marketing" has a lot of entrepreneurs scratching their heads. How do I do it? Where do I begin? What exactly is it?

Truthfully, I'm not sure when marketing wasn't about delivering content. Marketers have always been in the business of attracting customers with a product and brand proposition, but a brand has to have something to say. In order to do that, a brand has to have meaningful content. Seems rather obvious, actually.

Related: Brand Like Your Company Really Matters

Admittedly though, brands have stepped up the game when it comes to the content they deliver. What constitutes "content" has gotten much richer over time.

Back in the day, a tri-fold brochure touting product features was content at its best. Then along came websites, allowing brands to go beyond just providing information about the products. Suddenly, we had the vehicle and the space to talk about the lifestyle that goes along with the product, not just the product itself. That's when content marketing as we call it today got its start.

As digital technologies advanced, so did our ability to create better content. Now we can provide robust information that utilizes multimedia formats to engage customers and their personal networks. Visual storytelling and online video have exploded as brands seek to provide more and more ownable and valuable content to their customers, giving them what they need from what is hopefully a trusted source. The content is often hitting stage and screen quality in an attempt to engage and entertain audiences in what hopes to become a special relationship with a brand.

Content marketing is more about giving customers what they need then it is about pushing products. It's through engaging content that we build the brand and an emotional connection with customers.

Related: 4 Big Misconceptions About Content Marketing

There is no better example right now than Nature Valley. As part of its Trail View program, the brand team filmed over 400 miles of National Park trails around the United States, logging the experiences via video, photography and storytelling. The brand is attempting to showcase the Nature Valley lifestyle and its commitment to preserving nature, without directly pushing their products. Sure, a granola bar is a perfect item to take on a nature hike, but the brand doesn't need to push their products to send that message. Instead, it is seeking to make an emotional connection with its consumers by giving them what they need to embrace their passion for nature. The brand is giving their consumers "content" that will help them live life the way they choose.

That's exactly how you should start thinking about content marketing for your small business. There's no reason why you can't replicate the success of a big brand such as Nature Valley.

Start by thinking about what your customers want in their lives, and how that can match up with what you can uniquely deliver. Think through what you can give your customers that will help them live their lives, help them to get things done, and possibly help them with their work, family or social life. Start by putting your customers' needs first, and determine the kind of content you can create that could satisfy those needs.

All good marketing starts with knowing your customers, what makes them tick, and what they need to accomplish their goals. Of course, any content you create has to make sense coming from you, just like Trail View makes perfect sense coming from Nature Valley. If you really know your customers, then you can figure out how to give them what they need to keep them happy and engaged -- and how to keep them coming back to you in the process.

Now that's content marketing for your small business, for your customers, from your brand.

Related: Content Marketing Isn't Just for the Big Brands

Jim Joseph

Marketing Master - Author - Blogger - Dad

Jim Joseph is a commentator on the marketing industry. He is Global President of the marketing communications agency BCW, author of The Experience Effect series and an adjunct instructor at New York University.

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