Hot Topics:

Content Marketing for Online Sellers

Use free Web resources to publish content and attract your target market.

You’ve listed your items online and told all your friends about your shop. You’ve set up a Facebook page for your business, and post regular tweets about your sales. Perhaps you’ve even gone so far as to purchase banner ads, but your revenue is still not where you want it. It might be time to consider content marketing.

This strategy is hard to grasp for some online sellers because it doesn’t feel like an investment in effective advertising. Instead, it feels like you’re giving away something for nothing. But that’s what good content marketing is: meeting your potential customers where they are, and helping them with the everyday problems they face.

“Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling,” says Joe Pulizzi, a leading strategist and founder of Content Marketing Institute. “Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyers more intelligent.”

Pulizzi adds that when businesses provide consistent, valuable information, they will ultimately be rewarded with their readers’ loyalty and business.

If your content is consistent and worth readers’ time, the audience begins to view you as a natural choice to consider when they need the types of products you sell

Consistent, useful content builds trust

Most marketing leaders agree the content online sellers provide should not be centered on a product, but instead should be of a quality subject matter that builds a relationship and trust. Marketing through content is designed to attract your target audience and pull those consumers in, rather than the traditional pushing of products through advertisement.

Content can be produced on a blog, in a newsletter, through YouTube, via podcast and so on. For instance, if you sell pet-related products, you could write or vlog—a video blog—about pet health issues, general pet life and inspiring pet stories. If your content is consistent and worth readers’ time, the audience begins to view you as a natural choice to consider when they need the types of products you sell.

Pulizzi points out that consumers have learned to tune out traditional paid marketing techniques, but they love finding and sharing content that entertains and informs them. Because of this, businesses are seeking to gain consumer attention by giving them what they want.

Content marketing is free

If content marketing is the emerging advertising trend for big businesses today, then it’s equally important for today’s online sellers.

For many, this is good news. Providing content requires little to no money. You can create blogs free of charge through platforms like Blogger or WordPress, and you can personalize them to create full-on websites for only a small fee. Squidoo is another great resource for creating free content and interacting with like-minded people.

Entrepreneurs who are not driven by research and writing may opt for something simple, like a tip of the day.

eBay offers customizable newsletters for online sellers, as do some third-party listing service providers such as Auctiva. For the serious educator, you may even consider publishing an ebook.

But content doesn’t have to be strictly text. It can include YouTube videos, podcasts or even infographics. And content you share doesn’t always have to be original, so long as it’s relevant to your business, and you give proper credit to the source of the information. Free online tools like Share As Image let you convert text you find on the Web into an image you can share on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.

Once you’ve established a platform for your content, the next step is to get noticed and keep your content connected to your store. You want to cast your net across a wide network.

Get your shop set up on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Your platform of choice should have publishing tools that allow you to share your content on these sites. For example, if you publish on WordPress, you can choose to share your content through Facebook and Twitter, along with many other options. Then manage your networks more effectively with an application such as HootSuite.

Making time for content marketing

Of course, finding the time to provide consistent content may be a challenge for some. Entrepreneurs who are not driven by research and writing may opt for something simple, like a tip of the day. Otherwise, they may need to enlist a friend or family member, or perhaps hire a writer or intern.

Taking advantage of the free technology available for online sellers today is an asset that a lot of brick-and-mortar businesses haven’t yet considered.

“The majority of organizations are set up to sell products and services, not to create and deliver consistently valuable editorial products,” Pulizzi says.

The key to effective content marketing lies in the value of the content. It must be relevant and able to meet your market’s needs. To do this requires a committed understanding of who your market is and what their needs are. It also requires a call to action, or an element that ultimately leads the consumer back to you.

If you sell homemade pet food, for example, your content may often center on pet health, and will give readers a sense of your commitment to quality of life for animals. To make publishing more efficient, set up a list of topics a year in advance, and include holidays and seasonal activities.

If you’re passionate about what you do and what you sell, then content marketing might be an added hobby for you. Think of yourself as your own publisher, enjoy what you’re learning and share your knowledge with your market.

newsletter signup

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • For the small mom n pop shop, content marketing can be free. The only cost would be their time. It does not take too long to read up on best practices to start pushing out fresh/relevant content.

    However, content marketing definitely costs money when you are doing it on a larger scale. It comes down to the most effective way to spend your money/time. You can do strictly social media with a simple status updates, PPC or traditional SEO with link building/keywords. Yet, social media and SEO, if done properly, falls under content marketing.

    Most likely, a company (usually smaller) is focused on gaining leads while larger companies/franchises are looking to expand their brand visibility.

    Surely, an investment in a content marketing solution is going to be much more effective than random status updates. Content is king!

Newsletter Signup