What Is Content Marketing and Why Is It Important For Small Businesses?

In the past few years, content marketing has switched from being a trend to a must-have: 82% of marketers report actively using content marketing in 2021, up 70% from last year.

Indeed, while “traditional marketing” (such as TV or Point Of Sales communication)  influence consumer behaviour by highlighting the consumer benefits of a product or a service, content marketing provides valuable information for the consumer, even when the product is not at the centre of the conversation.

These 2 approaches are complementary: “traditional marketing” is necessary to deliver product or service-related key messages, while content marketing builds a long-term, trust-based relationship with consumers.

What is content marketing?

Back in 1904, Michelin created their first guide to make travelers’ lives easier, suggesting the best restaurants to eat at and hotels to stay in. Despite the fact no tyre-related content can be found in the Michelin guide, that book was so valuable for consumers that it became world-famous. And this pretty much sums up what content marketing is all about.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

There is no “one size fits all”: the content strategy and the selection of the best channels will really depend on:

  • The brand’s audience: what are they interested in? Which channels do they use the most? Which are the queries they search on Google? 

  • The objective: a catchy video on social media is a good option to provide brand awareness, while a long-form blog post is great to drive product education. 

  • The available resources: how much budget can be allocated to develop the content (developing a video is certainly more expensive than a static image)? Which channels does the brand currently have (Facebook? Blog? Spotify?)

ASOS, for instance, deliver to their users:

A screenshot of ASOS’ video campaign, stating “delivering your look – fashion, beauty, sportswear”

  • Social media content to drive community engagement

A relatable social media post by ASOS reading: “me: yea i’m ok – the pile of clothes in my room: uhm?!? no”

  • A blog providing users with fashion inspirations and tips: it strengthens the relationships with users, drives traffic to the website, and ultimately builds brand consideration.

ASOS’ Style Feed, which includes details on new drops such as Urban Decay x Marvel Studios and style inspiration blogs

  • Promotional videos to improve sales, for instance during Black Friday

A screenshot of ASOS’ US Black Friday video on YouTube

As you can see, there are many different formats to tell a story. Still, it’s worth mentioning that, thanks to their capability to inform while entertaining, video is now the most used format.

A graph by Hubspot showing the the primary forms of media used within content strategy in 2021, with videos coming out at the top

What should a good piece of content be?

In a word: valuable. The biggest challenge though, is to understand what valuable means for the audience. Consumer research, keyword research tools such as SEMRush, social listening tools like BrandWatch, and free tools like Answer The Public and Google Trends can all help small businesses understand what value they can bring to their ideal audience. 

Here are a few examples of what a valuable piece of content should look like:

  • Based on consumer data. The most successful example of the last few years is definitely Spotify with their famous Wrapped campaign back in 2016. It worked so well that it became a yearly tradition for both the brand and its users. And it still works brilliantly.

Spotify’s 2016 ‘Wrapped’ campaign on a billboard, reading “Dear person who played “Sorry” 42 times on Valentine’s Day, What did you do?”

  • Consistent with the brand and its values. Lonely Planet’s mission is “to inspire and enable travellers to experience the world”. They recently put their statement into practice by launching their online HealthHub to deliver advice on health-related travel issues throughout the pandemic.

LonelyPlanet’s website’s HealthHub section, offering information on the latest Covid restrictions from around the world

  • Entertaining. Netflix often uses its characters and content to “marry” the diversity cause in an enjoyable way, such as in this campaign to celebrate Black talent.

  • Useful. The SEMRush blog is a great example of educational content aimed at providing value to a specific audience: digital marketers.

What are the key benefits of content marketing for small businesses?

It seems like a lot of work, right? So why should small businesses do it? 

Well, because content marketing can help grow their business in so many ways:


  • Content marketing is a marketing approach based on providing valuable content to consumers to generate trust, strengthen the relationship with them, and ultimately drive sales.

  • There are several channels and formats to produce contents, such as blog, video, infographic, and social media. The best channel or format depends on: where the audience is, the objective of the content itself, and the budget available to create the content. Video is currently the most used medium.

  • A good piece of content should be based on consumer data, consistent with the brand and its values, entertaining, and useful. 

  • Content marketing is a key asset to generate a long-term relationship with an audience that will eventually lead to sales.

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