Basic relationship building is less expensive and more effective than paid advertising
Small businesses can spend a lot of money on paid advertising. One chiropractor I know spends at least $1500 per month on Yelp. A business consultant told me that kind of ad spend is normal because you have to pay to play if you run a business like a chiropractic office.
But is her statement true?
Relationship building through content marketing
Another chiropractor didn’t have a big marketing budget. He had previously tried paid advertising. For a while, someone helped him create videos for Google Hangouts. Once a month his staff sent email newsletters. Eventually, he stopped marketing and his business shrank.
To stop the shrinkage, we implemented a 12-month SEO-focused content marketing campaign. It was a campaign that fit his budget—no more than 2 percent of his gross revenue—and could deliver positive results if he was willing to be patient.
Of course, we had to set some goals.
A good content goal is MAST: measureable, achievable, simple, and task-oriented. For it to work, a content goal must align your content with your organizational goal and your targeted audience.
Here is an example of a MAST goal that aligns the content with an organizational goal and a targeted audience:
Twice a month we will post SEO-focused custom blog articles that are relevant to people concerned with their health on the Chiropractic Blog to gain 40 new patients every month. At the beginning of each month, we will assess post reach and new patients received that month within those demographics.
Our organizational goal was to increase overall office visits by both new patients and returning patients. Our content goals focused on two tasks: blog article writing and email marketing.
That’s it. We distributed content on all our channels twice a month. But social media wasn’t a core part of this strategy. We didn’t buy any online advertising. And, although the custom blog posts were optimized for search, we didn’t chase after page ranking.
How people use your custom content to make a decision
Here’s why we didn’t worry about page ranking: you never know how people find you. Besides, they may not base their decision to call you just because of how well you rank.
When looking to solve a problem, people may ask for recommendations from their friends, family, or colleagues. They may also search on a referring site, such as an insurance company.
They most likely search for you on Google and other search engines. How you rank on Google depends on how well you implement technical, local, and content SEO. However, when trying to make a decision, such as selecting a physical therapist or chiropractor, many people will click through to page 2 and 3 of a search engine results page. While browsing, they will read your listing (SERP). They will also read your reviews on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and LinkedIn, if you have any.
If they like the content you’ve provided, they will click through to your website. They will then read your About page, your most recent blog posts, and maybe watch your videos and testimonials. The more time they spend on your website, the more likely they will call you for an appointment.
When you ask them how they heard about you, however, they will probably say, “Oh, a friend recommended you.”
Why small businesses should post custom content
SEO-focused custom blog articles engage your website visitors and encourage them to take a profitable customer action.
Small businesses with blogs receive 126% more lead growth than small businesses without. –Impactbnd
Most small business owners know website content is important. Creating it consistently month after month, year after year can be difficult, especially if it’s not a core task or in your skill set.
Often small business owners deal with their content problem by buying a digital marketing package that includes a website, which they can customize to fit their business. The package also includes a newsletter and other digital marketing services. Paid advertising is extra.
The newsletter is emailed to subscribers once a month and the content is posted automatically to the website. Because the same content is posted on thousands of other websites, there is nothing in that packaged newsletter (including SEO) that distinguishes you from your competition.
82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content. –Demand Metric
Why our relationship building campaign worked
It took us eight months before we experienced positive ROI through relationship building.
During the year we slowly woke up a loyal customer base. Our email messages were personal and conversational, and always linked back to the blog articles. New and returning website visitors increased their visiting time by 61%. By the eighth month of the campaign, overall office visits increased by 10 percent. By the 11th month, the office manager said the referrals poured in and they saw 37 new patients—close to our goal of 40 new patients per month.
The email newsletter open and click-through rate remained steady—above average for the healthcare industry. Many returning patients (ROPs) said that the SEO-focused blog articles promoted in the emails often triggered an office visit.
You can pay to play if you want. But you don’t have to. Paid advertising is just one of many tactics that you can use in your marketing strategy.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure to include custom content in your marketing strategy. Custom content lets you tap into your existing relationships so you can build new, long-lasting ones.
Image courtesy Shutterstock