You don't have to be a large national or international company to give you business an advantage over your competition using original online content. In fact, it may be easier for a regional retailer to create a competitive edge through content creation. The key is to create content that helps you customers and potential customers. You can write blog posts, create videos, answer questions, post on social media or even start a podcast – all with either free or very inexpensive tools. It just takes your time and expertise.
Why is content so important? For one thing, consumers are researching many of their purchases online before they buy – so you better have some information on the products you sell readily available for them to find in their search for information. Otherwise, they'll find it on one of your competitor's sites. In fact, Google, the 800-pound gorilla of the search engine world has completely overhauled how it serves up search results. It's no longer about having the right keywords on you site – it's about having fresh, relevant content. If you're not producing good content that meets the needs of you customers, they will not find you when doing a search. SEO is all about content these days.
Probably the best example of how a small, regional retailer can use content to drive business is the case of River Pools and Spas in Virginia. Owner Marcus Sheridan was trying to figure out how to keep from going bankrupt when business got almost non-existent at the height of the big recession back in 2008. To drum up business, he decided to start creating content that would draw people to his site and position them as the preeminent experts in in-ground pools.
It was his goal to become the Wikipedia of information about pools. He took every question that anyone had ever asked him about pools and created a blog post around the answer. Soon, any time someone was considering a pool and doing research online, they found the answers to their questions on his site. Business not only picked up, it started booming. Now, they've expanded into other businesses. One, teaching other companies how to use content marketing. They've also move into not just installing pools, but manufacturing them. If you'd like to see a case study on how they did this, you can find a good post on the Copyblogger blog here.
It's not easy, but any size retailer can use this format to create more business. But you need someone within the organization to take ownership of the content. And then you need to either convince people within your organization to create that content or hire someone (freelancers or a firm like Yaffe) to create the content for you. But even if you hire it out, you need to be involved in what gets produced, because no one will know your business like you do. It's an investment in time and money, but as the River Pools and Spas example shows it can create big dividends, even for small to medium businesses.
Large companies don't have a monopoly on stories, info or expertise – and they may have a harder time disseminating it than a smaller more agile business. This is one area you can use to create a competitive advantage, no matter what size you are. You have nothing to lose in trying and a lot to gain. Go ahead, share your expertise. Write your own story.