How do you market your marketing agency to small businesses using content? We asked our author and editor, Joshua Sophy, to share his insights from spending years producing and editing content that is read by millions of SMBs in the United States.

As a young newspaper reporter, one of the first things you learn is that you’re soon to become a mini-expert on a lot of different topics. And in a career that’s carrying on longer than I’d like to admit already -- nearly 20 years on the books -- I’ve read and written quite a bit on a dazzling array of subjects.
For the last quarter of my career, I’ve been focused almost exclusively on small businesses in the USA. Even before that, in my days as a news reporter for my hometown paper, I got to talk to a lot of small business owners.

I was even a small business owner myself when I launched an independent newspaper of my own in 2003. I had to do everything a small publisher could do -- from selling the ads to setting the type to delivering the paper. I sold ads to businesses that couldn’t afford the traditional media outlets.

Suffice it to say, I have been getting the attention of small businesses since the last century, or at least I tried.

Here is how I get a small business owner’s attention and what I think you could do, too:

Make it easy to read.

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

In that limited time, you may be lucky enough to get their attention, and you need to give readers something to walk away with that they didn’t know before.

Surprising stats are typically a can’t-miss piece of content. If you’re going to pack a lot of data into one post on your blog, consider an infographic.

Infographics are also an efficient piece of content. They’ll work on more than just your blog. They also are great for catching the reader’s eye and something that a reader can go back to here and there when they have time.

The infamous listicle is another great piece of content because, if done properly, they give your readers something valuable if they skim or read deeper. Have your list headers tell a story of their own.

Create articles that help get businesses online.

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Yes, it’s 2017. And you read that right.

So many small businesses are still slow to adopt any form of online marketing -- even when it’s free. Any content you produce addressing the idea of getting a business online should let the reader know what they’re missing out on and how simple it is to get started.

Give your readers a checklist of the things they need to get their business online.

Write about free stuff.

Let your clients in on the products and services that are available and beneficial to them that are absolutely free. They can be freemium products, but if they are, let your readers know what exactly they get for free.

Presumably, if your clients know something is free, they’re more likely to lean on your services to implement them into their business.

Social media is where most small businesses think they should be.

This seems to be one area where the average small business owner feels they should be -- everyone they know is using social media -- but feel they either don’t have the time or don’t know what to do. The truth is, it’s both.

What the small business owner needs are some valuable how-to guides. Think, e-books. They’re great evergreen content. You can update them every year with new features and re-market them to a fresh audience.

If there is one area where I get the most feedback, it’s with social media advertising. And the reactions are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Some small businesses get it and others believe they’re getting ripped off.

Simplify this area of online marketing for small businesses. What makes an effective campaign?

Create content that inspires.

Caption: Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

Small business owners love to see what others are doing. They don’t want to copy anything, per se, but seeing what another shop owner like them is doing often inspires them.

Articles that include examples and ideas for stores or business websites or social media sites are simple to create. They’re image intensive and fun to read.

Video marketing is winning.

You can help your client get their business video marketing. You know it but you know they’ll likely bristle at the idea -- too complicated, too expensive.

Create content that shows business owners what they can do simply with video marketing. This is another great spot for content that shows your clients examples of the things they can do.

Here’s a great area to show small businesses how to unlock the power of their smartphones for video marketing.

Avoid clickbait.

Not only is this bad practice, the second you don’t deliver on the sensational headline of your post, you’ve lost your credibility. Trust is hard to gain, but it’s so simple to lose. It can’t be said any simpler: clickbait headlines are a no-no.

That said, headlines are an important factor in getting the attention of the reader. That’s obvious. So you need to find a place somewhere between bland and clickbait.

Numbers in headlines are everywhere. Make your numbers count. Give readers one place to get as much information as they can. Make your list the go-to list. Do your research, update your content to keep it accurate.

Spare readers the photo of the two guys shaking hands or the woman on the headset.

Caption: Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Thousands of sites are using the same stock photos over and over again. It’s nauseating and looks generic. Using these tired stock photos reduces the impact of your unique content. It also lowers the credibility of your advice.

Stock photo sites have millions of images. Think off-beat but on-topic. This is such a subjective topic. There are few wrong images you could use to enhance your content and break up blocks of text.

When you choose images for your posts and other content, try to find images that maintain a consistent look from post to post.

Stay on top of trends.

The last thing you want your clients to think is that you’re out of touch with what’s happening now and what’s going to happen.

Consider having some regular content that follow the latest trends in all things small business. Some of the hot topics right now are:

  • Ecommerce updates: How is it getting simpler?
  • Amazon: Small businesses are doing rather well selling here.
  • Cyber security: They’re woefully unprepared here.
  • Taxes and Regulations: They’re always on the mind of small businesses.
These topics may not exactly align with the services you offer small businesses, but a short post once every couple of weeks gives your site authority. They tell your clients, “Hey, these folks know what I’m up against and thinking about.”

Don’t be so serious.

Caption: Photo by Lucas Filipe on Unsplash

Small business owners (at least in America) are living the new dream. It’s a struggle to run their business. But it’s an equal struggle to find the business owner who’s not having a great time while they’re doing it.

Throw in some content that lightens the mood. Make a list of memes or business FAILs that stay on topic but add in some fun. For example: What are the best games to play while taking a break from work?

Great “fun” content also has a little takeaway for the reader, too.


Most importantly, your content plan should show how adaptive you are. If one thing stands out from my early days in 1999 to today, it’s that things change very quickly. This is why there are so many small business owners who’ve largely avoided marketing their companies online.

Small businesses are looking for partners -- in any sense of the term -- that they can trust. Your blog can be a great tool to showcase your authority and small business expertise. They show your clients what you can do for them and that you possess the expertise they need.

Joshua Sophy is an author and editor for Small Business Trends publication. A journalist with 17 years of experience in traditional and online media, Joshua has been covering small businesses for the past 4 years.