Even though I work in the marketing industry, I’m the first to admit that the marketing world is oversubscribed with buzz words – the latest being Context Marketing.  At a recent SEO conference I attended everyone was talking about Context Marketing and how Content Marketing is so last year! Actually content is still critical but what takes you to the next level in your marketing is making sure that you deliver that content in the right context.

There’s been plenty said and written about Context Marketing, the trouble is so much of it is targeted at the bigger companies, with plenty of customer data and a sizable marketing budget to go with it.  I thought it would be useful to look at Context Marketing from a small business owner’s point of view and give you some achievable steps to take to try it for yourself.

First things first,

What is Context Marketing?

what is context marketing

Context marketing is about delivery your content in a way that provides the most value for your audience. Understanding your target market so well that you know what knowledge, products or services will solve your ideal client’s problem at that point in time.  If you compare it to the real world it’s like putting a display of tissues in the middle of the cold and flu remedies at the pharmacist.  By getting the context right it establishes you as credible, useful and authoritative and it also increases their desire to do business with you in the future.

Why it already exist

If you’re reading this and thinking there’s nothing new being said, then you’re not alone. Ultimately context marketing is nothing more than understanding your customers and this should already be at the heart of good marketing.  Certainly it’s been around for decades in the offline world with retailers using context in everything they do when it comes to their marketing campaigns.  Think about the seasonal back-to-school ads that begin running in the weeks leading up to a new school year, or far too early before Christmas!

But with online marketing, perhaps we’ve been a bit slower to catch on.  If we’ve been following the Content is King mantra, without much strategy or analysis, we may have been putting so much information online without first considering whether the customer wants or needs to know that at this point in time.

context marketing for small businessWhen finding everything is worse than finding nothing.  If we’re not careful, we can swamp our audience with too much information and leave them clueless.

What they really need is information that is in context to their situation – they’ve gone online to find an answer to a problem they have.  Sending them in circles or down the wrong path, they are going to hit the back button but if they get given the information they want at the right time, suddenly you’ve hit gold and they are your customer for the taking.

Context and content work together to provide an ultimate value experience for your ideal customer.  Without providing useful content, how are your audience going to find you in the first place but unless you are providing it in the proper context, at the right time, it won’t have the impact that you want and its unlikely that your audience will stay engaged with you over time.

How to do Context Marketing in a Small Business

You Want Context? Understand Your Customer.  Getting to know your audience is vital to your Context Marketing strategy.  Do not try to push a ‘one size fits all’ approach to content production.

At the conference I attended, there was a lot of talk about Big Data –the overwhelming amount of information available about your audience.  It’s scary how much we can find out about our online life.  But that’s all and well and good for a company with a sizable budget, and a team to process the data to give precise customer insights.  What about us small companies or start-ups without the data, expertise or budget to get hold of this level of detail?

customer segmentationWithout all the data available it’s still possible to understand your target audience based on your own experience, those of your competitors or through research (much of which can be done online for free).  Understand your website analytics – it’s amazing the level of detail you can get (but only if you have enough site visitors in the first place).  Study your overall audience base and segment it as much as you can.  Develop audience persona profiles for each of your segments and ensure you understand how they engage with you.

Understand the customer decision journey – are they just considering using a product or service like yours, are they researching and comparing, are they buying or are they post purchase, interacting with you and advocating your product.

They all have different needs so produce content for each customer segment or stage of the journey.   The piece of content may reach a smaller audience but it will be far more relevant, far more personalised and in turn far more engaging.

Let’s me illustrate this simply;  I bought a washing machine online last week – mine broke down so there was no consideration of whether I should or shouldn’t have one.  I needed one urgently but even so, I wasn’t ready to buy at that stage so visiting a sales page would have been a waste of time for me initially.  I wanted to research so I went to a review site to compare the latest models.  Only then was I ready to go to a price comparison site and from there make my purchase on a supplier site.  Now the washing machine is here and the mountain of dirty washing has receded, I’ve been asked to review my purchase and recommend it to others.  Different websites or pages on the same website for each stage of my journey.  And a happy ending for me.

If you have control over your content management system, it should be straight forward to add pages or posts to your site for each stage of the buying journey, making sure you link from one to another to help move them down that sales funnel.

Another common Context Marketing tool is the use of email marketing.  Getting the potential customer to sign up to your list (eg for a free piece of information or product) then sending them content over time that is relevant to who they are or what stage of the sales process they are at.

Piggy-back on those doing the ultimate Context Marketing.  If any of you are using Google Now on your mobile devices, you’ll have noticed how it anticipates your needs based on the time, location and situation.  By making sure your business is on Google + there’s a chance Google Now will send information to your clients about your business when it senses the need for this information. I’ll save the complexities of this for another blog post but Google+ makes a lot of sense for small business at the moment.

The trend of Context Marketing may feel like a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes for you or it may open your eyes to a more sophisticated approach to your online marketing.  Either way, as a small business, it’s still important to break your marketing messages down so you are reaching a smaller but more attentive audience, rather than a one size fits all approach.  And there are ways of doing it without breaking the bank.

Want to find out a bit more about context marketing for small business and how you can implement it in your online marketing – give me a call or send me an email via my contact page.


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