Why Small Businesses Hate Content Marketing (and What to Do About It)

by Craig McBreen · 16 comments · Content Marketing

Why-Businesses-Hate_ContentMarketingHave you ever tried to explain what Content Marketing is to a small business owner?

Ever been to a meeting where social media comes up and you’re greeted with blank stares and a “let’s please move on” gaze?

And what about the following …

“I like the idea, but not right now.”

“We just don’t have time.”

“I don’t write … ”

I could go on, but you get the picture (or like me, you’ve experienced this push-back).

But guess what?

I get it.

I’m a small business owner and understand the hesitation. I realize most of these people are too busy running a successful firm to learn about blogging and social.

Most small businesses don’t like the term, Content Marketing, because they don’t understand it.

This is uncharted territory for them, which translates to spending lots of money on something they know very little about.

So, there’s a problem. A big problem, because …

a. All the practices of Content Marketing are what many small firms and organizations need, and must practice to grow, but …

b. There’s a huge chasm between … (owners, marketing managers and principals) … and … (those who preach this stuff and know how absolutelyfreakingfantastic this can all be for them)!

A gap between Them and Us.

And the problem is in the language, or should I say the way we present the language.

Okay, okay, I hate the term Content Marketing just as much as you, but if we introduce another now — just when Content Marketing is catching on with the peeps I work with — we’re just going to confuse everybody.

I don’t think you want mass confusion, do you?

BUT this is NOT going to be a post where I burn “Content Marketing” at the stake.

No, quite the contrary. So, here we go …

1. Content Marketing is the de facto term. So … Learn it, love it, live it. 

And this is how you do so …

Instead of refusing to use it, build client presentations around it.

Here’s a great lead-in …

Most of the people who hire me are all over the term SEO. They know it, realize they must practice it, and are eager, ready and willing to learn about it. But they think it means optimizing their website with those crusty old meta tags. Ugh.

Innefective, is right, so …

2. How Do You Introduce Small Business Clients to Content Marketing?

Craft a short presentation that explains what SEO is:

From Web Crawling to Indexing to Ranking.

And Ranking is the sweet spot, because this is where you introduce the importance of links, social sharing and long-tail keyword phrases, which leads to … BAM, you guessed it … Content Marketing.

I like to introduce them to that Oracle we all know and love, Matt Cutts. Then let them hear a few clips of him explaining SEO, then ask them if they understood what the heck he was saying?

After some nods, I then proceed to tell them this is your SEO presentation for real people who might just love Matt’s short, sweet SEO breakdown.

And this SEO discussion (talking about web spiders, the importance of links and the science of … ranking) leads to discussions on branding, marketing and you guessed it … Content Marketing. Ta-da!

Which leads to my big #3 …

3. When Explaning Content Marketing and SEO,  Stop Trying to Sound So Damn Smart.

Ugh! Have you read some of these content marketing posts? If you haven’t checked, there are about 5,557,001 out there, and many speak the same boring, old, tech-speak drivel.

Do you want to point your clients to boring old chatter or “I’m to smart for you” content?


When it comes to explaining Content Marketing there are several people who, in my humble opinion, have it nailed and they speak in a language people can understand.

I love their content, speak their language, and will praise them ’til the cows come home …

Ryan-Hanley 1. Ryan Hanley :: He led an Insurance Company to Content Marketing, success. Now he has his own company and he’s simply killing it. Check out Ryan’s blog.
Marcus-Sheridan 2. Marcus Sheridan :: A super-smart guy who knows how to speak to a busy, stressed, small business owner. SEO, Content Marketing and more … one of the best sources out there.
Laura-Click  3. Laura Click :: Practical, hands-on advice that gets to the point, and she obviously knows effective small business speak. Laura is in the trenches fighting the good fight every day.

They relate to the crowd they are speaking to and they deliver.

That, my friend, is what you have to do.

So, check out the fine peeps above and see how they roll.

And if you’re trying to help your small business clients by growing their businesses through Content Marketing …

1. Accept the term. Or better yet, give it a big, wet kiss.

2. Craft some language around it, starting with friendly terms like SEO and branding, then lead into the benefits of Content Marketing done right, and …

3. Stop trying to sound like a Content Marketing expert :)

Sounds counterintuitive, but guess what? It works.

Cheers and go get ‘em :)

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Gail Gardner June 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

Thanks for encouraging small businesses to start using content to their advantage. What we really need is for serious bloggers to grow local audiences. What local small businesses need is to reach potential customers where they operate.

Even 50,000 visitors a month does them no good if they are scattered all over the world. But 50,000 all in one place – now that is valuable. When you have the right audience, it makes sense for small businesses to collaborate with you. Monetizing a local blog is far easier than trying to make money with a global audience.
Gail Gardner recently posted..Affordable Social Media Mentoring for Your #SmallBiz ~ Ask Your QuestionsMy Profile


Craig McBreen June 4, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Hi Gail,

You’re welcome … and they need to!

“What we really need is for serious bloggers to grow local audiences.” Agreed, especially when we are talking about region co’s like engineering firms, environmental services, CPAs, construction, etc.

Working on this and am speaking to local co’s.

Thanks for the great points!
Craig McBreen recently posted..Why Small Businesses Hate Content Marketing (and What to Do About It)My Profile


Stephen Lahey June 4, 2014 at 11:01 am

Small professional services firms come to mind. For example, the fact that so few small law firms and accounting firms do any content marketing means that standing out is that much easier for those that do.
Stephen Lahey recently posted..Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less: Expert Tips From Diana SchneidmanMy Profile


Craig McBreen June 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Hi Stephen,

Indeed! I’m starting to speak to local small businesses on this very topic! Certain industries are nothing close to saturated and a firm that really jumps on board … well that could be a game-changer.

Craig McBreen recently posted..Why Small Businesses Hate Content Marketing (and What to Do About It)My Profile


Laura Click June 5, 2014 at 7:36 am

When I saw this post hit my inbox, I got excited right away! You nailed it – a lot of folks simply don’t understand content marketing or why it’s valuable. But, I think the bigger problem for small businesses is that even if they agree this is a good idea, they struggle with finding the time to do it or the resources to help.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. And, it will take time and money to work. But, if you’re willing to invest in this type of approach, it can pay off if you do it right.

Thanks so much for the kind shout out, friend! I’m so glad to have you in my corner!!!
Laura Click recently posted..Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You ShouldMy Profile


Craig McBreen June 5, 2014 at 10:51 am

Hi Laura,

Glad you were. Heck, I was kind of excited while writing it ;)

“a lot of folks simply don’t understand content marketing or why it’s valuable. But, I think the bigger problem for small businesses is that even if they agree this is a good idea, they struggle with finding the time to do it or the resources to help.”

– Yes, which means you and I have a lot of work ahead of us ;) I’ll be speaking next week and will be building small talks/workshops over the summer. I feel there’s a need that’s not being met, even in a city like Seattle.

Definitely a marathon though.

You’re welcome. It’s well-deserved, because you are doing such great work. Congrats on your mention over at {grow} too!
Craig McBreen recently posted..Why Small Businesses Hate Content Marketing (and What to Do About It)My Profile


Chris Agro June 6, 2014 at 5:01 am

I love this subject. Educating small business entrepreneurs on the value of content marketing is a tough sell (even though content marketing has been around way before the Internet).

Doing it right is imperative, and most that try do not. I recently watched a great slideshow “Why Content Marketing Fails” by Rand Fishkin. It explains how most go about it wrong, and how to do it right! I highly recommend checking it out. http://www.slideshare.net/randfish/why-content-marketing-fails
Chris Agro recently posted..Attorney Branding and Website Design by AgrotisingMy Profile


Craig McBreen June 9, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Hey Chris,

“Educating small business entrepreneurs on the value of content marketing is a tough sell.”
– Sure is! But once they convert over there is no going back.

I love that slide deck, especially the caveman speak ;)

Thanks, Sir.
Craig McBreen recently posted..Why Small Businesses Hate Content Marketing (and What to Do About It)My Profile


Davina K. Brewer June 25, 2014 at 11:58 am

Saw this one over on LI, glad it’s here too. You picked some good people, and really there are several in this space. So first, let me co-sign Laura’s time/money/expertise to do it right, which is what it takes to earn results. And second, calling things what they really are? Clients don’t know from SEO to CM, to HR or care that publicity is not all there is to PR. They just… don’t. What they do know, what they can get is – everyone Googles for the same things: what they want, what they need. It’s all about them; as a business owner you’ve got to be found by target online; and what they find needs to address their, the customer’s, WIIFM. Give me something cool or great or fix a problem, or get out of my way. Period.

Now, here’s the rub it’s taken me a long time to accept and really haven’t quite nailed down yet. Per Gail’s comment on ‘local’ it’s just that .. the WIIFM, the value customers seek is often not delivered by the local SMB. Google brings to their keyboard a business 2,300 miles away – but hey, that have a superior product backed by great service and a sterling reputation, all for 20% less $. FWIW, if a small business up the street can’t do that, can’t top that.. the rest won’t matter.
Davina K. Brewer recently posted..Atlanta, the Braves, the Fans: A Tale of Three CitiesMy Profile


Craig McBreen June 26, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Hi Davina,

Good people, indeed.

Most of the businesses I talk to lump it all into social, including SEO. But more than a few are coming around. They know the lingo, are hip to content marketing and want to get started, in some way. So right what you say … learn to write as a customer searches. WIIFM, indeed :) That is the way to get good keyword and copy started. With small, local businesses it’s a combination of long-tail keywords, great copy, etc. But then you have to have a solid local SEO strategy … basically every little thing you can do beyond the website. And every little citation does count for something.

Thanks for the comments :)


Darragh McCurragh July 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

Maybe there is another problem here as well: We have a) companies that never heard of content marketing because they never had an SEO firm looking after their web interests. Typically they had a web designer (or did it all themselves with typical results) who knew what to do. They don’t even know what SEO is because their web designer would have told them, if it mattered. Then b) there are those who were exposed to SEO. By those companies who, when I check their pagerank, trust rank, page and domain authority could do with a good SEO consultant themselves. But they are “bona fide” SEO firms – they know, so that’s what we listened to. The c) is the tiny fraction of companies where a good SEO meets an intransigent CEO (those you talk about above) and, given good people skills and good references, might finally sway to put his best “elevator pitch” on the net. That results in d) – those VERY few companies who get it right by now as they follow SEO advice, and not for three weeks only.
Darragh McCurragh recently posted..RatherYes: Web directories we can recommend 001My Profile


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