Many startuppers treat content marketing as an afterthought, mainly because they think that the budget should be allocated for other growth channels like online ads. Even though it’s 2019 and blogging is considered as a legitimate way to grow a business online, many are still hesitant whether they need a content marketing strategy to build a decent lead base.
Let me share something with you. Every year, Meaningful Brands creates the list of top 30 meaningful brands, as selected by people. Yes, not so many startups are lucky to be featured in this list. However, there’s one feature that most of the meaningful brands share. A feature that is relevant to startups and plays a critical role in their success.
This feature is content marketing, driven by the culture of customer-centeredness.
Let’s consider a couple of examples. Google tops the list of meaningful brands, and it’s really easy to understand why. The search giant does everything to make sure that the content showed in the results has maximum value for the users; in fact, one of the most important steps to a Google-friendly website is “giving the information they’re looking for.”
As you can see from the image, “This is the single most important thing to do,” according to Google.
Another brand featured in the list is IKEA. The Swedish furniture seller is known for their inspirational content marketing campaigns as well as engaging how-to articles and videos that thousands around the world use to make their homes better.
I know, you can say that these companies have sizable marketing budgets for content production, but having tons to spend for content marketing isn’t a critical requirement here. Ranking high on Google – and therefore building an online presence and raising awareness of your startup – doesn’t cost anything.
The benefits of having a content marketing strategy, however, are significant, and can help you to get more customers:
- Content on your blog fuels SEO, therefore giving you an opportunity to rank high on Google. In turn, more traffic means more leads
- Content can help to make your startup recognizable. By reading your content that features branded elements, people will remember your brand
- Content can make your brand a thought leader. Let’s be honest, all what customers really care about is value to them. By creating content that provides that much-needed value, you can help people solve their problems and they will perceive you as a reliable source of information
- Content is an alternative to ads. People are sick and tired of ads that have no value to them, so they often look for content that can inspire, educate, or inform them to make better decisions. For example, 81 percent of customers begin product research online by looking for product articles and videos, not ads.
So, all of this brings us to this: content marketing is essential for all companies. Even the best ads in the world won’t give you enough sales because people simply don’t trust brands that don’t put their target audiences at the heart of everything they do. They are fed up with in-your-face advertising.
With that in mind, let’s move on to build a content marketing strategy for your early-stage startup.
Before we get to the steps you need to create a strategy, let me make one thing very clear: having a documented strategy is a must for maximizing content performance because it provides organization and goals to your effort.
Content marketing is not a project, but a long-term strategy.
Research from Content Marketing Institute supports this. Accordingly, 59 percent of the most successful B2C businesses have a documented strategy, compared to only 18 percent of the least successful ones.
Credit: Content Marketing Institute
Since new startups are cropping up every week, you need to know everything required for success, so I documenting your strategy is important.
Now, let’s get to building it.
Step 1: Define What You Would Like to Achieve with Content
Any content marketing strategy needs goals to define the implementation. For example, what are your main intentions of creating this strategy? Increase traffic on your website by 30 percent? Achieve 2,000 app downloads? Build a lead base with 1,000 email addresses with free trial signups?
Notice that every goal I’ve above mentioned has some numbers. Including specifics is really important because they ensure that you can measure your success. For example, how can say that you achieved your goal of “increasing website traffic” if your analytics say it increased by 5 percent?
On top of that, an inability to measure the performance of the strategy due to vague goals also prevents you from defining marketing techniques that really work.
Step 2: Define Content Types to Use
Before you think of specific topics to produce content, you should learn what content types are out there to define the ones your startup can produce. For example, there are quite a few types of content that online businesses use to attract target audiences, including:
- Blog posts
- Guest posts
- Email newsletters
- User-generated content such as customer posts on social media
- Case studies
- White papers
- Press releases
- Free tools
The list goes on and on, and each type is uniquely positioned to help you achieve specific marketing goals. For example, a free tool and an email newsletter are perfect for collecting emails addresses form leads while guest posts are great for driving traffic to your website or landing pages and raising awareness of your brand, product, or service.
Since it’s not easy for a startup to invest a lot of money in content production, consider using free online tools to help you. For example, a graphic design tool like Canva can be an excellent companion for designing images for blog posts, social media posts, and infographics;
Step 3: Know What Your Customers Want from You
If you have your target audience defined, it means that you know their interests, problems, and goals. This knowledge is critical because it can help you to decide the topics that you’re going to create your content about. This is what customer-centeredness is all about: your target audience drives your content production, not you.
In most cases, the best performing content is designed to answer the most common and relevant questions and issues that your target customers have – and help them in addressing them. To find out these questions and issues, you can:
- Research your target audience directly via online surveys
- Take a look at the content of your competitors
- Study resources such as industry reports and typical customer profiles.
Be sure to also create a list of keywords to target using the information you collected from your target customers. For that, you can use Google’s own Keyword Planner.
Step 4: Decide on Content Distribution Channels
Now that we know the types of content you’re going to create, it’s time to ask yourself a question: “How will my customers find my content?” There is a number of content distribution channels out there that you should consider; the most effective ones are shown on the below image,
Credit: Marketing Charts
As you can see, email marketing is by far the most effective channel here, as 82 percent of the surveyed marketers confirmed. Social media and website/blog are also quite impactful, with more than half of the respondents agreeing.
For your startup, using social media and website/blog are the cheapest channels, so it makes perfect sense to use them. For example, you can share your articles, videos, and other content there, and try to drive traffic to landing pages.
Conducting email marketing is also comparably cheap, but the main challenge here is to accumulate enough contact data from leads. So, it might be a good idea to start with website/blog and social media, gradually build the base of leads and content, and then get into email marketing.
Step #5: Decide How to Measure Results
As it was briefly mentioned above, you can’t achieve and/or improve anything if you can’t measure it. So, to define if your content marketing campaign is effectively working to help your startup reach its main goals, you should measure its performance.
Typically, online business track the following content marketing metrics to achieve this goal: onsite engagement, lead number/quality, website traffic, sales, SEO performance, and authority rank. Obviously, the metrics for you to track depend on your content strategy and goals, but let me first go through the process of measuring website traffic because you’re likely to utilize it.
One of the best tools to track website traffic is, of course, Google Analytics. It’s free and really easy to use. For example, to check how many people visited a certain page on your website, you should click Behavior in the main menu and then go to Site Content > Landing Pages.
There, you’ll discover traffic stats and analyze the historical data. Also, make sure to take a look at traffic sources because if you know where your traffic is coming from, you can realize what you’re doing right with your content marketing strategy.
Google also has suggestions on improving the performance of landing pages, so feel free to browse Analytics Help section to get more useful information.
Step #6: Produce Content
Now there’s nothing left to do but create content for your target audience. Decide how many items of specific content types you’ll create weekly and remember to be consistent about your effort to maximize the chances of being displayed in Google search results.
If you feel like you could use some inspiration for your content, then feel free to use the following tips.
Look for Inspiration with Content Discovery Tools
Of course, the main source of content ideas for you is your target audience, but you can also use content discovery tools like Buzzsumo to find the most popular content based on your keywords. For example, if you’re a startup that sells coffee, chances are that you’ll be writing about espresso recipes on your blog. So, if you search Buzzsumo for “espresso recipes,” you’ll discover the following ideas.
As you can see, some of the articles enjoyed quite a bit of popularity on social media, which means that the topics were interesting for coffee lovers (your target audience). So, you can write your unique content on similar topics to get your fair share of traffic and shares.
Use Popular Phrases in Headlines
According to a recent study of the most shared articles on social media, certain phrases in headlines seem to contribute to content’s performance, namely shares on social media. For example, here’s a list of top headline phrases as well as Facebook engagement they generated.
By analyzing the results of studies like this one, you can become more knowledgeable about what people love to read and share, which will help you to create better content and improve your strategy.
Step #7: Analyze and Improve
Now that your content is regularly created and published on your chosen marketing platforms, the job is not done yet. To maximize the benefits of the content strategy for your startup, you should check its performance using tools like Google Analytics and improve it. See what works best and focus on it to maximize the benefits.
Remember, content marketing is a strategy and a journey, so it requires constant monitoring and adjustment. It evolves together with your business, so making changes in the content strategy is something that you should treat like a requirement for advancement.
A customer-centered content marketing strategy is a legitimate tool for building a sizable lead base, increase website traffic, build a good image, and improve the overall online presence. Remember, you don’t have to have a budget like Ikea to create useful content for your target audience, as ranking on Google is free.
Every startup has a good chance to build a great company and achieve a significant business growth if he can produce great content on a regular basis. Your content marketing strategy will be the tool to help you to do exactly that.