There are two common challenges that startups face: money and marketing. Unfortunately, these struggles are interconnected. Startups allocate most of their budgets for salaries and operational costs. Even though it’s equally important for them to get the word out about their brand, marketing is often neglected to cover other expenses. And because startups aren’t marketing enough, it’s difficult for them to find paying customers for their products or services. The cycle repeats.
Of course, a startup’s priority should be keeping the venture afloat - but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your marketing efforts. One of the most effective and least costly alternatives you have to traditional marketing is content marketing. Content marketing is an option that allows you to connect with potential customers, save additional cash on sales efforts, and build your brand in the process.
According to the Harvard Business Review, startups combine three elements that create an inspiring context with their work that is difficult to replicate in established organizations: business intent, employee experience, and customer connection.
With these three elements, startups spark a refreshing energy that attracts people towards the organization. Employees connect with the venture’s values and ideas. They become passionate about how their work serves end users, which in turn, prompts end users to form emotional ties to the organization.
Out of all the marketing options available, content marketing is best suited for startups. This is because content marketing echoes and aligns with this startup ethos. Good content can seamlessly weave together what is purposeful, imaginative, and relevant to customers in articles, videos, images, and other materials.
Let’s take a look at Design Pickle, a graphic design startup that launched in 2015. The idea behind Design Pickle was simple: for a flat fee, you can access unlimited graphic design services for a month. Since 2015, the startup has completed over 835,000 requests and employed over 500 graphic designers around the US.
One of the ways they achieved this success was through content marketing. Design Pickle’s founders wrote guest articles for blogs. They also launched Youtube videos that helped them get their brand off the ground. In one video, they featured a graphic design contest between a designer and a non-designer. The concept was simple and entertaining but it brought the point across: you need to hire a designer.
Another reason why content marketing suits startups so well is that it takes the sting out of building a marketing presence from scratch. Content marketing is cheap, scalable, customizable, evergreen, and competitive. For newly-launched businesses, these intrinsic benefits are worth the time and effort it takes to make each piece of content.
Unless your startup received a lot of funding, you’re probably saving on costs where you can. This usually means a large chunk of the budget goes into product development and only a shoestring is leftover for marketing. Fortunately, content doesn’t cost a lot of money - and this is probably the best reason startup ventures should adopt this marketing strategy first.
There are dozens of free or inexpensive channels for producing and distributing content. In fact, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and can generate thrice as many leads. Instead of allocating your money for paid ads and sponsored social media posts, spend more time crafting quality content to generate buzz organically.
Starting small and working your way up from there is applicable to both startups and content. You can begin carefully with a small budget, engage through a few chosen channels, and do most of the work yourself.
Once you’re a little more established, you can expand as your audience grows and your company gains its footing. Of course, you shouldn’t spend all your time and energy on creating content. Otherwise, your content may overtake your business instead.
Traditional ads in print and on TV are a little impersonal. You also pay a lot more money to reach a general audience, which might not suit your business. Content marketing allows you to appeal to your target audience more effectively with less intrusion.
With the right data and analytics, your content can be directed towards the people you’re eager to reach. These target audiences would also be more likely to welcome the message you have to offer because you’re not interrupting them or trying to sell to them.
Some good content never gets old. If you can produce “evergreen” content, you’ll find that they can attract visitors to your website over the years. Rather than creating content around “trendy” topics that expire, you can answer questions or resolve problems that potential clients are always asking about.
Consistency or regularity is also important in producing insightful, researched content. You don’t have to write a blog post every day but you should at least aim to publish something timely to share on social media every week. This practice will help build up your website’s contents and drive audience engagement.
There are hundreds of startups being founded every day but not all are successful. It’s difficult to fight for visibility among potential customers, much less push them down your sales pipeline. In competitive markets, it’s easy for an up-and-coming organization to get lost in the denseness of your industry.
Content marketing can give you a competitive advantage. Instead of competing with other businesses through ads, why not offer a useful (and free) resource to your target audience instead? Your target customers would be more likely to choose your business for its helpfulness than your competitors for their noise.
One of the best things about today’s digital age is that many marketing resources and tools are widely accessible, if not completely free. Specifically, you can spin your content marketing tactics to influence almost every other online strategy you can think of for a fraction of the cost. Here are some examples of how content marketing can help you explore various marketing channels:
Email marketing is defined as the act of sending a commercial message to a group of people using email. It’s a cost effective tool for enhancing your startup’s relationship with previous and current customers as well as prospects. Email marketing and content marketing share something in common: both styles aim to build loyalty to the business by sharing and sending content.
Even with limited resources, you can create a mailing list of your target audience and send out purposeful, informative, and visually-appealing content. Remember, your audience won’t really care about your email if what you’re sending them isn’t interesting or relevant to them. By employing content marketing tactics, you can share materials that will keep your audience engaged - just make sure not to do it everyday.
Who doesn’t want to be a brand that pops up on Google’s first page? As a startup, you could pump a lot of your capital into a paid search campaign but that’s not a wise way to spend your money. After all, there will always be someone else with a bigger marketing budget than you. The key to landing yourself to the top rank of every search engine result is good content.
When you create good content that your audience enjoys and finds helpful, you’ll build up a strong SEO: organic keywords, better numbers, social sharing, and backlinks will allow you to spread your brand’s message and become a trusted source of information. Even if you’re a startup that has developed a revolutionary product no one knows about yet, chances are high that your content will be found by people who are looking for a general way to solve their problem. From your content, you can introduce what you have to offer.
As you may already know, establishing a social media presence is a must for small businesses. But aside from being a platform for people to get in touch with you, your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter accounts could also open the door to conversations with your audience.
Posting content such as your blog articles, thoughtful infographics, or short video clips can generate dialogue between you and the people you want to reach. Entice more people to visit your website by adding eye-catching descriptions or photos to the links of your content. By combining content with the social, you can establish a stronger voice and online presence for your brand.
As a startup, your challenge is to reach out to potential customers quickly. Even if you are an expert of something in your industry, it’s possible that no one really knows about it. The fastest way to get your startup into the spotlight is to place yourself in front of an already-established audience.
Of course, this can be done through content. Choose an established blog with a large audience who are part of your target market. Check or ask these blogs to see if they accept guest posts. Maybe you can write something along the lines of thought leadership or share industry insights. Once this audience sees you are credible and reputable, they may look up your business directly.
If you’re not a leader in your industry, you most likely know the person who is. These leaders are already established as subject experts in a specific niche or sector, so their influence can give you a boost with the people who pay attention to them.
When creating your content, you can include a reference to a statement or report made by that industry leader. Tag them on social media, comment something on their posts, and share it with others. Your goal is to have these industry leaders follow you and share your content to their followers - which can bring more traffic to your website.
Saving money isn’t the only thing content is good for. If you’re savvy enough, you can actually utilize content to build trust with your audience through thought leadership.
As a startup, you have a lot of room for leading the way. You might have expertise over something others in your industry doesn’t. You also aren’t limited by the processes that plague larger competitors. You might be more agile with implementing strategies or you’re not as impatient to build relationships with your audiences.
The problem with many businesses, however, is that they are afraid to share what they know. Some startups are reluctant to produce educational content for fear of giving away valuable information and services for free. Unfortunately, this attitude won’t work with modern audiences.
People nowadays want to be empowered. They want to gain something before investing in your brand, so it’s imperative that startups become more empathetic in order to communicate their message properly. When you share content that helps your audience solve a problem in some way, you’ll become known as a brand that is knowledgeable, helpful, trustworthy, and valuable.
With content production, you can integrate a form of thought leadership into your marketing strategy. And through thought leadership, you can exhibit why your brand matters. So how do you develop content that cements your brand’s authority, reputation, and influence? Here are three tips to keep in mind:
Real thought leadership doesn’t sell you a product or service. It sells you ideas, expertise, and authenticity. The goal of thought leadership is to build trust because trust is the crucial asset that leads to sales conversions. Keep in mind that you’re playing a long game as you build your reputation and position your company as the most knowledgeable on a topic.
There is nothing new under the sun and that makes thought leadership difficult to achieve. Your content should include an original insight that breaks new ground, presents a new argument, or adds to the existing conversation. You want your audience to think about your points and change their perspective.
Producing something of quality is a given when it comes to content, but more so with thought leadership pieces. You have to present a handful of key messages in-depth rather than a pile of so-so content. Remember, good ideas are rare and that makes them valuable. By owning these messages, even a small startup can stand out from the crowd.