“Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” —Seth Godin
While this statement is hyperbolic, it is worth thinking about it since it’s coming from one of the greatest marketers of our time. It indicates a clear trend – content marketing is becoming more and more important. According to the content marketing institute, 46% of businesses want to increase their content creation spending in 2022.
Luckily for startups, they are very well-positioned to make use of this trend.
In this guide, we talk about why content marketing is one of the best marketing strategies for startups. Moreover, we give a couple of important principles on how to do it effectively.
Table of Contents:
- . Why is content marketing ideal for early-stage startups?
- . What kind of content do I need to create to promote my startup?
- . How can my content attract a large audience?
1. Why is content marketing ideal for early-stage startups?
One of the main reasons is that content marketing could be much less capital intensive than some of the other common promotional strategies.
Yes, high production value video content could be very expensive to produce – MrBeast is allegedly spending several million dollars per video. However, content that brings results could be created for free as well – all it takes to write an article is a few hours of time from one of your team members.
This is important because early-stage startups don’t have big budgets, and it’s usually a mistake to spend disproportionately on marketing, especially before finding convincing evidence that you have product-market fit.
What you have is the time of your co-founders and team members to invest, and investing it in a well-thought-out content marketing strategy could pay high dividends in the long run.
It’s important to keep in mind that content marketing rarely gives results instantly, however, any content marketing efforts could with time grow exponentially and keep bringing results in the long run, even after you stop investing your own time in this strategy.
Equally importantly, content marketing could help you in your search for product-market fit. Seeing the traction and user interest in different pieces of content and topics could help you understand better what resonates with your target audience. Analyzing the results of your content efforts could even help you define your target audience better and find your MVS (minimum viable segment), which is crucial for finding product-market fit.
2. What kind of content do I need to create to promote my startup?
“In 2004, good SEO made you remarkable on the web. In 2014, good SEO is a result of being remarkable on the web.” — Rand Fishkin
This is not just true for search engine optimization. To stand out in the sea of content, you need to have high quality and uniqueness. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to get noticed on Google SERPs or social media feeds.
2.1 Think about your goal
First, you should think about your goal. If it is to do content experiments in order to see which are the pain points of your users you’ll employ a different overall strategy compared to if your goal is to collect hot leads.
You need to have a clear answer of “why” you are creating content before you can move on to “what”, “how”, “where”, etc.
2.2 Create value
It’s very hard to make content marketing work if you are blatantly advertising your offering through your content. There must be a reason people want to consume your content. People don’t want to be sold to, they consume content because it provinces value for them – they get information, entertainment, etc.
What value can you generate?
One of the best practical pieces of advice for SEO is to check out the content on the first page of Google for a specific search query you are targeting, and then judge if and how you can create something much better. It’s very hard to rank if you don’t.
This is true for all types of content. See your competition in the niche you are targeting, and make sure you can generate a lot of added value.
2.3 Focus & uniqueness
How you can generate this value is another important question and the ideal answer usually isn’t “we’ll do the same thing but better”.
After all, one of your main goals for content marketing as an early-stage startup founder should be to increase the value of your brand, and in order to do this, you need to stand out.
To do so, you can approach your niche and topic from a unique angle. Use the unique intersection of the skills, experience, knowledge, and interests of your team to create something that nobody else can copy effectively.
2.4 Choose the medium wisely
Video is the no. 1 content medium with 59% of content marketers using video according to HubSpot.
That said, video is also arguably the most difficult medium to create, especially if you want high production-value content. It’s a mistake to automatically jump on video just because it is the most widely consumed medium without considering the actual capabilities of your team to execute well. Over-investing in video content is an easy mistake to make.
As a startup, it’s a good idea to try to validate your content concept before investing heavily in it – this is true for all mediums, but it is especially true for video, which is the most capital and time-intensive.
Consider the unique skills of your team – if you have a top-level graphic designer, then maybe you can create unique, high-value infographics much easier than you can create engaging videos, etc.
Last but certainly not least, the medium should be chosen based on your target audience. Where do your potential users hang out and what type of content do they consume? Think about your niche, not the broad audience. For example, if they hang out exclusively on TikTok, then there isn’t much of a choice for your medium. You have to succeed with short-form video content.
2.5 Think about viewer/reader intent and choose the channel wisely
You need to put sufficient thought into the reader or viewer intent of your audience. For example, if your goal is to make sales directly, then you need to create valuable content for users with high purchase intent.
For example, “the best X app/service/product” likely attracts high purchase intent users, while “funny cat memes” doesn’t.
Consider why people are hanging out on different channels. For example, they are on Google because they are searching for specific information. A good SEO-focused content marketing strategy usually entails providing informative content.
In contrast, people are hanging out on TikTok for entertainment. In order to succeed there, being entertaining is more important than being purely informative.
3. How can my content attract a large audience?
Of course, creating high-quality content is only half the battle – you need to find an audience for it. After all, content is only the first half of content marketing – you need to put equal effort into the second part – marketing.
3.1 Engage with the community to get a critical mass of followers
Simply broadcasting your content on your chosen channel usually isn’t enough. The algorithms of most channels aren’t very friendly to brand new pieces of content from brand-new creators. In order to prove to the algorithm that your content is something that specific users are going to want to consume, then you need to gain some initial traction on your own and provide the algorithm with good-looking engagement statistics.
The best general principle to employ to achieve that is to engage a lot on your chosen platform with your target audience. Don’t just comment on your own content pieces. Consume content created by other people and genuinely engage in the conversation there. Don’t try to promote yourself too hard – this is repulsive to most people. Just like with your content, you need to generate value with your comments and other forms of participation in the discussion.
While this isn’t highly scalable, it is a very important step to jump-starting a following.
If you manage to attract 100 dedicated followers who are genuinely interested in your content, then they would give your new content pieces the push needed for the algorithm to consider them and promote them automatically to a wider audience.
Of course, the right type of engagement is different on the different platforms.
On Twitter, this might entail following the right people and brands and engaging with their audience. On other platforms, it might be more complicated.
For example, posting your SEO-focused articles in forums and online communities where they would add value and where you are frequently engaging is very useful because this could get you earned backlinks for the content on top of content engagement statistics – both of which are important to Google’s algorithm.
3.2 Focus and become an expert on one channel
While the previous advice applies to most cases, most marketing strategies are channel and case-specific.
Just like with content quality, if you expect great results from your content marketing strategy, then you can’t have a shallow understanding of the marketing side of it.
As mentioned, you need to create the best content for your chosen niche. At the same time, you need to be the best at marketing this content in your chosen channel for your niche.
Each platform is a world of its own, and mastering any channel takes a lot of time and effort.
As an early-stage startup, you cannot afford to spread yourself too thin. Because of this, the best approach is to focus your efforts and time as much as possible. One well-developed channel is orders of magnitude more valuable than 10 poorly developed ones.
Most growth online is exponential. This means that being 10% better than your (direct or indirect) competitors can result in much, much more than 10% better results.
Invest the needed effort into your content marketing strategy, and it could be the key to validating your ideas and growing your startup and brand.