Content marketing is one of the most common strategies within startups due to their short marketing budgets. With a well-organized strategy and a lot of creativity, content marketing will allow your business to reach customers with $0.
The digital marketing environment is everchanging and extremely competitive. Every business trying to make a name for itself online should understand a simple thing: content marketing for startups is king.
What is content?
Content is anything you put out online. It can be text, audio, video, graphics, and social media posts. But it’s also more than that. For example, a TV advertisement is content as much as a pop song is. You can think of content as anything that flows through language, or anything that provides context and understanding to viewers.
Okay, so now that we’ve defined what content means, we can start today’s topic with something clear in mind:
Content is information, so we can easily agree that what we’re trying to accomplish here is to define the ways in which we can structure, organize, and “sell” our information. By crafting an effective content marketing strategy, we can easily attract the attention of our target audience.
All easy and good, but how?
Your main purpose is to learn how to effectively serve information to your audience, using the right structure, context, details, and marketing approach. If you match your target audience’s needs, you can call your content marketing strategy successful.
What about the budget?
Did you hear me mentioning anything about money, costs, or budget?
Well, I haven’t mentioned anything about it because money has nothing to do with brilliant content marketing. It can influence its impact, but if the roots of the plan are corrupted, pumping more and more money into it won’t do any good.
Nowadays, the digital space is filled with resources and opportunities. You can find plenty of free tools, free options, and free solutions out there, though you shouldn’t always aim for free. Of course, you might really lack the budget right now and I totally understand.
However, you should probably acknowledge that starting a business simply cannot be done for free. You’ll need to be able to afford the critical expenses such as taxes, fees, the basic tools you need to function, the costs of the operations, and so on.
More concisely, content marketing cannot be done unless you afford to pay for the following items:
- Domain, hosting, security (basic costs)
- Graphic design costs (if you can’t do it, you need people to create visual content for you)
- Content (if you don’t do it, somebody has to; great writers cost a lot of money)
- Outreach and marketing implementation (if you don’t do it, better find somebody who can; also make sure they understand your goal and meet your expectations)
What I’ve outlined are some of the most common costs that businesses face when promoting content online. Depending on your own type of business and your own type of objectives, you’ll have different needs and costs.
My point is that you should at least be prepared to pay decent sums for critical needs. If you can’t afford that, take a job, put some money aside, and do it right next time.
Otherwise, today’s topic is about smart content marketing, which can often be done at extremely affordable costs, likely to give you no trouble.
Still, beware, your time, energy, and attention will be under a heavy siege. If you’re willing to accept that, you will unlock the key to personal productivity and marketing success.
In today’s post, we’ll explore 7 main steps that you should take when developing a content marketing strategy.
The pencil, the paper, silence of the mind, and let’s go.
Start by Improving Your Awareness
The introduction of the post served a simple purpose: raising your awareness by removing the complexity of the terms “content marketing” and “content strategy”.
Let’s continue with that.
Learn About Your Audience
Value is the main currency of exchange in business. The customer gives value through money, while the business offers solutions to needs and problems.
Your content marketing strategy is designed to give value to your audience. However, if you don’t know who your audience is, your brand will never become relevant, useful, and valuable.
Therefore, you can start improving your awareness by putting yourself in the shoes of your future content readers, email subscribers, and later product customers. That’s one way.
Start talking to people who you identify as “ideal targets”. Ask them questions, start discussions, explore topics, and “get into the mind” of your target persona.
Why so much fuss about this?
This is the essence of effective marketing – you cannot draw attention upon information, products, or services unless you know what your audience cares about.
Study the Marketplace
Content marketing for startups is very much related to branding. So, when you develop a plan that’s supposed to improve your brand’s awareness and positioning, you’ll have to study the ground and identify possible problems and opportunities.
First off, who is your direct competition? You can learn so much from them, only by paying attention to the feedback they receive. On your competitor’s pages, you’ll be able to find relevant comments, ideas, and solutions that come directly (for free) from your ideal target audience.
There are plenty of free tools that will help you get data, clues, and insights about your competitors’ strategies and performances. Here’s a good resource.
Gather whatever useful data you can, put the pieces together, connect the dots – as they say – and figure out what you can do to improve the current state of affairs in your niche. By developing an exceptional marketplace understanding you’ll be able to craft more advanced content strategies.
Find Your Remarkable Spot
Since we are talking about stepping out of the box and developing a unique positioning in the marketplace, let’s talk about the unique value proposition. In case you’re not familiar with the term, a UVP (unique value proposition) is something that differentiates your business or content marketing plan from the rest.
It is something that only you (out of the sea of players) have thought about. It is only your brand that can fix this specific issue, in this specific way, for this specific audience.
To make it easier, I’ll give you a good example:
Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, managed to become one of the most listened to SEO “gurus”. Even though there are thousands of remarkable SEO blogs, his one stands out among the best. Here’s his secret:
Firstly, rather than focusing on quantity like most people, his content marketing game focuses entirely on quality. He even said that he spends 20% of his time creating content, and the 80% goes on promotion and reach.
Secondly, he is writing content for people who already know SEO, so he’s able to capture amazing details and strategies that can speak millions of words for marketers who “understand the game”.
By combining these aspects, he has developed an amazing unique value proposition: comprehensive high-quality SEO educational content (average of 1500-2000 words and over 50 screenshots each), packed and served specially for SEO practitioners who are bombarded with irrelevant educational SEO content each day.
When you identify the “hot spot”, you’ll be able to use it as a context in every future marketing attempt. Without it, you’ll be just a white fish fighting over food in a huge aquarium filled with other white fish called competitors.
Create Amazing Content
How do you feel when people throw fake, unjustified, or abstract information at you and expect you to react in a positive way?
I sometimes feel angry, because I often perceive it as an attack. My time, energy, and attention are basically in danger every time I reach mediocre content online. Some people are like me, while others have a greater degree of tolerability.
Before writing any content, you should start with ideation. Think about all the different topics that could be of interest to your audience. You won't get to all of them at once but it's important to have an ongoing list of ideas to tap into.
If you want to win your target audience’s respect, your content must be amazing. It must stand out from the crowd and must make the reader say – “wow, that’s really something” or “damn, I should be reading this more often”.
These reactions are often generated by a sudden realization that your content helps. However, to help you reach that state, you must take care of the following aspects:
- Create a structure and a mental pathway – take your customer from point A to point B without giving them too many distractions.
- Write less, but more focused. People don’t have time to read articles like the one I write right now. Most of them want quick, fast, immediate results, and patience is often a problem.
- Include high-quality visuals that are highly connected to the topic. Take leverage of the visual aspects to write fewer words while expressing more.
- Proofread, edit, and then edit again. You can’t afford mistakes.
- Create some buzz around your content and take advantage of influencer marketing to improve your brand reputation.
- Write only if you feel that you’re truly offering value. Otherwise, forget about the “consistency rule”. There’s already too much content out there – better spend one month writing a monster epic post rather than 30 small and average posts.
- When I was a kid, I used to pay someone and request to write my essay online. I used that tactic because I was a very bad writer at the time, but I wanted to keep my reputation high. Translating that to content marketing, you shouldn’t attempt to develop amazing content unless you’re confident in your writing skills. Otherwise, you’ll remain disappointed.
Take Your Social Media Game to the Next Level
Social media and content marketing are interconnected. Still, you should create a social media strategy that stands on its own and connects it to your overall content strategy.
While content is the passenger who needs to reach the audience (destination), social media networks are the vehicles. You are the driver, and you’re making the magic happen.
Start by improving the quality of your business social profiles. Use professional images, pay attention to colors, and give it a good touch. Whenever you write content on your blog or website, post it on social media through social media scheduling tools.
Taking your social media game to the next level, to me, means to improve the engagement and the interactions. You can do that by encouraging user-generated content, organizing events, telling stories, or by approaching various growth hacking techniques.
Define your needs, craft a small social campaign, and test the results. For example, to improve brand awareness, you can create a mini-series of 8 interconnected posts about an important topic in your niche. Ask people to like, share, and tag your post to receive it for free. Simple and effective. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and traffic will no longer be a problem.
Planting seeds mean providing amazing value through evergreen content. An evergreen piece of content (even a comment on a blog post) is something that remains indexed on Google for a long, long time.
Every time your brand leaves something useful out there, there’s a chance that someone stumbles upon it. When that happens, your brand’s awareness and reputation grow, and there are some good odds that people will get closer to your value proposition.
How do you plant seeds?
Besides writing posts, creating videos, recording podcasts, or designing graphics and other types of content, you can approach the following strategies:
- Leave useful comments on relevant blogs that have the same audience as you do. In these posts, provide solutions to problems and needs, and link back to your website for more “brilliance”. Make sure you’re never intrusive and remove the comments if the webmasters/bloggers demand it.
- Create an article with SEO in mind. Simply put, this is a seed because once the SEO optimization succeeds, it will blossom and stay blossomed for a long time.
- You can write guest posts or even sponsored posts on reputable blogs that receive a lot of traffic. By doing so, you’re automatically exposing your content to a lot of additional relevant readers and prospects.
- Q&A platforms like Quora and Yahoo Answers are perfect places to plant some seeds. You can spend 15 minutes each day answering questions that relate back to your brand. In a year, it will build up, and all your random answers will generate massive exposure and traffic to your site.
Create a Strong Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing plays a huge role in a content strategy for a startup. The people that visit your social media will eventually end up on your website. Then, if you’re doing it right, they’ll subscribe to your email list and will provide their basic contact information (name, email, and sometimes phone number).
Email marketing is a simple concept too, and I don’t know why so many brands complicated it. Email marketing is the primary channel of communication between customers and brands. Through it, relationships can be developed and forged.
It is also a way to keep your audience informed of your new work, which includes both free content (free value) and products/services (paid value).
Therefore – start thinking about your email strategy, or better said, the email strategy for a startup.
- How will you approach the relationship building process?
- What exclusive value can you provide to email subscribers?
- Why would someone bother opening and reading your emails?
- How often do you think your audience will appreciate your messages?
- How can you attract their attention to make them open your emails every time?
- What email autoresponder tools will you use? Which one can suit your needs best?
Here’s a comprehensive email marketing guide that should help you get started.
Test, Measure, Optimize, and Scale
Here’s the last step, and I’ll be short.
Okay, this is not a step, but rather a process that needs to be done on a consistent basis.
Test, then measure, then optimize, then scale. What this means is that every time you create a mini-strategy, a solution plan, or a broader strategy for a startup, you’ll need to carefully assess the performance and take the right steps towards improvement.
Measuring means analyzing the effects of your campaign. There are many free analytics tools, including Google Analytics that can help you gather this sort of data.
Once the data is gathered, figure out what can be improved, what needs to be removed, and what are the next steps. Try again. This is called optimization.
Lastly, if your optimization generates improved results, move on to the last process, which is the scaling. Double the efforts and the budget to double the results.
Content marketing is an art. It takes passion, skill, and practice. You should these three elements in mind whenever you try to improve any skill or aspect of your life. Whenever you create a plan, please give it a second thought and try to identify possible twists.
Lastly, I would suggest you stop treating content marketing like a difficult task and start enjoying it. Enjoy the art you create, the unique strategies you set into motion, and the way your ideas and marketing concepts are slowly skyrocketing your business performance.