The Simple Content Marketing Strategy for Startups
When you start a business, there’s a lot on your mind: how to fund all the equipment you’ll need, how to keep track of revenue and expenses, how to produce your goods and services economically enough to make a profit, and how to get the word out about what you offer. A content strategy? Give me a break, you say.
Well, you could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on some fancy ad agency to run ads no one will see since you can’t afford prime-time slots. Oh, yeah. You’re a startup.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’re going to need some way to market your business. The best way to do that – and statistics back it up – is content marketing.
Did you know that even if you inherited a windfall, you could spend those hundreds of thousands on slick TV ads only to have some other upstart (who does do content marketing) rake in three times your leads? According to the Content Marketing Institute , content marketing can triple your leads over businesses who use only outbound marketing, such as TV, radio, and print ads.
That’s the power of a robust content strategy. Here’s how you can put it to use for your new company.
Content marketing is the most cost-effective way to get the word out about your startup.
Build your new content marketing strategy one month at a time so you’re not overwhelmed.
Keep the focus on your customers and their needs, not your company.
Review your content strategy regularly to make sure you’re reaching the right audience with the right message.
January: Learn the Secret of a Powerful Content Strategy: Focus on the Customer
Content marketing doesn’t take a king’s ransom to work its magic. It only takes a little time, some imagination, and the secret sauce: customer-centric content that solves frustrating problems your target customers face.
Start with doing a little research on your target customers. Who is most likely to buy your products and services? What keeps them up at night? Do you have the expertise to slay any of those 3 a.m. worry monsters?
If so, jot them down. Those are the ideas that will soon turn into full-blown content. Don’t worry about sketching them out in full at this point. Just have them on hand when you begin content production.
February: Find Economical Content Production Tools and Start Posting
The great part about content marketing is that it is incredibly economical. Although you can engage the services of a content marketing agency if you need a little help in some areas, you can get started for next to nothing.
There are a wealth of free or low-cost tools that can help you get your content strategy off the ground, as digital marketing expert Neil Patel points out. Here are a few we’ve found handy, especially for startups on a budget:
Google Docs: You don’t need to spend money on a word processor when you can get Google Docs simply by having a Gmail account. It shares many of the same features as paid word processors, and it has one advantage none of those have: you can collaborate in real time with members of your team whose input you want.
Google Keyword Planner: This free tool allows you to find the right words to focus your content around. Simply plug in your products and services, and the tool will spit back a long list of related words, along with the number of searches for those words.
WordPress : To start with, you can begin your blog with one of WordPress’s free website domains. As you gain traction and customers, you can migrate your content to their hosted paid version with a custom URL with your own brand stamped on it.
Google Analytics: Learn all about your blog or website’s audiences and the actions they take while they’re on your site. The more you know about your audience, the better you can tailor content to them.
Your smartphone and/or camera: Although it’s not exactly free, you probably already have one. Use it to create how-to videos and photos that showcase your products or services.
MailChimp : Use this helpful tool to send targeted emails and newsletters to various customer segments, as well as serious prospects. Keep informed about new posts, as well as exclusive offers, such as e-books or white papers, that you offer only to subscribers.
Social media sites: Create a profile and use them to promote your blog posts, podcasts, or videos. Make sure you use your chosen keywords to get more eyes on your posts.
Grammarly : Never worry again about your fourth-grade English teacher reading your posts. Even the free version of this grammar and spelling checker finds most of your errors.
March: Create a Content Calendar
Now that you’ve published a few articles, videos, or photos, create a calendar that can help you plan the rest of the year’s content. Pencil in those ideas you haven’t explored yet. Plan to post them when they make sense seasonally.
For instance, if you sell fitness equipment, you might want to plan to post an article or video that tells potential customers how to get their body in shape for the coming summer later this month or early April. Save your exercise-bike-as-holiday-gift post for say, late October or November.
Just remember to keep perceived body-shaming out of the picture. You only need to recall Peloton’s 2019 legendary ad fail to guard yourself against any misperceptions.
Use the content calendar to repurpose older content for a growing new audience. If you posted an article about getting ready for tax season back in January, repurpose some of it for an early summer refresher video about tax breaks.
April: Give Them an “Easter Egg” They Can Use All Year Long
It’s springtime, and kiddies all over are looking forward to the annual neighborhood Easter egg hunt. No need to limit the goodies to kids. Give your email subscribers and loyal customers a resource they can use the entire year.
Whether it’s an e-book that provides details about key industry suppliers for your B2B customers or a guide on how to write a memoir for your book self-publishing business, giving away a resource they can use during the coming months will help build goodwill among your target customers.
May: Publish a Case Study or Two
What your products and services have done for other customers can help drive purchases by others in a similar situation. That’s not only true for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies but even more so for business-to-business companies. In fact, as Forbes’ Ryan Erskine points out, 73 percent of all B2B customers rely on case studies to inform their purchases.
Case studies are short, to-the-point stories that tell how your products or services have helped your customers solve some of their most challenging problems. Publishing them, along with a link to the customer’s website in case a potential customer wants to confirm your claims, is a great way to get potential customers to consider purchasing your product or service.
June: Take a Good, Hard Look at Your Analytics
Mid-year is a great time to assess what you’ve done so far. Look how your social media and blog posts have performed with Google Analytics and your social media platforms’ analytics tools. Those with the most clicks to your website, the most conversions, and the most sales generated deserve an encore.
Always measure results throughout the year. Promote your best performers and tweak those that lag behind.
Create content similar to your best performers or repurpose them in a new context to gain a new audience. For example, if your best performer was a video on how to change the oil in a car, create a step-by-step set of instructions on the same topic to post on your blog. Link back to the video for even more traction.
July: Take a Deep Dive into Your Analytics and Adjust Your Strategy Accordingly
You’ve had your blog up for a few months, and you’re linking those posts to your social media pages. It’s time to look into the numbers to see whether there are any new potential customer segments that look promising – and to revisit your current ones for new insights.
Getting to know your customers (and potential ones) is the number one key to content marketing success. The whole point of content marketing is to position yourself as a trusted authority in your field by helping people conquer their challenges, whether in business or life.
Looking into the numbers is the best way to get a grasp on how well you are accomplishing that task. Surveys can help, as well as consulting Google Analytics and your social media analytics.
Look at their demographics and where they hang out on social media. If they’re mostly on Pinterest but your main focus has been Facebook, you need to pour more effort into optimizing your Pinterest posts.
If you see keen interest in your content from a distinctly new group, find ways to target content to them. For instance, let’s say you have an automotive repair business. You’ve been targeting mostly younger males that read magazines like Car and Driver and Motor Trend.
However, the numbers show that some of your videos on DIY how-tos you’ve posted on Pinterest and YouTube have gained a wide female audience. Grab onto that new segment with new material aimed solely at them. Perhaps a YouTube live event, such as a “DIY Car Repair 101 for Women,” or a new Pinterest board with a similar title will help you gain more traction with this group.
August: Back-to-School Time!
I can hear the groans now. No, we’re not asking for you to enroll in an MBA course or anything remotely like that. However, taking advantage of seasonal changes to find new content angles is always a good bet.
Can you think of a way to tie what your business does to tie it back to whatever the season holds? Let’s look again at our fictional car repair company for an example of how you can adapt this tip for your use.
Could the owner, do you think, find ways to post content that appeals to students and their parents? Perhaps a “Car Repair 101 for Students” – or “Students: Learn How Not to Get Ripped Off by Shady Auto Repair Companies.” To sweeten the deal, you could offer an e-book or even a 20% coupon on an oil change or tune-up before students set off for school.
September: Create Long-Form Content
We tricked you! Now that the kids are back in school, it’s time for you, too, to put your nose to the content grindstone and create a longer piece of content – perhaps a white paper, a webinar, or a longer, more detailed video.
But don’t despair. Unlike when you were in school yourself, if you don’t have time to work on such a large undertaking, you can always outsource content creation to one of the many companies that specialize in that task.
A good way to tell whether outsourcing will give you more bang for the buck is to calculate how much your business earns you per hour. Now, estimate how many hours you would have to spend to create that content. If it would cost your business more to create that content than to outsource, choose outsourcing.
October: Don’t Let Fear Keep You from Reaching Out to Influencers
It might be the season that sends shivers up your spine, but don’t let fear stop you from finding industry movers and shakers that can help give your content a wider audience. Influencers don’t have to be celebrities. Who they do need to be are prominent people that your audience respects.
For instance, let’s say you manufacture equestrian equipment for show riders. You won’t get much mileage out of a Lady Gaga endorsement – even if she’s one of the world’s top celebrities. What will help you stand out among the crowd is the endorsement of a top Olympic rider.
If you manufacture electric cars but are having a hard time convincing car enthusiasts that they can perform as well as gasoline-powered vehicles, the endorsement of a race driver might help convince them to give your cars a try. You get the picture.
Just don’t be afraid of the “no.” If your products are as top-flight as you think, you’ll eventually find an influencer or two who will be happy to point out how your products and services have helped them solve a vexing problem or two.
When you publish influencers’ comments or links to their guest posts on social media, you’ll get more of your target audience to give you serious consideration. After all, as Rohan Ayyar points out, nearly three-fourths of all consumers consult social media to guide their purchases.
Remember, though, the whole point of content marketing isn’t to promote yourself. It’s to position your brand as a superhero problem-solver. Make sure that your products and services do just that, and you’ll soon find industry leaders who recognize the advantage of doing business with you.
November: Review Your Reviews – And Be Thankful for Constructive Criticism
You’ve had your content marketing strategy up and running for over ten months now. It’s time to look at all the reviews you’ve received over those ten months.
First of all, be thankful for those reviews that point out areas in which you can improve. After all, it’s almost Thanksgiving!
Unless those negative reviews come from “trolls” whose complaints are only cries for attention, shore up any areas of weakness. Thank those who provide glowing reviews, and let those whose reviews are less stellar know you’re working on improving those areas.
Next, publish content that tells how you’ve improved your products and services. In that content, point out how those improvements have solved problems for your customers.
Finally, make it a point to read and respond to serious reviews during the year so your customers know you’re holding a two-way conversation, not a monologue. Customers want to do business with companies that listen to their concerns.
December: Time to Set Your Content Strategy for Next Year
It’s time to join the top 40 percent – those businesses that have a well-documented content plan. Review what content performed best and plan to include more similar content during the coming year.
Sketch out content ideas for each month. If you have employees or contract workers, get their input. Often, employees with specific expertise can provide the kind of detail and technical knowledge that convinces customers to trust your company.
Set the key performance indicators that bring in the most business and plan to check them often. These numbers can help you tweak your content to bring an even greater return on your investment during the coming year.
Write your content strategy down and use it to create a content calendar for the next year. Create achievable, measurable goals and make it your New Year’s resolution to keep track of your progress toward them.
With a consistent, targeted content strategy, your startup will soon take its place among the leaders in your niche.
If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content that’s consistently published, check out our Content Builder Service . Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today and generate more traffic and leads for your business.
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Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker on leadership, culture, and marketing. Author of the bestselling book The Content Formula, Michael’s work has been featured by The Economist, The Guardian, and Entrepreneur Magazine. In 2017, Michael was named a Top Business Speaker by The Huffington Post and a top CMO Influencer by Forbes.
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