Most Effective Content Marketing Strategy for Startups in 2020
by Mike Khorev
There are generally three different types of how startups approached their content marketing: some thought of content marketing as secondary and so it’s not the focus of the early days of the startup. Some others, know that content marketing is important and implements it, but doesn’t really have a strategy and so it’s not fruitful.
Only a select few startups properly plan their content marketing strategy, executes it well and so they can reap the long-term, sustainable benefits.
In this guide, we will learn how we can become the third group. After all, content is king, and any startup who is not planning to implement content marketing properly in 2020 is, simply put, planning to fail quickly.
Without further ado, let us begin.
What Actually Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing, albeit being a major buzzword in digital marketing for the past decade, is a concept often misunderstood by many people.
First, content marketing is not about discussing your products or services in a piece of content. Instead, content marketing is about publishing really useful, valuable, and relevant content to solve your target audience’s problems.
The question is, how then, we can get people to purchase our product/service via content marketing? Although there can be various different methods, the typical “model” is:
- Attracting people to our website and/or platform to consume our content
- Capture their contact information, a common practice is to offer something valuable (an e-book, research report, free-trial) for free in exchange for their contact information
- Utilizing various lead nurturing campaigns to nurture these prospects until their ready to purchase, essentially reminding them about your brand or your product/service every now and then. For example, via remarketing campaigns, email marketing, continuous publication of content, etc.
So, as you can see, content marketing is more than just the content creation process. How we promote the content to attract our target audience and having a proper B2B lead generation strategy to convert our audience are just as, if not even more important than the content creation process itself.
Content Is Actually Everywhere in Marketing Today
No matter what kinds of marketing strategies you implement, we can’t deny that all kinds of channels and campaigns today will always involve content in them. So, content marketing nowadays should be part of the whole marketing process, not something separate
Making sure you publish high-quality content should be a part of ALL aspects of your marketing, such as:
- Advertising (PPC Ads): obviously for your ad to be effective, you need great content that can capture the audience’s attention.
- Social media marketing: your posts are very important content, and so a proper content marketing strategy is necessary for any social media marketing strategy.
- Public relations (PR): it’s important to note that today’s PR should be about addressing issues the audience actually cares about and not exactly about promoting the business. So, it is essentially content marketing.
- SEO: the core of SEO strategy for startups is content, without consistent publication of high-quality content, you simply won’t rank on Google.
Content Marketing VS Inbound Marketing
What is inbound marketing? Is it similar to content marketing, or?
To answer these questions in a layman’s term, inbound marketing is essentially content marketing combined with content promotion. Mainly, content marketing+SEO.
The term “inbound” comes from the idea of how the content’s purpose is to pull the audience inwards. You publish your content out there addressing your target audience’s needs and pain points, and when they are looking for this information, they can stumble upon your brand.
The traditional marketing efforts like billboards and advertising, on the other hand, are “outbound” in nature. Their objective is to put your message outwards to reach as many people as possible.
The problem with outbound marketing, however, is that it often disrupts your audience’s activity: they want to watch a YouTube video, not see your ads. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, doesn’t disrupt your audience’s activity and thus, will meet less resistance.
Content Strategy VS Content Plan
These three terms are often used interchangeably, but each has its own distinct meaning and different purposes.
Content strategy, in a nutshell, is about defining your content marketing’s objectives and especially answering how you are going to achieve these objectives. For example, if the content marketing objective is to generate 2,000 more leads in a year through content marketing, then how we can get these leads is the content strategy.
In practice, a startup content strategy often means managing the performance of your existing content, leveraging successful content over time, and repurposing or revamping non-performing ones.
We can say that the content plan is the tactical approach to content strategy: how to appoint resources to achieve each content marketing objective when to publish content, who is going to develop the content, where we will promote the content, and so on. It is important to first have a proper content strategy in place before we can structure a content plan.
Developing Content Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Defining Content Marketing Objective(s)
The first step, and arguably the most important one is to define your content marketing goals. Your content marketing objectives should align with your startup’s marketing and business goals. For example, if one of your startup’s goals is to increase your revenue by 30%, then generating 50% more organic traffic via content marketing can be a proper goal.
In principle, your content marketing objectives should be SMART goals, that are:
- Specific: as clear as possible, so your team can properly understand them without any potential understanding. Break down abstract goals into specific ones.
- Measurable: you can attach KPIs to the objective, and you can assign measurable metrics to each KPI.
- Attainable: that is, realistic. This is important to maintain your and your team’s morale by giving them a sense of achievement. Break down big goals into smaller, more attainable milestones if necessary.
- Relevant: your content marketing objective/goal should be valuable for your business. For example, is getting more Instagram followers relevant for your business if you are a B2B solution?
- Timely: you can assign realistic timelines to all the different goals, to make sure timely delivery
In general, there are five common objectives of content marketing for startups:
- Brand awareness: arguably the most common goal of content marketing. To follow the SMART principle, this can be something like “increasing website traffic by 20%”. There are many brand awareness metrics we can measure to help us assign KPIs.
- Customer education: educating potential customers not necessarily about the value of your product or service (although it’s possible), but also educating them about the your brand’s overall credibility.
- Brand loyalty: content can be very powerful in encouraging repeat purchases or to remind past customers about the existence of your brand. The idea here is to publish entertaining and valuable content that can provide additional value outside your product/service, so you effectively build a following to your content which can contribute to your loyal customer base.
- Customer engagement: engagement provides a personality to your brand, giving your company a voice, opinion, and thought leadership. Nowadays, people are more likely to buy from brands they can engage with and trust, so this is a very important objective.
- Talent recruitment: a very important objective for startups that are often struggling with attracting high-quality talents. Use your content to exercise your brand’s credibility, your vision, and company culture. Also, happy employees can be strong advocates and can help improve conversion rates.
It’s important to note that website traffic shouldn’t be the end goal of your content marketing since website traffic on its own won’t produce any value. Instead, website traffic should help the five objectives (or any other specific objectives of your startups).
2. Deciding Who’s Going To Work on The Project
In general, there are three main approaches you can take here to decide who’s going to work on the content marketing project:
- Doing everything by yourself. If you are still a small startup, this is definitely possible. However, obviously this approach is not recommended for a long-term basis since you won’t be able to scale your content marketing effort as your startup grow.
- Outsourcing your content marketing efforts. You can, for example, hire a freelance content marketer or outsource your whole content marketing effort to an agency.
- Building your in-house content marketing team. Probably the most cost-efficient approach, but the initial investment is relatively expensive. Here are some familiar roles in a content marketing team, although your team might look different depending on your startup’s needs:
- Content creator:– Mainly writers, but can also include content creators in other mediums (scriptwriter for videos, podcasters, etc.). Their role is quite obvious, to produce content.
- Content/marketing strategist: – To plan the content strategy, including evaluating progress.
- Editors: – Proofread content, ensuring readability, optimizing layouts and structures, etc.
- Graphic designers: – An essential part of any content marketing team nowadays. Pretty self-explanatory, they produce graphic content to supplement the main content according to the startup’s objectives
- Videographers: – Also essential today if you want to put your effort into video marketing. The role is to shoot and edit video content according to the startup’s needs.
- Analyst: – Analyze the performance of your content, evaluate your current strategy, and work with the startup marketing consultant to adjust your strategy
3. Identifying Your Target Audience
The next crucial step is to identify your target audience.
The main purpose of your content marketing—as we’ve established above— is to bring in leads and prospects that hopefully can convert into paying customers. So, your content marketing won’t bring any value to your business unless it’s properly targeted to the right audience.
For example, if you bring in a million unique traffic to your website, but only a thousand of them are from your ideal audience, we can’t really say our content strategy is effective.
On the other hand, knowing who your target audience is, their behaviors, needs, and pain points can significantly help you determine what kind of topics to cover and keywords to target.
Ideally, you should develop a buyer persona in this stage, but here are some of the most important factors to consider in identifying your ideal audience:
- Demographics factors: gender, age, ethnicity, location, income level, job, and so on
- Psychographics factors: their interests, habits, beliefs, hobbies, and so on
- Pain points: the problem the audience is currently facing that your product/service can help solve
- Obstacles/challenges: their common obstacles in finding your product or service
- Information gathering behavior: how they typically attempt to find information when they try to find a solution to their problems.
- Content preference: content medium and/or structure that is preferred by this ideal audience
- Your solution: how your content can help this target audience to find the solution to their problem and get the information they are searching for
Also, remember that there might be more than one ideal audience groups that are worth pursuing. For example, there is obviously the primary target audience: those with the highest chance to purchase your product or service. In general, your most if not all of your content efforts must be tailored to target this specific audience.
However, people that are less ‘ideal’ and almost make the cut also deserve your attention. We can consider them as the secondary audience, and they typically require more “push” and convincing. You might want to use a different approach and strategy to target this audience.
To summarize: find your target audience, know their problems, and develop content to help them with these problems.
4. Decide On Content Types
Remember that content in 2020 is no longer about writing blog posts, but there are plenty of different content types that can be published in various different platforms. There are obviously YouTube videos, Instagram posts, podcasts, and many different forms of textual content (ebooks, research reports, case studies, and so on).
So, how should we choose the right type(s) for our startup? In general, it should depend on your target audience’s preference.
For example, if your target audience spends a lot of time watching YouTube videos, then you should invest your content effort on YouTube. If they are active on Instagram, then produce content on the platform that can drive the audience to your website.
The better you can understand your target audience, the better you can align different content types with their behaviors and needs. In general, here are the common content types you can consider:
- Blog Post: both short and long-form blogs. Yes, even today, people do read content that is relevant to them. You could develop content like:
- Long-form ultimate guides. Depending on your product or service, this can be very effective in driving more people to your site.
- Long ad copy on Facebook ads can drive more engagements and lower CPA
- In-depth, step-by-step guides that are relevant for your target audience
- Short-form content (i.e. Medium posts) can work, but generally, you’d need a built-in way to promote it or the content must be really unique with valuable information
- Original research:
- Unique, in-depth research: more time-consuming to create, obviously, but can generate really good results
- Reference content: If you can create content that becomes the go-to-reference in your niche, then you can generate a lot of traffic
- Opinion content: opinion-forming journalism, also quite difficult and time-consuming to create, but can be very powerful
- Videos: how-to videos, entertaining videos, short videos on social media, and so on
- Podcasts: rapidly gaining popularity in the past year, podcasts can be a great medium for certain products and services
- Case studies and testimonials: case studies for mainly B2B businesses, and user testimonials for B2C businesses (but can be the other way around).
- Checklist guise: a modification of step-by-step guide, and can be a great form of content that drives a lot of engagement (and often gets shared a lot).
- Infographics: although infographics are no longer as effective as they were especially in generating backlinks, they are still a very powerful form of content especially if we can properly visualize information or data.
Obviously you can mix and match your content types according to your audience’s needs, and you can also use several forms of content in a single piece (i.e. embedded video in the middle of a blog post).
5. Develop Your Content Promotion Strategy
Before you even develop your content, it’s very important to determine the right promotional channels for your content.
No matter how good and valuable your content is for your audience, it won’t bring any value to your business unless someone (and preferably a lot of people) consumes it. So, how you promote the content is just as, if not even more important than the content development process.
Here are some of the most important channels to promote your content:
- SEO: content that ranks on the first page of Google’s SERP gets the most traffic, and so SEO is still the most effective and cost-efficient channel to promote your content. According to the top SEO experts, high-quality content is also the most important factor in SEO success, and so they are inseparable to each other,
- Email marketing: one of the most effective channels to promote various forms of content. The main idea of promoting content marketing via email is you can feed one content among the other to your audience to increase conversion rates, maintaining consistency.
- Social media marketing: including organic social media efforts (building your own followers and spread your promotions), paid social media advertising, and influencer marketing. Social is where our audience is nowadays, so it would only make sense to use the channel in our promotional effort.
There are obviously other channels you can use to promote your content, like third-party distribution channels (content syndication), guest posting, and other efforts. What’s important is to actually have a working content promotion strategy and stick to it.
6. Content Creation
While content creation is a very broad and deep subject on its own, but in general here are the main steps to follow:
1. Keyword Research
Since as mentioned, SEO is the most effective way to promote your content, then we should begin our content creation phase with proper keyword research.
In general, there are three main principles in implementing your keyword research: :
- It must be relevant to your target audience, signified with high enough search volume
- It must be relevant and valuable for your business.
- The competition for the keyword is manageable based on your timeline and resources.
2. Decide a Topic: Expand the target keyword into an actual topic.
3. Choose a Publishing Date:
4. Develop an outline
5. Develop a draft
6. Edit/forward to the editor as needed
7. Plan a Content Calendar
Content marketing is a long-term game.
We can’t expect to just publish a single content and reap the results (yes, there are cases when a piece of content went viral, but it’s rare). In most cases, consistency both in quantity and quality as well as working with startup SEO consultant is the secret to your content SEO success.
Thus, you need to plan a content calendar to keep track of your progress. It will include things like:
- The publishing date
- The target keyword
- Topic/working title
- META description, tags, and categories to be used
- Who’s going to work on the content
- Format/type of content
- Where are you going to distribute the content
The more details you can include in the content calendar, the better. Ideally, plan a year’s worth of content calendar if possible, but a few months’ worth of calendar is always better than nothing.
8. Establish KPI and Measure Your Progress
The last step of developing a content marketing strategy for your startup is to set up a system to measure your progress. That is, setting up KPIs to know whether your content marketing is on the right track.
Your KPIs should be based on your content marketing objective as discussed in the very first step. Here are the common KPIs for content marketing:
- Lead generation, for example, get a specific number of new email subscribers
- Increase in organic traffic to your website
- Reach a specific amount of revenue increase within a specific timeframe
- Engagements and shares on social media
Then, we can measure the performance of our content marketing strategy like:
- Google SERP ranking
- Bounce rate and dwell time—how much of your content are they consuming—, other on-site engagement metrics
- Conversion rate, if the content involves CTA
- Reach and impressions
- Improvements in organic traffic
- Technical factors like page load speed and mobile responsiveness
- Backlinks profile
Evaluate your content according to your KPIs and your content marketing objectives, and re-optimize your content strategy accordingly.
Content marketing can be a cost-effective strategy to generate targeted traffic and leads, which can be very beneficial for any startup business.
With the steps we have discussed above, you should be able to create a successful content marketing strategy for startups and small businesses. Content marketing can effectively build your online presence, establish your position as the thought leader in your industry, and a very powerful way to generate leads.
January 15, 2022