Content marketing—it’s been making the rounds in the startup world. Some have named it as the next ‘wave’, but is it worth riding and does it offer value to a newborn company?
Have you ended up on a startup’s blog and found yourself overcome with excitement? Have you thought about how you hadn’t ever stumbled upon this magical information portal before, and you wish you had?
What I’ve just described is the ideal reaction to a blog, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen all that often.
The hope with content marketing is that you’ll make your visitor so uncontrollably curious that they dig a little deeper. You hope they move on to your website. That they spread the word, and if you’re just lucky enough, they might buy your product.
This is the perfect content marketing funnel. It takes time, effort and a ton of patience to get right. There is a trade off though, and that’s less time spent on product. Is running a blog worth it, and how can you make the process easier?
What is “Content Marketing”?
Content marketing is a way of creating content and using it as an asset to sell your brand, vision and values. Content includes:
- Pieces of writing (like this post)
By creating content, you create an image of your startup, marketing it to your content’s consumers. The hope is to create value for the reader, with the end goal of converting them into a loyal follower and/or customer.
Why run a blog?
I can’t deny that focusing on product is the most important thing a new startup can do. However, while you’re building your product, you need to consider how you’re going to attract people to your site. Build it, and they will not come.
Unless you have funding, you need to consider cheaper, alternative methods of marketing. One of those options is running a blog.
Truth is, expecting you and your team to run a blog alongside the construction of your product is a big ask. It takes months to gain any sort of interest, and it takes up time you could be spending on other things.
Intercom took the plunge, and it worked out for them. It took them years to gain any sort of traction, and they admit it isn’t an immediate return.
“Even if your first few articles are smash hits, you won’t benefit immediately, and you won’t be able to measure how much value you’ve created in the short term” says John, the managing editor. “It’s not an area where ‘average content’ will work well, and to that end optimistic or aggressive content calendars usually lead to mediocrity with no return.”
Basically don’t publish sub-par content, and don’t overestimate the amount of content you and your team can publish. Be realistic, otherwise you’ll fall flat on your face.
If it takes so long, why should I bother?
It’s what all startups need from their customers. One way to build trust with potential customers (before they’ve even paid) is to provide them with something that helps them, nurtures them and enriches their experience.
Trust is invaluable to a startup. One way to build this trust is to write content that’s useful. Do that over time and you’ll have a community that comes back for more, helps spread the word and appreciates the work that you do.
Where do I start?
Before writing another word on your blog, you and your team need to think about who you’re targeting, what you want to target them with and when you’re going to publish. Luckily for you, Xtensio and Contentacle are great tools that work perfectly for this type of planning.
I know what you’re thinking. Why do I need to plan? I know exactly what I’m doing.
Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or have never written a post in your life, a plan of attack will vastly improve your chances of success. What’s more, there’s no easy way to turn a less than stellar piece of content into a masterpiece, no matter how much you polish it. Sure, you can boost your SEO, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to win over the reader.
You need to get your team involved and you need to think together about your content strategy.
Defining who you want to target with your content is the first step. User Personas are a fantastic way to structure your ideal customer and reader. As Emma from Xtensio says, User Personas are used to “boost clarity, productivity, and traction when it comes to all areas of internal decision-making”.
One of Contentacle’s User Personas:
Huddle with your team around a computer and start modeling your User Persona (using the Xtensio User Persona Creator tool) based on the type of people who might read your content. Use real data, and if you’ve got customers, jump on calls or email them to understand them and their needs.
If you want more information on how to fill out a User Persona, check out How To: Create A User Persona.
You’ll need to plan
To begin with, plan how your team is going to provide value to your reader. A tool like Xtensio’s Blank Slate tool can help you and your team plan what type of content you’re going to provide your readers, how often and why it’s valuable.
Below is simple content guide I created in Xtensio in less than 10 minutes. Feel free to use the same layout.
By thinking about each type of content your team produces and the value it brings, you can decide what’s the top priority, how it benefits the reader, how it benefits your startup and what the ultimate purpose is.
List all the types of content you think you and your team can provide. Here’s some quicks ideas to help you:
- Email course
- PDF guide
- Video tutorials
- Lessons/mistakes made
- Data-driven posts
The list could go on. Jot down anything you think of that could be useful to your target market.
Start planning your themes and posts
I believe that great planning will lead to great content.
In Contentacle, it’s easy to see an overview of your posts with our drag-and-drop calendar. We post content about writing, productivity and engineering every Wednesday.
The drag-and-drop calendar within Contentacle:
The calendar makes it easy for us to see what needs working on and when it’s due by.
By structuring your content calendar like this, you and your team can understand where your content will be heading in a week, month or years time and it will naturally flow better. It also helps you and your team become consistent when posting to the blog.
Let’s imagine a startup that sells live chat software called CustomerChatter. Their ideal customer (User Persona) is Natalie, a Growth Manager at a Series A startup.
The team thinks she would want to read about the importance of interacting with customers, how to make the most of the interactions and the benefit it has on customer acquisition. They decide she’d probably want some data-driven posts too. She could use themes to plan her content, and then insert ideas into a calendar:
2016 Theme: How to interact with your customers
April Theme: Making the most of each message
17-23 April Theme: Understand their inactivity
18th April Post: Effective messages to customers about their absence
You can see that planning their 2016 theme gave them a topic, and then the month and week themes in April helped them drill down and decide the topic for the post. If they do that for every month in 2016, they’ve got a ton of content ideas, and they’ve saved countless hours down the line.
Planning before you get started is vital. By using all the methods above, your team can target your User Personas and create amazing content that’s valuable for them.
Should a startup bother running a blog? Yes, but only if it’s right for your team. Only run a blog if you’re going to put enough effort into the content, provide value to the reader, and do it consistently.
Readers will begin to trust you, expect content from you and become loyal to you and your brand. You can’t let them down, and you have to know it will take a long time to gain traffic and interest.
If you’re in it for the short-term, don’t bother.
If you’re in it for the long-term and your team is committed to planning, sharing interesting ideas and creating value for readers, then I truly believe that content marketing can reward you further down the line. Good luck!
Check out Xtensio’s Content Strategy Planner:
Jarratt is the Co-Founder and COO at Contentacle, a content marketing startup that helps teams plan, write and publish content from one platform. When he isn’t working he’s exploring new cities and trying to find the best coffee shop.