Startup Survival Guide: How to make it in a content-driven world
If your startup doesn’t exist on the Internet, it doesn’t exist at all. But ‘existence’ on the Internet is not one-dimensional anymore. It doesn’t stop at building a website.
Your business’ online presence is now an overwhelming multi-dimensional content beast with social media pages, feeds, a YouTube channel, a podcast and a blog, all coming together on your website.
For a lean startup that is strapped for time, money, or both – that can be a little scary.
But if you're not creating relevant content and publishing it regularly, then you’re falling behind.
Every time your competitor puts out a blog post or a video to engage with its audience, is a time that you are losing a potential customer’s interest.
In the digital world, you’re not just fighting for market share but also for ‘attention share’.
There’s only so much media your customer can consume. So while your content does have to be more engaging than a competitor’s, more importantly, it has to be valuable enough for your customers to spend their time on.
While your customer is consuming your content, they’re also being baited into following an Amazon ad, checking out the new Netflix release, or commenting on the Marvel Avengers take on the Brady Bunch song. You see? That’s how many distractions you have to cut through to connect with and retain your potential customer.
There is a way around it though: Consistently creating value that cannot be ignored, at least by your target audience.
A steady stream of high-quality content helps you to build trust, credibility, loyalty and to stand out as a caring, customer-centric business that attributes more value to a customer than just a potential ‘sale’.
Customer loyalty is a two-way game – you have to care, too. And writing a weekly blog, or putting out some amazingly sticky social media content is a great way to show that you do.
So, what exactly is ‘content marketing’?
Content marketing refers to online content – from blogs, white papers, press releases, social media posts, newsletters to videos and images—that are posted online with the sole purpose of connecting and engaging with your target audience.
Content marketing gives priority to the users’need – to inform and engage – over the business’ need – to sell and grow.
The Big Question: Can my lean, bootstrapped startup take on content marketing?
The answer is yes, if you really want to. The key is to start with manageable, sustainable content marketing efforts. Remember S.M.A.R.T. objectives?
Let’s break the content marketing process down to the basics.
Each basic is followed by a little exercise and a few useful readings to help you along. By the end of this guide, you should have outlined your content marketing needs and approach.
1. Finding your content ‘sweet spot’
Your content ‘sweet spot’ is the overlap area between content that helps and engages your customer, expertise and information that you want to share, and content that has some form of measurable Return on Investment (ROI) – a sale, a follow, a share.
Have a look at this article on 11 fantastic startup blogs for some inspiration. The list even features The Freshbooks Blog – a ‘cloud accounting’startup that handles the accounting piece for small businesses. Now that can be a boring subject, but they’ve turned it around.
What do they do right? Help customers, actively plug into the start-up circuit in New York by highlighting relevant events for startup owners and feature blog pieces on how to use their platform to make life easy for small businesses.
Here’s your exercise: Have a think about and write down:
- What your target audience would want/need: topics, subjects, helpful information
- What you want to share with the world: expertise, experience, brand story and product/service information
- What ROI you are seeking from your content: build an online community, grow your social media following, direct objectives like sales and growth
That, right there, forms the first layer of your content strategy.
Here are some useful ideas to help you clearly define your content sweet spot:
4 Simple Ways to Choose the Best Blog Topics for Your Audience
The Top Content Marketing Formats for 2018
2. Time and team allocation for content creation
The next step is for you to decide how much time you can dedicate to creating content – writing blogs, shooting videos, recording podcasts.
Can you have one person work on it for three hours a week? Or maybe your two-person marketing team, for a couple of hours a day? Maybe you want to work on it yourself and write a blog post every weekend.
Here’s your exercise: Whatever time it is that you can realistically allocate to creating content, write it down. For an indication, it takes an average of 3 hours to write a good blog post. So be generous with the time you put aside.
Next, cost this time – estimate how much money it’s costing you to allocate these man-hours to content.
Some useful time and money saving tips:
5 Ways to Make Time for Content Marketing When You Don’t Have Any
How to Do Content Marketing With $0
3. Distribution and Marketing
Now to the ‘marketing’ bit in content marketing. Your work doesn’t end when you post that video or that blog post. You now need to get the material out to your target audience.
You can do this over e-mail, newsletters, on your website (if it is already a high-traffic website), by promoting or boosting your post on social media, and by sharing it on as many relevant platforms as possible.
How you choose to distribute your content will differ from business to business. It depends on your overall marketing strategy, and your usual marketing channels.
Here’s your exercise: List the top five ways that you would distribute the content that you create. Where applicable, write down estimated costs for distribution or promotion. That leads straight into our next tip, but here’s some helpful information on low-cost distribution before that –
7 Content Distribution Tools, Tips & Tactics to Amplify Your Next Post
Forbes article on ‘How To Distribute Your Content For Free’
Content marketing doesn’t come with a fixed price tag, but the good news is that you can get creative and do a fair amount without spending big bucks.
If you have a product or service where your team naturally generates shareable content every day, (think of how much video content dance studios can make every single day – class videos, quick tutorials, common mistake videos) then you’re lucky.
But if not, you might need to dedicate time to creating content yourself with your team, or outsource to an agency.
In addition to the cost of creating content, don’t forget that you’ve allocated a cost to distributing the content, too.
Here’s your exercise: Write down an estimated total budget of how much you can and are willing to spend on content creation and distribution. It is important here to be realistic – an engaging 4-part tutorial series, for instance, could be made in-house at a seemingly low cost but will eat into your employees’ time working on other projects. That needs to be budgeted.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for content marketing budgets, but have a read through this article –
How to Set a Content Marketing Budget if You're Just Starting Out
5. Prepare to commit
Content marketing, done right, is a long, time-consuming creative process that yields amazing results for brands that do it well. But you have to prepare to commit.
The reason blogs and YouTube channels whither and vanish is because their creators often lack the commitment to stick through the initial, slow phase.
Set goals, of course, and be sure to measure progress, but don’t let slow progress deter you. You might need to tweak your strategy along the way, do something better or different – but eventually, you will get it right.
And when you do, content marketing is likely to become the super-fuel that not only drives sales, but also builds a great long-term customer community for you.
Here’s your exercise: Write down a time period that you want to give content marketing a genuine shot. Preferably between 6 months and a year. Also write down evaluation parameters based on which you want to evaluate the returns on your content marketing efforts, at the end of that time period. These could be leads, closed business, online followers, brand engagement or popularity, and so on.
These articles will help you manage expectations from your content marketing efforts a little better –
How Long Does It Really Take for Content Marketing to Work?
How Long Before My Content Marketing Shows Results?
So how’s your content marketing plan looking now?
A lot of startups don’t realise that content is the missing element in their marketing efforts.
It’s an easy one to leave out because of the time and resources it can take, but once the content takes off, businesses often find that their returns are far greater than the burst of sales a banner ad campaign might bring about. And what if it doesn’t?
Paid advertising, in today’s information-overloaded world, is a gamble. But consistent, high-quality content? That’s not a gamble. That’s laying the bricks for certain customer engagement and growth.
If you’re the kind of person that needs numbers to be convinced, then these numbers here are going to convert you into a content-believer.
An article by Aditi Jajal, Founder of Flow Concepts, a content writing service on
a mission to empower small businesses to create exceptional content, tell their stories and
really add value to the world they want to grow in.
For more information, visit www.flowconcepts.me