“Content marketing is just solving the same problems that your product solves through media you create and promote.” - Jay Acunzo (Marketer - Ex Hubspot, now VC)
I always feel I should preface any guideline article with an explanation of the topic I am writing about, however when it comes to content marketing, I’m going to assume that everyone already knows what it is in a basic sense. If you don’t then perhaps start here and get ready to have your view of the marketing world turned on its head!
With that out the way, let’s look at content marketing's applicability to a startup over an SME or large corporate and how you can maximise reach for the content you create with a limited marketing spend.
Content creation takes time and effort, so why bother in the first place? While initiatives such as advertising have a very low half-life (they stop when the money does), well written, evergreen content has the ability to hang around for years, often adding site traffic months if not years after the post was created. It is often far more cost effective than other paid marketing initiatives out there and if done well will more than pay for itself.
Content has the ability to create a story that supports your company. While not as directly responsive as an advert, a good content strategy can, over time increase traffic to your site, build your search ranking and most importantly build credibility around your product, team and whole organisation.
Targeting your content
The first thing to consider with any content creation is who is the the target reader? While you won’t be able to define this exactly, having a guideline persona will help you formulate content that suits that person, rather than going for a catchall approach.
You can define more than one persona of course, but keep your content focussed around that topic. The audiences we speak to most at Faber Ventures are entrepreneurs and other investors. Of course there are a host of other parties that like what we write about, but they are the exception that proves the rule. Our content has to be super focussed on what we know.
As a VC, if we were to start speaking about the best places to buy apple pie in New York - we would quickly lose relevance and credibility with our European startup focussed audience.
When thinking about targeting, it is also good to consider keywords and phrases that you would like to ‘own’ in your writing. These phrases could appear in the majority of your content, building a hook that unites your messages and also grows your SEO at the same time.
Types of content
Content is a vague ‘catch-all’ phrase, but what does a content campaign actually include? The below list of bulleted points covers everything you should think about when building a content outreach strategy.
- Blogging. This can take numerous forms, from a self hosted blog that is linked to your site, to third-party guest writing. The former is the easier option as you remain in control, however the second can open you up to ready made audiences - but is generally harder to achieve.
- Images. We have all seen and shared a good infographic or similar visual content item. These sharables can be really useful for social media dissemination as well as physical presentations.
- Social media. Often social media can be viewed as simply a channel to distribute content from other areas, however if you don’t have the resources to create your own long-form content, social media can act as a great content channel. Just remember to post original content as much as possible.
- Email. Many view email as a dead format, however executed well and to the correct audience it can add significant value to your content campaign. If you do decide to setup a blog, create a ‘digest’ email that can go out at regular intervals to increase recurring engagement and sharing. If you don’t have a blog, consider which other content you could serve to your readers on a regular basis. Is there data hidden in your product that could create a compelling ‘freemium’ digest to encourage users to further engage with your brand? One of the best examples of this in action is Investor insight platform - Mattermark. Sign up and see for yourself how powerful free data can be.
- Video. This last piece of the content puzzle is arguably the hardest to crack, however if done well, video can create a viral spread like nothing else, and can put your brand in front of millions of viewers. Videos usually require time and finance to pull off with excellence. An example of brilliant video content that is having a significant impact within the intended audience (tech) is this recently launched video from Founders Forum.
- Creative thinking. The above list is merely a guide. Clever content requires ‘out-the-box’ thinking so be creative in the things you create. Explore new or forgotten mediums to build a unique offering for your users, and most of all have fun creating. If you enjoy it, others will too.
Surfacing interesting data
Content works best when it brings something new to the table. A new dataset, or a different perspective on an existing topic will give your content a place to stand out amongst others.
The ideal in this situation is to find insight from inside your own product, or perhaps engage in a third party survey, however this isn’t always possible.
Sometimes the data that you need is already in existence, but has been forgotten. As an example, when working with a previous client, Ospero, we surfaced a report from 2001 on the future of the cloud computing industry. From that report, we were able to compile information from then and now to create an analysis that was placed in a number of third-party media outlets (see this link). All it took was an afternoon’s Googling!
Make a plan
Creating your content is only the first step of the journey. Distributing that content both on publication and then over time to create deep amplification requires great effort and planning.
Take the time to build a content strategy, a calendar of posts that spans at least the following 6 months as well as a social media distribution plan.
You can take some of the pain out of this by utilising automated platforms to repeatedly disseminate content over social media. Hootsuite and Buffer offer simple versions of this, but for a professional content automation solution, consider investing in a tool such as Edgar, to make the most of your created content.
Does it work?
How do I know the above tips work? I thought it might be useful to highlight a case study that shows the power of content marketing done well.
One of Faber’s investments is a company called Coacher. They offer an iPad based football coaching application for amateur and semi-professional soccer teams. Unsurprisingly there is a finite number for individuals interested in this topic, however those that are, are super committed and always looking to improve.
Coacher setup a content channel called topsoccercoach.com to act as a blog that curates and highlghts great coaching content (mainly video) relevant to football coaches. In just over 12 months they achieved over 3.5 million page views, as well as 21k Facebook fans. Most impressively, through subtle promotion of Coacher on the site, the team managed to secure 11,000 email signups to use their app upon launch.
Needless to say, this has been immensely valuable in launching and growing their startup.
While the above article is an incomplete guide to content marketing, it should give you a great start in building a successful campaign.
For further reading I suggest you check out Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less as well as Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business. Though the titles are unsettlingly long, the content contained within is very useful.