A guide to content marketing for startups

Mai Fenton
Chief Marketing Officer
09 July 2021
5 minute read

An important consideration for many startups once you’ve defined your product or service, have a business plan and are considering how to grow, is how best you can build your audience to drive awareness of your business. However, at an early stage paid channels such as TV, outdoor or pay per click may be out of scope. It’s here that content marketing can be a highly effective channel for startups with limited funding.

A well thought-through content strategy can work wonders in generating brand discovery and driving quality traffic to your site, but where do you start? Our guide outlines the key considerations and some top tips for startups embarking on content marketing.

How to create a content marketing strategy as a startup

As with any marketing channel it is important first to create a plan and lay out what you hope to achieve with your content marketing efforts, here our our key considerations:

- What content is your audience looking for?

Creating content based on the needs of your audience and what they are searching for online will help you improve your visibility in search engines.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) allows your website to be found, so it’s important to consider if you want your content to rank in relevant search results. Optimising for SEO and fulfilling user needs are increasingly the same thing. If you are creating the right content for your audience, based on the data you have about them, 9 times out of 10 that will perform well in search which in turn will contribute to driving more traffic to your website.

There are many free tools to help you identify keyword topics and relative volume of the audience that is searching for them. By categorising what stage of the purchase funnel these topics represent you can develop content tailored to the audiences needs at the stage they're at whether they are looking for a product page, blog article, case study, how-to guide or ebook, video, podcast and so on. Some of this content will help you show in search engines results pages (SERPs), some of it will be discoverable via other channels such as social media.

- Where is your audience online?

SEO should form a big part of your content strategy, however it is important to remember that search isn’t the only way to attract potential prospects to your site. You can drive brand or product discovery and consideration through many channels online.

To identify these channels get under the skin of your target audience and ideal customer profile (ICP). You can do this by undertaking customer research, talking to your existing customers and identifying audiences who fit your ICP through your network and connections. It’s important to listen and ask questions to dig deep into the functional, emotional and social outcomes (keep asking ‘why’).

You can also complement your research with exploring other brands that target the same audience as you do - not necessarily competing in your category, but whose audience has common characteristics with your ICP. Check their social media properties and see where they get engagements from the right people - this could give you additional insight.

Those insights will help you find new search terms and related/adjacent topics as well as where your audience is spending their time online. With this insight you may discover which social media channel your audience can typically be found on, what online publications they read or what podcasts they listen to and this will help you tailor your strategy.

Identifying key trends and seasonality in your market will enable you to create a more tactical content marketing strategy, however caution is required when building your product messaging around trends.

Identifying trends that are aligned to your business and the customer benefit you are communicating can be a solid foundation. However, it’s important to stress test the longevity of these trends to make sure they will provide a solid foundation for your content marketing activity and aren’t short lived. Similarly seasonality can allow you to plan ahead for competitive periods or a time within the year where your content will have greater reach.

In both instances it’s important to focus on trends that are relevant to your business and the expertise you have to enable you to add to the conversation as opposed to being lost in the noise.

Measuring the success of your content marketing

It’s important to set out what you hope to achieve with your content marketing efforts and ensure you have the right tracking in place to be able to measure against this.

You want your content to generate a positive action, whether it's simply reading or viewing one piece of content which can be measured by sessions or view counts, or a more complex user outcome such as visiting multiple parts of your website, returning to your site later on or achieving some form of conversion be it sharing their contact details, signing up or buying.

You should be selective about when to push a call-to-action (CTA), based on the content viewed - being too salesy with 'book a call/demo' buttons in the wrong place can have a negative effect on your visitors.

Different content will serve different purposes and not all content will drive visitors to your site with an intent to buy, book a call or request a demo. Some may just be at the stage of brand/product awareness and getting to know your business rather than the research/comparison stage of their buyer journey.

Tips for startups to get started with content marketing

  1. Take the time to know and understand your customers properly; their struggles, what progress they are trying to make, how your solution alleviates their problem, what a good outcome looks like for them.
  2. Don‘t spread your efforts too thin trying to do it all at once. Once you've got a plan, as well as the talent and resources to implement it, give it enough time for you to learn and optimise what you're doing. And don't forget to ensure you have tracking in place to be able to monitor performance.
  3. Get your website in order - Investing time and effort in content marketing will be less effective if your website isn't doing its job. So spend time developing your homepage and landing pages, your user experience, messaging and CTAs, and get these right to ensure users find what they are looking for when landing on your site.

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