Understanding Your Startup’s Content Marketing Plan
I recently spoke with friend who has created several start-ups to get an insider’s point of view and better understand if content marketing plays a role in a startup’s go-to-market planning.
Here are his thoughts on startup’s content marketing:
Get Your Products Right
He made it clear to me that “marketing” is not his primary focus initially, his product is. He spends almost all of his seed money or funding to get his prototype or beta product right (make the prototype “market fit”). Initially, he spent very little money on marketing. Since his latest product is SaaS-based, he offered his products for free to potential users and asked them to provide feedback. Through user feedback, he could quickly modify the product and add or delete features to make the product a better “fit” for their audiences. He constantly tweaks his products and business models during the initial stages.
Key: Product trumps marketing.
Content marketing works
He focuses on content marketing because he doesn’t have the funding to do a big paid-advertising push. His content marketing efforts focus on how to use the products, tips and tricks and helping users to be more efficient and productive. If his team shares any industry trends or primary research, the call-to-action always leads to products they offer.
Key: Create content with the mindset of being helpful and educational.
The Marketing Team Structure and Marketing Tactics
He keeps his staff very small with 1-2 people who are strong in copy writing, design, search (SEO and paid search) and social media marketing. He works with them to get the brand’s tone, voice and design right. He is also very clear about what he wants marketing to accomplish. All marketing communications are tied to leads and are user-focused. In addition to content creation, his small team hones in on paid, organic search (SEM and SEO) and paid social media marketing efforts. If they do paid ads on various social media channels, they spend a lot of time testing their messaging and creative before they increase their ad spend. With a small marketing budget, they try to optimize whenever and whatever possible.
If you can’t afford a small team, he suggests hiring strong freelancers or small agencies to do the work for you. You can have someone on your team who knows your products and is strong in program management oversee those freelancers and agencies.
Key: Have a simple brand guide for logo, typography, image selection guidance, writing tone, etc. In-house or outsourcing depends on your marketing budget. Focus on hiring a copy writer/designer and a social media manager first. Work with them on strategy, then let them execute.
Create Content for Your Website First
Everything is about driving traffic to the main website. Once you start housing various types of content on your website, the site map becomes very important. Where should FAQs be located? Should there be a discussion bulletin board? Should there be a how-to product video library? He pointed out that a website can be a money pit. It’s important to create content, but you also need to make your content easy to find. Anything that is “easy” and “intuitive” is not cheap. I agree with that, Amen!
Key: House content on your website. Start with something simple. You will tweak and modify your site map as you grow. Watch your budget, too!
Influencer Outreach is Useful, But Get Your Basics Down First
He emphasizes getting your product right and getting your basic marketing tactics down (website, SEO, SEM and social media communications) before influencer outreach. It’s like inviting your friends to a party. Before they arrive, you have to make sure that your house is clean, and food and music are ready to go. If you want influencers to talk about your product and drive traffic to your site, you also need to make sure that your products and website are ready and intuitive.
There are three forms of influencer marketing:
- Organic: Simply ask influencers to showcase your product or content.
- Affiliate Marketing: Share profit with influencers when they promote your products
- Sponsorship: You pay influencers to talk about your products.
Key: There is no right or wrong way to perform influencer outreach. He made it pretty clear that it depends on your budget and your communication objectives.
In general, a SaaS-based start-up will focus on building their user-base first. The pricing model is a big component of marketing. Getting the pricing right (free offers, tier-pricing or small monthly subscription fees) is vital. The pricing model directly dictates marketing tactics.
Do their marketing tactics apply to traditional small businesses? It depends. It depends on your products and services, your customer sources, your business models, even your budget. It mostly comes down to how your customers find you.
The carpet cleaner I use only advertises in local newspapers and coupons sent via direct postal mail. It sounds traditional, but it still works for them. Paid Facebook advertising is cheaper for him, but it requires technical expertise to optimize ad spends and tweak demographics and audience information. The owner ended up spending more money by hiring an agency to do advertising on Facebook. The cost per acquisition became much higher than the marketing budget they spent on local paid media and they didn’t see high conversions. They pulled back on social media marketing and focused on traditional marketing.
Key: You need to do what you think is right for your business. At the same time, you need to know when to adapt, which is the hardest part to gauge!