“Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left” – Seth Godin.
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You must have heard that content is king. Indeed it is the heart and soul of any successful content marketing strategy. Behind every brand, there is a host of relevant content that connects them with a relevant audience. This guide will allow you to delve deeper into its science and come up with your very own profitable strategy for content marketing.
Content Marketing Strategy for Startups
- Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing vs. Content Plan
- Step by Step Guide to Build an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
- Content Marketing Team, Assemble!
- Time to Pen down Your Startup’s Mission Statement
- Content Marketing Goals
- Persona Research and Audience Development
- Determine Your Content Types
- Determine Your Promotion Channels
- Creating Content
- Content Creation Process
- Create a Content Calendar
- Distributing and Marketing Your Content
- Measure Your results
- Establishing KPIs
- Content Marketing Strategy Mistakes
- Wrapping Up!
Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing vs. Content Plan
People often interchangeably use these terms, however, each of them varies from the other and has a different meaning.
Content strategy refers to managing all the content that you have and reusing or re-purposing successful pieces of content over time. It often goes beyond content marketing, as the dominance of useful and reusable content allows startups to be more flexible and scale themselves accordingly.
Content marketing for startups, on the other hand, refers to building an audience to accomplish business goals, for instance higher revenue or better customers. You need to ask yourself why you are producing any piece of content? Who is your target audience? How lucratively you can scale your startup with your current content marketing strategy?
Contrary to the aforementioned two, a content plan is more of a tactical approach. It mainly consists of how to execute content objectives such as appointing resources for each goal. It’s highly essential for you to understand the fact that you need to come up with a content marketing strategy BEFORE you start building a content plan.
Once your content marketing strategy is in place, you can initiate structuring your content plan. It should include details such as the key topics that you will cover, the kind of content you will produce, implementation of CTAs, how and when will you share your content on different channels etc.
Coming up with a Content Marketing Strategy
Your strategy should basically be an outline of your startup. It should deliver what was promised to your customers. It should be a detailed plan that you can use to address your target audience. Remember, there is no generic content marketing strategy template, as every business needs to come up with their own. Their unique content marketing strategies allow them to accomplish their distinct business goals.
Step by Step Guide to Build an Effective Strategy for Content Marketing
Coming up with an effective strategy for startups is not an easy task, nonetheless, it is not a rocket science either. Let’s delve deeper into its science.
1. Content Marketing Team, Assemble!
You need to begin the process of your content marketing strategy with an effective content team that will be working for you right from start to finish. The teams may look different, depending from startup to startup, however, some of the familiar roles are as follows.
- Marketing Strategists – They plan the content your team will develop.
- Content Writers – They creatively use their skills and expertise to produce desired content.
- Content Editors – They proofread created content and ensure factual accuracy.
- Content Promoters – They promote content by distributing and marketing it on various channels.
- Designers – They produce graphic content as per the startup’s needs.
- Videographers – They produce and edit video content as per the startup’s requirements.
- Content Analysts – They analyze the performance of content and find out what is working and what isn’t.
2. Time to Pen down Your Startup’s Mission Statement
Once you have your content team in place, it is time for you to come up with an apt mission statement for your startup. The mission statement is the promise that your startup wants to accomplish. For instance, to get you started, here is an example of how you can come up with an on-point mission statement for your startup.
“The mission of [Organization’s Name] is to offer our customers with [service #1] and [service #2] through [action #1], [action #2] and [action #3].”
3. Content Marketing Goals
The next step in establishing an effective content marketing strategy is using your startup goals to create content marketing goals that your team needs to deliver timely. Your startup goals predominantly impact your success. Your strategy should assist your startup to achieve its business goals.
Each goal that you set should relevantly scale your startup. Do ensure that all your content marketing goals are SMART goals, which means they are:
- Specific: Describe your goals precisely so that your team can accurately deliver tasks.
- Measurable: Attach numerical values to your goals so that you can measure them.
- Attainable: Ask yourself, can your team accomplish this goal within the deadline?
- Relevant: Does this goal provide significant value to your success? Will it prove that what you are doing is working out for your startup?
- Timely: All the goals should always have a deadline to ensure timely delivery.
4. Persona Research and Audience Development
The next step is to identify your audience. Your content marketing strategy is only as effective as the leads and audience it brings in for you. If you draw thousands of views every month, however, if only five among them are from your relevant audience, it is nothing but a waste of your time and effort.
Strategically identifying who your content should target will help you determine what kind of topics, ideas, and keywords you need to work with. Following are the characteristics of identifying your relevant audience.
- Demographics: Their age, gender, ethnicity, income, location, job title etc.
- Psychographics: Their hobbies, interests, beliefs, habits etc.
- Challenges: The challenges they are facing to search your product or service?
- Pain Points: What problem in your audience’s life does your product or service solves?
- Getting Information: From where is your audience trying to find a solution to their problems?
- Type of Content They Prefer: What content structure or format does your audience prefer to get the information they are searching for?
- How Can You Help: How is your content helping your target audience to get the information they are searching for?
Your content marketing strategy should have two audience profiles. Firstly, your primary audience that are people who are most likely to purchase your product or service. All the content you create should primarily target them.
Your secondary audience should be people who are almost a part of your primary audience but never make the cut. These people require more convincing from the content you publish which implies your content team should be more strategic with what they develop and write.
5. Determine Your Content Types
Now it is time for you to determine what types of content you will develop for your audience. Content marketing is not just about writing blog posts. Your content team can come up with a variety of options. For example email newsletters, videos, social media content, print content, (magazines, brochures, flyers etc.), ebooks, research reports, white papers, case studies, graphic or visual content. Select the types of content that suit you the best to reach your audience and accomplish your startup goals.
For instance, if your target audience spends a lot of time on social media, produce content on channels they use like Facebook or Twitter. If they enjoy reading, then maybe producing ebooks will be a great idea. Analyze your audience and use survey data to align different content types with the needs and interests of your target audience.
6. Determine Your Promotion Channels
Podcasts have gained immense popularity among consumers as a means to discover authentic and meaningful content while being part of a community of like minded listeners looking for solutions for similar problems. Choosing podcasts to communicate with your potential customers can go a long way in establishing a strong brand connect.
You are developing amazing content, however, it is only as good as the number of people that see it. That is precisely why you need to opt for the right promotional channels for your startup. Following are some ideas to begin with:
- Organic Search: It is mainly the content that ranks on search engines and is visible on the first page of the search results. Such content is keyword heavy. It focuses on a series of primary and secondary keywords that your audience is searching for.
- Email Newsletters: Emails are one of the best promotional channels if you are publishing a variety of content. You can feed fragments of your content to your audience and increase the chances of conversion.
- Social Media: This includes both organic and paid content marketing options.
- Third Party Distribution: You can always use third-party distributors or influencers to post your content. It is a significant promotional tactic as it assists you to reach out to different sources and add your content to their email newsletters, websites or social channels.
7. Creating Content
Now you need to determine your content’s core and its execution process. Make sure you do not neglect the following factors while coming up with your content marketing strategy.
Identify the Tone and Voice of Your Content
The personality of your brand goes hand in hand with the voice of your content. On the other hand, the tone of your content relates to how you deliver your messages. Your tone should change continuously whereas your voice should remain consistent.
To outline your voice, you need to pick up a few adjectives that describe your brand’s personality. For instance, whether your brand is friendly, humorous, or youth savvy. Your tone should focus on how you want to deliver certain messages. It will vary from situation to situation.
Building a Messaging Matrix
Once you have identified the tone and voice of your brand’s content, it is time for you to create your messaging matrix. Your messaging matrix is what defines your core brand messages.
In simpler terms, it should answer the question: “What message the content is communicating to our audience about our brand?” This should include a primary message and several other secondary messages.
Establish Your Core Content
Now you need to develop your core content. Your core content comprises of topics that are highly related to your product or service. For instance, if you sell construction equipment, the topics that you should consider may include but not limited to, machine maintenance, how to do the jobs that your equipment was built to tackle, news from the construction industry, valuable advice for construction workers etc.
Work diligently with your content strategists to develop your core content. You can begin by identifying broad pillar content, followed by examples of clusters or subtopics.
Establish Your Core Content
After developing your core content, you need to develop your design standards. These are the guidelines that assist your designers when they need to create a consistent look of the brand throughout the content publishing and promotional cycle. It should include things like which fonts to use, the color choices, appropriate logo placement etc.
Work with your designers to come up with a basic design that your entire content marketing team is aware of and agrees with. It doesn’t have to be complex, just include things that even non-designers can relate to. You can also outline your brand’s do’s and don’ts which come in handy when you are onboarding new designers.
8. Content Creation Process
Now that you have your brand standards all set up, the next step in your content marketing strategy is to define how you as a brand will create your content.
To begin with, design a content creation process for your writers. It should be a procedure that all the writers need to follow before any content is ready to go any further. The checklist includes your content team as well as your blog managers. Furthermore, every step in the content creation process should be in a chronological order. For example:
- Decide a topic
- Choose a publishing date
- Research keywords
- Prepare an outline
- Approve the outline
- Prepare a draft
- Revise the draft as needed
- Forward to the editor
All the above mentioned tasks should have a deadline. For instance, if it will take two weeks to complete this process you need to begin your first task two weeks before the content is ready for the editor.
Your content marketing strategy will also require an editorial process. It should involve your editors, designers, promoters as well as your content analysts. Following is an idea of how your editorial process should look like:
- Edit the content as required
- Send it back to the writer for revision
- Forward the finalized content to designers
- Design the content
- Approve the design
- Forward the content to promotions team
- In-line the promotions
- Approve the promotions
- Analyze the results
Next, you need to set up your publishing schedule. Each content that your content team develops, needs to be on a schedule. For instance, if your content team is writing blog posts, eBooks, or infographics, you need to decide on how often you want to publish that content. Your schedule may look like:
- Three blog posts per week
- Two infographics per month
- One eBook per quarter
You need to develop a content marketing calendar as the final step of your content creation process. It will help your writers to remain on track by planning all the required content and to avoid late shifts due to procrastination. Every content that you desire to publish sooner or later should be on this calendar. It will include things like:
- The publishing date
- The topic it should cover
- Under which core content pillar does it fall
- The format of content.
- The channels you will use for distribution of content
9. Create a Content Calendar
One of the most important factors of an effective content marketing strategy is to know precisely when you will publish your content on any relevant channel. Lacking strategic planning is a common mistake that startups make. It is highly recommended to use a content calendar so that you can organize and schedule your content.
For instance, you can use Google Calendar and put in the deadlines or due publishing dates for each piece of content. It works brilliantly, especially if you’re not planning on publishing a lot of content. Google Calendar follows a basic approach, however, if you’re planning to publish a variety of content, you have to manage an entire content team and also the production workflow that you have decided on, then you may require additional features.
Options for managing a content calendar include productivity and task management tools such as CoSchedule – a purpose-built editorial calendar tool. It will allow you to schedule different parts of the content creation process. As mentioned earlier, you need to create content around the preferences of your audience. One way to do so is by using Buzzsumo’s Question Analyzer.
10. Distributing and Marketing Your Content
By now, your team must have developed a brilliant piece of content. It is time for you to promote it. To begin with, you need to determine what tactics you will use to promote that content? Also, how often you will use each tactic
Using Social Media
If you are using social media as your choice of promotion, there are a few steps that you need to consider. The first is to decide which social media channels will suit your startup the best. To do so, you need to know which channel is your target audience most active on.
For instance, if your target audience is 18-30-year-olds, Instagram and Snapchat may be a profitable option. However if your target audience ranges from 35-50-year-olds, then Facebook can prove to be a better option for your startup.
By using the in-app social media analytics, you can identify which channel is attracting your target audience the most. You need to create promotional schedules after determining your target audience and social media channels. Following is a schedule for reference:
Day of publishing:
- 1 Facebook post
- 3 Twitter posts
- 1 LinkedIn message
- 1 Pin on Pinterest
The day after publish:
- 2 Twitter posts
- 1 Facebook message
Week after publish:
- 1 LinkedIn message
- 1 Pinterest Pin
- 2 Twitter Messages
You can also go for paid advertising to help your social media promotion endeavors. These promotional ads will ensure your content is visible to a large number of people, depending on your budget. Also, setting them up is incredibly easy.
Email promotion is one of the strongest promotional methods especially if you are publishing a lot of content. To come up with an email promotional plan, you need to identify:
- How many emails you will send for each piece of content?
- At what time will you send your emails?
Using 3rd Party Distributors
Another viable option for you to promote your content is third party distributors. This could be as simple as sending your content to organizational websites so that they can republish it.
Furthermore, you can always tag authors, strategists, and influencers whom you mention in your content and see whether or not they will share it on their own channel. You can even work with other organizations to place your content in their email newsletters.
Using Organic Search
And finally, it is time for SEO. You need to ensure that your content topics resonate with audience. You must make smart use of keywords, always!
On-Page SEO Checklist
While you are still deciding on which different promotional tactics to use, also brainstorm with your content team and decide how often you want to use each tactic. You need to decide on what types of promotional channels you want to publish your content on, and how often you’re going to do it. Record each channel that you decide to publish on with objectives, target audiences, call to actions and the frequency of using each channel.
11. Measure Your results
Now that you have your goals all set up, and your content is out for the world to see, it is time for you to measure your content results and see if they are bringing your team the expected success. To begin with your measurement process, you need to create a framework that gives your content team an idea or a rough estimate of:
- What they’ll be reporting on
- Progress towards goals
- How often they’ll create your reports
- What they should look like
12. Establishing KPIs
The last step for developing an effective content marketing strategy is to setup Key Point Indicators (KPIs) that will allow you to know whether your team is on the right track or not. Establishing KPIs will help you ensure that your startup is achieving its goals simply by checking on different milestones. KPIs for startups may include things that you plan to accomplish in terms of revenue, sales, traffic, or any other aspect of digital marketing such as SEO, email marketing or social media metrics. Mostly, KPIs provide specific numbers. For example:
- Reach a certain amount of revenue within a month, quarter, or a year.
- Get a specific number of new email subscribers.
- Experience a significant increase in your website traffic and engagement.
- Improvise to enhance your search engine rankings and boost incoming traffic.
- Achieve a specific number of social media mentions, shares or comments.
KPIs are specific metrics that are closest to the goals you have set earlier. After you’ve figured out your KPIs, you can move on to the metrics. This can get a bit confusing because KPIs are metrics but not all metrics are KPIs. The additional metrics that your team chooses to track content performance should contain the data points you need to prove that your strategy is working.
Another piece of reporting documentation that your content team will need is a content scorecard. It will allow your team to establish a benchmark of performance for every content. For example for every blog post you want to get 2,500 views. You should repeat this process for every content type that you develop.
Content Marketing Strategy Mistakes
By now, you might have read a few downloaded checklists and ebooks. You might have also attended a few conferences, and maybe also subscribed to a variety of podcasts. Nonetheless, you are unable to derive a successful strategy for your startup.
We all make mistakes and probably still do occasionally. However, to assure that you are on the right track, here are a few content marketing strategy mistakes that many among us are doing but it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
1. No Master Plan
A great content marketing strategy is technically the marriage between an effective strategy and a great tactical execution. For instance, monitoring your target audience on community forums, gaining insights on their opinions, and identifying measures to tailor your communication as per the need of your audience is an effective strategy that signifies setting up goals that will help you accomplish your startup goals. You should use ready-made flyer templates to save time and get the best results for your company or clients.
Tactical execution on the other hand, is a series of actions that you need to take to implement that strategy. For instance, devoting an hour every day and being active on community forums or social media where your target audience is spending most of their time.
2. Content Is Not Equal to Blog Posts
Content is king but variety of content is the king of kings. Online marketers create at least one piece of content every day that includes written, graphic, visual or audio content. Online content should also focus on creating a variety of content. For instance, whitepapers, how-to guides, checklists, short rants, webinars, short and long videos, memes, infographics, case studies, GIFs, social media posts, podcasts, photographic images, animations etc.
Go beyond a simple blog post. Consider what would attract your target audience and then play to your strengths accordingly.
3. Hypothetical Buyer Personas
You must have heard about the significance of creating buyer personas. However they should not remain limited to age, job roles, income, or interests only. You need to have a deeper insight to understand their motivations and challenges so that you can create relevant content that actually helps them. With the following tactics, you can develop comprehensive buyer personas or customer profiles.
Prepare a questionnaire and request your customer base to fill it out for you. It should ideally be a survey of not more than 10 to 12 questions. You need to collect information such as their goals, their buyer’s journey, why are they hesitating before purchasing, their concerns about your product or service, or any other predetermined concepts or assumptions.
Phone or In-Person Interviews
Conducting interviews over a phone call or in person are always better than emailing your existing customers. It will allow you to navigate conversations to the important parts of your research. It also allows you to gain extra insight that you may lose in an email conversation.
Web and Exit Surveys
Use survey pop-ups on your website that ask customers about their experience or why they’re exiting without converting? There are a variety of tools available for you to do this. Keeping your goals in mind, come up with to-the-point questions. For example is the fulfillment of your customer’s needs important to you or the obstacles that they are facing?
4. Understanding Your Audience
According to a study by IBM conducted in 2015, 63% of customers feel that they are not being understood well by the brands they love. The study further explains the massive gap between the perception of businesses about their consumers and what their customers actually want.
Many startups think that they know their audience well and are connecting with them, but they’re not. If they target senior marketers with classy content instead of creating how-to guides for entry-level marketers, it can prove to be far more beneficial than any other tactic. Try to delve deeper into your audience’s mind and create content that talks about the why, how and what they like. The focus of creating or promoting any content should be attracting the right audience, so make all your content just about them.
5. Content Published = Content Marketing
After conducting your thorough research, you now know your target audience and what they want from you. You have created an excellent video along with a blog post. You hit the publish button and you think you are done. That’s not how it works!
As Nigel McHugh aptly says, ‘Content is king but distribution is queen, and she wears the trousers.’ Unless you distribute your content through different social media channels, emails, forums, and blogs, your content will not create the desired impact. Successful online marketers follow the 80/20 rule religiously. It means to spend 20% of your time to create content and 80% of your time to promote it on different channels. To do so:
- Reach out to influencers from your industry. Get their feedback.
- Contact people who create and share content that is similar to yours.
- Tag influencers when you share your content.
- Share your content multiple times on different groups on social media.
- Become proactive on community websites and share your content when needed.
There is no point in focusing solely on creating content and not spending more time to market it. Always remember, it is “Content Marketing”, not “Content Creation” or “Content Publishing”.
6. SEO Focused
It’s 2018 and yes SEO is still a big deal. But it is not the only thing that matters in content marketing. A few years ago, you could have achieved an impressive reach by simply publishing content consistently and by focusing on improving search engine rankings.
Fighting for search engine rankings is a competitive battle. However, publishing content consistently does not positively affect your rankings. Focusing on just creating content will not work out. You need to come up with a point of difference, something unique that allows your brand to stand out.
7. Crappy Content
Frankly, you see numerous posts every day, nonetheless, how many can you classify as great content? Your audience can also easily distinguish between SEO focused content and content that actually brings value to them. No need to disregard SEO, but add value first before worrying about rankings. Creating content just for the sake of it will not win you any relevant audience. There is a great chance for you to lose loyal subscribers and your brand’s equity will also be at stake during the process.
Creating 10 blog posts with the usual feed will not help your case. Instead, try creating a single blog post with great value and information. Make that content more viable than the 10 usual posts by turning it into different formats. Also, spend the budget of those 10 posts on promoting that single great one to achieve promising results.
8. Expecting Instant Results
Content Marketing Strategy should not be a get-rich-quick scheme, rather it should be a long time investment. It requires great effort. You cannot publish a few blog posts and expect to see a significant increase in your ROI or a huge audience immediately. The bottom line here is: when it comes to content marketing, you harvest what you sow.
9. Unquestioning Devotion to Best Practices
The best available practices spoil marketers. If you want your brand to stand out, doesn’t it seem a little odd to do what everyone else is doing? The main reason why marketers follow the “best practices” is because they are safe.
A world of “playing safe” is a world that lacks innovation. Warren Buffett did not reach where he is today by playing safe. You need to take risks to get the biscuit. It is okay to be wrong, feel free to test different hypothesis. Just learn from your mistakes and evolve continuously.
10. Trying Too Hard
There are so many channels that you can choose to create and promote your content. Each channel is beneficial in its own unique way. You will make an expensive mistake if you try to cover all the channels. Furthermore, you will probably end up stretching out yourself too far.
Instead of going for all the content promotion channels, select a few to start with. If writing is your forte then begin with blogging. Eventually branch out to guest blogs and start posting on social media. Focus on a single medium, create and publish content consistently to win an audience.
11. Don’t Sell Too Hard
Hard-selling rarely works when it comes to content marketing. Your audience wants to see content that helps them, provides value, and solves problems. As a content marketer, it is your duty to educate your team on what works and what doesn’t. Over-selling your products or services will never work.
And that’s pretty much it! Now you should be able to develop a successful plan focusing on content marketing for startups and small businesses. Make sure you follow the aforementioned step-by-step guide and refrain from making the most common mistakes that most of the online marketers make. Furthermore, also take a look at our guide “SEO for Startups” which will allow you to significantly improve your search engine rankings.