Content Marketing: Are You Using This Key Tactic to Win the Startup Arms Race?

Classical Library

Effective content marketing is like building the world’s greatest library of resources in your field of expertise. Your audience (and customers) should find the materials there not only informative but entertaining and compelling.

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

The sooner you connect with your customers the better.  Most consider this to be when you have your first sales with them.  However, content marketing gives you the opportunity to connect with them in a meaningful way long before your product launch. You start the connections that will build the awareness and trust that leads to strong product sales in the future with this tactic.  These early relationships will provide you with insights not only on how to communicate with them but also help you to establish what offerings will delight them.

Effective Content Marketing can help startups win against larger established competitors Content marketing is an especially important effort for any startup company.  When you introduce game-changing products into the marketplace, you will be introducing something that is, by its very nature of being innovative, unfamiliar. Your content marketing efforts will be one of the best ways to transform this ‘unfamiliarity’ into the trust and confidence that wins new customers.  Large established companies with powerful brand names like Apple, Thermo Fisher or Coke have the ability to launch new and unfamiliar products by using the trust that they have established with customers by virtue of having a strong brand.  However, even these large companies rely on content marketing to accelerate the successful launch of their innovations (e.g.  Google Glass, )  When effectively deployed content marketing, , will build the kind of trust with your future customers that will significantly shorten sales cycle times, reduce the cost of sales and augment the impact that your marketing  efforts have for generating new leads, closed sales and boosting revenue.

Why is Content Marketing missing from many startup companies’ business plans?
Content marketing is not often included in the tactics that many startups use because its true value and purpose are not well understood.  Part of the problem comes from the name itself. Content Marketing is not really marketing at all but telling a story or providing some valuable information without reference to the company’s offerings.  A content marketing piece is more like the article you read in a magazine or newspaper than the ads in the same paper.  As such, the ROI between the investment in time and effort of launching and maintaining an effective content marketing campaign are a significant challenge to quantify with traditional marketing metrics.  The full benefit of an effective content marketing campaign can take time to be realized so this can seem to be a luxury to be cut when cash flow is tight (especially in the early days).

Want to learn more about why you should give Content Marketing a second look?  Get additional insights and tips from this podcast on the topic with the author on the No Boundaries Radio Hour Podcast hosted and produced by Scott Graves Content Marketing Podcast

Building an effective Content Marketing effort that won’t break the bank
As mentioned earlier in this post, the full value of an effective content marketing campaign takes time to be fully realized.  As such the earlier you get started the better.  The following tips will help you to do this in an efficient way that that will build the trust that future customer’s value when they decide who to do business with.

  • Know your audience:  Your audience is your target market segment.  Be sure to read the articles, blog posts, news pieces and other content that your customers are reading on a regular basis.  This will not only provide you with a wealth of ideas for topics that you will cover but also allow you to further  your understanding of what  issues are critical to your customers and hence how you might position your traditional marketing efforts as well (an early ROI from this).
  • Create interesting content, not ads:  Remember that you want to connect with your customers as a subject matter expert.   Remember that you are creating content that is interesting and that your future customers want to consume.  (When creating new content, you should be asking yourself why would someone want to read (listen, watch) this?  Rarely do we choose to watch or read an ad.
  • Create what you know:  You need to tell compelling true stories.  Be authentic and write about what you know.  Create content that discusses the issue or problem that your product will fix (resist the temptation to promote your product here, that makes it an ad).  Each piece you create should be inherently valuable to your target audience by itself.
  • Regular delivery is important:  It takes some time for your audience to discover your content.  Once they have discovered and like it, they may share it with others.  It is important to have a regular delivery of the content that you create.  Whether this is once a month (e.g. newsletter or blog post) once a week or daily is up to you.  Consistent delivery is more important than quantity, especially at the beginning.  Pick a regularity that you can keep up with (perhaps start with a monthly, you can always increase the frequency later).
  • Content quality first, delivery media second:  Create something that will delight your audience first, and then select the way that you will deliver it to your audience. Boring and irrelevant content delivered by a flashy YouTube video, podcast, blog or newsletter is still boring content.  (Don’t forget traditional publications, many trade publications are hungry for interesting articles.  Some print publications may also promote and/or publish an online version as well which can provide an even greater level of exposure).
  • Don’t go it alone:  The effort required to do this effectively is not trivial.  There are many resources that you can turn to lighten your burden.
    • Ask Key Opinion Leaders, influential customers and other authorities to consider writing a guest blog post or newsletter piece for you.
    • Hire a firm to help you create the content.  There are many excellent content creation firms that will take your ideas and create publication-ready copy for your blog, newsletter, white paper etc.
    • Don’t’ like to write?  Consider doing a podcast.  You can do this yourself but consider using a professional that knows how to create compelling content for this medium.
    • Embedded video clips.  Convert one of your written pieces into a compelling 2 minute video.  Resist the temptation to show your product in action.  (Think TED Talks rather than Ad copy).
    • Produce slideshows and webinars.  You have worked hard to create talks that showcase your science to academic and technical audiences.  Why not capture these ‘talks’ using software like Camtasia and share them on your website?  Hosting a webinar can also increase the impact of your presentations by allowing you to reach larger audiences that are geographically distributed while also providing the opportunity to interact with them live.  The other advantage of this is that you can easily record the session and share it.

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Picture Credit: Curious Expeditions via photopin cc

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