Content marketing. It’s a buzzword that’s been around for a few years now, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
But what exactly is content marketing?
Well, here’s a definition from the Content Marketing Institute:
A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
We can break it up into three main parts:
- It’s about creating and distributing content
- The content must be valuable and consistent
- You need to have an audience in mind
If you run a company blog and tick those three boxes, you can’t go too far wrong. Here’s the funnel a reader should ideally go through when visiting your blog.
To put it simply—they’re creating valuable, quality content that people love. By providing this content, they get a constant stream of readers, some of whom turn into quality leads and customers.
Alex from Groove wrote an article about how focusing on content has helped them.
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth noting for anyone thinking about their own business growth: content marketing has been, without a close second, our most effective strategy for growing Groove.
Alex Turnbull, Groove
It’s helped them go all the way from $0 to an awesome $240,990 in monthly recurring revenue (at the time of writing). Pretty amazing!
Why does it make sense for my startup?
There’s a ton of reasons for startups to get into the world of content marketing. Whether you’re a bootstrapped founder starting out, or you run marketing for a startup that’s just closed a Series C, running a company blog can benefit your business.
Before you get carried away, don’t think it’s all rainbows and unicorns, though. It’s not. Running a blog takes time, effort and loads of creativity. Not to mention money.
It’s up to you and your team to outweigh the benefits over the costs. Here are some reasons to get started.
Content marketing helps spread the word
Getting the word out about your startup isn’t easy, as you likely already know.
You build your product, get excited, launch and…nobody cares. Your beautiful product looks like death valley, nobody uses it and a feeling of hopelessness overcomes you. It’s a cruel world out there people.
At the beginning, the same thing happens with your blog. You publish your post, share it on social media and…nothing. Zilch, nada. However, the magic with a blog happens over time, not overnight.
Content marketing helps Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Running a company blog is all about trying to befriend Googlebot. Make it easy for her to crawl your blog and she’ll reward you by ranking your site higher in Google searches.
By using the power of SEO, my startup has managed to rank highly for keywords like ‘content marketing kanban’ and ‘startup content marketing‘.
The better your SEO, the more likely you’re going to rank highly on Google. Being higher on Google means you can generate more organic leads. These are people who are looking for what you’re providing already.
It works the other way too, though. If you make Google bot unhappy, she’ll rain terror on you. Linking to spammy websites, targeting a keyword too many times or hosting an inactive blog are all reasons for her to get mad at you.
Don’t make her mad, ok?
Content marketing helps influencer outreach
In the digital world, it’s tough to form relationships with people. Particularly influencers. They get hundreds, heck, sometimes even thousands of emails a day with requests to connect or share people’s content.
Having a quality company blog helps you out when it comes to outreach. You can ask influencers for quotes to put into your articles. This helps form a quality relationship without asking for something unreasonable.
They’re providing you with a quote, and you’re helping them reach an even wider audience. It’s a win-win.
Content marketing helps you build email lists
Having a list of quality email addresses is a fantastic way to spread the word about your product and articles.
The magic with collecting email addresses is that these people want you to send them emails and information.
You should make sure you’re clear about what they’re signing up for, though. Seth Godin talks a lot about this kind of ‘permission marketing’.
In order to get permission, you make a promise. You say, ‘I will do x, y and z, I hope you will give me permission by listening.’ And then, this is the hard part, that’s all you do.
Permission marketing is a key way to create a community behind your startup that loves what you do, and will help you spread the word.
Content marketing creates value
The key thing to gaining traction on your blog is to create value for the reader.
Asking yourself ‘will this article create value for my target audience?’ is the number one thing when brainstorming blog topics. If you create value, you create trust. Creating that trust helps you turn them into brand advocates and/or customers.
But… Content marketing takes a lot of time
If you think your blog is going to be an overnight success, think again. Running a popular blog takes a whole load of time. Sometimes it takes years to see any kind of traction.
It took Geraldine Fishkin 2 years to see any sort of traction. In that time, Geraldine could’ve given up.
Instead, she kept posting content and eventually she got a break. Now she gets millions of views a month! Pretty awesome stuff.
3 tactics to level up your startup blog for content marketing
A successful blog is one that generates quality leads, helps build a valuable email list and keeps a community of loyal readers. Here’s some awesome tactics you can use to increase the chances of your startup’s blog being successful.
Have a plan in place
As Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’. Good saying—and it applies to your blog too.
Having a content plan in place is a great idea.
A great plan helps you prepare for the future of your blog. It also gives you and your team a chance to sit down and plan out what you’d like to write about for your readers.
There’s more than one way you and your team can get a plan together. Here’s a few ideas.
Plan out with a Kanban
You may have heard of the company Trello. It’s a popular service which allows you to plan things out on a kanban. Think house renovations or a company project.
The cool thing about Trello is that it’s flexible and easy to use.
You can use it for whatever you like, and it’s the reason many startups (like Front) have started using it for their roadmaps.
You can use it for your content planning too if you want.
Trello doesn’t give you some of the powerful tools you find in other services, though. Services such as CoSchedule, Contentacle and Kapost are built specifically for content marketing teams.
Use a spreadsheet
Ugh. I didn’t want to write about this, but for the sake of completeness, you could use a spreadsheet.
Spreadsheets weren’t at all designed for planning content. They’re clumsy, and annoying to update. But they are free and most people know how to use them.
Use a paper template
Some people prefer to plan out with a paper and pen, and that’s ok. It’s kinda fun when you get your highlighters and post-it notes out.
Power of the popup
Ok, so nobody actually enjoys putting popups on their site (I hope), and nobody enjoys clicking the close button. However, you need to collect email addresses somehow, and popups, scrollbars and welcome mats are great ways of doing just that.
If you’re looking for a quick way to install popups, I’d recommend SumoMe. It comes with a bunch of options and is super easy to install.
If you’re not so keen on that, try out OptinMonster. They have a bunch of options for popups, although there’s no free tier.
Above is ours at Contentacle. As you can see, we offer something valuable in return for the email address, instead of going head first and saying how amazing our weekly digest is.
Create an eBook, guide or course in return for an email address. That way, they’ll feel more like popping their email in because they’re actually getting something.
Syndicate your content
Sometimes your content doesn’t reach many people. Perhaps it wasn’t very interesting to your email list, or it didn’t get much love from influencers.
Maybe it got a ton of engagement and people loved it, but you know it could get a ton more.
Either way, syndicating your content to LinkedIn or Medium is a fantastic way to expand your reach to the right people. Because social networks are built to…well…be social, they often send out your content for you in email digests.
This means your content will gain much more interest, which in turn helps you to increase traffic to your blog and your homepage.
One startup that does this well is Buffer. They tend to syndicate their most popular content to Medium, and this drives more traffic to their website.
They usually syndicate the same day which is great for them because they’re a popular startup, but for startups earlier on I’d say to wait a few weeks.
For many startups, content marketing far outweighs the cost in time.
It helps them spread the word about their service or product, means they can share value instead of a ton of adverts and helps them collect quality leads in the process.
If you’re reading this and you’re thinking about setting up your company blog, here’s what you should do:
- Think about your target audience. Before writing a word down, think about your target audience. What would they want to read? How can you give them loads of value? Think about this as a team.
- Find out which platform best suits you. Most startups go for WordPress, but it’s not for everyone. Find the one that suits your needs the most.
- Think up some blog posts. The first step to any blog is to think up some titles. Start with topics you already know about, and then branch out.