Start-up companies face a number of challenges in making themselves known, and breaking through commercially. Limited resources, a lack of recognition in the eyes of the consumer, and competitive markets that are already densely populated, are just some of these hurdles.
As a start-up, content marketing is one of the most effective tools you can use in meeting these challenges and creating awareness of what you have to offer.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a strategic approach in which you create and distribute valuable and relevant material – or content – to your existing and potential consumers. Rather than making a direct pitch of your products and services, with content marketing you provide information and resources to educate customers and provide solutions for their issues and concerns.
There are many ways you can use content to provide this relevant information and distribute valuable resources. Blogs, “How to” articles, videos, eBooks, infographics, and free downloads are just a few examples. In all cases, the content needs to be accessible and engaging enough to hold the viewer’s attention, and contain some kind of call to action (CTA) or follow-up potential that encourages the consumer to want to continue their involvement with your brand.
Content marketing isn’t about the “hard sell.” It’s a method for positioning yourself as a source of helpful advice and useful material, and as someone who’s capable of speaking as an authority or specialist in your particular field.
(Image source: Content Marketing Institute)
The content you produce should reflect this. Whether it’s an article, video clip, or podcast, the material should speak about issues concerning your industry, the products or services available in that sector, and solutions to the problems consumers having dealings in that market typically face. At the end of the presentation, you might mention that your company offers a product or service specifically developed to help people who encounter any of the issues you’ve just discussed.
In essence, you offer consumers relevant information and a valuable resource, while creating an association in their minds between the solution to their problems, and your own organisation.
Does It Work?
According to research conducted by HubSpot in 2019, marketers who prioritise blogging efforts are 13 times more likely to see a positive return on their investment. In line with this, Content Marketing Institute research reveals that 56% of businesses want to increase their content creation spending.
Email campaigns (87%) and educational content (77%) are the top content marketing methods that business-to-business (B2B) marketers use to support and develop their audience. The Content Marketing Institute also confirms that infographics, photos, charts, and other image content have seen a 56% increase for B2B marketers in the last four years. The most commonly used content mediums for business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are social media (96%), pre-produced videos (76%) and illustrations/photos (67%).
(Image source: Content Marketing Institute)
And businesses that use content marketing aren’t just blowing into the wind. There’s an active audience for great content. A study by Meaningful Brands suggests that 84% of people expect brands to produce content that entertains, provides solutions, and produces experiences and events. As long as they remain true to their message, Social Media Week reports that 91% of consumers are prepared to reward brands for their authenticity.
So, content marketing is a widely used and effective medium – one that you can exploit to cover a range of circumstances.
Create a Foundation for the Campaign Through Planning
Before you produce anything, it’s a good idea to map out a strategy for what you’re intending to do. Since your content marketing campaign is designed to give value to your target audience, it’s essential that you know and understand who they are. You can start by talking to people in your target groups. Ask questions, find out what their desires and pain points are – and this will help determine how you can best go about helping them.
(Image source: Content Marketing Institute)
You should also study the market to find out what challenges and opportunities there are, and what any competitors you might have are doing. Study their websites and content marketing output to get clues from customer feedback, comments, ideas, and solutions that you find there.
From these assessments, you can figure out what you can do to improve the current state of affairs in your market sector. You may also be able to establish how best to communicate your own unique selling point or value proposition.
If It’s Fresh or New, Tell Them How and Why
If your start-up is founded on an innovative product or process, the general public probably won’t have much awareness of what you’re trying to sell. Content marketing provides an ideal medium for telling them just that.
Visual imagery and demonstration are particularly effective in communicating new ideas, so you should make optimal use of infographics, video, tutorial formats, and the “How to.”
(Image source: Digital Marketing Philippines)
Hubspot reckons that 87% of businesses use video as a marketing tool in 2019, which is up from 81% in 2018. And 87% of consumers want more video from brands. These figures are supported by Wyzowl, whose research reveals that 97% of consumers and online marketers report that video helps customers understand their product.
Put a Fresh Spin on an Old or Established Idea
If you’re starting up as a new player in an established market, your main emphasis should be on differentiating yourself from other players in the field. There are a number of ways that you can do this.
Establishing yourself as a specialist in one particular area of expertise is one strategy. Here, you’ll need to provide credible evidence to support your claims. This can take the form of statistics, case studies, or industry awards confirming your position. Note that as a start-up, you may not have the track record to make this possible.
Another way to establish your credibility is through reliable word of mouth. Testimonials from satisfied customers, glowing reviews from respected industry journals, and positive mentions from social media or influencers can accomplish this.
You’ll need to incorporate evidence like this as a “by the way...” addition to the helpful and relevant material that you give to the consumers, of course. And to distinguish yourself from the competition, you’ll have to emphasise the unique nature of what you have to offer.
Post Content as a Guest Contributor on a Reputable Platform
Achieving brand recognition for a start-up isn’t easy. But one method of increasing your exposure is by “piggybacking” on an existing brand or platform as a guest contributor. By submitting content on reputable sites which already have a loyal audience, you can gain useful exposure, while providing fresh content for your host. The trick is in finding the right connections.
A Google search with relevant keywords is the easiest way to start. So, if you’re a managed services provider (MSP) for example, your search phrases might be something like “managed services provider MSP + write for us” or “managed services provider MSP + guest blog.
From the search results you can draw up a short list on the basis of the Domain Authority of each site – a rating that gives a measure of the website’s reputation and quality. A site with a high Domain Authority (DA) rating will have greater visibility.
Get Industry Experts and Influencers On Board
One of your goals as a start-up should be to use content marketing to carve a niche for yourself as a trusted authority or expert resource in your chosen field. Influencers are people who have already built up a similar reputation for themselves in a particular niche or industry, or have a loyal fan base that takes heed of their opinions.
Having your brand or company name mentioned in the same breath as such people can lend your organisation credibility or fame, by association. As with guest posting, there are several approaches to getting influencers on board with your brand.
You could start by mentioning a particular subject matter expert or influencer within your own content, perhaps by creating something inspired by their work. You could then link to them in the post, and mention how their content inspired you, or recommend their post to your audience as further reading. As a courtesy contact, you could send an email to the influencer, to share the link, and thank them for inspiring you.
“Roundup posts” are another way of reaching out to influencers. Here, you can create a blog post or review article on a topic of particular interest to your sector, and approach various experts to contribute their opinions. Alternatively, you can create a post dedicated to a certain subject, and pull in references to trending articles on the topic, heavily shared content, or advice and tips from the experts.
Finally, you might consider contacting influencers on an individual basis, and interviewing them for posts on your site.
Use Social Media to Extend Your Reach
Big or small, new to the game or long-established, everyone has access to social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide a level playing field, where brands, corporations, and individuals can meet, mingle, and trade ideas.
In terms of outreach, the numbers are certainly encouraging. As of 2019, Facebook has over 2.38 billion monthly active users, worldwide. 1.56 billion active users log onto Facebook every day. LinkedIn claims an active user base of over 500 million. Research by Oberlo suggests that more than 500 million people use Instagram every day, with the average Instagram user spending 53 minutes on the app per day.
Post Content Regularly and in a Timely Manner
With potential consumers spending much of their time on mobile apps and social media, you’ll need to post content to your various sites regularly, to keep viewers engaged and continuously involved in the story of your brand.
There’s no hard set of rules over how often you should post, but it’s essential to keep fresh content on your website, blog, and social media outlets. Using automation tools like WordPress to schedule the output is a good idea.
It’s also helpful to study the usage patterns of your target audience, and post accordingly. For example, Statitsa reports that 71% of Instagram users are under the age of 35. Zephoria maintains that Snapchat users under the age of 25 visit the platform over 20 times every day, and spend over 30 minutes on the app each day.
If the Ideas Won’t Come To You...
Of course, creating and distributing content of sterling quality on a regular basis requires a regular flow of ideas and issues to discuss. If you can’t come up with ideas yourself, you can choose subjects from content that has already been successful.
You can use search engines and software utilities like BuzzSumo to find trending and popular topics. But your aim should always be to improve on what you find, and to stamp it with the unique markers of your own brand.
What About the Money?
Content marketing doesn’t have to break the bank. As a start-up organisation, you’ll probably be working with limited resources and time. Free tools like Google Analytics and those available on the WordPress platform can help reduce costs, and automate much of the required activity.
You should, however, be prepared to allocate a part of your budget to meet basic costs such as domain registration, hosting, and online security. If you’re hiring graphic designers or content producers, and someone to help with your outreach and marketing implementation, you’ll need to factor these costs in as well.
With these points in mind, you’re now in a position to use content marketing to help your start-up business communicate new ideas, engage consumers, and connect with established platforms.
If you need the highest-quality content for lead generation, nurturing and sales strategies, markITwrite has a dedicated team of professional writers, designers, and social media marketing experts to put their talent to work for your business.
Get in touch to find out more.