Unfortunately, the old adage originating from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come,” just isn’t true. Unless your prospective users know your amazing product exists, you won’t be able to grow your company. There are many types of marketing you can use to get the word out about your product. Content marketing is especially beneficial for startups since it has a relatively low cost and a big payoff if done right. It enables your prospective users to see that you understand their problems and that you can help solve those problems. This guide to content marketing for startups will share what you need to know to build effective campaigns and show you how to create content that will resonate with your target audience.
Lay the Foundation First
Content comes in many forms. It includes video, social media posts, and educational content on your website. Your content’s purpose is to lead prospects through the buyer’s journey so that, ultimately, they come to the conclusion that your product is a good fit for their needs. Content marketing can also be overwhelming if you’re new to it. It’s important to start small (yet strategically). You’ll want to identify the opportunities for quick wins along the way as you build out your content.
The ultimate goal of content marketing is to drive profitable customer action. But content marketing is not about pitching products. It’s about providing relevant and useful information that helps your users. This strategy helps prospects understand that your company is the logical choice when it’s time to make a purchase. Additionally, you also build brand loyalty and encourage users to stick around long term.
In order to accomplish all of the goals of content marketing, you’ll need to lay a foundation to build upon. You’ll want to create buyer personas (fictional representations of each type of buyer you’re targeting) and map the buyer’s journey for each, so you know what types of content and what topics will be most effective for each type at each stage. You’ll also want to decide how you’ll promote your content.
Create Buyer Personas
No guide to content marketing would be complete without an emphasis on the importance of buyer personas. In order to create effective content, you need a thorough understanding of who you’re creating the content for.
You’ll use market research data and interviews to create a buyer persona for each type of buyer or user. This detailed fictional representation of each type is helpful not only for prioritizing development features but also for writing content. It outlines buyer behaviors, motivations, and goals, giving you a clear picture of what they need and want, as well as what questions they’re asking at each stage in the buyer’s journey. Create a persona for each buyer or user type that you are targeting.
Map the Buyer’s Journey
A buyer persona, combined with an understanding of their buyer’s journey, tells you what content to create, the topics to focus on, and the tone and style to use to connect with your audience(s). At a very high level, buyers move through three stages in their journey:
- Awareness (Top-of-Funnel) — The buyer is learning about their problem and is working to define it. Content should focus on the buyer’s pain points and it should be inspirational and educational. It’s a good idea to prioritize SEO with this content as many buyers will look to Google to research. Blog posts and guides can be helpful to forge a connection with buyers at this stage.
- Consideration (Mid-Funnel) — The buyer understands their problem and is researching various solutions. Focus on nurturing prospective customers with engaging content that sheds new light on how the type of solution you offer can solve their problem. For B2B brands, consider that decisions may require higher-level approvals and make sure content speaks to the C-suite as well as end-users. Highlight return-on-investment and the value proposition.
- Decision (Bottom-of-the-Funnel)— The buyer has decided on a solution type and is now looking for a specific product. Content at this stage should focus on customer testimonials, product features, and demos or free trials.
To be most effective in your content marketing, consider where the buyer is at each level of their journey in terms of awareness, thoughts, feelings, and the questions they’re likely asking at each stage.
Choose Content Promotion Strategies
Last, decide how and where you will promote your content. This will include vehicles like social media pages, video platforms, and email marketing. Targeted ads through social media platforms, Google, and other venues your prospects use regularly are also effective. Partner co-marketing (marketing to the audience of a company or business with a similar buyer) is also worth exploring. Guest blogging or being featured on relevant podcasts is another effective strategy. Create a list of promotion strategies you’d like to explore, then identify the costs and anticipated ROI of each. Narrow down your list of options from there, based on your budget and expected results.
Types of Content to Create
Now that your content foundation is set, it’s time to strategically create a content plan. Choose types of content that will resonate with your customers at each stage of the buyer’s journey while balancing the cost of doing so. For example, creating a cinema-style video or an NPR-style podcast will certainly get buzz, but the cost is likely prohibitive. Creating infographics, blog posts, and whiteboard-style videos are also effective but much more approachable from a cost standpoint.
Content marketing provides many ways to cost-effectively connect with your prospects and to support them through the buyer’s journey. Some popular and cost-effective content marketing methods are:
- Blog posts
- Contributed articles
- Customer stories
- Social media marketing
- Whiteboard-style videos
- Thought leadership
- Use cases
Some of these are most effective in the early stages of the buyer’s journey (infographics), while others are more effective later on (use cases). Others can be used throughout the buyer’s journey.
Content Creation Process for Startups
Creating content is most effective when you establish a methodical process to ensure all stages of the buyer’s journey are covered with the most effective content at each step. Having a strategic, organized plan will also enable you to repurpose your content in different ways, across platforms, to leverage it. Though you can break down this process to a more granular level, there are essentially five steps you’ll follow to formulate your content creation process.
1. Brainstorm types of content — Create a list of your content needs, considering your personas, buyer’s journey stages, and internal resources.
2. Brainstorm topic ideas for each persona at each stage in the buyer’s journey — Consider your personas, and create a list of topic ideas based on the questions each persona is likely to be asking at each stage.
3. Do keyword research and identify opportunities — Find out what key terms your personas are searching when looking to solve their problem to improve your chances of your content being seen by the right people.
4. Create a content plan — Based on your work in Steps 1, 2, and 3, create a final, prioritized list of the content you want to create, estimate the time it will take to create each piece, and map out the content on a calendar to establish deadlines and keep you on track.
5. Decide who will execute — Content includes things like writing, design, layout, and graphics, which can be different for different types of content. Do you have in-house staff with the expertise or will you outsource this work?
The Power of Storytelling in Content
As a startup, you can harness the power of storytelling in your content to engage prospective buyers and make them excited about your brand. There are three important stories you will tell.
- Origin Story — Tell the story of your company’s beginnings, why you founded the company, and why you’re doing what you do.
- Customer Story — Share the story of your target customer. Explain the challenge they faced and how your product helped them to achieve their goals.
- Aspirational Story — Share your vision for a better future. Tell prospective buyers what you’re fighting for, what you stand for, and how you want to change the world.
Content Marketing’s Role in Your Marketing Plan
Content marketing is the glue that holds all aspects of your marketing plan together to make it an effective tool for identifying and connecting with your target audience. By using this guide to content marketing, you can create a strong and strategic content marketing plan. Ultimately, content will help you to build a tribe of users who love your product and your brand.
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