As a digital marketing consultant to over 15 startups over the last 7 years, I’ve learned that one of the biggest challenges for young companies is to embrace the power of content marketing. Not only is tackling a smart content strategy difficult in itself (especially for small teams that have been product development focused), but creating a realistic, cohesive plan with content that actually connects with your target audiences can seem like a futile effort with just a series of trials and errors.
And, while a frequent solution, content marketing is no longer as simple as paying someone to write blog posts. It takes a long-term strategy, creativity, and constant awareness of the ever-changing online landscape in order to generate results. I’ve witnessed how creating a killer content marketing strategy — and process– can create traction and is insanely valuable to startups.
Do I need to “walk the talk?” Absolutely and without a doubt (and you’ll see more from me very soon, so stay tuned). Still need convincing? Here are 7 tips to help you ignite your content marketing plan this year.
1. TELL YOUR STORY AND DIFFERENTIATE THROUGH ORIGINAL CONTENT
If you’re not creating original content to tell your unique story (web content, infographics, blog posts, case studies, whitepapers, videos, webcasts) you’re missing a critical opportunity to differentiate, stand out and engage with your target audiences. This goes beyond unique copy. Now is the perfect time to brainstorm with your team and get feedback from your top customers about how you can tell your story with both attention-grabbing text and interesting visuals.
It will take some good advance planning, but the payoff with be exponentially rewarding. You’ll feel less overwhelmed when the time comes to publish and more to time to create high-quality, relevant content so you can truly leverage content creation as part of your overall marketing strategy.
2. FOCUS ON YOUR KEY VALUE PROPOSITIONS TO BUILD AUTHORITY.
What differentiates your startup from your competitors? What pain points does your product or service solve? Defining these differences and building content around your unique value propositions and expertise will not only set you apart from your competitors, but it will also help your startup build authority and credibility quickly.
At FireStart, we’ve learned that taking our clients through initial “discovery” assessments and branding exercises, we can fine tune and help crystallize their messaging platforms and key value propositions to resonate and effectively engage target audiences.
3. IT’S ALSO ABOUT YOUR TEAM.
Especially for startups, the co-founding team’s collective expertise and personality are just as important as your brand to your customers, investors and the press. You will always be your startup’s strongest evangelist, and personal branding can help demonstrate how you embody your brand’s values. Be authentic and create content in your own voice. Building your personal brand with an active blog or social media presence can not only engage and entertain your followers, but it can also show your potential customers that you take pride in your work.
4. INTERACTIVE CONTENT IS ON THE RISE.
5. EMAIL HAS MADE A SERIOUS COMEBACK.
BuzzFeed added over 1 million email subscribers in the past 12 months. The Washington Post now has over 75 e-newsletters, while The New York Times has 12 people dedicated to newsletters. For instance, a study by Gigaom asked marketers to rank their most effective digital-marketing tactics, and the responses unanimously pointed to email as the best method for achieving awareness, acquisition, conversation and retention.
With social media channels moving more and more towards paid advertising for growth, the ability for brands to get their messages out on these channels is rapidly shrinking. Therefore, we’re now seeing email emerge as one of the best ways to reach target audiences in an organic way. Email newsletters can be a powerful way to nurture leads, measure results, and keep the customers you already have; so long as you’re delivering fresh, relevant content on a regular basis.
6. NATIVE ADVERTISING PROVES MORE EFFECTIVE.
Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, defines native advertising as “a form of advertising that doesn’t disrupt the user experience and offers helpful information in a format similar to the other content on the site so users engage with it more than they would with, say, a banner ad.”
As the use of ad blocking tools soars, native advertising has become a popular solution to connect with audiences through content. Native advertising appears exactly the same as a news article would appear but provides interesting or insightful content, rather than pure promotion. Native advertising can be an excellent way to educate or entertain potential customers, unlike unfiltered ads which are becoming increasingly intolerable.
7. LIVE VIDEO IS TAKING OVER.
Live streaming video offers your startup a simple, low-cost way to interact with your audiences in a much more authentic way than just a written post. From product announcements to behind-the-scenes tours, the content possibilities are endless with live streaming video. It’s also one of the fastest ways your startup can build a community around your brand for little to no cost.
Developing a content marketing strategy can seem like a massive undertaking. However, there are many new ways to jump into content marketing in 2017 without a big budget and still see incredible results. If you need help kickstarting your digital or content marketing strategy, just give us a shout. At FireStart, we specifically work with startups to rapidly build brand awareness and get in front of your target audience through smart content marketing.
Cyndy Sandor, Founder, FireStart