The Startup Guide to Content Marketing

The Startup Guide to Content Marketing

Imagine that you want to invest in a startup company, and you’re listening to some sales pitches. How confident would you feel investing in the startup that’s branded as “experimental”?

Chances are, you’ll have some reservations. Being perceived as “experimental” might seem tempting for an early stage startup looking to make waves, but it doesn’t sit right with enterprises who have less money to throw away than angel investors. One of the mistakes startups make is that they put off setting the right tone and voice for their brand, relying on their proof of concept and data instead.

However, a recent study from Case Western Reserve University highlights that emotions and passion can result in close to 40% more engagement towards pitches. Identifying the right content tone is your first step toward changing the way your startup is perceived. 

When you consider the stakes, content marketing should come across as an investment in building your story rather than a cost.

When to start content marketing

Content marketing is often neglected until there is pressure from the board to start building up the pipeline. Unfortunately, this can’t be done overnight. Before you launch your product, you should cultivate an audience that is broadly interested in your company. Starting early is key because it takes time to build content authority and align with outreach campaigns. You want your content to be “mature” by the time you launch your product.

If you start content marketing too late, it’s an uphill battle to generate interest in your company and product all at once. You don’t want to rush to implement a content strategy while trying to scale your business. On the other hand, if you start generating interest too early, you might get stamped as flaky when you’re not delivering to potential customers.

A strong content strategy not only attracts potential customers, but shows the world that you are ready for business.

How to build content authority

Building content authority requires foresight and patience on your end. Thankfully, there are some tried and true methods to get it right.

Don’t box yourself in

An easy slip-up is to write all your content about your own product or service. Startups that primarily post content about their own product report that their content marketing is less effective than other startups.

To avoid this, you should write about topics that appeal to your target audience. A good exercise to scope this out is to create “audience personas” that could be real customers. Think about their demographics, backgrounds, motivations, frustrations, and aspirations. Your answers should give you an idea of what topics will attract this audience.

In terms of strategy, always consider how your content marketing as a whole will come across. Different compositions generate different effects:

  • Heavy on tech: Risks the “experimental” label, especially when not backed by business content.
  • Heavy on business impact: Taken less seriously by the tech community, best to focus on this once you already have a good team.
  • Heavy on brand/culture: Can make you look flimsy, best to focus on this when consolidating market position.

Just like you shouldn’t write all your content about your own product, you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on one aspect of your business either.

Write evergreen content

“Evergreen” content is meant to generate results for years to come (maybe with some tweaks as the world changes). What will your audience always be searching for, or wondering about? Look into what other companies are writing. What topics will become irrelevant in the next few years? Thinking critically about other content helps you avoid making similar mistakes. 

The easiest way to write evergreen content is to focus on customer pain points. Identifying your “core target personas” correctly is an important first step for evergreen content. Take LinkedIn for example. Their content focuses on an eternal target segment – job seekers. Startups that focus too much on the “millennial worker” in this case can risk being unappealing to other segments that may actually be a potential user. New research from PEW illustrates this point well about Facebook. As per the report, the share of the silent generation using the platform has nearly touched the 40% mark. In this case, Facebook content can be targeted towards the core attribute of their users instead of demographics to remain evergreen.

Tackling the fundamental issues of your product or industry can be evergreen content as well. Imagine that you’re an AI startup. You can reasonably expect that a topic like “ethics in AI” will be around for a while. You could contribute a new perspective or talk about how your product fits into the conversation. You can even take a look at tools like Google Trends, to investigate topics that have been consistently popular in your industry to determine the lifetime value of a keyword.

You can increase the longevity of your own content through SEO strategies. Keywords, appropriate title and heading tags, relevant images, and metatags all increase your Google search ranking. Great content + great SEO = Great branding.

One last thing… 

Let’s take it back to treating your startup as an investment opportunity. Brands and content thrive on fulfilled promises, and how all the hundreds of moving pieces that make up a startup work together. If your content doesn’t fulfill the investment your audience makes in terms of their time, they are less likely to see your startup as a worthwhile investment in other ways. Being generous with your ideas, and actual solutions instead of refurbishing previously published information goes a long way in improving your “trust” score.


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