Content marketing as the foundation of your sales engineDec 17, 2022
In the early days and years of your startup, you should be carefully balancing and prioritizing four key areas >>
- Company. What you do, who you serve, what problems you’re solving, your message, etcetera.
- Customer. What challenges are they facing, how will you make their lives easier, what do they like/dislike about your solution or your competitors, etcetera.
- Operations. What are the processes and procedures that help your business run?
- People. What are the characteristics, skills, background, etcetera of people who will thrive on your team and help your business grow?
In a recent post, I dug into a mistake I made: Focusing on one area at a time, rather than realizing and embracing how intertwined they all are, and how important they are together to startup growth.
Today, I want to talk about a critical component of your startup growth strategy that weaves into two of these core areas. Content marketing.
When I talk to founders about content marketing, I typically hear a few different responses:
> Oh, I’m on top of that. I have a LinkedIn profile and we publish our press releases on our website.
> Yes, we have an intern posting on Facebook and TikTok — we are on top of it.
> Really, now?! We have so many other priorities, we’ve pushed it way back!
Those are just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s the thing, though, when it comes to content marketing and your startup:
Marketing and Business experts all agree that content marketing is no longer a nice to have strategy but a NEED to HAVE strategy.
And not just when you have the time to devote to content. From the earliest days of your startup.
Why you should be prioritizing content marketing right now
Remember those four core areas — you need them all to reach breakthrough growth for your startup. And numbers 1 and 2 are at the top for a reason. If you don’t define your messaging, your mission, your vision and who you are, how can you expect anyone to care?
And when we’re talking about anyone, in the earliest days that’s going to primarily mean your customers (and eventually, your internal team as you expand). Content marketing is essential to both of these areas, as it tells your story when you personally can’t, and it enables and empowers buyers to go with your solution/product/service.
That’s right. Rather than enabling sales, effective content marketing enables (and empowers) buyers. It’s a subtle switch in mindset and focus, but one that is extremely powerful.
Provide value, solve problems and build trust with your customers so that when they’re ready to make a purchase (whether that’s now or down the line) they think of you first. It’s so simple, yet incredibly powerful.
Time is of the essence
Going back a bit, I want to take a closer look at why content marketing is critical from the earliest days of your startup, Because time really is of the essence — for a few reasons:
Someone is telling your story, so it might as well be you
That’s right. Even if you’re not actively engaged and committed to strategic content marketing, customers and prospects are formulating a story about you. They’re doing it through any advertising, reviews and customer experiences. What they see you and potentially your employees posting online. Through what your competition says about you.
Your story is already being written. It’s MUCH more powerful if YOU do the writing!
Maximizing SEO benefits of content takes time
Sure, you can burst onto the scene with a ton of content around relevant keywords. Follow the (smart) advice of guys like Neil Patel and Joe Pulizzi and you may grab some high rankings for several of those keywords. And of course, running ads and promotions will also help you grab the attention of your prospects.
But a long-term, successful SEO strategy is strongly aided by TIME. Strong, consistent content that is published over time. Start now. In one year, five years, 10 years — you’ll still be reaping the rewards of the content you’re creating right now.
Avoid these common content marketing mistakes
Getting started with successful content marketing means more than simply, well, getting started. Watch out for these common startup content marketing mistakes:
Writing what you want instead of what your customers need
As founders, our startups are our babies. It’s very tempting to sit down and treat your company blog like a “proud parent,” writing whatever it is you want to say at that moment. Almost like a scrapbook of your startup’s early days.
And while some of the “behind the curtain” stuff can help tell your story and provide a personal touch to your content, your customers don’t care about 99% of it.
Publishing content for content’s sake isn’t going to cut it. Strategic content is critical. Rather than what you want to say, write what your customers need. If you’re not sure what that means, look at your competition, or better yet, ask your customers and prospects what they need!
Promoting rather than helping
Your blog is not an advertisement. While it’s occasionally fine to talk about your product or service, your blog isn’t the source of long winded ads. Instead, it’s a way for you to add value and build trust with your prospects. Avoid using your blog as a platform to talk about how great you are.
Show your prospects instead. By helping them. Give away so much help and knowledge from your free content that your prospects are blown away. They’ll realize that if your free stuff is this great, imagine how awesome your paid product or service will be!
Failing to capture and nurture leads
Without a strong call to action or strategy in place, though, you’re generating traffic and brand awareness, and building some trust. But you don’t necessarily have leads yet.
Use your content marketing as a way to help and add value, but be sure that you’re helping your prospects through the stages of your funnel. One of the best ways to do this is through a combination of gated and ungated content (think, ebooks and other downloadables, where you enter your email address in order to gain access to a piece of premium content).
You could also simply invite people to subscribe to your email newsletter as a way to get more value-added content in their inboxes. Just be careful here — a LOT of companies use email as a way to blast ads. Your emails should align with your blog in that they provide value first and foremost — always. Otherwise, you’ll burn through that trust and goodwill quickly. In time, and when it makes sense, you’ll have earned the right for an “ask.” But until then, keep adding value and give, give, give.
When your content is written correctly, it will sell for you.
How do I get started with content marketing?
In the early days of your startup, your content will help build you and your company’s credibility and viability. In most circumstances, you’ll want to start with a blog, email newsletter and social profiles.
While your niche may necessitate some variability here, many or most startups would benefit from a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Depending on your resources, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok are all really powerful. What will be right for you? It depends. Consider talking to a strategic digital marketing consultant or if budget allows and you’re in the right place, you may even want to hire a full-time marketing director.
But the most critical piece of advice is to get started. The impact on your sales engine — now, and in the future — will be dramatic. To see this advice (and more) in action and understand how strategic content marketing translates directly into startup success, check out my interview with Boomtime CEO and Founder Bill Bice on this episode of Hardwired for Growth.