In my 4 years of experience as a marketing consultant, I have helped many startups devise their content marketing strategy. Almost always, the first problem I find is that their content marketing efforts are not aligned with their business goals.

I get it! Inbound marketing and content marketing are hot topics and everyone is on the lookout for overnight success. But unfortunately, content marketing doesn’t really work like a magic spell. It’s hard work.

Align content marketing strategy to your business goals

Instead, content marketing involves running calculated experiments like a scientist would. You may fail at your initial attempts (like I failed at my first startup), but you learn from your failures, and turn your failures into successes. Every month, I define new experiments for my business, and execute different strategies to find out what can work best for me.

I learnt content marketing the hard way. But, you don’t have to. Not if you understand your business goals and figure out how the content can help you grow.

Define your business goal

Businesses like a mobile app startup, a SaaS company, a marketplace, an e-commerce company all have different offerings, different audience, and different business goals. So, how can their marketing strategies be similar. You cannot adopt a one-stop-for-all content marketing strategy. Instead, at every stage of your startup, you need to plan accordingly and execute different strategies that would work for you.

While starting out, find users who can be deeply involved in your product development. In the second stage, you need coverage by online media & bloggers. In the third stage, you need to figure out the buzz around your startup or a sustainable marketing channel that will give you thousands of customers.

Most importantly, devise a business goal, and make a list of what you would need for the next three months. For example, it could be something like this,

● Users to test your private MVP
● Users for public beta launch
● Users to improve your engagement metrics
● Users to improve your overall customer numbers
● Improve number of transactions
● Improve amount of GMV
● Improve profit metrics

Once you identify your metrics, focus on improving one at a time. In my case, once I define the business goal, I prepare two marketing plans. A short term plan to be executed in three months, and a long term marketing plan to be executed in 12-18 months. If you are just starting off, you can check this Beginner’s guide to creating content marketing strategy.

I follow these five steps to align my business goals and marketing.

1. Understand your audience

If you don’t know your audience, then no form of marketing can work for you. Create a persona for your audience – you can use HubSpot’s user persona development sheet or tools like Xtensia to do that. Fill as many details as you can to define your target audience.

Once you have defined your audience, find out where your users hang out. You should participate in online communities to understand the needs of your users. The more you know your potential customers, the better your marketing message will be.

2. Competition analysis

You don’t have to copy your competition, but you must know what they are doing in their marketing. This will tell you what strategies they are using to get more business, and what sources are working the best for them.

If you are analyzing a big company in your niche, find out what they did in their marketing when they were at your stage. Read their stories and previous interviews to gain more insights.

I use tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush and Moz for competition keyword & SEO analysis. Additionally, keep an eye on industry trends using tools like Buzzsumo and Alltop. You can read this guide for competition analysis using Ahrefs as well.

Having said this, get as much information as you can about your competition. But, don’t try to copy anyone, since whatever worked for them may not work for you. You just have to understand what exists in your market and what your customers like to talk about.

3. Content Creation

The content creation should start only after you understand the likes & dislikes of your audience. You can read my article on YourStory, on how to write flawlessly for your startup even if you are not a writer.

Content does not only mean writing an article on your blog. Content marketing actually means delivering your message to your audience in the form that they find easy to consume – be it text, audio, visual, or even video.

You should aim to create a variety of content like articles, guides, e-books, free courses, infographics, memes, presentations, and videos.

4. Content Distribution

After creating any form of content, your work is just 30% done. Now, you need to find the channels where can you distribute this content.  Take a look again at your business goals.

If your goal is to increase the visibility of your brand, then invest your time in creating & distributing content that has the potential to grow viral. (We created a viral video that has been viewed by more than one million people in just 2-3 days time.)

Figure out which marketing channels work for you by experimenting with social media, search engine optimization, paid channels like Facebook Ads & Google Ads, and App Store Optimization (if you have an app based business).

Some of your content will go on your own platforms like blogs & social media, but some content would need to be distributed elsewhere (like guest blogging). Strike the perfect balance between both.

(This blog post promotion checklist lists some great resources to help you create and distribute your content)

5. Measure & Improve

I have counseled this extra step to many of my entrepreneur friends and clients, who thought that their job was done after promoting the content.

In my current startup, we wrote an article on how to make YouTube as a passive income source, but initially it wasn’t ranking on Google, despite high quality content. We kept on measuring the performance of the article every month and improved content quality gradually, thus improving the visibility of the article as well.

Content marketing strategy - analyze

Without measurement, we would not have been able to improve the performance of the content. We knew what to measure and how to tailor our content marketing efforts to better suit our customers’ needs.

Conclusion

If you are looking for magic, then content marketing is probably not for your business . It takes time to understand what exactly can work for you due to its ever evolving nature. You should first define your short term and long term business goals and then figure out what kind of content can bring your results.

Over to you – let me know in comments if this is how you have devised your own content marketing strategy as well. 

How I learned to create viral content

In August 2015, we had to write 5 articles in 7 days for a few sites we were guest blogging at. It was tough given the 3-people marketing team we had then. I volunteered to contribute and wrote my very first blog post, which eventually was scrapped by the publication it was intended for. Anyhow, my team liked it and published it on our blog.

Every day, I shared it almost everywhere, just to get the share count up. Numbers fascinate me, and I loved it when they got better, even when they meant nothing more than false credibility. Few months later, one Thursday night, around 11:30 PM, I randomly shared it in one of the LinkedIn group, but with a different headline.

Next morning, to my disbelief it got around 1200 hits and 100+ shares on LinkedIn alone and that was just the beginning. In 3 days that followed, it got about 15,000 hits and traveled more than 20 countries. LinkedIn picked it up and emailed it to the group members. Every time I refreshed, I saw notifications. It had gone viral.

Creating viral content - traffic spike

Initially, I thought it was a fluke but when we could replicate the success with this blog from Meenu, my colleague, we knew we had done something right.

I have heard that great content is the soul of everything viral. But what is great content? Does it make you curious, leaves you surprised, evokes emotions, provides information or all of that?

I wouldn’t say I know the art and science of viral content, but I very clearly remember what worked for me, and that’s what I will share with you today.

It attracted

For a month, it was going nowhere, but then I changed the headline

from

Why a landing page converts better than a homepage

to

Landing page vs Homepage

It suddenly got the buzz. The introduction of the word “vs” brought contrast to the headline, interrupting people’s autopilot mode and tempting them to check what it really was. This was the turning point for the blog and possibly my career. I truly understood the power of the headline.

It was easy to understand

People regularly ask me what a landing page is, and how it is different from a homepage? I wanted to answer them in the simplest possible way. While writing, I projected the askers (in my mind) and wrote for them. Before publishing, I asked those people (in real), if they understood it or not. I retained what they understood and removed what they didn’t, which eventually reduced the blog to 300 words. But it didn’t matter. The message was delivered.

It was easy to relate to

To make it connect to the audience, I took a real life incident, and used analogy of a restaurant where the menu is the homepage and their promotional flyer is a landing page with an offer. It is easier to understand things we relate to, and we relate to stories.

Everyone has stories; the challenge is to express them, and linking them naturally to the idea you wish to share with the world, without making it vague and forceful. I got lucky that the analogy stuck.

It engaged

I was so overwhelmed by the unexpected success that I was up all night, hitting refresh every 30 seconds to see the new shares and comments, and replying to each one of them within minutes, if not seconds. Comments added fuel to the fire. Soon, it became a big chain of comments with many marketing pros sharing their thoughts and adding to the conversation. Checkout the Linkedin comment chain here.

(you have to join the group to see the discussion)

How to create viral content - LinkedIn discussion

Someone even wanted to write an article from the comments itself. Such was the power of comments.

It was timed right

Thursday, 11:30 PM IST. I will never forget this time because that’s when the action started. Not once or twice, but most of the times. The probable reason was that people in the Eastern Time Zone, who are more likely to share were checking their social profiles before getting back to work (post lunch), when they noticed the discussion.

The probable reason for Thursdays getting the best traction is that LinkedIn emails its best discussions to the group subscribers on Thursday.

The nature of the platform played a major role as well. Since LinkedIn is more centered towards professionals than Facebook or Twitter, people are more likely to engage in meaningful discussions related to their expertise. That’s what resulted in a very lively discussion, and ultimately shares.

I was persistent 

I never gave up. Repeatedly sharing at different timings with different headlines in different groups. I believed in what I wrote and that belief kept me going. I was lucky to be rejected. Without that rejection, this would have never happened.

To sum it up, it was like a dream. I never expected it to go this far, but like most other things, it just happened. Hopefully, this article will help you get one step closer to your destination ‘Viral’. Just be original and keep sharing your stories. It’s not very far.

Marketing Quotes

Have you had those uncertain moments while marketing, where you are sort of stuck in a rut, and all you need is someone to give you a lift-up? Or maybe the times when you needed authentic advice on what’s the next campaign you should focus on and you get preached at by your seemingly-all-knowing-well-meaning-altruistic (read interfering) neighbor?

Well, I’ve been there too. Haven’t we all!

So, to overcome my own marketing existential crisis, I sat down and compiled some of these pearls of wisdom that wise marketers have gladly given us. Go keep these marketing quotes around for that much needed boost and thank me later! ?

marketing quotes

[bctt tweet=”Make your marketing so useful, people would pay for it” username=”jaybaer”]

– Jay Baer, Convince and Convert

marketing-quotes-smart-customer

[bctt tweet=”Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart” username=”jchernov”]

– Joe Chernov, Hubspot

marketing-quotes-creative-experiments

[bctt tweet=”Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your marketing ” username=”mvolpe”]

– Mike Volpe, HubSpot

marketing-quotes-promises

[bctt tweet=”Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand” username=”ThisIsSethsBlog”]

– Seth Godin, Marketer and Public Speaker

marketing-quotes-branding

[bctt tweet=”A brand is no longer what we tell the customer it is, it is what the customers tell each other it is” username=”IntuitInc”]

– Scott Cook, Intuit Inc

marketing-quotes-interest

[bctt tweet=”We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in” username=”craigdavis888″]

– Craig Davis, Sendle

marketing-quotes-feel

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel

– Maya Angelou, Civil Rights Activist

marketing-quotes-jokes

[bctt tweet=”The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible” username=”Ogilvy”]

– David Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather

marketing-quotes-hero

[bctt tweet=”The key is no matter what story you tell, make your buyer the hero” username=”chrisbrogan”]

– Chris Brogan, Advisor and Business Strategist

marketing-quotes-content

[bctt tweet=”Content is the atomic particle of all digital marketing” username=”lieblink”]

– Rebecca Lieb, Analyst and Advisor

marketing-quotes-stories

[bctt tweet=”Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell” username=”ThisIsSethsBlog”]

– Seth Godin, Marketer and Public Speaker

marketing-quotes-advertising

[bctt tweet=”Consumers decide to buy or not buy based on the content of your advertising, not its form” username=”Ogilvy”]

– David Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather

marketing-quotes-fire

 

[bctt tweet=”Content is fire, Social Media is gasoline ” username=”jaybaer “]

– Jay Baer, Convince and Convert

marketing-quotes-design

[bctt tweet=”People ignore design that ignores people” username=”frank_chimero”]

– Frank Chimero, Writer and Illustrator

marketing-quotes-content-is-king

[bctt tweet=”Content is King, but engagement is Queen, and the lady rules the house” username=”MariSmith”]

– Mari Smith, Social Media Influencer

marketing-quotes-email

[bctt tweet=”Email has the ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches – at scale” username=”dnewman”]

– David Newman, Marketing Expert

marketing-quotes-helping

[bctt tweet=”Stop selling, start helping” username=”TheZigZiglar”]

– Zig Ziglar, Author and Motivational Speaker

 

 

Since the summer of 2012, LeadSquared, a complete Customer Acquisition Platform, has been helping small and medium businesses drive revenue by aligning their marketing and sales activities. The revenue acceleration software is being used by businesses to increase their selling velocity and retain customer mindshare.

One of the ways we reach out to our audience (to not only get a first-hand review of our software but to also find the areas where we need to improve), is through online review sites like FinancesOnline. And we are very happy to share that the independent review platform for B2B, SaaS and financial solutions has prepared very positive LeadSqared reviews in which they distinguished our product with not one, but two prestigious awards – Great User Experience Award for 2016 and the 2016 Expert’s Choice Award for their online marketing software category!

Online Review Sites

The Great User Experience Award is granted to products that offer especially good user experience. The FinancesOnline team evaluates how easy it is to start using the product and how well-designed its interface and features are to facilitate the work process.

The Expert’s Choice Award is given to products the FinancesOnlines’s B2B experts find especially valuable for companies.

A very unique SaaS marketing strategy used by FinancesOnline is their innovative behavior-based Customer Satisfaction Algorithm that gathers customer reviews, comments and opinions about the concerned product (in this case LeadSquared), across a wide range of social media sites. The data is then collated and presented to all users of the online review site, equipping them with the information they need, to take an informed buying decision.

The LeadSquared team is thrilled to have won the awards and aims to do even better in the years to come. The team is also grateful to all the users of LeadSquared, all across the world, who have always encouraged the team to do better. It wouldn’t have been possible without you! So thank you!

Try LeadSquared for free? Sign up for a 14-day free trial here.