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.
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.
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.
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.