So you’re ready with a startup idea and are raring to take the next step forward. Pat yourself on your back for being courageous enough to give wings to your dreams and deviating from the sheltered path adopted by 95% of your contemporaries!
It is no mean feat — especially when the stakes are stacked against you.
Anyway, back to what we’re discussing.
What should be your next step after coming up with a potentially great startup idea?
Well, it could be anything depending on what your priorities are and how serious you are about your new venture.
Yes, there’s the need to validate your idea further by taking feedback from business consultants or better still — fellow entrepreneurs (as they’ve been in the same boat already and know what’s it like to make it to the other end) — perfecting your pitches, focusing on funding strategies, eyeing a beta launch etc.
Now, don’t get us wrong. All these are perfectly helpful and necessary steps.
But at the core of your startup idea should be a decision to keep things as simple as possible amid all the clutter, chaos and confusion.
For starters, focus on enhancing the quality of your product and make it so awesome that its awesomeness becomes the differentiator. Your potential customers should find your product so damn good that they keep coming back to you and spread the word around.
Difference between a listed product and a product that sells is the same as that between a Copywriter and Marketer.
If you’re a product company, follow the rule of 5 W’s – to create seductive and informative copy that will motivate your customers to click “buy”.
This should be the starting point of your next step, really.
But let’s face it. Any product or service, no matter how brilliant it sounds on paper, needs to reach people who’re going to benefit from it. Only then will it give your business the oxygen it needs to survive and grow.
In other words, you need a starting point to get to that starting point — to convince your audience about why they should care about your idea in the first place.
Will it make a real difference in their lives? More importantly, how do they know that it will?
Pay attention to the second question as it holds the key to your business’s potentially limitless expansion. It also gives you a cue on what your next move should be — spreading the word through the wonderful vehicle of marketing.
Not just any marketing, but content marketing. And not because it prefixes ‘content’ before ‘marketing.’
After all, it’s not without a reason that it has captivated the imagination of almost all leading brands worldwide. According to research, 75% of marketers are increasing their spend on content marketing and 70% of the audience would rather hear about a company via articles and not advertisements.
The fact is this: content marketing almost always works, when done right. It is also way cheaper than traditional marketing (by as much as 62% according to Neil Patel), and generates about 3X as many leads with a much lower CAC.
This means more leads at lesser costs! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of free inexpensive channels by which you can create and share content to a broader audience.
In fact, content marketing is the only approach that allows you to expand your business using zero spend. This makes it a godsend opportunity for startups that neither have the resources nor the experience to create and market the sheer volume of content that their larger counterparts do.
All you need is:
- An internet connection
- The ability and willingness to feel the pain points of your potential customers as your own and meet them right where they are.
- An unending conviction in your business idea.
Beyond that, content marketing can be easily inter-weaved into practically any online strategy to amplify its results.
- Keen to get more people to sign up to your email-list? It is content that impels them to act on the CTA.
- Hit a deadlock on your next social media post? Sharing your recent blog post could be one simple yet mighty effective strategy. Again, content rules the roost.
- Need to hone your SEO tactics? Relevant, timely and actionable content helps drive traffic and fortifies your SEO reach.
- Seeking new ways to onboard your SaaS sign-ups and give critical pointers for expansion? Do it in style with content!
- Want to connect with influencers? Speaking about them in/through your content gives you another happy reason to reach out to viewers on social media!
In a nutshell, content can and should become the foundation of your other strategies, including driving traffic to your website. It is an effective way of cementing your brand in the mind space of your audience by developing an authoritative voice. It informs your audience that you’re a desirable business to follow because you care about the reputation of not just your own brand, but also about your consumers (through their association with you).
In addition, it helps you maximize existing established audiences. As a case in point, the first 1,200 clients of Design Pickle were sealed through content — more specifically blog posts.
But you can’t just write a blog and expect a miracle, in the form of reach and virality. You have to wear a bunch of hats – content writer, editor, marketer, SEO specialist, customer service manager, among others.
Here are 5 things to do for your blog, before and after you hit “publish” – to get maximum reach:
According to founder Russ Perry, a large part of this phenomenal growth was owed to influential blogs. He points out that this idea gave him the impetus to keep generating content as he was answerable to his guest posters.
The best way for your startup to maximize this compelling strategy is selecting blogs which have a large audience and more importantly, are part of your (identified) target audience. Thankfully, you don’t need to base your plans on some of the biggest ones out there; there are many who may not be as big, but have a good, established audience base that you can look at.
Finally, as a startup, you have a great opportunity to show the way and lead the pack.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the number of startups who’re happy with their content or with the effectiveness of their strategy are steadily increasing.
If you think about it calmly, you’ll agree that you do have room to lead the way or at least, be a forerunner. Look at the small size of your business as your biggest strength. Think about this: As a tiny player, you can be agile enough to devise strategy and take decisions on the fly.
Furthermore, you stand a better chance of building long-term relationships with your audience outside of ‘big business’ anonymity.
Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute agrees, “It’s so simple, yet so hard for even mid-sized companies to do this. With financial expectations on a quarterly basis at best, few larger companies have the patience to build a loyal relationship with an audience. In addition, budgets are set up as time-based campaigns, where short-term objectives take priority. That means the business tries to monetize the content program before the audience is ready (a big mistake)”.
There you go. As a startup, content marketing could be your single most effective growth channel. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that it is one of the best ways (if not the best) to help startups lead the high-stake pack.
More and more brands are realizing that content marketing affects every digital strategy they’re leveraging. But more than anything, it rekindles your audience’s faith in the source of information they value most — you.
Do you integrate content marketing in your growth strategy? Will you use it more proactively?
Write to email@example.com
Before answering this, we must ask 2 questions:
1) What exactly is a content strategy?
2) Do we really need one?
A content strategy lets you define the role your content will play as part of your overall brand building strategy. To create a content strategy that actually works, you must first define a content territory that is strategically relevant for your businesses.
This is paramount and must lie at the intersection of your unique value proposition and your audience’s pain points.
Your content strategy will influence what your audience thinks of your business. It will not only determine the topics you’re associated with, but also decide when, how and where you link with your prospects.
The idea is to provide your audience with a compelling value-added proposition that gets them to become repeat buyers — or in other words, earn their loyalty.
With regards to the second question, it’s a no-brainer and the answer is a RESOUNDING YES!
Studies tell us that brands which produce a well documented, actionable content strategy tend to do better than those that don’t. They drive more ROI from their content marketing efforts.
Depending on your brand’s purpose and identity, you’ll need to find different ways of getting them to care about your content and come one step closer to you. While this may vary from organization to organization, consider incorporating these three themes that will be consistent across all content types.
Educate: Help your audience know something useful that they can apply right away to solve a problem in their lives.
Entertain. Surprise them, make them smile, laugh and eventually care enough to share with their friends family, colleagues and the rest.
Inspire. Tell them emotional and relatable stories— that they want to be a part of — and let them know how important they are to you, even beyond generating business.
You need to understand two key facets inside out – to effectively target your users and
produce content that meets their needs:
- Business goals & objectives
- Target audience
Ask yourself these 5 questions:
- What are your business goals?
- What does your audience typically speak about and what do they want from you?
- What action would you want your audience to take when they come face to face with your content?
- Which channels do they use most often?
- What type of content must you create to reach out to people at every stage of the buying cycle?
The Buying conundrum
As marketers, we understand the importance of tailoring the same message differently to meet our audience at their exact point of need.
But why is this important?
Today, buyers are past 66% of the purchasing journey before they really decide to contact a sales person.
In other words, your prospective customer is going online to get educated — either from you or your competitors.
Don’t leave your customers to connect the dots. Make it damn easy for them.
When did you hear about a website (or an app or a form) being too easy to understand?
People who are already familiar with your brand or product and are having trouble deciding whether or not they need to consider buying from you, need to be given a different message than those who’re just getting to know you better.
It’s about being valuable through the art of adding value.
But what on earth is ‘value?’
According to research, only 16% of the audience is ready to buy.
Forrester Research tells us that the brand that gets in early and helps provide a clear solution to their customer wins 74% of the time.
Value lies at the melting point of all sales and marketing initiatives. It can be defined as:
Perceived relevant benefit − total cost of ownership.
But to be more relevant, you must first understand what is actually important to your audience.
Here, the customer would perceive value in terms of how soon you can get them the growth they are seeking.
If content is king, perception is his battle ground, considering 68% of organizations lose business due to perceived indifference — which means customers think you don’t care about them even if they’re all you care about!
Adding value in content
A whopping 90% of content created by B2B marketers is never used by the sales team and 43% of content marketing efforts don’t bring in the results.
Here’s a checklist for your B2B content strategy so YOU don’t fall into these numbers:
Thankfully, B2B Buyers generally look at 3–5 pieces of content before talking to a salesperson.
This means you have plenty of scope to add value in your content and tilt the buying factors in your favor.
A good place to begin is to map out useful content based on different stages of the buyer’s journey, and figure out how your content can be plugged in effectively.
This cycle can be broken down into four stages:
Discovery — This is the stage at which the customer is just getting to know your company and figuring out if they need your service.
Research — At this stage, the audience is partially convinced that your product might overcome their problem.
Validation — Here, they begin to explore other options (your competitors) and start narrowing down their choices to zero in on one service provider.
Buying — This is the last stage when your customer finally takes a call on who to buy from.
It’s best to engage your customers via blogging and/or social media at the first stage of discovery or awareness — on your own website as well as on others.
Take your blog to the next level by comparing and analysing content marketing data. The following 4 things were found to be most important for launching a competitive content marketing strategy.
However, that strategy may not work at the research and validation stages, as chances are that your audience is looking for credible evidence about why they should do business with you.
At this stage, you may want to look at producing slightly more in-depth content like case studies, white papers, webinars or eBooks. And of course, you can make your social media interactions more meaningful — especially on platforms like LinkedIn or Quora where you can stand tall – as a thought leader and influencer.
Because this gives your audience an implicit message that you mean business and are also knowledgeable about your subject, that you can shape opinions and influence buying choices.
As your customers begin to realize that (this will not happen in a fortnight though), they’ll slowly start to invest their trust in you because you’re now giving them a valid reason to take their attention from competition — they would rather buy from someone who is an expert and cares about their personal needs than someone who appears too sales-driven and focuses more on making exaggerated claims (style) than on driving value (substance).
A useful indicator of finding out how valuable your content has been is to use a win/loss analysis.
This practically forces you to know why you did or did not bag the deal.
When your customers say that the price is too high, you can be pretty sure that the actual reason why they did not buy from you was because they didn’t see the hidden value in your offering.
Put simply, if you DO NOT create enough value for your customers (your product or service) they will begin to seek value with regards to price.
Therefore, the foremost step in creating a content strategy is to understand what it is that your customers value most — price or a substantial benefit for which they would be happy to pay that price.
Want to take your content strategy to the next level?
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org