Have you ever wondered why certain startups fail, while others become unexpected home runs? On one hand, there certainly is no shortage of depressing reports that indicate only 10% of startups survive, and on the other, we have inspiring examples like “The Chicken Whisperer” who go on to become stalwarts in their business niche. Who would have guessed that what was once intended to serve as a helpful podcast for backyard farmers would become a successful startup for Andy, the Chicken Whisperer? Not I. But it did.
So how did Andy manage to succeed and build an empire out of his startup?
Joe Pulizzi, the self-titled content marketing evangelist, claims that he stumbled upon the secret of business success while writing his new book, “Content Inc.” According to Mr. Pulizzi, the secret of successful startups lies in delivering “content first”, which basically means that successful entrepreneurs identify a niche, build content around it, become thought leaders, gain loyal audiences, and then develop products to sell.
This may seem like reverse engineering for most startups, and we understand that not all businesses can be built on the “content first” principle. Moreover, it doesn’t mean that businesses not built on this principle will fail.
This being said, we cannot, however, understate the importance and the benefits of content marketing. Google Trends and marketing experts agree that content marketing is an inevitable and important part of a solid marketing strategy.
The “content first” principle applies to the startups in a unique way. The central thrust is that startups must make content and thought leadership a priority over other marketing methods.
Let’s take a closer look at the perks of content marketing:
#1. Less Investment, High Returns
It is no secret that startups are walking a tight rope with the need to manage limited funds and yet market their products effectively. This is why most entrepreneurs put a significant amount of effort in creating good content for promoting their startups. From case studies, intriguing videos, and social media posts to blogs, they leave no stone unturned to make the most of this inbound marketing method.
One of the best methods to get good content without much investment is to ask employees from various departments like sales, marketing, development, etc. to contribute to the firm’s blog. This brings diversity to the blog and attracts audiences with different interests.
Consider the example of IBM; they regularly get content from IBMers on a variety of topics like food, travel, technology, parenting and life. You may argue that IBM is a huge company and might have an army of writers, whereas a startup is full of developers and sales people who might not be comfortable blogging/writing.
So here’s an idea – hire a content writer who interviews people or gets their view on a particular topic, and then writes about it. He/she can also create videos, such as how-to videos, funny in-house videos, and so on. There are several ways in which you can involve your startup team in creating ‘free’ content.
Schafly has a dedicated employee blog where they discuss everything, from Donald Trump to the current news.
#2. SEO and Social Media
When it comes to SEO, content is the king. So, to gain the respect of search engines, good content is a must. But simply writing great content won’t suffice. What good is great content if no one sees it? You need to market or syndicate it properly too. Publish your content on websites where you think you can capture the attention of your target audience. The websites you should see as content marketing opportunities should be relevant to your niche or industry.
Similarly, create content that is pertinent to social media websites. From pretty pins to snappy Snapchat videos, create original content or simply share high-quality, useful content to drive traffic to your site.
Here are examples of a few startups as well as established companies that made it big on Pinterest with their compelling content.
#3. Allows for the Perfect Branding to Marketing Ratio
With Gen X and millennials valuing subtlety over the traditional, high octane, in-your-face advertising model, content marketing proves to be an excellent method to carry out artful branding, and manages the branding to marketing ratio.
Whenever your audience comes across a good video or a white paper talking about your brand, chances are they will seek more information about you and further content. Each piece of content can be viewed as a stepping stone toward growing your brand and business. So stick with subtlety on the sales pitches, and instead shoot for engaging, interesting content that your target audience can benefit from.
#4. Gain First-Hand Insights
Large companies spend billions on consumer research and analysis. Since startups don’t have that kind of capital, they have to make do with customer insights they get from social media and content marketing sites.
Wondering how such websites can help you?
Let’s say, for instance, you design mobile phone covers and have a dedicated fancy website, a Facebook page, a Pinterest board, a blog – the whole nine. Every time you design a new mobile cover, you upload its pictures on all these platforms and write a little about the product.
Now picture this – a 20-something young woman visits your page, sees your product, finds your designs to be a little too ‘masculine’ and ‘cartoonish’, and asks you about it. Bam! You immediately have a Eureka moment and decide to develop a new line of mobile covers with a broader range of designs. Those kinds of insights can quickly become immensely valuable – and this would not have been possible without content marketing and social media.
If you want to know exactly what your audience wants, then ask! Whether it is about your blogs or newsletters, make sure you always ask for feedback and suggestions. Compare the number of ‘Likes’ you get on Facebook, and/or the comments on your blog to understand why one product is doing better than the others, and use the findings to create the next product.
Startups are nimble and agile, and known for their ability to adapt and grow; so, use these characteristics to your advantage. A startup without malleability is a startup doomed!
#5. Gain an Edge over Enterprises
Believe it or not, content marketing is more beneficial to startups than it is to large organizations. Startups have more creative freedom compared to risk-averse large enterprises that are bound by history, reputation, brand image, and other factors that leave them with less room to experiment.
Because today’s younger generation yearns for novelty and innovation, startups get several opportunities to gain an edge over their behemoth counterparts using the creative liberty that is intrinsic to their business model.
Market research firm Zinnov reported that large enterprises are facing stiff competition from a swarm of startups that are focusing on niche product categories. According to Zinnov, these ‘unicorns’ are the biggest threat to large organizations.
We understand there are a myriad factors that lead to the success or the failure of a startup, but with patience, persistence and passion, startup entrepreneurs can overcome the challenges and give the brand the boost they need to compete. In this article, we discussed one of the many factors that can help startups gain a positive advantage – content marketing. There is a reason why marketing gurus and Google are hailing content marketing as the holy grail of online success. We would like to see more startups using content marketing in the upcoming year, so we have more success stories to share in 2016!
Featured Image: Pixabay.com