Expert Insights: Content Marketing Strategies for Start-ups (Part 1)
Have you ever asked yourself whether you really need to write blogs or not? How about growing your content in order to rank for search engines? Is it a requirement that you should meet?
Truth is, you can never tell unless you try. I’ve seen companies try to grow their business’ website without too much content. Others take a big step on content marketing, and eventually find their way on top of Google.
While many find content marketing as an alternative, others view it as “the only way.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I believe that the future of world wide web will be filled with relevant content – even better than what we have right now. Bloggers will write for people instead of search engines, and people will value the most relevant, helpful, and truthful content.
Maybe we’re on the same page on this, or you simply want to try this strategy but you feel like you need to understand it better first. Either that or maybe you just want to be certain that there are people like you, who run businesses and have found content marketing as a big help to their success – whatever it may be, I hope you find this post helpful to your career.
In this third part of our mini series, “Key Elements Your Website Needs to Improve Conversion Rate,” we asked some of the best content marketers in the industry today – questions as simple as, “what is content marketing,” to complex “how to’s” on the strategies they prefer and apply.
Note: This is the first half of our two-part post about Content Marketing for start-ups according to experts.
Rand Fishkin: Content marketing is the practice of creating and promoting content (blog posts, guides, visuals, videos, free tools, quizzes, email newsletters, and almost anything that can be consumed) to earn traffic, brand awareness, trust, and hopefully, eventually, conversions from your audience.
At Moz, we produce literally all of those things I just named and do a lot of promotion and optimization of them, too. We believe part of our mission is to help marketers understand how search engines, social platforms, and web users work and content is a huge part of that education process. Serendipitously, it also means that we have a terrific way to attract SEO professionals (our primary customers) to our site, which then often leads to a free trial or purchase of our software.
Neil Patel: Content marketing is the creation of information that benefits your current and potential customers. If you can educate them, you’ll gain a larger audience and it will cause your company or startup to generate more customers. A startup can use this by blogging. With a simple WordPress blog you can educate people.
Michele Linn: At Content Marketing Institute, we define content marketing as a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. More here.
If you are a startup, content marketing can be the way you differentiate your business and engender trust with your customers and prospects. It’s something you can use to generate awareness in your brand all the way to helping customers evangelize your business.
Jeff Goins: I use content marketing to build trust with my audience and add value to their lives. I believe that giving is better than taking.
Rick Eliason: Content marketing is important to every single business operating on the web. It sounds like a horrendously large undertaking but chances are you are already doing it without even realising.
If you share a blog article on social media with the intention of getting people to read, learn something and remember the brand that produced it – that’s content marketing. If you spend time researching and crafting a customised product description, you are content marketing to help sell the product. (If you then go and create a video to show off the product’s features beyond what words can say, you are nailing content marketing!).
If you re-purpose some high-level, technical information into engaging slide decks, or distill that same information into beautifully simplistic infographics to get through to your end user – that again is content marketing.
Content marketing is not this flashy “flavour of the week” marketing tactic, it’s what savvy businesses have been doing for years – ensuring that the hunger for information from their target audience is not only sated, but is crafted in such a way that builds their appetite for more.
Venchito Tampon: Content is any useful brand elements that provides information and details on what the brand is all about (it could be the images in the office, teaser video and blog posts written on other relevant blogs).
It is commonly used in promoting a certain idea or message that is tied up to what the brand wants to share to its target audience.
Rand: The objectives are threefold:
- Help people do better marketing through education, sharing, and discussion.
- Build and grow the brand of Moz to web marketers worldwide.
- Acquire targeted traffic that converts into subscribers of our software
We measure our key results through a lot of numbers at three levels – leading indicators, marketing KPIs, and business metrics that I’ve illustrated below:
Neil: The main objective is to educate and help potential customers. Not just with issues related to your business, but just help them with any problems they may be facing. This will cause them to indirectly sign up to your product or service.
Michele: Of course, your objectives for content marketing, and the subsequent results you are looking for, are dependent upon your business goals and objectives.
That said, if you are a startup, I would highly recommend using content marketing as the way to build your “owned” audience. An owned audience is one that has provided you with permission (i.e. opted in) to receive your emails. While Twitter followers or Facebook fans are useful, there is no substitute for having information about – and permission to contact – your audience.
Bonus Tip: Think beyond collecting an email address and strive to build our details of your list so you can better segment your audience and send them more relevant info as your business grows.
Jerod Morris: Our primary objectives with our content marketing is to produce useful content that helps our audience achieve their goals and leads to us achieving our goals, which means selling the Rainmaker Platform as well as StudioPress, Synthesis, and Authority.
Jeff: To help people. That’s it.
Rick: At Reload Digital, as a small agency, we use content marketing to drive awareness of the brand and our service offerings. We have carefully selected our target market and tried to understand their “Monday morning problems”, pain points and stress-inducing tasks and craft content around those.
We take a similar approach for our clients. We spend time getting to know the business as a whole (not just what they think they want to achieve online) and their core customer. Everything revolves around this. If you craft content for the wrong person – sure, you may get eyeballs, but it won’t lead to anything great. We want to ensure our clients benefit from the time we put into their content marketing by working with them to create things and an online experience that delivers to the bottom line.
Our measurements and metrics revolve around how that content is absorbed, leads people further down the purchase funnel or results directly in a sale. Of course the metrics vary depending on the client.
Venchito: There are two things you can measure in content marketing. One is ROI (return of investment) which is equivalent to the conversions generated from content assets less content production costs. The other is the viral potential of the content, which is now measured through the number of shares and quantity of backlinks pointing to the page or content.
Rand: We have several tools that collect this data including Moz’s own Moz Analytics, Followerwonk, and Fresh Web Explorer. We also use True Social Metrics to keep track of our promotional and engagement on social networks. And, of course, we have our analytics tools like Google Analytics, which we’ve now bolstered with Omniture and Mixpanel.
The tools spit out lots of data, and our marketing team actually builds their own dashboard through Google Spreadsheets that anyone in the company can see. Thus, we can track over time the growth in Twitter followers, or the quantity of visits to our guides section of the site, or the average engagement of subscribers who signed up for a Moz account after visiting our site 8+ times vs. those who visited less than 4 times.
Finding signal amongst that noise, and patterns or trends to pay attention to – now that’s the hard bit.
Neil: I measure the results by traffic and conversions. The more visitors I see, the more people are seeing what I have to offer. And a portion of those visitors should convert into customers.
Michele: If your goal is building an audience, I would look at email subscribers plus percentage of profiles that are completed (i.e. which contacts do you have key info for?).
Jerod: We measure revenue, first and foremost. And we measure key engagement metrics like subscribers and open/click rates for our email lists. We also dive into Analytics data to know which posts and pages are performing well, and how important each channel is to conversions.
Jeff: If people tell me I’m helping them, I feel pretty good about what I do. I also pay attention to Google Analytics and email subscribers. I believe that if I help people, my audience will grow.
Rick: We use tools fit for purpose so it all depends on what part we are looking to measure. Of course Google Analytics always features but we also rely heavily on data coming through 3rd party platforms we have utilised to amplify content such as Slideshare, SocialBro and YouTube.
I have recently been playing around with Snip.ly to piggyback on others’ content to gain exposure to our articles for instance so I use data from that platform to gauge various things.
Venchito: For ROI-driven content marketing, you can measure your key results using Google Analytics (remember to set up conversion goals first before tracking results). For viral content marketing campaigns, you can use Ahrefs to identify the total number of domains linking to your content and Topsy and social sharing buttons installed in WordPress to see the number of social shares.
Rand: We’ve seen incredible results. Moz today has nearly 2.5M visits a month (which is pretty huge for a niche, B2B software company), thousands of social interactions and shares each week, about 1M monthly visits from search alone, 250K+ subscribers to our email newsletter, and approximately 150 people taking a free trial of our software every day.
Neil: It’s the main way we drive sales for any of my businesses. Blogging is our number 1 channel by far.
Michele: This perhaps comes as no surprise considering the name of our organization, but content marketing has been instrumental in building our business. Traffic, shares, subscribers and event attendees (a key goal for us is Content Marketing World attendees) can be directly attributed to our content marketing efforts.
Jeff: It’s built the entire company.
Rand: We don’t just think of content as written content – we do videos, interactive pieces, free tools, etc. But yes, we do have a Moz “voice” that we seek out and help train for in our work, and I think that’s helped keep the brand’s voice consistent over time and with our values.
Neil: Yes, we have all writers read this guide: The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing.
Nicole Kohler: We work with a lot of writers who are highly knowledgeable and skilled at their craft. However, just because someone is a good writer doesn’t mean they’re a good content marketer. If I’m working with someone on a content project, I try to do two things right away:
- Talk to them about their content’s role or position in the sales funnel (ex. “This will be someone’s first exposure to the brand…”).
- Show them very specific examples of similar content that has worked well that they can use as a reference.
It’s not uncommon to run into situations where the writing delivered is world-class, but there are strong calls to action or self-promotional bits littered throughout the content. That’s why taking those first two steps is so important, to me, because a large majority of the content I oversee would fail if it started with a hard sell. So in that sense, content marketing doesn’t necessarily start with content – it starts with education.
Jeff: Yep. Here’s a free course.
Rick: We are just going though a repositioning and as such are taking a hard look at not only the style, tone and topics of writing but also how it is presented to the end user. What’s great is we all have a say in it all and all contribute to the Reload voice which is an amalgamation of all of us – therefore there is no training as such, but we all come from slightly different backgrounds and all educate each other from our individual strengths and what we think will work well in each situation which is a really good way to keep the team bonds strong.
Content marketing is a very tedious task. It will definitely take your time – from planning, down to its execution. But, if your goal is to bring value to people, just like what these folks are doing, then this is definitely for you.
So, stay tuned for the second half of this post as we will be sharing with you more strategies that support content marketing efforts, from the best experts around, as well as competent advice for startups.