Content Marketing is one of the top ways for a startup to grow its user base. It is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and high quality content consistently to build up an audience of potential customers, and effectively channel them into signups or sales.
A good example of this is the Buffer blog. Buffer is a simpler and easier way to schedule your social media posts and track their performance. Naturally, one of their biggest customer base is digital marketers who are looking for a tool exactly like that. They regularly write interesting content targeted to marketers — posts like "7 Tips To Get Started In Marketing" or "10 Free Tools To Help You Understand Your Social Media Audience" etc.
Another good example is OKCupid — a dating app. Every once in a while, they publish various interesting, counter-intuitive and sometimes controversial observations from their user data — which further drives traffic and sign-ups.
In this tutorial, we will explore how to get Content Marketing right.
Before you start, thinking about Content Marketing, remember that this is a long-term play. You would have to consistently write for at least 6 months to give it a fair shot since this is a hits-based channel — some of your posts will see a lot of traffic, and most won't be nearly as successful as you would want. Having gotten that out of the way, let's look at the process:
- Set a Content Marketing Goal and a timeframe: Like with any other traction channel, it's better to set a goal before you start thinking about various channels etc. An example: Mint.com is an app that lets you keep track of your personal finances. Pre-launch, they set a goal to get 100k signups in 6 months pre-launch. Once a goal like this is set, you can work your way backward and see what you'll need to hit in terms of smaller weekly milestones.
- Define the persona of your ideal user/customer and start writing for them: Before you start writing, it's important to define who your ideal user is. It only helps if you can get as specific as possible. So building on the Mint.com example, maybe their ideal customer (at least in the start) could be a young professional called Cindy who is 22 and just started working at her first full-time job. She wants to make sure that she manages her finances well, and frequents personal finance blogs and forums to seek advice time to time. This is an example of a persona of your ideal user (we discuss these in context of UX Design here: User Research and User Personas). We will discuss the specifics of writing the content in more detail later in this tutorial.
- Content types you can create: Before you start writing, remember that although text-based content is the easiest/cheapest to create — if you have the time and the budget, and if it suits your ideal customers better, you can also look into other forms of content like videos, infographics, etc.
- Decide the frequency will you publish at: This ties down into your overall goals, but once a week to once a month is the norm for a blog.
- Decide on the Length and tone of your content: Decide early on the length of your content, and it's style or tone that you aim for. And stay consistent with what you choose. Remember, longer, 7 minute reads are shown to perform the best in terms of virality.
- Decide on the Channel to publish: Publishing sites like Medium are great since they can get you more distribution than a standalone Wordpress blog. You can also set up a publication for your company and let the
- Decide the channels to distribute your content at: This will include things like various subreddits, your company's social media, various Facebook Groups — think of every place where your ideal users hang out, become part of those communities, genuinely contribute wherever you can, and when it comes time to share your own writings, be respectful of the community's rules. Most online communities are tolerant of 1 self-promotional post for every 10 valuable contributions.
The objective of this step is to do some sanity checks to make sure you are writing about things that your ideal users are actually looking for. After all, there's no point in writing about topics no one cares about. Looking for something to write about: start writing about problems your target users face. Or start teaching them something. There are a bunch of quick ways to make sure there's enough demand for what you're planning to write about
- Google search: Find out what else has already been written about in the topic, and think of ways you can do a better job than what's already out there. This will also give you ideas for your own articles since you can combine and cite multiple sources that already exist.
- Google search volume/Google Trends: Google Trends are really useful to compare a particular search term with a benchmark you may already have. It's a free tool from Google available here: Google Trends
- Google Scholar: Google Scholar is great for searching across published papers in academia around the topic that you are planning to write. Might help in authoritatively cite certain facts that might serve as the basis of your arguments in your article — however, these are usually not very relevant for consumer-facing startups.
- Tools like Buzzsumo and ruzzit: These tools help you analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor.
- Quora: Search for topics most likely followed by your ideal user, and look at various questions within that topic. It might give you ideas about what to write about, and also validate some of your ideas to be feasible.
- Reddit/Facebook Groups: Again, you can go to the relevant subreddits — potentially even ask the community if they would like to see a post on whatever you are planning to write about.
Let's discuss the writing process itself. First comes the title — it's up to you to write the article first, and title later or vice versa. But remember, in today's world of short attention spans, the title is almost as, if not more, important than the actual body. Here are a few tips:
- Don’t give everything away in the title. A good title: "How I grew Mint from 0 to 1 Million Signups". A not-so-good title: "How I grew Mint from 0 to 1 Million Signups using Content Marketing"
- Don’t care too much about SEO, but do include at least one related keyword that seems to perform well from your Google search volume research.
- Remember, a good title should pull in the user to read the next line. It should reflect the true purpose of the article, and shouldn't be too gimmicky.
At the end of the day, you're going to have your own style. But here are some tips to do a better job than most people:
- Keep your paragraphs short. Aim to write not more than 3 sentences per paragraph.
- Keep your sentences short. Make sure you don't use any fancy words just for the sake of it.
- Read great work from other people, and copy whatever writing style you like. This is okay –writing is learned by imitation.
- The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.
- Don't be afraid to rewrite your text. Rewriting is the essence of writing well.
- Be wary of using clichés.
- Don't use the same overused sentences as everyone else. Try making up new vivid metaphors or use suitable quotes.
- We are attracted to stories. If you can, include one.
- Give an opinion in the conclusion
- Finish on a high note. Include your learnings in the end.
- Think of every potential place your target users hang out, and post the article there. Remember — be respectful and don't spam.
- After a few days, cross post on other blogs/publications. This will both help you build an audience, as well as give your site a boost in SEO by building a valuable back-link (Originally posted at Company Blog link)
Content Marketing is one of the most powerful channels you will use since it helps with all of the following:
- Email Marketing
- Targeting blogs
- Community Building
- Offline Events
- Existing Platforms
- Business Development
This makes it one of the highest ROI channels for your time. Do it well!