Updated: Mar 24, 2019
What is the number one challenge every Startup struggles with?
Not having enough money to run and grow their business.
Whether it’s for the tools and resources needed to be more efficient, paying for office space, or hiring staff needed to get the job done, lack of money is always a challenge.
Most, if not every, Startup will tend to prioritize Sales over Marketing any day, and for good reason. It’s what will bring in money for the company right now. Therefore, they’re more willing to spend to hire a Salesperson before hiring a Marketer. Logically it makes sense at surface level.
However, in today’s very crowded marketplace simply focusing on only driving sales for your business, without growing a brand with it, will see your sales efforts limited and hit a ceiling overtime.
Reason being with the internet the barrier to entry for anyone wanting to start a business is so low pretty much anyone can do it. You no longer need a lot of capital for a physical location, R&D or product development. All you need is an idea, Google search, and the dedication to stick with it.
Most companies believe that investing in marketing is a waste of time and money. However, allow me to introduce you to a company who begs to differ.
Groove is a SaaS US-based company that offers a customer support/help desk software for small businesses.
Within their first few weeks of launch they went from $0 to $100,000 per month in revenue. How did they do it…Content Marketing.
Starting out they had no funding or capital outside of hiring and paying a few developers to build the software.
Groove’s main strategy was simply to write and publish blog posts to attract a specific audience who would have need and want for the product they offered.
Once someone became a customer they also had a separate blog for customer support, with articles written specifically relating to their product.
By the way all this was done without a sales team.
Currently, Groove is on track to do US$10 Million in revenue per year, and their primary strategy is still focused on growing using Content Marketing.
As Groove clearly shows, you can invest in brand development, and still translate it to significant revenue.
Now this may be a one in a million example, but I used it simply to show how powerful Content Marketing can be if done properly.
As a Startup in today’s business environment, it’s not about who has the most money, it’s about ingenuity and the courage to break away and do things differently from your competitors.
This is why I love Content Marketing so much. It allows Startups such as yourself to execute your marketing and build your brand effectively, even with little to no budget to do so. If done right it will put you way ahead of your competition, and even compete with bigger, more recognizable brands.
That’s because 60% of consumers are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about the brand. Why not let it be yours.
What’s an Effective Content Marketing Strategy for Startups?
In my many years working with many Startups, and even running my own Startups, there are three things that has always been a challenge in creating and executing an effective marketing strategy:
No knowledge of how to do marketing
I've had to pull a rabbit out of my hat many times to figure out the best way to do marketing with $0 to make it work. So what I will share with you isn't anything hypothetical but based on my experience doing the same.
The strategy I’m about to outline will allow you to execute your marketing even if you have none of the challenges mentioned.
The Team to Get the Job Done
At this stage there are only two key people you really need for this strategy to work: a Copywriter and a Content Strategist.
One creates the strategy and plan, and one executes it. What would be ideal is if you can find someone who can do both.
Now as we mentioned money is a factor, but the good thing is you don’t have to hire any of these two people full time, and worry about paying them a monthly salary consistently.
You can contract a Content Strategist to put together the plan, and pay them a one-off cost (you can come to an arrangement if you need to keep them on retainer).
The Copywriter can be paid on a per article basis which typically runs from US$50-US$150 based on the length and depth of the article, and experience of the writer.
I would suggest avoiding audio and video content at this stage. They are both costly and time consuming to produce (believe me I should know).
So keep the budget low and execution simple.
Before I begin let me start off by saying one thing…
Forget about Social Media.
I know the temptation is there for you to run and jump to start a Facebook page or Instagram profile. However, at this stage it is not necessary. As a matter of fact it may actual be counterproductive to your goal.
Social Media takes a lot of what you don’t have: Time, Money/Resources, and Expertise. Unless you either know how to do it effectively and have the time, or can afford to pay someone to do it, I would advise to leave it alone for now.
Focus on what will directly drive revenue for your business at this stage, not Likes and Shares.
The only exception to this rule is if your Startup is within the Consumer Goods space, meaning things like clothes, shoes, food, consumer technology, etc. things that are heavily visual in how they are represented. Otherwise, let Social Media be for now.
Getting Started with your Content Marketing
What You Need
There are three things you need:
Email capture software
More than likely you already have a website so adding a blog to it shouldn’t be a problem, and will only cost if you have to pay the person who built it to add this.
If not then you can simply start a website with a blog for free using Wix or Wordpress, both of which are free to start. You only have to pay for hosting which typical falls within the US$100-US$150 range for the year.
Wix is good for design but is limited in technical functionality. Wordpress has great technical functionality and integrates with a lot of other platforms, but you need some basic coding skills to put together a good looking website. So it’s really a case of look versus functionality in which you choose.
As for email you can create a free email account using Mailchimp which costs you nothing to get started.
The email capture software is what you will use to collect lead information such as Name and Email so you can nurture these leads and turn them into customers. Mailchimp offers lead capture forms.
You can also check out Sumo which has several features for free. I really am amazed at how much they give away in their free version.
How to Execute the Content Marketing Strategy
The first thing you need is a Content Strategy and Content Plan. I go into greater detail on how to create one in Getting Started with Content Marketing chapter.
The Basis of the plan is:
Know your business goal
Know who your target audience is
Your content goal (in this case it may be generate 10 leads per month from your content)
How often you plan to post on your blog (I recommend starting out with 2-4 times per month)
What KPI’s will you use to measure the success of your Content Marketing overtime (since our focus is generating revenue I would focus on leads and sales)
The first step is writing the blog post. Ensure that your content is focused on providing answers and solutions to your target audience’s problems that does not include your product/service.
The goal here is not to try and sell, the goal here is to build brand equity by building trust and authority as the go-to business to solve their problems.
Sounds counterproductive to what we want to achieve which is sales. However, if you understand the psychology of buyers today then you understand focusing only on selling will actually have the opposite effect.
At the end of the blog post have a call-to-action that prompts them to sign up to be a part of your newsletter.
By the way this newsletter cannot simply be another “Join my mailing list”. It has to provide something of value that your target audience would see the need to sign up. This is typically more information on how you can solve one specific challenge they have, but more in depth than a blog post.
Take for example this website. On the home page I don’t just ask visitors to join my newsletter. I provide information of value that they would be interested in signing up for to learn more.
If you need breakdown of what to include in this sequence and how to put it together, register for Developing a Content Strategy that Drives Sales email series. It breaks down how to use Content Marketing to increase sales for your business, and not just writing blog post just for the sake of it.
Once your blog post is written you want to create a basic graphic to promote it on Social Media. You can use a tool called Canva which is a simple ‘drag and drop’ platform that allows you to create stunning graphics with no design experience (it’s also free).
I know you may be thinking, “But Winston you said not to do Social Media at this stage”.
I’m still sticking to that.
When I talk about Social Media here I’m not talking about creating a page or profile and having to constantly post to it. I’m talking about using Social Media ads to promote your blog post to a specific target audience who are most likely to become your customers. Not your friends and family who you asked to ‘Like’ your page.
If your product or service is heavily visual and you rely mostly on Social Media then you can forget about a blog and replace it with Facebook lead capture forms. The point of the blog is to act as a lead capture tool.
Facebook can accomplish the same with its ad platform.
Facebook has this integrated into their platform where you can run ads that collect lead info such as Name, Email, etc. without sending leads to a landing page. The ads can also be extended to Instagram for the same purpose.
Your copywriter can create the ad copy, and you can use Canva to create the basic design for it, that’s if you can’t afford a graphic designer at this stage. Don’t overstretch yourself, focus on what you can do now with the limited resources you have.
By starting out approaching Social Media this way it ensures you don’t have to commit a lot of time, money or resources. Furthermore, Social Media ads are incredibly cheap and effective, and it allows you to test to see what type of content is effective in generating leads and maximizing your marketing spend.
You can allocate a budget of US$100 per month for Social Media ads, and invest US$25 per week on promoting your posts.
Once you’re driving traffic back to your blog posts and capturing visitor info, you want to have an email sequence to nurture those leads.
An email sequence is simply an automated way to communicate with people on your list without the need for you constantly being behind a computer to send those emails. It’s a ‘set it and forget it’ method of delivering emails.
One recommendation that I have is please do not try to hard sell your list with your products/services in the first go, that won’t work and soon they’ll either ignore your emails or worse unsubscribe.
Give value before you ask for the sale.
The Developing Content Strategy to Drive Sales also goes into what type of content you should create at the different stages of a customer’s Buying Process to lead a potential customer from being unaware of your brand to becoming a paying (and repeat) customer.
My Final Thoughts
You may not have a lot of money starting out to do what you want to grow your business. However, branding is one of those things you still can't skip. Doing so in today’s overcrowded business environment will quickly see you going out of business.
The good news is it doesn’t take a lot of money to do.
Implementing a basic Content Marketing strategy is a good move for Startups because it allows you to grow your brand, and by extension sales, with a very limited marketing budget, and still being able to compete with bigger businesses in your space.
It also allows you to maximize your sales efforts as you now start to attract qualified leads, who are most likely to purchase from you.
Furthermore, it significantly minimizes customer acquisition costs because once done right Content Marketing will have your customers coming to you, rather than you having to chase them.
Finally, it also reduces the time taken to close a deal because confidence in your brand has been built by adding value to your customers before asking for the sale.
This builds trust, and trust gets sales.
Do you plan on implementing a Content Marketing Strategy to grow your Startup? Let me know your thoughts below (comment using Facebook comment box)