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4 Killer Startup Content Marketing Tips from First Round Review

By Kathryn Hawkins. Business Tips Content Strategy and Marketing
Image Credit: TheStocks.im/CC0

Tech startups and other new businesses can use content marketing as a lean way to generate interest quickly. Camille Ricketts of First Round Capital’s First Round Review shares tips for building a strong content strategy.

When startups are looking for ways to acquire new customers, recruit key talent, and build brand awareness, there’s no more effective medium than content marketing. Creating an arsenal of high-quality, high-value content can help your brand quickly differentiate itself from the competition and immediately begin to grow a dedicated and highly engaged audience.

Case in point? Take a look at First Round Review, the branded publication owned by the VC firm First Round Capital, which has grown an audience of half a million monthly readers (and a 100,000+ mailing list!) on a two article per week schedule with a content team of two. The site’s detailed, actionable articles on startup management and culture are some of my favorite examples of high quality content marketing out there, and I recently talked with Camille Ricketts, First Round Review’s head of content, about why the strategy is so successful—and how startups can echo their model.

Here are four key takeaways that can help any startup build influence through content marketing:

Create a mission, and stick to it.

When Ricketts helped the First Round Capital team establish the publication, “we really tried to position it as not another venture capital blog, but as a publication that would be laser-focused on tactical advice for company-building,” she says. On that note, each article has a defined agenda: They’re about people who’ve achieved success in the business world, and they provide actionable advice with genuine takeaways for their audience.

For instance, a recent piece, The Price is Right: Essential Tips for Nailing Your Pricing, provides a detailed account from Patrick Campbell, founder of Price Intelligently, on how he helps businesses nail down their pricing strategy through building buyer personas, collecting data, and plotting out price elasticity based on each persona. It’s clear, actionable, and genuinely helpful to its target audience.

Hone in on your ideal audience.

The company had one target reader in mind: Startup founders. The First Round Review team built a variety of verticals (Tech, Product, Marketing, etc.) all aligned around the needs and interests of a company founder or would-be founder. All content is aligned with the needs of that key reader, but the content’s audience has expanded far beyond that market. “When you’re very focused on very high quality content, you end up having a broader appeal than you would if you’re trying to produce things for many different audiences at once,” says Ricketts.

Build a bulletproof process for developing your content.

First Round Review relies on interviews with founders and business professionals, but none of the resulting articles are haphazard in nature. Each one is clear, purposeful, and has actionable takeaways. That’s a key part of the company’s process, says Ricketts: Before conducting detailed interviews, the content team works with the subject to get in alignment on the article’s subject. Ricketts says she tells subjects, “the best topic exists at the crossroads of what you’re really pumped to talk about and are willing to share some experiences—including both successes and failures—about, and then what will be really actionable advice for our audience.”

Once they’ve nailed down that topic, Ricketts sends over a series of interview questions for the subject to review in advance. From there, they hold an hour-long phone conversation, get it transcribed, and build out a detailed, actionable article from there.

Cultivate an audience of influencers.

First Round Review’s growth is all organic—the team relies on its own network to help the articles build traction across the web. In addition to the newsletter, the team is very active on social media—and makes a point of building and leveraging powerful connections.

“We’re really fortunate to have an audience of influencers, largely speaking, so whenever any of them share, it reaches a lot of other people,” says Ricketts. “We’ve tried to cultivate that a little bit by building a slackbot—called Influencer Bot—so whenever anyone in our audience has over 10,000 followers and shares or reviews a story, we get pinged and can choose to engage with them further or help extend their brand by retweeting or sharing with our First Round staff internally. We nurture our influencer audience in a way that will keep them excited about our content.”

For more great insights from Camille, check out clips from our interview on Inc.com.

Want to learn more about building a content strategy? Download our free ebook here.

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Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.

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