Early-stage and seed-funded technology startups should focus on developing content marketing strategies for scalable, organic business growth.
So you’ve got a tech startup and things are moving fast—but not fast enough for your liking. Maybe you’ve already been through an accelerator program, and you’ve gotten some bites from investors. You’ve gotten seed or angel funding, or a Series A round, and now you’ve got somewhere between $500,000 and a few million in investments—enough to finance office space and bankroll a couple of salaries for core employees like developers, but not enough to go on a hiring spree or spend millions on online marketing.
Nonetheless, once you’ve got your MVP in place, you want to start building a buzz about your company and getting on your prospects’ radar.
So how do you do it? Focus on content marketing.
In this article, we’ll give you a clear path for generating organic traffic by developing quality content that your potential customers will love. Developing a strong content marketing strategy will help you build awareness and trust among your target audience, and help you develop an organic SEO presence that doesn’t rely on a big budget for social media influencers or Google ads.
First of all, let’s break down what content marketing is. It’s a form of marketing focused not on selling to your target audience, but on engaging them with useful and informative content. To do this well, you don’t want to talk too much about your product or solution itself—you want to think about the needs and concerns of your audience, and then build a dedicated content strategy that caters to answering their questions. It’s an approach focused on deep empathy and optimizing for the user experience—much as your product itself should be.
You know your product better than anyone—but how well do you really know your target audience? If you want to build a truly impactful content strategy, it helps to begin with research. When we’re developing a content strategy for a startup client, we focus on:
So there’s a basic run-through of how to build a content marketing plan—now, let’s look at the why. Having worked with hundreds of companies in the past decade, we’ve found it to be a remarkably adaptive strategy that can work well for any type of business—but is a particularly good fit for startups, which are aiming to build visibility quickly on a limited budget.
The harsh truth is, unless you’re Google or Apple, no one really cares about your press release. It’s not likely to gain traction among the tech blogs, and spending thousands of dollars on press releases and distribution is almost always money poorly spent.
However, there is a much more direct path to getting coverage for your startup on tech blogs: developing a guest blog strategy. By developing informative, helpful articles that appeal to top tech blogs’ target audiences, we’ve helped our startup clients get published on top sites such as VentureBeat, Forbes.com, and KillerStartups.
These posts may not be directly focused on your company’s mission, but they go a long way towards getting your business on your prospects’ radar, and can help you build high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites, increasing your search engine rankings. Additionally, by developing opinionated “thought leadership” content, you’re far more likely to get on media publications’ and event planners’ radars for interviews and speaking opportunities, as the startup Groove has discovered.
Yes, you could pay for Google or Facebook advertising to generate new leads. But depending on your industry, you could end up paying more than $20 or $30 per click—“insurance,” for instance, costs more than $50 for each Google AdWords click. And even after those expenses, there’s no guarantee that lead is going to turn into a sale. Even worse, keyword advertising isn’t a self-sustaining solution: The only way to keep popping up at the top of the Google search results every month is to keep shelling out for those ads.
In contrast, by investing in developing high-quality, unique and insightful SEO-optimized content that generates discussion and links, you’ll build a site that Google loves, organically. That means that, over time, you’ll naturally rise to the top of the search results for many of your chosen keyword terms, without having to pay Google for the privilege—so your web traffic won’t vanish the next month if you decide to cut back your ad spend. In contrast, the more relevant your content is, the more likely it is to gain even more interest month after month, especially as credible sites begin to link to your content as a resource. In our own work, we’ve seen a $3K a month content marketing budget reap rewards in the form of organic SEO traffic valued at $30K in PPC ad clicks. It’s not an instant process, but when executed well, you’ll see solid results over time.
When you’re competing for best-in-class tech talent, culture and values are more important than salary and perks for getting the attention of the best technical hires. By developing employer brand-focused content marketing that showcases the opportunities your company can offer, you’ll be able to broadcast your company’s innovative culture to the industry rock stars you’re hoping to attract—without spending a dollar on recruiting.
Many larger companies hire full-time content marketing directors to develop and manage their editorial strategy, but in your case, that’s probably not a good idea just yet. You don’t have the capital for non-essential hires at this point.
You can follow the steps mapped above for building a strategy on your own, but if you don’t have time or don’t feel comfortable with it, consider working with an agency or a consultant to map out your content marketing strategy and build an SEO-optimized editorial calendar. You can then keep working with an agency or group of freelance writers for content creation support, or bring it back in-house, asking each of your team members to contribute to the content marketing plan.
Make sure that whatever approach you take, you have a system for tracking success across the board. While content marketing can and often does lead to sales, that process may not be immediate. In addition to conversions, pay attention to other metrics, such as:
Track these and other metrics over a period of months, not days, to measure the difference your content marketing efforts are making. With the exception of those rare viral pieces, content marketing is a slow and steady process that builds trust and awareness over time, not overnight.
However you do it, it’s important to maintain consistency and quality across the board: In order to build an audience through content marketing, you need to earn and keep your followers’ trust. By taking a deeply empathetic and thoughtful approach towards building a content strategy targeted to meet your potential customers’ needs, you’ll have the tools to build your brand’s awareness and become a leader in your space.
Want to learn more tips on mastering content marketing? Get our 19-page guide for content marketing for B2B tech companies.
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