If you’re a startup and want a quick fix to your content marketing “problem,” here’s some bad news for you.
Content marketing is nothing but quick. And it’s not sexy or trendy like SEO or social media. It’s basically a lot of writing and a lot of promoting. But when executed correctly, it becomes a workhorse for your business.
Creating content used to be so easy. You could practically hire a local high school kid to put together a few paragraph and slap it onto your website, put in a few relevant keywords, and voila! That was your content marketing strategy. It simply took a back burner before SEO, PPC, and other things that had more immediate ROI.
On February 24, 2011, all that changed. Google came out with a cute animal-themed algorithm update called Panda that sent low-quality content sites to the slaughterhouse. The bar for content has been raised.
Even now, Google fine-tunes their algorithm and updates it 300 to 500 times a year, scaring the heck out of bad writers (if they’re still around, that is). Content marketing became an important buzzword. In the end, only quality content will prevail.
But no amount of fantastic, out-of-this-world content will be useful if it remains buried in some corner of your blog in a galaxy far, far away. Content marketing is a highly strategic process, from choosing what to write on, researching, writing, editing, distributing, tracking results, rinsing, and repeating. That’s a lot of work!
Before you download an e-book or a whitepaper telling you “64 ways to content marketing strategy,” know that without a big picture, the rest are merely tactics. So here are three low cost content marketing strategies for startups in 2015.
1. 20% on Creation, 80% on Promotion
WP Curve, a WordPress support company who’s big on content marketing, published a blog post about what to do when your content is not getting traction. One of the interviewees came back with this wisdom:
“Only 20% of your time should be devoted to content development. The remaining 80% should all be promotion.” – Renee Warren, co-founder of Onboardly
No matter how much your excellent content knocks someone’s socks off, it’s useless when not being read, shared, retweeted, or talked about. By now, most businesses got the memo that content creation is important. Where they lag is on the distribution front, according to Forbes’ “The Top 7 Content Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2015.”
So exactly how do you promote your content? Here are just a few ways:
a) Reach out to the movers and shakes of your industry
In the end, building a business is about building relationships (although money, too). Who are the influencers in your field? What would their audience find valuable? Can you share their content on your platform that your audience might find valuable? Focus on building a few of these relationships.
b) Experiment with paid distribution
You can tinker with boosting your posts on Facebook or use a content amplification service like Outbrain. This service works by putting your content on the web’s largest publishers as “Promoted Stories,” so it gets more visibility.
c) Upcycle existing content
You wrote a blog post. You’ve done your 20%. Now take that same blog post and put it out as a video, slideshare, podcast, infographic, etc. Because people take in content differently, you’ve just increased your outreach and exposure. That’s the “upcycling” in a nutshell.
There are many ways to promote your content. The key is to start with one add to the mix. Don’t forget to test which avenue is the most effective.
2. Content Curation
Content marketing should be less about promotion and more about quality thoughts. How do you gain instant credibility as a good content provider? You do it by curating content from thought leaders across the web.
Content curation is the act of gathering and sorting through the massive amounts of content on the web. Ideally, it should be around a specific theme and not completely random. While this sounds fun because it involves almost no writing, sifting through existing content is no easy feat. In fact, it may require more time than actually writing the post yourself!
Curating is not about regurgitating the same story. It’s about retelling the story with your personal experience mixed in. How does the curated content relate to your business? What do you find helpful about it? These are all short notes you can add while introducing the curated content.
Also, let’s face it; sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just don’t feel like writing. With curated content, you can “schedule” when you don’t feel like writing. Guilt-free.
So when do you use curated content?
a) Weekly Curation
Throughout the week, you can collect helpful resources from around the web and publish it as a blog post. This helps your audience in two ways – with the quality of content, and by eliminating the need for browsing. Your weekly curated content can be known as the one-stop shop.
b) Email Newsletters
You can also send the list of curated content to your subscribers. At this time, you can also add curated content from your own blog, such as “Most Viewed,” “Most Popular,” “Most Comments” blog posts of the week. While you’re at it, curate your own comments section, provided they add value.
What content should you curate? You can mix it up and curate the following:
- Write-up of big industry conferences
- Posts from the influencers in your industry
- Something that was “hot” on the social media that week (for this, you can use a service like Klout, which measures social influence of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.)
To streamline the process of curating content, use tools like Storify.
3. Understand Your Goals
You might think, “Duh! This isn’t an actual strategy.” And you would be right. Think of it as a pre-strategy, because without understanding why you’re investing in content marketing in first place, everything will fall apart.
In the end, your business has to serve one major goal: to bring more revenue to you. All roads lead to that. Through content marketing, you can achieve any or all of the following goals:
a) Raise awareness of your brand
You’re a startup so most likely very few people know what your business is about. Writing content with a mixture of business expertise and personality can showcase who’s behind your company.
One good example is Buffer, a social media company. In the early days, Buffer was known for writing about productivity, which in turn, helped them gain exposure and many subscribers.
But Buffer’s story is not without a caveat. What they were writing about, while epic and valuable, was not directly tied to their business (social media). Because of that, they had trouble converting subscribers to paying customers. Knowing what kind of writing ties back to your brand is definitely an important strategy.
b) Engage and interact with your customers
You might dread the comments section of your blog turning into a cesspool, but engaging and interacting with your customers is crucial. While you might not be able to reply to every email or comment, consistently creating content they can share, retweet, and talk about increases the level of your engagement. You’ll come across as a live human being, not someone behind a faceless business.
c) Build an email list
Who reads emails these days? Apparently, still a lot of people. You can use content marketing to build your own email list, on your own platform. An email list is valuable because once you have your customer’s email address, nothing (except your own awfulness) can take that away from you. Not even Google’s animal-themed algorithm dance.
d) Nurture prospects
Content marketing can nurture your prospects on their buyer’s journey. You can post a case study of how your service or product is helping someone, or a decision tool to simplify the buying process.
e) Retain customers
Companies know it’s much harder to acquire new customers than to retain them. Consistently useful, epic content that helps customers will ensure they stick around.
Content marketing is not a short-term affair. It’s a long-term investment in time and effort. Along the way, when your initial content fails to gain traction, you might ask yourself why you’re doing this. When you revert to your goals, you’ll gain clarity and find strength to push forward.
What is the purpose of content marketing for YOU? What are YOUR goals? Answer these questions and you’re off to a golden start.
There you have it, three low cost content marketing strategies for 2015. Research and analytics have uncovered some new trends, but the message is always the same: create excellent content and promote the heck out of it.
When it comes to content marketing, the details change but the principles don’t. These strategies, once implemented correctly, will serve you for years to come. They’re rooted in solid foundation – adding value to your customers – and are immune to any algorithm changes Google throws your way.