If you run a startup, maybe you've already been through an accelerator program and you have some bites from investors. You've received seed or angel funding, or closed a Series A round, and now you have 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. 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. Here's why content marketing is an essential strategy for startup companies today:
Content marketing is more effective and cheaper than traditional PR.
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 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' attention for interviews and speaking opportunities, as the startup Groove has discovered.
Inbound marketing is the most affordable way to increase your business leads.
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 dollars per click. "Insurance," for instance, costs more than $50 dollars for each Google AdWords click. And even after those expenses, there's no guarantee that the 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 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.
Outsourcing to a content marketing agency allows you to focus on running your business.
Many larger companies hire full-time content marketing managers 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, and besides, you're still in the process of working out your marketing strategy. One option is to write all of the copy yourself. But as a busy startup founder with a million other things on your plate, that's not too likely to happen, either. Instead, consider outsourcing your marketing needs to a content marketing agency. Here's why:
- It lets you to hire experienced marketing writers on a tight budget. Let's say you only have $3,000 dollars a month to allocate towards content development. Just try to find a full-time marketing employee willing to work for those sorts of rates, especially in a big city. Maybe if you're lucky, you'll stumble upon a fresh college grad, but he or she won't have the experience you need to drive your business growth and build your credibility. By contracting with an agency or using a freelancer, you can avoid all the time of onboarding and training a new employee, and get high-quality work from writers with far more experience than anyone you'd be able to hire on a salaried basis.
- It helps you build your reputation as a thought leader with minimal time investment. You have a lot of insights into the business world that you want to share, but never have the time to write down your thoughts. A content marketing agency can support you by collaborating with you on quick phone interviews to get a sense of the topics you want to cover, then developing thorough think pieces written from your point of view, which can be published on your own blog and in industry-leading websites and media publications. This will help you quickly improve your reputation, and pave the way for interviews, speaking invitations and other opportunities that will grow both your personal and business brands.
- It provides a scalable model for growth. Some content marketing agencies, including ours, work primarily on a monthly retainer basis. We often contract with our clients for three months at a time, so clients are able to adjust their content needs and budgets on a quarterly basis. That means that over time, clients can decide to add new projects to their retainer to optimize their growth. Conversely, if they want to scale back their content deliverables to invest in other marketing needs, that's easy to accomplish as well. When you hire a full-time employee, you're stuck either paying that person's salary regardless of how much work they're producing, or you're compelled to lay them off if you realize you don't have the budget to keep going. This retainer model provides a flexible, scalable way to adapt your marketing needs, in line with the Lean Startup model.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Eucalypt Media blog, here.
Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at Eucalypt Media, a content marketing agency that works with national B2B, B2C, nonprofit, and education clients, including Fortune 500 companies. She specializes in spearheading comprehensive content marketing and PR strategies to spotlight her agency clients' thought leadership, and developing custom content on their behalf with their internal team and pool of freelance journalists. She's also publisher of Gimundo, a website and daily newsletter focused on positive content and inspiring videos.