As a startup, you’re always looking for ways to find new clients and grow awareness about your brand. But unless you just won the lottery, you’re probably also looking for ways to publicise your business that don’t cost the Earth. And no doubt at some point you heard about “content marketing” and thought: that sounds great, we’ll do that!
Content marketing is all about building a long-term strategy that provides added value for your clients and prospects. Whereas PPC (pay per click) can get you instant results in terms of traffic or signups, content marketing can keep bringing benefits for months or years to come. Content marketing is all about believing in tomorrow :)
Content is more than a blog
Focusing on content doesn’t just mean starting a blog. Content is everything you publish on the web and includes:
• Blogs or articles
• Guides and How-Tos
• Product/about/landing pages
Your website is an important part of content marketing. It’s common for companies to have an agency create their website and then never look at it again; leaving it out-dated and looking as though the company isn’t trading any more. Check in with your website regularly and make sure that it still reflects what your company is all about. Is the contact information still correct, are all the team members up there, has the About page been updated to talk about your latest achievements? If you’re getting lots of calls from clients asking the same question, maybe there’s a way to answer that question on the website? Move things around, add things, take things away and then look at your statistics and see what works best.
Once your website and blog are in place, think about creating videos, guides and demos. If you’ve recently given a presentation, you could share that online too. Look at the general output of the company and identify ways to turn it into content that you can share across your channels. What hidden talents do team members have that could help you to showcase your company?
The "Brand Voice"
Whatever you decide to create, the most important thing to remember is to keep your content consistent. You need to have the same message across all channels, so that people can recognise your company easily and identify with it. This is called brand voice.
A good way to keep a consistent brand voice is to give responsibility for producing content to one person, or a small team of people with one person in charge of editing it. Work out what your brand sounds like, how it talks, what kind of language it uses, the tone it sets. Write down examples and share these with the people who will be creating your content. It may seem obvious to you, but as your team grows, you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Think about how you might describe your product or service; e.g. We don’t say: Awesome shoes… We say: Handcrafted footwear…
Think about who your clients are and how they communicate. That’s how you need to sound, too; e.g. We don’t say: We’re delighted to inform you… We say: We’re totally stoked…
If you’re not entirely sure you’ve hit the right note, a good tip is to read what you’ve written out loud. Does it sound the way you’d expect members of your team to speak to customers?
How much time do you have?
You can’t hack content marketing. Anyone who tells you there’s some miracle shortcut where 15 minutes a day will get you thousands of visits/subscriptions is nuts. However, by focusing on quality rather than quantity, you can definitely save yourself some time and make your content more effective.
When it comes to the company blog, the most common mistakes companies make is to publish dozens of articles at the start, quickly running out of steam and ending up with a blog that hasn’t been updated in ages. Work out at the beginning how much time you (or the person who you’ve put in charge of producing content) can realistically dedicate to it and on that basis how often you’d be able to publish something; and then stick to your schedule. You don’t have to write constantly to be heard, just consistently. Consider writing one really good quality article once a month - instead of a couple of poor-quality ones every week.
What do you want to say?
Choosing WHAT to write about isn’t always easy. So that your blog benefits both your SEO AND your readers, you need to find topics that are relevant to your industry and solve the problems your clients have. Look at what your competitors are talking about, and see where there are gaps you can fill. Even a simple search on Google can help you see what questions people are asking around a particular keyword. Talk to your customers, talk to your team. Do some research and come up with a list of topics that are relevant to your industry or niche.
Write what you know. If you read all the marketing blogs out there, you may be tempted to swamp your blog with daily ‘Top ten roundup of the best…’ style articles – skimming Google for a few titbits that you can turn into advice. Please, resist! Instead, focus on your own knowledge and match it to the kinds of problems your clients are having to identify valuable topics. Be helpful, educate and share your insights. Good content is about giving, not taking.
If there’s one thing you can do to keep your content quality up, it’s to forget you own ego. Avoid producing content that is self-promotional or a thinly-disguised sales pitch. It’s OK to be proud of your achievements, but a blog is not a place to stick press releases! In fact, the less you talk about yourself, the better.
Content marketing is an investment, and in order to track your investment you’ll need to think about your goals. Set yourself some tangible targets (more links to your site, more visitors, more signups, etc.) and orient your content to achieve these. Then measure the results. Often. Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. You won’t achieve overnight results, but be patient and results will come. Content is the gift that keeps on giving :)
Scarlet Merrill is Managing Director of Engage, a Dublin-based company that specialises in content production and content management. She helps businesses to build sustainable marketing strategies that create positive online experiences for customers - raising awareness and inspiring transactions. She has worked with lots of startups and is the editor of Enterprise Ireland's New Frontiers website. Connect with @scarletmerrill on Twitter or LinkedIn.