Lean Content Marketing Tips for Startups

When it comes to content marketing, you don’t need a full newsroom or a large budget to be effective. Whether you’re an enterprise-level organization or a startup, a lean content marketing strategy can take you a long way.

I had the pleasure of speaking at Seattle Startup Week 2017 about building a content team, creating a content marketing strategy that goes the distance, and getting to know your audience – on a budget.

When it comes to statistics around content marketing, my go-to resource is The State of Content Marketing from CMI and they didn’t disappoint. Here are the numbers I focused on at the beginning of my presentation.

  • 68% of consumers feel more positive about a brand after consuming content from it.
  • 70% of people would rather learn more about a company through articles rather than an ad.
  • 75% of marketers are increasing investment in content marketing

These numbers alone prove that content marketing is here to stay. The methods and the platforms may be evolving, but at the heart of it, great content marketing builds trust, loyalty, and engagement.

So, if you’re a startup or a small business, where do you begin?

Your content marketing should ladder up to your business goals.

Content marketing cannot be an afterthought. Every piece of content that’s out in the world for your customers to consume should be aligned to your business goals. Content planning falls flat unless you’ve identified clear goals. The questions you should be answering are:

  • What are your business goals for [the next year/quarter/month]?
  • What are your marketing goals? How do they ladder up to your business goals?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is your budget?
  • How will you measure your success?

The answers to these questions will give you a roadmap for your content marketing strategy to help you create content with a purpose.

A content strategy will fall through the cracks without a dedicated employee or consultant.

As a startup or small business, you have two options when it comes to building your content team.

  • You have the budget to hire a person who will be in charge of everything related to your content marketing strategy & execution. (Hooray). This can be a full-time employee or a consultant who takes ownership of your content strategy and creation (that’s me – hi!).
  • You have a team member who takes responsibility for all things content.

There is no option three. If there’s no dedicated person making sure your content strategy is being executed properly, it will fall apart. Things move pretty fast in the startup world. If you don’t stop and look around, your content could miss the mark.

So, what are the qualities of a great content marketer?

In order to be an effective content marketer, you need to be a good communicator. This doesn’t just mean “great writer” although that obviously helps. The person responsible for your content strategy will not only communicate externally, but they’ll also be handling internal communications.

This is the individual helping your developers, engineers, and sales people understand not only the value of content marketing but why your audience is asking for it.

They, in turn, will be the ones translating the incredible technical specs of your products into writing that will provide value to your audience.

A good content marketer also has great people and project management skills. Whether it’s making sure your editorial calendar is not missing deadlines or coordinating your freelance writers, the job of the marketer requires discipline, patience, and persistence.

There is a lot of information coming at you fast about your industry, your customers, and best practices about marketing in general. An effective content marketer not only creates excellent content, but they’re content consumers as well. They should be reading industry blogs, your competitors blogs, marketing best practices to stay ahead of the game and relevant.

You’ve got your goals, the person in charge of content…now what?

Content marketing goes the distance with a documented strategy

According to the 2017 State of Content Marketing, 46% of marketers said their organization has a documented strategy for managing content as a business asset. 44% said they don’t, and 10% didn’t even know.

I want to talk to those 10% because how can you not even know whether or not you have a documented content marketing strategy? What are you using to guide you in your actions?

I know content marketing can feel overwhelming, especially as a small business owner or a startup trying to grow, which is why it’s crucial to have a written plan you can follow throughout the year.

Here’s an interesting statistic from the same study. The documented content strategies are more prevalent in micro & small organizations. Enterprise is only at 40%.

This is huge for startup and small business owners. Use your small company size to your advantage. This means you can be more nimble with your content marketing efforts, the way you interact with your audience, and how you respond to events in real life.

But you still need a plan. Your content marketing plan should address the following.

Who: Identify Your Target Audience

If you’re a small business owner, your audience is your existing and potential customers. They’re the ones with the pain points and the content you create should be valuable to them at every step of the way. Identifying your target audience boils down to the same question—what are the pain points you’re trying to solve?

What are you bringing to the table? Who do you want to see your content?

Don’t be tone-deaf to your audience. Create content that’s relevant to them and their needs, not what you think they want to hear.

Once you’ve identified your audience, you need to make sure you’re creating content they care about, which is where keywords come in.

Some great free sources for getting to know your audience: Google trends, Google alerts, Quora, Twitter insights (if you’re on Twitter), customer surveys, and your customer service team.

What: It’s All About the Keywords 

You want to create content your target audience will actually care about. This is where the beautiful and free keyword planner tools come into play. It’s hard to be creative all the time, especially when you have a business to run.

If you’re just getting started, I highly recommend this resource from Moz.

When: Break Out the Calendar

This is my favorite part about creating a content plan. As a small business owner with a limited marketing budget, timing is everything.

You know the big shopping days, but it’s important to look beyond the obvious promotional opportunities on the calendar.

  • What are special events happening around your industry?
  • Within your community?
  • Around your customers’ lives?

Mark these days on your calendar and plan relevant content around them.

Why: Channel Your Inner Five-Year-Old

There are two million articles posted every day. Why should anybody read yours? Even if your content isn’t selling something, it should have a purpose.

How many times can you answer the question “but why?” about your content idea?

Don’t forget to put that content marketing plan in writing! I’m offering the same content planning and editorial template I use to help you with your content marketing execution. No email signups required! Just go to http://bit.ly/amplifySSW and make a copy of the doc.

As you can tell, this is just scratching the surface when it comes to lean content marketing for startups, but I hope it’s been helpful. You can feel free to reach out to me with your questions on Twitter @BerrakBiz.

 

Lessons from My Debut as a Public Speaker

Be careful what you wish for because it just might happen.

This is something I’ve been repeating to myself ever since I started on this journey. Setting your intentions and letting the universe know about those intentions lead to results.

Before we go any further, you should know that I have intense stage fright. I’m an introverted writer, and the second you put me in front of people, I get tongue-tied. Or worse, I get overly chatty, and not always in a delightful way. (I even snort).

At the end of 2016, I told a few close friends that I wanted to add “Speaker” to my list of titles. I submitted proposals to a couple of conferences. I received a few lovely rejections, which I fully expected. Thanks to the incredible group of people who have been my support system this past year, I got my first speaking opportunity at this year’s Content Marketing World as part of a panel for a session on Leveraging Content to Elevate Community.

I was going to be a speaker at my favorite conference!

I WAS GOING TO BE A SPEAKER.

*cue panic*

Then, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, the CMI team reached out to ask me if I’d be interested in being part of Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc. lab on Friday after the conference. Without hesitating, I responded with a resounding “YES!”

Wait. Why in the world would they ask me?

I kept waiting for them to email me back and say “Oh, sorry. Our mistake. We meant to ask someone else.” They didn’t. Instead, we started planning the workshop.

Had I ever done a workshop like that before? No.

Did I have any idea what I was getting myself into? No.

Would I give it my all? Absolutely.

On September 7, I sat on stage with five incredible professionals and earned my Speaker title during our first session. On September 8, I led a workshop on using content to scale an audience to a room full of small business professionals where I felt in my element.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned during my debut as a conference speaker.

Lesson one: Slow down and be mindful of your time.

My most prominent nervous tick when it comes to public speaking is the way I speed up. Speaking fast is beneficial if I’m giving an Ignite talk but not so much when I’m breaking down content marketing principles in a workshop. During my Content Inc. workshop, I sped through my hour long presentation in about 30 minutes. Now when I talk fast, I still enunciate. This is something I’m intensely self-aware of due to my accent.

It still doesn’t slow me down. In this particular instance, it did give us a lot of opportunities for people to ask me questions, but it also meant that I plowed through my content.

Note to self: Practice. Practice. Practice. No matter how well you know the topic, practicing will help calm your nerves.

Lesson two: Know your weaknesses and ask for help.

Presentations are my Achilles heel. I have a hard time visualizing flow and don’t even get me started on Powerpoint. In hindsight, I should’ve asked for help when working on the slides for my Content Inc. workshop. It wasn’t awful, but it also wasn’t the best it could’ve been.

The good thing is that this was the first time I gave this presentation, and I have the opportunity to improve.

Note to self: Reach out to people to give you feedback on your presentation.

Lesson three: Recognize your stress triggers.

My nerves finally got to me Wednesday morning, 24 hours before my first time on stage at Content Marketing World. I woke up at 4 am and let’s just say that I couldn’t hold any food or liquids down the entire day on Wednesday. This left me quite weak until I was able to eat a burger at dinner.

When I’m extra stressed, I lose my appetite and tend to gorge on caffeine. This doesn’t bode well when I’m traveling to a weeklong conference where I’m already expelling energy as an introvert.

Note to self: Hydrate, don’t rely on conference food, and take it easy on the coffee the day of your speaking engagement. 

Lesson four: Own yourself

One of my favorite speakers is fellow introvert and writer, Ann Handley. Every single person who has seen her on stage walks away feeling delighted and inspired.

Ann owns who she is. Her personality shines through with every word, every gesture, the way her presentation flows. Although I wish I could be just like Ann, there’s only one Ann Handley.

So, I embraced what makes her so great as a speaker: She owns herself and everything about her personality when she’s on stage.

That’s what I did. I began my Content Inc. lab workshop by introducing myself.

Owning who I am from the start made me feel a lot more comfortable, and it set the mood for my audience.

Bonus: We all bonded over our love for the Oxford comma.

Lesson five: Leave your life at the door

From the minute I set foot in the room where I was speaking, I closed the door on everything happening in the outside world, including my life. The second I’m commanding the attention of my audience, they deserve my full attention in return.

I was present in that room, and the only notifications that mattered were the questions coming from the individuals in front of me.

The more engaged I am with my audience, the more invested they’ll be in what I’m saying.

These are the lessons I’ll be taking with me to my next speaking engagement during 2017 Seattle Startup Week, where I’ll be talking about Lean Content Marketing.

What are some of your favorite tips for being a successful speaker?

 

Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Content Marketing World

It’s that time of year again – the orange takes over, excitement fills the air, and we all descend on to Cleveland to attend Content Marketing World.

It’s no secret that Content Marketing World has a special place in my heart, along with the entire CMI team, and the incredible people I’ve met over the past three years.

But it can also be overwhelming. I’m an ambivert and conferences where I am “on” all the time for 4 days straight can take a lot out of me. My energy gets zapped once the adrenaline wears off, especially if I’m not practicing self-care throughout the conference. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten a lot better at preserving my energy in order to survive the week as an introvert.

I want to share a few of those tricks with you. I also reached out to the #CMWorld Slack Community to get their input.

So, here are a few ways you can survive Content Marketing World as an introvert.

Planning is crucial.

From the second you pick up your badge at registration, it’s going to feel nonstop. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t have a game plan for sessions, networking, and “me” time. Before you arrive at the convention center for the first day of sessions, have a plan in place.

Block out “me” time

I cannot get through an entire day of sessions and networking without taking a break. It can be going for a walk outside, or even back to my hotel room to decompress for 30 minutes. The amazing thing about conferences like CMWorld are the ample opportunities to network, which gives you a chance to walk away for a little bit.

“Make sure to schedule some alone time. It’s OK to head back to your room for an hour, or walk offsite for a cup of coffee to recharge your batteries.” – Erika Heald.

Use Twitter to your advantage

I absolutely love Twitter because it allows me to keep connected even when I’m not in the room. Throughout the conference, use a tool like Tweetdeck so you can have a column dedicated to the #CMWorld hashtag. It’ll allow you to engage with others before you even meet them face to face.

As a result, you’ve already made a connection without the awkward small talk that comes from walking up to strangers. I’m personally a prolific tweeter during conferences, both during sessions and networking events. It helps me feel connected and lets my personality shine before I awkwardly stumble over my words in person.

Prepare to take risks.

Last year at Content Marketing World, I challenged myself  to introduce myself to 5 new people every single day. Trust me, it was a daunting task. I tend to stick to my quiet corner or huddle with the people I know. It was a daunting task that I made a little easier by simply going up to people, extending my hand, and saying, “Hi, I challenged myself to meet new people today and you’re one of them. I’m Berrak.”

Sounds a little silly and it definitely felt a little silly but you know what? It worked because it was a straightforward ice breaker. The worst thing that happened were people politely shaking my hand, saying their name, and being uninterested in engaging beyond that. It happens. Even at a networking event, you won’t connect with everyone you talk to but you know what? It’s OK to take that risk.

It goes the other way too. Ben Rome, a CMWorld attendee I met at lunch last year who I’m running a session with this year suggests the following:

Typically a wallflower at networking events? Challenge yourself to talk to 2-3 people. Overly extroverted? Challenge yourself to listen more and engage the conversation, rather than dominate it.

Break the ice.

I know, the idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger can be daunting. The great thing about CMWorld is that our badges have a few key pieces of information that can help break the ice. I just talked about my ice breaker trick, so let me share with you a few suggestions from fellow CMWorld alums.

“What made you want to come to this conference?” and also, “Who was your favorite speaker/who are you most excited to see?” – Jason Schemmel

“Is this your first time seeing Joe’s Orange suit?” – Jeff Renoe

Keep the conversation going

The most important thing about connecting with new people at Content Marketing World (or any other conference) is the follow through. Last year, I was so excited about the conversations and connections I’d made, I started a CMWorld Community Slack (You should join us!)

“Reaching out to the handful of people I connected with at last year’s event and using LinkedIn to email leaders of workshops, sessions and labs I’m considering taking. The latter has a twofold benefit: honing down the wealth of learning opportunities and two, making a human connection.” – Lorraine Thompson

As intimidating and exhausting a conference can feel to an introvert, it is possible to survive it with your energy intact. I have one last tip to share with you before I see you at the opening reception:

There are more of us introverts than you may realize. There’s a good chance the person sitting quietly next to you isn’t sure how to start a conversation, either. Keep it simple, and keep it kind. A welcoming “Hello” can go a long way.

Oh and if you’re at Content Marketing World this week, I would love to see you at our session on Thursday where we’ll put all the pieces into place for you & your community.

Want to connect with me before coming to my session on Thursday? Here’s where you can find me throughout the conference.

See you around Cleveland, content nerds.

Content Marketing Lessons from My Unexpectedly Viral Tweet

On July 31, I got a news alert. Scaramucci was out as the White House Communications Director after 10 days. I don’t know why but the first thing I thought of was avocados. So, my very first tweet that had the link to the news article had that reference.

I even thought it was funny enough to post as my Facebook status that morning, which received a lot of engagement. I was going to go on with my day. I needed to get ready for my flight.

Then, I got hit with a couple more ideas to post on Twitter. After all, the entire internet was on board. This was the creative relief we needed from the onslaught of, well, reality. So, I tweeted out a few different references. I used different hashtags. I sometimes referred to him as The Mooch and other times, used #Scaramucci.

A couple got likes. Some retweets here and there, but nothing major.

Until.

This was actually a throwaway tweet. I just kind of posted it as I thought about it and then posted my favorite, which had a Game of Thrones reference. I thought if any of my tweets that day got any traction, it would obviously be the Game of Thrones one.

To my surprise, it wasn’t. It was my ‘throwaway’ tweet that resonated the most with people for some reason. It was even included in a Buzzfeed News roundup.

I said RIP to my notifications and got ready for my flight.

My one “viral” tweet reinforced what I’ve been telling my clients about content marketing and social media all along. So, here are my learnings from my 24 hours of internet fame.

You have to be flexible with your content

Once you have a content strategy and editorial plan in place (and for the love of coffee, please have these in place), what you put out into the world cannot be repetitive. You won’t know what resonates with your audience until you’re putting out content that actually resonates with your audience. This means that you have to be flexible enough to play around with the wording and types of content you’re releasing into the world.

While it’s important to have a consistent voice, that doesn’t mean your voice has to be rigid.

Hashtags don’t guarantee exposure

I really thought that this tweet would be the one that got the most engagement. I was using multiple references, and #GameofThrones is still relatively active on Monday mornings.

As you can see, I was wrong.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story

My viral tweet received over 153K impressions, but what does that mean? Not much, to be honest. It means that with over 900 retweets, it made its way in front of a lot of eyeballs on Twitter, but I only got a single follower from it. 87 people cared enough to click over to my profile to learn more about me.

When you’re asking your social media manager or content manager to create viral posts, are you thinking about the implications? Just because something strikes a chord with your audience doesn’t mean it’ll lead to money in the bank for you.

Want to break down the actual ROI of content marketing? Jay Baer has a great formula. Spoiler: It involves actual math.

Don’t squander the first impression opportunity

My tweet had nothing to do with the content marketing and strategy services I offer. The audience it would drive to my profile were most likely not my target customers. But what if one set of eyeballs belonged to a small business owner scrolling through Twitter between phone calls or while eating lunch? My pinned tweet when I woke up that morning was a general post about the services I offer, linking to my website.

After the tweet picked up traction, I quickly drafted another tweet that I pinned to the top of my profile:

Cheesy? Yes. But potentially effective.

It was an unexpected experiment that was fun while it lasted. That’s the thing about content marketing and social media. Not everything will be a home run.

Amplifying your voice through the noise requires planning, tenacity, and a whole lot of flexibility.

Have you ever had a tweet go unexpectedly viral? What was your experience like?

 

Oh, by the way, are you going to Content Marketing World this September? I’m speaking about leveraging content to elevate your community with an amazing group of professionals. We’d love to see you in our session! If you haven’t registered yet, you can use BERRAKBIZ100 to save an additional $100!

#TuesdayThrees: Keys to Being a Successful Ghostwriter

I’ve always considered writing to be my passion.

My mom taught me how to read and write when I was four, and the running joke of my life has been that no one has been able to stop me since.

However, it was never supposed to be a career path, especially ghostwriting.

When I went into law, writing would be a crucial part of my career, but to get paid to be a writer? That seemed utterly ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, I wrote under a pen name for the first part of my freelance career.

I wrote for content mills, for local real estate companies, and for agencies that paid me next to nothing for my work.

I was essentially a glorified ghostwriter, and ironically, there’s really no glory in being a ghostwriter. (more…)

Content Marketing Begins with a Plan [Free Template for SMBs & Solopreneurs]

free content marketing plan template

It’s December, which means we’re all planning for 2017 in our businesses.

According to the latest research from the Content Marketing Institute, only 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers have a written content marketing plan.

This is baffling to me.

I know content marketing can feel overwhelming, especially as a small business owner or a solopreneur trying to grow your business, which is why it’s crucial to have a written plan you can follow throughout the year.

The first question I ask my clients when doing planning for the following year isn’t about their marketing strategy. The first question is “what are your business goals for 2017?” Once you have your business plan and your benchmarks set for the year, then you can create a content marketing strategy that will ladder up to those business goals.

Confession: I’m really good at executing this for my clients, but I let my own marketing fall through the cracks. I know this is a challenge a lot of solopreneurs and freelancers have. Which is why my business strategy for 2017 is to treat myself like a client.

For small business owners, one of the biggest challenges is not being sure where to begin with documenting a content strategy. How do you create an editorial calendar? What should be included on there? How do you measure success? Which dates should you be focusing on?

I’ve got the answer to the first two questions for you. While I’ll be releasing a full content marketing guide for solopreneurs and small businesses in the beginning of 2017, I’ve got a special treat for you today.

I’ve created a customizable content marketing plan template for you to get a head start on getting your content plan down in writing. It’s the same exact template I’ll be using for my own plan, and it’s the same one I’ve customized for my clients in the past.

And I’m giving it to my newsletter subscribers – for free. You’ll also be the first one to get a copy of the guide when it’s completed!

Want to be the first one to get a copy of the full content marketing guide when it’s ready? Sign up for my newsletter!

What’s your biggest struggle with content marketing?

Know someone who can use this template? Is this perfect for your Twitter audience? Click below to share the post and the love!