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.

 

#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…)

7 Ways to Be a Rockstar During Twitter Chats [Plus A Calendar]

Confession: I am obsessed with Twitter chats.

In my opinion, Twitter chats are one of the best ways to connect and engage with others on Twitter without having to leave your comfort zone. Even so, a Twitter chat feel intimidating if it’s your first time, especially because they can move relatively fast. I’ve been participating in Twitter chats regularly over the past couple of years, even having the honor of being a guest host on a couple of my favorites.

By the end of this blog, you’ll be armed with tips to help you become Twitter chat rockstar, a list of my favorite chats and a Google Calendar to bookmark, so you never miss your favorites.

First, the basics.

What is a Twitter chat?

You’re already familiar with hashtags on Twitter. A Twitter chat is a designated hashtag where a group of users meets a dedicated time to discuss a predetermined topic.

For me, it’s the perfect networking event: I don’t have to leave my comfort zone. It moves pretty fast. It’s on my favorite social media platform, and more importantly, I don’t have to bring a business card.

If you have just one hour a day to dedicate to Twitter, spend that time participating in a Twitter chat.

Why should you participate in Twitter chats?

The key to being successful on social media is engagement, and a Twitter chat is the perfect conduit for engagement. By attending Twitter chats, you will:

  • Increase exposure for yourself, your company, and your content
  • Display your expertise by sharing knowledge around a relevant topic
  • Create valuable connections with businesses and individuals within your industry
  • Have the opportunity to learn something new

Now, on to the tips.

(more…)

What do the new Twitter changes mean for you?

Our favorite platform Twitter just announced a few upcoming changes that have me pretty excited. It’s no secret that I love Twitter as a platform. When used correctly, it’s one of the best tools to #AmplifyYourBiz. So what are these Twitter changes and what does it mean for you? They all have to do with doing more with the 140-character limit that makes the platform special (at least it does to me.) (more…)

Harnessing the Power of Online Reviews for Your Small Business

When my brother’s car broke down last month, and the dealership quoted him a ridiculous price for fixing it, we turned to the internet to find a local mechanic. He’s new to this city, and I’ve never actually needed to get my car fixed – so we went down the list of small businesses that came up.

There was the specialty shop where I had gotten my oil changed. We went there first without looking at any reviews. His quote was lower than the dealership, but we didn’t want to commit before shopping around a bit more. There was a little muffler shop with 55 reviews on Yelp – and what’s more, they were all POSITIVE reviews. I looked up the address for the muffler shop. It was located on a street I’ve driven down hundreds of times in the past two years, but had no idea it was there.

We drove up – I actually passed it the first go. The location itself is hidden by trees, and even walking by it on the sidewalk, I would never notice it. The little garage looked run down – and the lot is tiny. We walked in to a tiny room with just a desk, two chairs, and the owner at the computer. He was on the phone when we walked in. He asked us how he could help, we told him our predicament, and he said he would call us in 15 minutes with a quote after doing some research.

If we had walked in without seeing those positive reviews, I would’ve told my brother we should move along and find another option. He called my brother with a quote, and we decided we would have his car towed there. When we went back in with the car, he asked us how we had found him. When we told him he had great reviews online, he was genuinely surprised. As an unassuming small business owner, he had gotten two new customers simply because of word-of-mouth.

My brother and I were part of the 90% of consumers who read online reviews before visiting a business. According to a survey from business2community, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5-9% increase in a business’ revenue, and a negative review can cost you 30 customers.

There’s no longer any doubt when it comes to the power of online reviews. So, how can a small business owner encourage their customers to leave those reviews?  (more…)

6 Tips for Freelancer Success (from a failure)

If you missed my Confession: I’m a Failure post, you can read it here.

If you’re going into freelancing full-time, have a plan. I know it seems like the sexy alternative to the drone of the 9-5 office life. Escaping from your cubicle, working remotely, getting to do what you love every day – it’s the dream. On the other hand, it can also seem like the best option when you’ve got a box in your hand in the back of a cab on a hot summer day. However, the nuances of freelancing are exhausting. The depression that comes with the fear and uncertainty is crippling.

If you’re not intentional with your decision to go into freelancing, it will knock you down and make you crawl up a jagged wall.

I had no plan. I had no savings. I had no safety net. I was just stubborn.

Define what success means for you.  What’s your end game? What does success look like for you? Are you freelancing just to make some extra money on the side of your full-time job? Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to make a million dollars? Will you give up freelancing if the perfect full-time job fell in your lap?

If you don’t know what success looks like, it’s easy to be indecisive. If you have at least an idea of success and your path to it, you can be more selective and intentional with the opportunities you pursue. I didn’t know what success looked like for me, so I took on way too many projects, stretched myself way too thin, and ultimately sacrificed the golden opportunities for the dead-end ones.

Do a reality a check about your life. Freelancing impacts every single aspect of your life. How are your relationships? Are you in debt? What’s your working style? How do you handle adversity? What are your goals? What’s your back-up plan? Do you have a good support system?

This was the biggest contribution to my failure. I was in a new relationship I was ultimately unhappy in, I had family issues I was dealing with, on top of debt, and the ridiculous pressure I put on myself to finish school. All of this was on top of diving into freelancing full time without a plan.

Stop the comparison game. This is the worst thing you can do. Especially in the age of social media, when there are constant blog posts about the success of others. How to quit your job and travel the world. How Y made her first million before the age of 19. There are things to aspire to, sure, but that’s where defining YOUR success comes into play. If you start comparing your progress with others, you will stumble and fail. Your individual circumstances differ from others. Your success will never be identical.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to success.

Never hesitate to ask for help. It feels like a dog-eat-dog world out there, and sometimes it is. The one thing I’ve learned since the beginning of this journey is that there are people who WANT to help you succeed – but you have to ask for it. Turn down the stubbornness, turn up the vulnerability, and be honest. You cannot do it all. Despite the endless amount of information available on the web, nothing beats a 1:1 conversation over coffee with someone who has been there. Remember that everyone is busy, so when you reach out, be clear and concise.

Respect their time, their expertise, and you might be surprised at where it leads.

Know your worth. Even though I was a communications professional with experience, I still thought freelancing meant I had to start from scratch. I cannot tell you the number of articles I wrote at a penny per word. I still get stressed out when I think about the clients who called me at 10 PM to yell at me about something that wasn’t my fault, and out of my scope of work – but I let them because I thought that’s how things worked. Do a gut check. Think about your experience and the value you bring to the table.

Don’t let others dictate your worth. Define it, and stick to it – no matter how scary it may feel.

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