Content marketing is a popular way for startups to get customers, but for many teams that are struggling to launch a product, blogging may seem like a low ROI. If you’re trying to decide if content is a good bet for your company, here are 6 reasons why you need to start doing it now — and strategies for doing it well.
When you’re a large, well-funded company, dedicating resources to a company blog is an easy decision. However, as a small startup with limited resources, you might want your team’s time to be invested elsewhere. The reality is you need to start doing content marketing before your product is ready if you want to take full advantage of it.
The reason why content marketing is so popular among startups is because it works. Many highly successful companies like Buffer, CoSchedule, WPCurve, and others have recognized its value and chosen it as their main channel for acquiring new customers. What makes it so great is that, unlike other tactics, it can be applied to any stage of the marketing funnel to help move prospects along.
If you still have doubts about the impact a blog can have for your startup, here are 6 examples of how content marketing can bring more traffic to your funnel and help convert prospects into paying customers.
1. Build Your Exposure and Get on Page One
Online searches will be your primary source for traffic and leads, but getting enough traffic to feed a marketing funnel is a common challenge for most startups. A direct search for your company name might get you on the front page, but that isn’t what people search — they search for answers to problems. The names of early-stage startups won’t be on the front page for queries related to their product.
Regular, high-quality posts that engage your target market create the shortest path to search engine glory. The resources you put into blogging compound over time. If you have a good SEO/keyword strategy in place, exceptional content that includes those terms will increase your ranking, draw in more visitors and generate more leads.
Start by targeting long-tail keywords — they have lower search volume but are also easier and quicker to rank for because of lower competition. The benefits of targeting and ranking for multiple keywords add up over time as your site will get an overall reputation boost from search engines. Soon, this will enable you to rank for high-volume competitive keywords.
Use a hub-and-spoke strategy to get the most out of your content
Instead of running your blog like a diary of what’s happening inside your company, use the Hub-and-Spoke strategy to dominate a topic that’s important to your product and your audience. Appcues took inspiration from this strategy when they created their User Onboarding Academy, which gave them the direction and depth they needed to jumpstart the growth of their blog.
Pick a head term that you want to rank for and create a hub page that will unite all relevant content on the topic. For example, if your product is an email tool, you might want to create a page that’s targeting the term email marketing.
Produce content on all topics you want to cover under your chosen topic — in the example above, you might want to publish on topics such as how to segment your audience, how to personalize your emails, and so on. Add links to all of these spokes on your hub page.
2. Establish Your Business as a Leader on the Topics That Matter to Your Audience
It’s important to get potential customers to recognize your brand as an authoritative voice in your industry as early as possible. Blogging gives you an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise in the field in which you’re building your product. Once you start producing content on these topics, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you are aware of the challenges your customers are facing — and that you can provide a solution for them. This allows you to earn the trust of your target audience and bring them closer to becoming customers.
Andy Crestodina used content marketing to grow his agency Orbit Media to $5m in annual turnover. He started publishing blog posts covering strategic, tactical and thought leadership aspects of effective content marketing. Rather than viewing it as giving knowledge away for free, he saw it as an opportunity to help other business owners avoid common mistakes and build his company’s reputation as an industry frontrunner.
Understand your audience to become a thought leader
Monitor discussions on Quora, forums, and high-traffic publications to identify trending topics that solve common, persistent or expensive problems. Questions that people ask in these forums as well as on your own website will help you generate ideas for actionable walkthroughs you should create for your readers.
If you’re building a solution for a challenge your audience is facing, you must provide strong viewpoints on where alternative solutions fall short. Turn your own original thinking about those topics into interesting content your target audience wants to read.
3. Create Space to Share Your Successes
As prospects are moving along the marketing funnel, it’s critical that you develop a relationship with them and earn their trust to get them to commit to becoming customers. Your blog is a great place to lift the veil on the inner workings of certain aspects of your business.
Being transparent about the values that motivate your team will make your blog feel personal — and help you build a relationship with your readers.
Incorporate your whole team to make your blog feel personal
Get everyone on your team — from founders to new hires in support, engineering, etc. — to blog about topics related to your culture and how your team deals with common pitfalls startups face. Wistia’s Chris Savage uses this tactic to great success with posts on Medium that build up his personal brand.
4. Acquire More Customers
Not only can blogs pull people in, they can also convert prospects to buyers. Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to turn warm leads into loyal customers in the bottom stage of the funnel. One of the reasons Buffer went all-in with content marketing was that in the early days of the company, the content they were producing was responsible for 100% of the new customers they acquired.
Getting started with blogging doesn’t require dedicating extensive resources, and you may already have team members who are willing to be content creators. However, that doesn’t mean that turning content marketing into an effective customer acquisition channel is without its challenges. To do it well, you need a thorough strategy so that you know how and when to connect readers who are completely oblivious of your brand to long-term customers.
Turn content into a customer acquisition machine
Your blog can be a powerful channel for getting new customers on board, but to get there, you need a well-defined strategy that guides this reader-to-customer process.
To get a feeling of this, build a content funnel mapping the journey of all marketing personas, from those who have no knowledge of your brand to enthusiastic customers. Plan content that targets each persona in each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Readers in the top of the funnel, who are unaware of your brand and are just starting to research a solution to their problem, have different needs than those who are comparing different providers before committing to a sale.
Think beyond your own site when creating your content strategy. Part of the magic formula for Buffer was guest blogging, which they used to publish over 150 guest posts in 9 months. Guest posts established their brand and drove their first 100,000 users to their site.
5. Improve Your LTV/CAC Ratio
Many startups, and especially SaaS companies, operate on a business model where acquiring new customers is an expensive proposition that only becomes profitable if businesses can get “paid back” through repeat purchases from those customers. The ratio between the cost of acquiring a customer — CAC — and how much the average customer pays you over their lifetime — LTV — is an important metric that allows startups to track their performance and make sure they’re not losing money.
Blogging helps with both sides of the ratio. It helps drive CAC down because your blog is essentially a channel owned by you, so posting there is free. To make the most of it, you have to nail down the audience that’s best positioned to benefit from your product and understand exactly what they need from products like yours so you can optimize your outreach.
To improve LTV, focus on publishing content that attracts and educates customers to understand the value of your product. This will make them more engaged by the time they’re ready to purchase — resulting in a higher motivation to use your product and, hence, higher LTV.
Trust is another important benefit that blogging can create for your brand. Being helpful to your readers increases their confidence in your product and their long-term loyalty — leading again to a higher LTV.
Know how to measure your blogging efforts
Calculate LTV per channel to get a better understanding of whether blogging is really working for your brand. Compare your CAC, LTV, and the ratio between the two for all the main channels you’re using to make sure you’re spending cash in the most efficient way.
6. Encourage Customer Feedback That Improves Your Brand & Product
Your company blog is an excellent way to communicate with your customers to reveal updates and features you’re building in response to their input. On top of keeping customers excited about new versions of your product, this also gives you an opportunity to learn about your customers and encourage feedback from them in the comments section of each post. Invite them to tell you how they’re using your product and whether it’s meeting their needs, and you’ll gain insights that may enhance your product or services. This information is important for any business, but especially for an early-stage startup.
Publishing on a company blog gives you an effortless way to perform customer discovery and find out the real problems your customers are experiencing.
Comments create more engagement
Allow comments on your blog and invite readers to share their opinion with you. Read and respond to comments, interact with readers and follow up with those who share interesting observations to learn more about how they use your product and how they think it could improve.
Blogging is Scalable and Provides Long-term Benefits
Don’t be intimidated by all the reports on how noisy and overcrowded the content marketing space is today. There are always readers looking for a product like yours who want a great blog that’s well-researched, well-written, and — above all — ready to meet their need for valuable information.
Creating a blog gives you the best return of almost any marketing plan, so take advantage of this effective marketing tool and use the tips outlined above to start publishing quality content that converts readers into customers. The engagement from your readers will give you both the insight you need to keep providing exceptional content — and create product improvements that your customers want.