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Content Marketing for Startups

Creating great marketing is about fostering a relationship with potential consumers and developing an identity. 

Finals are over. Graduation is right around the corner. Families and friends celebrate your awesome achievements. Woot woot! Life is good!

Then reality sets in. You're a Journalism or English major. You need a job.

A Mixed Job Market

Traditional broadcast and print journalism aren't hiring with the same velocity as they once did. For instance, some newspapers are shutting down, some are reducing headcount and some are going from daily releases to a couple of issues per week.

Take a look at this LinkedIn study, Winners and Losers During the Great Recession, Internet and online publishing are among the fastest growing industries, and newspapers are significantly contracting.

Why The Shift?

Our world has transitioned to a digital world. The buying process has dramatically changed-including the way we consume content and the way businesses connect with prospects and customers. Think about this: Barack Obama started his run for presidency before the first iPhone was released ... the iPhone has only been out for 6 years! The iPad has only been out for 3 years. And widespread adoption of the internet has only occurred over the last 15 - 20 years. Now we (and businesses) can't imagine life without it.

Further, according to Forrester, 70% of a buyer's evaluation is complete before they reach out to a salesperson. Similarly marketers are spending up to 50% of their budgets on digital marketing activities.

The Trend Is Your Friend: Content Marketing as a Career Choice

Facts and trends are great, but think about this ...

What's the prerequisite for any interesting digital marketing activity? Thoughtful content.

Now what's the prerequisite for any thoughtful piece of content? YOU!!!

Businesses (start-ups and Fortune 2000 companies alike) are embracing the digital trend and must create thoughtful content to keep up. They'll create blogs, e-books, videos, webinars, whitepapers and much more. I speak with marketers every day and listen to what they need: content, content and more content.

That's where you come in. You can write beautifully. You can work independently. You can meet deadlines. You're trustworthy. You can immediately contribute to teams. And hopefully you're fairly tech-savvy.

Bottomline: you're hireable, and businesses are actively hiring people like you. Still not convinced? Take a look at another recent post The Content Marketing Mashup of Writing, Business, and Passion to see the evolution of a content marketing career.

There's marketing, and then there's content marketing, a niche that's becoming more and more relevant in a digital era. Startups especially need to make the most of content marketing as a means to draw in customers, clients and visitors on a variety of platforms. "Content marketing" can be found just about anywhere from startup company websites to Facebook pages, email newsletters and tweets. However, there's a right and wrong way to approach content marketing, especially as a startup.

Established companies can afford to take a few more risks because if one content marketing strategy doesn't pan out, they still have solid footing. For those just getting started, you're not just marketing, but also building a brand and reputation. As such, it's crucial to follow eight musts for startup content marketing. This will put your business on the path to garner the right attention from the right markets.

1. Write to your audience

The tone and style of the content should be directed towards your key demographics. For example, you'd adopt a very different approach marketing to teens as opposed to baby boomers. When your audience is diverse, it's a good idea to lean towards the conservative side. Ideally, you have different platforms (such as LinkedIn vs. Tumblr) so that you can adapt your content.

2. There's no such thing as too much proofreading

Get as many eyes on the content before it's published as possible. In an ideal world, you'll have a marketing editor on the team or secured as a contractor.

3. Cover topics that will perform

It takes a skilled content writer to make the most of your efforts, so don't depend on the college intern who's majoring in writing. Writing for businesses is a key area that gets overlooked or delegated because it seems easy. It's anything but, and not just anyone ( or any writer) has what it takes.

James Parsons, founder of Blogpros, a content marketing and blog management company, agrees. "We really have to put ourselves in the shoes of our client's potential customers; know what they're searching, and write great content that caters to those searches. Without that key element, you aren't going to get the powerful exposure that most businesses are looking for".

4. Embrace white space

People will be reading online content on a number of devices such as smartphones and tablets. They need white space to breathe, so don't be afraid to put content in short, digestible chunks. Big blocks of text will turn readers off.

5. Season text with images

"Content marketing" often refers to text, but it can also be infographics, videos or images. A good mix of all these elements can engage readers and draw them in. More and more, marketers are leading towards images instead of text.

6. Build consistency

As a startup, you're probably still figuring out your brand, message and style. As this develops, make sure your content aligns with it. It should look like it's written from the same entity, your company, and should showcase consistency throughout.

7. Provide the right amount of content

Bootstrapping your startup is a great way to keep costs low, but that doesn't mean that you should do everything yourself. Unfortunately, in startup culture, the DIY approach has become some sort of badge of honor. How many founder stories focus on the early years when all the founders survived on was their resourcefulness, passion, and packets of ramen? But unlike this piece that states otherwise, we think it's extremely risky for founders to do their own PR.

See the thing is, founders sell the product.

A smart publicist or brand journalist will play to the audience, selling only the features and benefits of the product that will appeal or apply to them. Founders trying to either save a buck or think they can do their own PR better (and I know some can, don't get me wrong, but why focus on that when they should be building a great product?), often times get jaded by their own product. They try desperately to create angles, pitches and stories based on what they want the audience to hear, not what the audience should be hearing.

In the article " Founder-Driven PR: Why It's Important to Drive Your Own Campaign " the author details the reasons why founders should stay away from PR firms. But it should have been titled "Why It's Important to Not Hire Shitty PR Agencies".

Many of the problems founders run into when hiring PR professionals are not because the PR industry is no longer necessary, but because they hire people who suck at their job. Just because you had a bad experience at Burger King that doesn't mean you would swear off burgers forever, right?

1. Tell a Remarkable Story

You can't sell the product, you need to sell the story. The secret of great storytelling? Most products aren't remarkable, but great stories are. But producing remarkable content takes commitment, foresight, innovation, and an understanding of what makes a story remarkable to your audience (Seth Godin goes into a lot of detail about how to be remarkable here). All things that are better off in the hands of professionals.

There's this misconception that "your message and image changes each time you change PR agencies." No decent PR agency would suggest an angle that is not directly related to the vision of the company/founder. Angles change, but overall messaging does not.

2. Tell a Story Your Audience Can Invest In

A great story told to the wrong audience is a bad story. Part of good storytelling the ability to align your story with your audience. It's the difference between conveying what the audience needs/wants vs. conveying something self-serving.

This is harder for founders to do because they're so attached to their self-serving story. They are so focused on their goals for their startup that they have tunnel vision when it comes to their PR. So instead of seeing the stories they tell as something that provides value for the audience, they can only see what the stories can do for them.

It's like what marketing expert Ann Handley says in this Entrepreneur article: "The main reason I'm a fan of hiring trained journalists is that they put the needs of the audience (vs. those of the company) first. Witness the eminently readable corporate-branded digital magazine Qualcomm Spark-two-thirds of its staff are former print or broadcast journalists."

The proof is in the pudding. Hiring professionals who provide value to the audience works. They're a necessity if you want to produce exceptional stories.

3. Leave Pitching to the Experts (Love, Journalists)

Founders can help guide the story (you don't "give up control of the message"; no decent PR agency would ask for that), but they need to let the experts do their magic. There's a huge difference between having a remarkable story and knowing how to pitch it. Emails go unread. Bad pitches get shamed on Twitter. A remarkable story isn't enough in the same way remarkable content isn't enough.

The thing that many people don't understand is that journalists do want to talk to founders... eventually. But if the founder can't pitch, they won't get the opportunity in the first place. A journalist is a professional who doesn't want their time wasted. So why wouldn't you use another professional to deal with a professional journalist? Besides, a great PR agency would make the effort to know your story inside and out, whether it was there from the beginning or not.

4. Relationships Matter More Than Ever

Journalists and influencers care about relationships. Whether journalists and PR pros want to admit it or not, having an extensive network is the key to PR success.

Yes, journalists do play favourites (even if that just means they'll always read your emails). But the only way to be a favourite is by fostering relationships, which most founders don't bother to do. Instead, many founders waste time by trying to build them all from scratch.

5. Founders Should Focus on Product/Vision

Doing everything yourself does not mean you're an amazing entrepreneur. It just means that you're stretched every which way until you're worn thin and end up burned out. Founders shouldn't be doing PR themselves, you should be focused on creating and improving the product and vision.

Yes, startups' short shelf life may make it seem like you should be going all in. But if it compromises your ability to execute the nucleus of it all-the service or product you're offering, then the money you save by DIYing your own PR might come at a higher price-your time and sanity.


Some things are better left to the professionals. PR is one of them. Think of it this way. The stories your brand tells are some of the most important things your brand can do apart from the product or service it provides.

Something that significant should be handled by someone who knows what they're doing, instead of someone who is just guessing along the way. Sometimes if you want something done well, you have to let someone else handle it.

Agree or disagree with this post? Let us know in the comments.

Content creation and has entered the era of the expert. I now think that those who are passionate and knowledgeable about a particular subject matter can, and should, have a go online to try generate some additional income. Using that knowledge base and passion it's possible to create a ton of good stuff for content marketing which can help provide a nice supplemental income, or who knows, maybe a whole lot more. This post is about content marketing 101 and if you'd like to get yourself going online, or even if you're already active online, I hope the following will help you think tangentially about content marketing.

Content Marketing 101 - The Era of the Expert

What I'm going to give you now is an outline on how to brain storm for ideas for content creation, a way to try get you to think tangentially about your content marketing. For each of the points below I'm going to pick a random profession/hobby/passion off the top off my head and give you an idea of how to implement each of the below ideas. You ready? Buckle up.

1) Content Marketing - Think Like a Teacher

How would you teach somebody something? Dissect your niche and see what problems people might have within in. For example, if you're running an online fishing business, how could you teach people to add the lure perfectly to the line? or, what is the best way to maximise the distance of the cast on a new rod?

Create content around things that you can show people how to do. When you drill down into your niche you'll find lots of different things that you can teach to people - create bite size "lessons" and you'll be creating useful content in jig time. Not only that but "lessons" and "how to" type content lend themselves very nicely to multiple content formats like slide presentations, video and blog posts - and you know that's the good stuff.

any avid philatelist could even make stamps sexy!

2) Content Marketing - Be an Aggregator

Collate and aggregate facts, stats, data, info about your niche or what's happening in your market. Say for example you're passionate about stamps, a real philatelist. You could collate the most recent releases of stamps and categorise by country, year, price etc. Each blog post could talk about a specific genre of stamps. You could also look at historical facts about say the evolution of the stamp, or why a certain set of stamps has the print and details that it has. With some nifty infographic work any avid philatelist could even make stamps sexy!

Think about what you're passionate about, or what you're an expert in - what dates, numbers, stats, local history or events come to your head when you first think about your area of expertise? Then, from each starting date or stat try pull in other stats related to that main stat. This content creation idea can yield a rich supply of expert status enforcing content - show the world what you got!

3) Content Marketing - Get Topical

Where possible try ride on the coat tails of a hot topic in your industry or area of expertise. This can supply you with a steady steam of related content creation ideas as there is always a new hot topic. Say for example you're a hardcore horticulturist - big changes in weather that affects plant growth could be something you could talk about to try attract local readers. Also, if there are outbreaks of blight or some large scale pest problem you can talk about how to try solve any of those problems. Perhaps you've been able to grow something that is particularly unusual to grow in your region (like the watermelons my father grew in the photo). Whenever there are gala gardening shows in your area get there to take photos to report about it - again a great way to target local readers, heck, you could even bring a blog business card with you. Whatever your niche is there are always topcial events or trends you can use as a source to create content.

4) Content Marketing - Slice Up Your Services

This is a great way to create content and also promote what you do. Analyse all of the products or services you offer and see how you can talk about the minute details of each one. Each slice of your service or product range could form the basis for a blog post or some content.

Say for example you're an interior decorator. So, one way to slice up this service to create content might be to do special blog posts like "The Last 7 Lamps I Had To Get" which would contain pictures and a bit of info about each of the last 7 lamps you bought whilst doing interior decorating for some previous clients. Services which lend themselves to lots of photo opportunities can create content around the photos, again using the interior decorator idea, an infographic of a completed room could contain pop out images of the individual items purchased with info about why it was chosen so that people might learn a thing or two about interior decorating. Then, you can add a cherry on top to this content creation idea by getting in touch with the producers of the products you've highlighted in your infographic - they could be happy to share it on.

5) Content Marketing - Brand Yourself

In this era of the expert you are your brand and so you have to create content about brand you! What are your past experiences that make you an expert in your given area? Why are you so passionate about it? How do you see the future of your niche progressing or changing? Any tales from the past of an interesting scenario or thing that relates to your niche. Break down the things you've done in the past so you can craft short story style posts about your heroics.

Say for example you were a WordPress web designer (cough) you could talk about past achievements or successes (cough, again) and provide info about how you did them. In the era of the expert it's all about brand you so make sure your content marketing strategy includes some posts about you.

Content Marketing 101 - The Era of the Expert

And there you have it, content marketing 101 for the era of the expert - five tips that will hopefully help you look at what you do and how you can use your knowledge or expertise to create content. Mix up some of the ideas from the previous five points to get creative with your content marketing and think tangentially.

If you have some other tips please leave a comment below with them as I want to hear them. Sharing this post is free today, so if you're read as far as here you might as well press one of those buttons on the left and/or join the mailing list below!

Also, if you'd like me to come up with some content marketing ideas for you just comment below, let me know your area of expertise or passion and I'll see what I can do!

This post is by Robert Ryan from

An interesting report was published last week by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs in the US on B2B content marketing and predictions for 2013 in the US market.

Wikipedia defines "content marketing" thus:

Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty.

It's as good a definition as any I've seen that focuses on the role of content - reports, videos, white papers, blog posts, whatever it might be - that, very broadly speaking, has a middleman purpose as a catalyst to connect buyer and seller.

While the report - called B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends - North America - is about what's happening in the US, I think there's strong validity for looking at this report with UK eyes as well.

According to the report, B2B marketers are spending more, using more tactics and distributing their content on more social networks than they have before. There's also more uncertainty among B2B marketers on whether they're employing tactics effectively.

Note the top seven tactics in the chart above:

  • Social media other than blogs - 87%
  • Articles on your own website - 83%
  • E-newsletters - 78%
  • Blogs - 77%
  • Case studies - 71%
  • Video - 70%
  • Articles on other websites - 70%

Gamification is bottom in the popularity table - largely, I suspect, because it's still very much an emerging channel (and one seriously hyped according to Gartner).

Key points:

  1. On average, B2B marketers are spending 33% of their budgets on content marketing, up from 26% in 2011.
  2. 54% plan on spending more next year.
  3. All content tactics are being used more frequently, with research reports, videos and mobile content seeing the largest increases.
  4. On average, B2B marketers are using five social distribution channels, the most popular being LinkedIn (Twitter was top in each of the past two years).
  5. Main challenge this year: producing enough content (in past years: producing engaging content).

On that fourth point about social distribution channels, it's also interesting to note the tools and channels now making their way into the B2B repertoire for the first time, as the chart below indicates - from the bottom: Quora, Tumblr, Instagram, Foursquare, StumbleUpon and Pinterest.

Note, too, how Google+ has leapt up compared to last year - 39% now compared to just 13% in 2011 (its launch year).

As you might expect, and as is clearly evident in the report, social is key to everything in B2B content marketing.

It's a worthwhile report that you will find of value in your B2B business planning. You can get a free copy of the PDF report in return for giving the CMI your contact info. And you can read the CMI's overview. Or, check the Slideshare presentation.

This post is by Neville Hobson from