Content Marketing: A Guide for Startups

I’ve become weirdly passionate about content marketing. It’s one of those tricky phrases lately, because it’s the sort of thing people either a) are puzzled by, or b) eye-roll at—and I get it. But, when done well, creating and publishing content can actually be a cornerstone of your overall marketing strategy, especially because you can tailor it to your business’s specific needs and goals.

So you know content is part of your marketing, but maybe you don’t know exactly how you should be thinking about content. Even large brands struggle with this part of the plan; I know because I’ve seen it from the inside. I’m going to make it a little less daunting and a little more applicable to your business in this quick guide. 

Let’s dig in:

The Differences between B2B & B2C Content Marketing

First, let’s identify the difference between creating and publishing content for business-to-business vs. consumer marketing. Regardless of your business type, we recommend that all brands establish personas before jumping in, because you should always be talking to your customers directly. 

B2B content strategy is all about driving awareness and leads. This means you need content that educates as well as engages your audience to take action on specific behaviors. The key is having content they want or need. Typically this includes stuff like ebooks, data reports, webinars, videos, demos, events, or infographics. Give them a taste in your posts through social, and then make sure you capture the info you want about them—especially their email address (hello lead!)—before giving them full access.  

B2C content strategy is all about making an emotional connection with the people you’re speaking to so that they stick to your brand. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a single brick and mortar in a small town or if you’re slinging CPGs to the masses online. Take the time to determine your target audience’s values & behaviors (a.k.a. psychographics), as well as their basic demographics, and then create photo, video, and copy that speaks to—and with—them. Which brings me to my next point . . .

For both B2C and B2B, content publishing is really all about finding the right channels, and being consistent. Where does your audience live online? (Here’s where that customer advisory board also comes in very handy.) Yes, you can try to “be everywhere” and snag lots of eyeballs—but you might not need that. (Hint: you probably don’t.) The right channels with the right content are usually enough. Focus on high quality on the right channels, rather than low quality on all the channels. Establish a posting schedule you can stick to, and utilize publishing tools like Planoly or Buffer to streamline your efforts.


PRO TIP:

Are you post series B and need to accelerate your content? Explore high-impact tools like Social Native or consider hiring specialized companies like SocialFly (yay fierce female founders!) to get what you need.


Content Marketing Strategy & Production

Strategy

  • First, set your goals. More on that in the next section. 

  • Take the time to build a company/brand voice—a few keywords that define the way you speak to and with the market, that remind you of who you are as a brand. For example, a brand with voice keywords like “irreverent and whimsical” is going to have a very different tone from, and likely different conversations than, a company whose keywords are “classic and trustworthy.”

  • Define your “pillars.” What 4-5 signature topics will you come back to again and again? It helps if you’re not always selling all the time. (File under: Stuff You Already Know But I’m Telling You Again Anyway.) Make sure the topics you select are relevant and adjacent to the product or service you’re bringing to the market. 

  • Know your channels. We already talked about finding the right ones, but also consider what’s “owned” (like your website) vs. “earned” (like great press or a positive customer review) vs. “paid” (ahem, your ad budget). You should be driving people to your owned channels most of the time, so that you can learn more about them, and capture all the information about them that you need in order to optimize your marketing efforts for the long run.

Content Production

  • Once you have your pillars, build a calendar that identifies what media you’ll need to produce.

  • From that calendar, create a production plan for all the owned content you need. You may need to hire a project manager or content producer who can manage the process, and execute on tasks like managing photo shoots, or referring/hiring other specialists like videographers or photographers to capture what you need on a monthly basis. 

  • Think about what you can use outside of your own content, such as curating images from other accounts you re-post or re-share to your own. Don’t forget to give others’ their credit—that’s how you make new friends.

  • Optimize per channel. You likely don’t need a fresh blog post on your website every day, but a daily new Instagram post will keep your brand top of mind and help you gain new followers...because IG likes it when you feed the beast. 


PRO TIP:

Remember that you can chop up larger pieces of content—stuff like blog posts or video—into smaller, bite-sized pieces that get spread out over a few tweets (or IG posts or FB updates) so that you’re saving yourself time and resources. 


Goals & Measurement

First of all, remember to have goals in the first place. No joke, many companies roll out just hoping for the best—but then never have a benchmark to gauge success from. Start with considering your company goals. TIP: Revenue is probably the best one. Next, how will your content help to achieve that goal? How many leads do you need in order to meet your revenue target? If it’s awareness, how many impressions will your content give you?

Once you’ve determined for yourself what success looks like for your current content marketing plan, and are creating and publishing content on a regular schedule, be sure to track results consistently. Resist the urge to scrap everything and start again if your numbers plateau—because if you switch strategies on a whim, you’ll never actually know what worked...or what didn’t. Ask yourself what you’ll do once you reach that goal, because you might as well be confident enough to assume you’ll make it(!). 

After hitting your initial goal(s), step back and reflect on what you did well, what conversations your intended audience is most responsive to, how your audience may have changed, and what needs retooling—or to be scrapped altogether. While you can often simply optimize your existing plan, refining your content marketing strategy over time is what keeps your conversations with customers fresh, and worthy of (both) your time.


Jessica Kulick is the brilliant (also 5’2”) Content Specialist here at fivefoottwo marketing. She’s a marketing consultant, content producer, and yoga teacher based in Brooklyn, known for her versatility across a broad array of media. Follow @jess_kulick or connect with her.

Stress-free CRM Setup

Customers are the most important component to your continued success. So big or small, B2B or B2C, you should be collecting the most accurate and informative data you can from the very beginning. For many startups, this is a time consuming task that is often put aside. In our experience, taking the time to figure out your data strategy from the beginning can help save you time and set you up for long term success.

Let us help you make it little less daunting for you. Here’s our quick guide to help get you started.

Database Management

Make a list of all of the data that you want to collect for each new contact you add. Think about it this way: If you wanted to send a targeted communication to all of your contacts who work for a brand and are located in California, would you have collected the data to make it possible to segment that way?

PRO-TIP: In your CRM you can't always rely on company level information like location. The HQ might be in New York, but your contact might be in California. Make sure to distinguish the difference so you can segment.

Here is a list of suggested fields to get you started:

  • First name

  • Last name

  • Email address

  • Company

  • Phone

  • State

  • Country

  • Contact Type (example: brand, agency, artist)

  • Lead Lifecycle (where is the lead in the marketing/sales funnel

  • Lead Status - this is super important, you want to know what's going on with your leads. You can even create sequences to target these people (oh you said reach out to me in three months? ok I'll put you in the three month follow-up sequence or oh hey, you don't have budget for this? well here is a sequence all about how we actually SAVE you money.)

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MAKE YOUR FIELDS REQUIRED!

otherwise, what’s the point?

What's the point in trying to collect the data if people aren't required to fill it in. Think about the data you want to standardize, make it a pick-list and never make one of those values “other” because people will always choose that and then you have no data.

Simple Nurture Program

Most marketing automation or CRM tools give you the ability to build simple nurture programs. Why are these important you ask? For a few reason. First, they keep your audience engagement and remind them you’re there. Second and maybe most important, they save you time.  

PRO-TIP: If you’re a Hubspot user, you can use the sequences they provide to help you build out your nurture programs. Here’s how it works: enroll individual contacts in to a sequence by navigating to the contact name, selecting email, selecting sequence and selecting the sequence. You can also mass enroll people in your sequence once it's created. You can create new sequences under the automation tab. HubSpot has pre-built templates you can modify or you can start from scratch.

CHECK IT:

It’s important to go back through and do this. just remember to take the valuable time to think about your message. and if you need help with messaging, fivefoottwo is here to help!

It’s important you don't bite off more than you can chew when developing the sequences. You don't want it to be difficult to manage nor do you want excessive emails in your sequence. Always make it personal. Most email marketing tools will allow you to add a dynamic field that pulls in the contact name in the salutation and the lead owner name in the closing.

KEY THINGS TO REMEMBER:

  • Three emails is typically the sweet spot. Start here and measure engagement on each touch.

  • You need a human touch! Work a call into your email sequence.

  • Think about what content resonates with your target audience. Address their pain -how do you solve it? Feed their ego. I would stay away from trying to be clever, it's becoming a bit over done.

  • Avoid spammy subject lines! Read this HubSpot Blog for some solid tips: https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30684/the-ultimate-list-of-email-spam-trigger-words.aspx

  • Does your message resonate with everyone who will be added to this nurture program?

Reporting

Evaluate what is relevant to you and what specifically you want/need to report on. Most CRMs have good out of the box dashboards. Beyond this, we recommend you think about creating SDR specific reports so you can wake up, open your dashboard and know exactly what you need to do for the day. You should also consider creating marketing dashboards to monitor the health of your marketing programs. See below one of our favorite examples from Klipfolio.

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3 THINGS EVERY STARTUP SHOULD KNOW (about marketing)

We’re excited to kick-off our first blog post with content that came from our hearts. We have very strong feelings about marketing and in particular for startups, so we threw together our top three things we think you should remember as you kick off your amazing idea.

#1: Know Your Audience (From Melissa)

“What is the one thing you recommend I do with my marketing?” I’ve heard this question from those I mentor, employers and cocktailers. And I always answer the same thing “know your audience!” The fact is, if you don’t do this correctly, then all your other marketing will fail. It sounds pretty basic, but you would be surprised how complex it actually is.

Let’s simplify it with a couple quick tips:

  1. Never consider yourself “the audience”.

    Let’s face it, you created the company/product/service, so of course you are the audience, right? Well, not quite. You must remember how close you are to not only your idea, but every detail surrounding it and therefore your perceptions and emotions are skewed.

  2. Make informed decisions.

    Even if you are 100% certain you know your audience will like something, test it anyway. And don’t be afraid to hear something that goes against your thinking. It’s your company, you will always make the decision, just be open to seeing all sides if you want to properly reach that audience.

  3. Make time to do audience analysis.

    It seems daunting, time consuming, and as if you don’t have the resources to do it right. But when it informs all of your marketing, it’s simply a small piece in an important puzzle.

    • Find what works with the resources and budget you have and do your best repeat this at least every year (depending on your product/service)

    • Keep it simple and remember this market research is “insight” and not “answers”

  4. Listen and engage with your audience.

    My favorite way to do this is by developing a customer advisory board to throw ideas at. There are many ways to do this and it should be designed to fit your company’s specific needs.

    Custom build products for clients with budget to do so. Building products/services your customers want should be part of your roadmap (note, this does not mean building everything your customers ask for!)

    Reply to comments on social even if you fear for the worst.

#2: A Powerful Foundation (From Laura)

Don’t underestimate the power of a solid foundation. But Laura, what does this even MEAN?!

  1. Your brand image is important but so is the machine that powers it.

    One of the first things you should do is consider what tools and platforms will drive your success.

    • Consider email, social media, CRM, paid advertising and don’t forget analytics!

  2. You don’t have to break the bank on tools.

    There are so many free or low cost solutions available to marketers. But remember, try to find solutions that will fit the needs of your business in the short term and the long term. Check out this blog article from Hootsuite for a list of ideas: https://adespresso.com/blog/marketing-tools/

  3. Build a library of content that can repurposed across multiple mediums.

    Don’t get bogged down in the “I have to write a white paper to be a credible thought leader” approach. Create content that will engage your audience and use it, use it, use it. Create a month long social media series, use it in nurture emails, have sales put it in their email signatures, and the list goes on.

  4. Do your lead management due diligence up front.

    Define your demand waterfall! OMG what the heck is a DEMAND WATERFALL?! The demand waterfall helps you track leads through your marketing and sales funnel and ultimately gives you the ability to measure the ROI of your marketing spend. Check out this two part series from MarketOne for an in depth explanation: https://www.marketone.com/articles/sirius-decisions-demand-waterfall-explained-pt-1. Trust me on this one, your investors will thank you.

  5. Keep your eye on the prize.

    Get in the habit of assigning KPIs to every single thing that comes out of marketing. It will become second nature and you’ll quickly be able to evaluate the success (or failure) of your efforts and you can do more (or less) of that particular things. Also, you’ll be able to quickly assess how a campaign as a whole is performing.

#3: Take Chances! (From us both!)

Let’s face it, you didn’t startup because you were afraid, right? No! Entrepreneurs are FEARLESS! It’s a beautiful thing. And you should take that approach with your marketing. We’re not saying to go out and waste your entire budget on a single TV ad, but we are saying you should consider it.

  1. No matter what, dedicate at least 10% of your marketing budget to a gut idea, something that excites you or something you’ve never done before (don’t forget to give it a KPI!).

  2. Fearless ideas in marketing should be perfectly aligned with any strategies you have with earned media (PR or Influencer) for maximum potential.

  3. Don’t be afraid to spend money on marketing. If you’re willing to put budget behind sales people, then you should match that with marketing. Not only will you grow awareness of your brand, but that awareness will support every effort your salespeople make.

  4. Plan but also act. Marketers in general need time to properly plan and measure. The challenge is to act on a wild idea that may not be data-driven or supported. Now and then, the right wild idea pays off, so don’t be afraid to act on them.

  5. Awareness: we could talk hours on this and how to formulate the right strategy and timing for your brand, but for right now suffice it to say that you need it. Period. So take the time to determine what your strategy will be and make budget for it.