We’ve all heard of the urban legend where a #startup managed to generate millions of dollars through a viral blog post.
While such a ridiculously successful campaign might be difficult to orchestrate, there are definitely lots of marketing strategies bootstrapped startups can use to compete against the bigger guys.
Justin Lee, senior vice president at Hubspot, believes startups need to invest in #content in order to pull attention. Speaking last week at Tech in Asia Jakarta 2016, he advised that marketing campaigns be customized and targeted at specific audiences for maximum output.
“It’s kind of like how Donald Trump generated far more attention than Hillary Clinton on a smaller budget,” he quipped.
Promotion is queen of content marketing.
“Attracting attention is smarter than interrupting attention. It’s far more difficult, though,” added Justin. “Content marketing is a fancy buzzword but it should be at the core of your marketing strategy.”
The digital native reckons early-stage startups should start off with simpler content such as blog posts, and then gradually move up the value chain by publishing photos, infographics, presentations, and eventually e-books.
They’re a highly effective way of lead generation, he noted.
Going the extra mile
But it’s not just enough to simply create content. An article without an audience is simply an article, nothing more.
“The crucial piece of the puzzle is promotion,” explained Justin. “Content might be king but promotion is queen of content marketing.”
Startups really need to hone in on their target audience for maximum mileage of their content. The preferable way of going about this is to define what an ideal customer is and work backwards from there. Think about demographics, needs, and aspirations.
One of the tools Justin identified to assist in this endeavor was Hubspot’s Make My Persona.
“Push good content, at the right time, and through the right channels,” he affirmed.
So what’s the secret that makes content compelling and gives it that push towards virality? For Justin, it’s all about “adding value.”
“Quality content inspires others and creates a strong emotional connection. If you don’t evoke a strong connection, it is wasted. You want to appeal to the aspirations and goals of your audience as well.”
Other factors are things like relevance, timeliness, and uniqueness. Promoting an article about Hillary Clinton to supporters of Donald Trump means it probably won’t do well.
Justin outlined three stages of a buyer’s journey and the kind of content marketers should aim for at each step.
1. Awareness stage
At this point potential customers are sniffing around for available products. Marketers should try to lock them into the sales funnel by making them interested in your particular brand. Free product guides, videos, and whitepapers are an effective way of achieving this.
2. Consideration stage
Consumers are now thinking about whether the product works for them and weighing up potential brands. You want to show them how you’re better than the competition. That’s when you can show things like product specifications and case studies.
3. Decision stage
It’s now the last piece of the puzzle. A consumer has a final decision to make. Marketers could seal the deal by giving them a free trial, demo, or a discount coupon.
It’s important to understand the buyer’s journey and push relevant content accordingly. A common mistake is to push out free trials at the awareness stage, a practice some marketers are guilty of.
But all this talk of audience, relevance, and timeliness is also borderline jargon. What tools can startups use to determine the effectiveness of their content?
Google Trends is an excellent way of determining what people are searching for and understanding whether your content ideas resonate. Similarly, Google Alerts help you pinpoint what other publications are covering.
Listen to people that are not your customers.
Buzzsumo can assist marketers to dive really deep into their content. It helps uncover the channels where articles are being shared. Is it more popular on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter? Once you understand that, it’ll show where your core audience lies.
“Double down on these channels when you find out the data,” advised Justin.
Another method is to use Headline Analyzer. It can tell you whether your headline will rank well on search engines and how powerful it is in creating an emotional connection.
There are some old-fashioned tricks that marketers should be aware of as well.
“Listen to people around you, get ideas from others,” says Justin. “Sales reps have a lot of insights about what customers want; listen to people that are not your customers. What are the common objections these prospects have?”
In his closing comments, the Singapore-based marketer reiterated how content creation is a multifaceted strategy and needs to be approached with a critical lens.
“If you’re simply creating content and not promoting it, you’re a lousy marketer,” he said. “For distribution, social media is the best method of dissemination.”
There are specific strategies that startups can employ too. Using influencers for promotion is an effective tool. If you feature them in an upcoming article or e-book then it’s likely they’ll share the piece with their audience.
“Three percent of people generate 90 percent of the impact online. That’s a lot of leverage,” notes Justin.