Content Strategy For Startups?
Content strategy is a phrase we hear often enough in marketing but is it an effective growth strategy for startups? If the aim of content strategy is to gain exposure, increase traffic and nurture relationships between the potential customer and startup, then the simple answer is yes. A smart content strategy and growth driven content marketing are the foundations of startup growth. It can get a startup the attention it needs for fast growth!
There is a misconception these days that startups focused on growth cannot sustain a loyal customer base. This cannot be further from the truth looking at case studies. Startups that focus on growth believe in accelerated client acquisition, which means building that relationship fast! A startup has to cut right to the core of what consumers want and deliver that to their expectations. In order to build relationships quickly, startups use a different content strategy to everyone else. In their content marketing, a startup identifies the pain points, knows what their users are willing to pay, what they are paying for and how they want to pay. A startup focused on growth develops customer relationships quickly.
A great content strategy will maximize the exposure of your brand to potential customers online. The blueprint of your content strategy will inform what content marketing techniques you can use. The fastest growing startups of recent years have all started with an effective content strategy in mind, and reverse engineered their content marketing accordingly to reach their goals.
A strong content strategy for startups is reverse engineering
The fastest growing brands in recent years have all started off with a strong growth driven content strategy. Some marketers call that content hack, which means the same thing. Many startups look at companies with fast growth and adopt similar content strategies. Others identify content marketing metrics, such as high rates of subscriptions/conversions and reverse engineer their growth. They use a growth driven content strategy to plan:
- How to get a potential customer’s attention
- How to use the customer’s pain points and desires in their content marketing
- How to distribute content virally through social media platforms
- How to make story telling more compelling in their content marketing
- How to give out cohesive and consistent messages about their brand
- How to market their content so they get the most impact and not waste time. Growth hacking is all about A/B testing, trial and error and reiterating within a relatively short window of time
- How to rise above the noise with minimal investment (many startups are bootstrapped)
- How to remain authentic to their brand philosophy
- How to market content across different channels and have a focused message
- How to track every marketing method so they know that it’s working!
When you look at the content marketing techniques used by the fastest growing startups, you will see that this is no coincidence. There is a single-minded content strategy, the blueprint of their marketing, behind every one of them: Airbnb, Uber, Dollar Shave Club, Munchery, Washio, TaskRabbit, Zenefits and Zaarly.
A content strategy that focuses on growth
Growth hacking means being obsessively fixated on growth. Every action the startup undertakes must drive growth and they must be eliminated if they prove to be ineffective. In the growth funnel diagram above, acquisition, activation, retention and referral are all growth tactics used by startups. They define their growth goals and reverse engineer the results.
Here are some of the ways the fastest growing companies use content strategy for growth:
1. Startups reach users through specific marketing channels
Instead of advertising or creating content on every marketing platform, startups that are serious about growth go straight for the jugular. By concentrating on fewer content marketing channels, startups could create content that makes an impact. During the early stages of their startup, Airbnb did not have the organic traffic through SEO or conversions through marketing. In the early stages, Airbnb targeted users through Craigslist, which had an enormous base of people looking for apartments and renting them. Once on Craigslist, Airbnb would direct users to their own website; to differentiate themselves from other listings on Craigslist, Airbnb created engaging and beautifully presented content.
For Uber, the app that connects drivers to riders, the user experience was their greatest selling point and they trained Uber drivers to be the best at what they do. Uber utilizes a lot of PR (they drove entrepreneurs around San Francisco Bay area in 2014) and word of mouth recommendations that would target the discerning types of users they had in mind. Cheap razors for men startup Dollar Shave Club targeted potential customers through a quirky Youtube video dollar shave club. The videos on Youtube were so shareable they became viral and Dollar Shave Club exploited the fact that their razors were the cheapest on the market.
2. Content marketing becomes more focused
To engage and provide value to drivers, Uber launched Momentum magazine as part of their content marketing. The magazine tells the story of drivers joining Uber and include helpful tips for health. For apartment renting startup Airbnb, they concentrated on sleek content that looked great on their website. They also made ratings an important part of their content strategy to convert users.
Food startup Munchery allows users to buy meals directly from local chefs so they provided all the benefits of their services using Instagram, Pinterest, blogs and Twitter. They shared content via photos of food, written experiences and great feedback; all with the purpose of generating leads in their content strategy. Munchery uses both short form and long form content marketing to good effect. An on demand dry cleaning and laundry service for people short on time, Washio taps into a specific market. They market on mobile devices through their Washio app and also through word of mouth and recommendations. Their content marketing always emphasize the premium customer quality, eco friendly and competitive pricing of their services.
3. Content marketing revolves around a unique selling point (USP)
A successful content strategy starts with a clear goal and understanding of a startup’s unique selling point. When this unique selling point, or USP, is emphasised in the content marketing, it can be very effective. For Uber, the USP is a great chauffeured experience from pickup to drop off. For Washio, it is a convenient and premium customer laundry/dry cleaning service. Both of these brands focus their content marketing around their USP. Dollar Shave Club emphasises the cheapness of their razors in their content marketing and Zenefits offers a free and convenient software for HR personnels to organize all aspects of payroll, benefits and compliance. When Zaarly first launched in 2011, it used content marketing to show that it was a reliable and convenient service to use in hiring local home service experts.
4. Storytelling across multiple marketing channels
Storytelling is an essential part of content strategy for startups. The impact of storytelling has helped some startups such as Airbnb and Uber catch the attention of millions of potential customers. Uber tells a cohesive story across all channels of marketing using their strong content strategy. They emphasize the safety, convenience and human quality of their chauffeur service. Uber uses video marketing such as ‘Why UberX is so popular in Australia‘ to tell a story that is very human and easy to empathise with. With so many people using Airbnb services, the storytelling of the Airbnb brand becomes an integral part of their content marketing.
Airbnb uses the experience of people renting flats and going on vacation to reach even wider audiences. In addition to providing a hospitality service, Airbnb also creates content marketing in the form of neighborhood guides, vine videos, a microsite called Stories and studies to show the impact of Airbnb in cities as well as a quarterly magazine Pineapple to keep travellers and hosts updated. By creating compelling content such as articles and stunning photoshoots in print, Airbnb is telling their story in a persuasive and memorable way. Celebrating good food and passion for cooking, Munchery consistently creates content marketing about their food order service. User generated content via customers can sharing their dinners using Twitter and an engaging Instagram account shows the different culinary creations on offer.
5. Content marketing persona for startups
A growth hacking content strategy will involve cultivating a clear persona for the brand. When Dollar Shave Club launched their Youtube video, they appealed to a demographic of men that were price sensitive and trendy. Their brand has a cheerful and masculine persona. By letting their brand take on a persona consistently, startups were able to engage better with potential customers. Their audience would come to associate certain qualities and project human emotions onto their brands.
Airbnb’s content marketing portrays their brand as adventurous and great with people. A content strategy that defines the startup’s persona will help to make content marketing more cohesive for their audiences. A brand without a clear persona is seen as unpredictable in the eyes of consumers and this makes it harder for them to gain traction fast. Munchery adopts an authentic and customer-centric persona from the very start to convince busy people to use their food order service, and this has been the core of their content marketing ever since.
Content marketing is essential for start up growth and a strong content strategy needs to be in place in order for this to happen. For brands such as Airbnb, Munchery, Uber, Washio, Zenefit and Zaarly, content marketing is being refined over time to target new audiences and keep their existing customers engaged. Many startups do not initially have a lot of cash to burn and a growth hack strategy will eliminate any wasteful marketing efforts. Within a short period of time, it is possible for a new startup to grow exponentially using great content marketing and an effective content strategy.
Methods of content marketing such as blogging, video marketing, story telling through Vine, visual content in Instagram and Pinterest should be part of a well defined content strategy that knows its aim: fast growth! Some people associate growth hacking with black hat SEO and even slapdash efforts, but brands such as Airbnb and Washio proves that you can be ethical in your marketing and still gain many new customers that will remain loyal. When startups approach traditional marketing agencies, they will not get a content strategy that focuses single-mindedly on growth. It is therefore imperative to communicate the aims of the startup with the marketing agency and find a growth strategy that focuses on customer acquisition, conversion and profitability.