The Ultimate Content Marketing Strategy for Startups
Content marketing isn’t all viral Squatty Potty YouTube videos and irreverent Wendy’s Twitter accounts. While those are great content marketing examples, they don’t capture the small wins that fuel the majority of content marketing programs.
Content marketing also includes search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, blogging, how-to videos, whitepapers, guides, email campaigns, and public relations. It’s a well-timed LinkedIn article from your CEO or a perfectly distributed infographic that explains how your product works.
Here’s why 82% of companies use content marketing:
Content marketing can be expensive without a plan. Partnering with a big-time influencer and churning out buckets of high-quality videos can eat up your marketing dollars in no time. We want to help you take an equally effective (though, more strategic) bootstrapped approach.
Fortunately, you can launch a lead-generating, money-making content marketing strategy without a world-class video marketing team or a massive budget. It just takes a little bit of hustle and know-how.
Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to build a content marketing funnel that drives your business. We’ll also sprinkle in some tips, examples, and considerations to help fine-tune your strategy.
But first—let’s get on the same page about what content marketing is.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a strategy for producing, publishing, and promoting valuable content to current and potential customers. Its value can be humor, education, information, entertainment, or inspiration, and it can come in the form of:
- Social media posts
- Case studies
Producing content is the first step—and often the easiest. Next, it’s time to publish and promote. It doesn’t matter how amazing your content is (or how much it costs) if nobody ever sees it.
Depending on your content and budget, you might drive pay-per-click (PPC) ads or email marketing campaigns to your high-value content pieces. SEO is an influential driver, too, often sitting as the highest (or second-highest) revenue source for businesses.
How to Create Your Content Marketing Strategy
No 2 content marketing strategies are the same. Some businesses invest heavily in SEO while dabbling in organic social media, others go hard on email newsletters and podcasting, and a few just throw their entire budget at video marketing.
There’s no single best channel or content marketing strategy—it’s up to you to examine your audience, goals, budget, and bandwidth to create a plan that works for you. Below, we’ll walk you through a simple framework you can follow to build your own custom-made content marketing strategy:
- Outline Your Goals
- Define Your Audience
- Review Your Budget and Bandwidth
- Choose Your Channels
- Build the Game Plan
- Review Performance and Make Adjustments
1. Outline Your Goals
First, define what you want to achieve with your content marketing strategy. Do you want to drive more traffic to your website? Are you looking to influence revenue directly or generate high-quality leads for your sales team? Or do you just want to build brand awareness?
Knowing the desired outcome will help guide you in the right direction. For example, if you’re looking to drive organic traffic to your website, you might want to invest in blogging, guest blogging, and SEO. But, if your focus is on brand awareness, a podcast series and video marketing might be the better option.
2. Define Your Audience
Once you know your goals, it’s time to take a look at your audience. While YouTube might be a fantastic traffic driver, it won’t do you much good if your industry and target market doesn’t spend their time there.
The same goes for social media content marketing strategies—TikTok might be all the rage these days, but if your target audience is baby boomers, you likely don’t want to invest in the platform.
Learn about your audience. Where do they spend their time? Are they the type to spend weeks researching a product before making a purchase, or are they impulse buyers who jump when they see a discount?
Answers to these questions will ultimately shape your strategy and the channels you use.
3. Review Your Budget and Bandwidth
While partnering with Justin Bieber on an Instagram campaign or launching a bi-weekly professionally produced podcast might sound like perfect content marketing strategies, they might not fit your budget or capacity.
How much are you willing to spend on your content marketing campaign? Do you plan on seeing a return on investment (ROI) in 4 weeks or 12 months? How does that affect your ongoing investment and commitment?
Once you’ve figured out the dollar signs, it’s time to look at your bandwidth. If you’re a writer, producing 5 brand-new blog posts every week might seem like a cost-efficient marketing strategy—but can you sustain the load?
Will you be able to keep up with demand, or will you burn out? Do you need to hire an agency or freelancer to help pick up the pace?
4. Choose Your Channels and Tactics
Now, you’re ready to start choosing your channels and tactics. This is where the fun part begins.
You might want to hire a social media freelancer to help grow your audience across your platform, or you may partner with a video production agency to start building how-to videos.
Regardless of your channels or tactics, ensure they align with your goals and audience. It’s easy to get lost chasing the new big thing, but augmented reality (AR) and accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for email might not align with your strategy, despite how super cool they appear.
5. Build the Game Plan
Once you know your channels and tactics, it’s time to build out the nitty-gritty aspects of your plan. How long do you plan on running your content marketing plan? Do you need to hire someone to help make it happen? When are the start and end dates?
Boot up the project management program and start plugging and chugging. Defining your workflow will help you create a valuable, realistic plan that optimizes your time and budget.
Make it happen. Content does nothing for your business when it’s sitting in the right side of your brain or your Google Docs—it needs to be published, promoted, and working for you.
Execute the game plan, and put your content marketing strategy into motion.
Don’t wait for it to be perfect. It won’t be. Your blog post will probably have a few typos, and the color coordination between your YouTube videos and your Instagram reels might be a little off—and that’s OK.
Just ship it. You can work out the kinks later.
7. Review Performance and Make Adjustments
After you launch your content, you can start digesting the data. Are you seeing the results you were hoping to achieve? What’s working? What’s not? Why?
Your content marketing strategy isn’t a one-and-done ordeal. It’s a fluid, ever-changing part of your marketing program. What works today might flop tomorrow, and that’s the world of content.
Stay on top of your metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate your success. If video marketing is driving the most ROI, don’t be afraid to abandon your Pinterest tactics and invest more heavily in YouTube.
Game-Changing Content Marketing Tips and Tricks
The above content marketing framework will guide you to a more intentional strategy. Below, we’ve outlined some extra tips to help polish and execute your plan.
Give these content marketing tips and tricks a try to refine your strategy:
- Start Small: Quality is better than quantity. Instead of trying to pump out an aggressive number of blog posts and videos, try creating a few top-notch pieces. Stick to the 80/20 rule, and you should be just fine.
- Track, Track, Track: Use data to back up your content marketing decisions. Why are you investing in Instagram instead of Twitter? Do you have a reason for blogging instead of podcasting? Look for numbers to support your answers.
- Focus on 2-3 Tactics: There’s a whole wide world of content marketing opportunities—don’t try to do all of them. Instead, pick a handful of tactics. You might focus on building your blog and earning more backlinks or creating a podcast series. Unless you have an entire marketing department, concentrate on just a few channels.
- Pivot When Necessary: Don’t be afraid to jump to a new tactic when the time is right. Yes, you want to stick it out for a while to give each tactic a fair shot. However, you may need to cut your losses occasionally and pivot to something else.
- Experiment and Have Fun: Content marketing is fun, so don’t be too serious. You want to find strategies and tactics that resonate with your audience and goals but also things you won’t struggle to produce. For example, starting a blog for your startup might not be your best option if you hate writing.
Should You Hire a Content Marketing Agency?
This all sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be better to just hand off all this grind to a content marketing agency instead?
Well, hiring an agency is an option, but you’ll need to be careful (and realistic). Many content agencies overcharge and over promise but underdeliver.
We want to ensure your content marketing budget gets you the most bang for your buck, so we outlined a few things to look for before you sign any paperwork:
- Industry Familiarity: Your content marketing agency needs to know your industry in and out. A firm that mostly deals with retail marketing companies won’t know how to handle selling your software as a service (SaaS) product. They might try to convince you that it’s easy for them to research and learn, but it’s better for you to shop around for an agency with similar (although non-competing) businesses to your own.
- Case Studies: Ask to see samples of the work they’ve done for other companies and (more importantly) the results they’ve produced. In the end, you don’t want more content—you want more traffic, leads, sales, and revenue. Some companies can produce amazing pieces of content, but they lack the promotional know-how to get it in front of your customers.
- Healthy Dose of Realism: It’s great for a content marketing agency to want to shoot for the moon, but you need healthy expectations and realistic goals. Ensure they can put your money where their mouth is and actually achieve what they hope. You want regular reports (weekly or monthly) to know where they’ve spent their time and what has come of it. Without that accountability, you might find months and thousands of dollars later that you’ve made little to no progress.
Predictably Turn Your Content into Cash
If you started as we did at Foundr, you likely don’t have money to blow. You need a guarantee (or as close to one as possible) that your content will turn into cash. Fortunately for you, we have a framework for making it happen.
Our content marketing course walks bootstrapped startups step-by-step through creating “Content Funnels” and automated marketing machines. We’ll help you spend less money on better content that works for you on autopilot 24/7/365.
Sound too good to be true? Meet your instructor: Eric Bandholz, the founder of Beardbrand.
He used these exact tips and strategies to turn a measly $30 investment into a multi-million dollar ecommerce business. How? With YouTube, Instagram, newsletters, and stellar website copy.
Eric has mastered the art of bootstrapped content marketing, and he’s sharing all his secrets in this free course. Sign up now to turn your hard-earned dollars into cold, hard ROI.