Creating a content strategy from scratch as a startup is intimidating. Where do we start? Which keywords do we target? What do we expect to gain from investing time, resources, and energy into creating content?
As any good marketer knows, content marketing is incredibly impactful as the business grows. But getting started can be tricky. Here’s a high-level, step-by-step guide to crafting a B2B content marketing plan that lays a foundation you can build off of for years to come.
But First, Why Invest in Content as a Startup
Before we dive in, let’s talk about the benefits startups gain from investing in content.
Content – articles, social media posts, videos, ebooks, and more – can serve a lot of different purposes for businesses. It can increase brand awareness. Drive customer loyalty. Generate PR buzz. And much, much more.
As a startup, I believe content is most helpful to do three things in particular: drive long-term, organic traffic, serve as a touchpoint for prospects, and offer another conversion point on your site.
Driving long-term, organic traffic
According to a study by BrightEdge, a hefty 64% of traffic to B2B websites comes from organic traffic. We also know that organic traffic is valuable — it’s “free”, builds trust, and often leads to higher conversion rates.
The benefits are obvious. But it takes a lot of work and consistency to make it to page one in the SERPs and gain real momentum from SEO — months and even years. So, if you want to see results from content marketing (and SEO) as a startup, start earlier rather than later.
Content serves as a touchpoint for leads and prospects
The marketing funnel is not linear, and prospects will engage with your brand in a number of ways. If your sales team is working a deal, the prospect might go to your website and start clicking around your blog. Or, they might check your social accounts to make sure you’re a legitimate company. Even though the content might not be their first touch or interaction with your brand, content (whether it be blogs, an ebook, a podcast, etc.) has the potential to reinforce your thinking and authority.
Creating a friendlier conversion point
When you’re just starting out, you likely have one major conversion point on your website — book a demo or get in touch with sales. Creating an ebook, research report, or webinar allows you to create another conversion point on your site and build your email database for future nurturing campaigns or remarketing opportunities.
Where to Start Your Content Marketing Journey
As alluded to above, there are many ways to use content to generate results. When you’re just getting started, I recommend prioritizing and executing against content in the following order:
- Owned media, then
- Earned media, then
- Paid media
I won’t take credit for this methodology, but it’s not rocket science. The thinking goes that if you don’t have owned media (blog posts, gated resources, a social media presence, email marketing) then generating earned media (guest blogging, media coverage, partnership marketing efforts) is really hard. And if you don’t have owned or earned media, then paid media (social advertising, PPC, programmatic and display advertising, etc.) is a waste of money — you’ll get traffic, but conversion rates will likely be low without an authoritative domain and work to support the product.
Quick caveat: paid search is the one exception to the above order. If you have a decent landing page, understand the intent behind the keywords you’re bidding on, and your website conveys what you do well, paid search can be helpful without having to build up owned and earned media.
Types of Content to Invest in Early
Now that we’ve zeroed in on owned media, let’s take a look at actual content types that align to the benefits we mentioned above.
When starting out, I recommend the following:
- Evergreen blog posts: Rich, helpful content that stays fresh for a long time (hence, evergreen”) but that also maintains your brand’s unique view on the subject. This ensures you don’t waste time and resources on content that might be relevant in the short term, but won’t be helpful in a year.
- Lead magnets and gated resources: This is a major debate between marketers — to gate or not to gate. Call me old school, but if the resource is helpful enough, and if the only other conversion point you have on your website is to book a demo, I think it’s okay to gate the resource behind a form. Just make sure the resource is valuable.
- Email nurturing and social media: Yes, these channels can have their own content. But they can also serve as distribution channels, a drumbeat, and another touchpoint for any prospects checking to see if your startup is a real company.
Document Your Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing strategy sounds intense. If you’ve never created one, don’t worry. It’s not as scary as you might think. Plus, documenting a bad strategy is still better than no strategy at all.
A content marketing strategy has seven buckets, a handful of which we’ve already covered. Your strategy should define:
- Purpose — As a startup, we’ve already determined that content is helpful for generating long-term, organic traffic, serving as a touchpoint for prospects, and creating alternative conversion points on your website.
- Target audience — This should align with one or more of your ICPs (ideal customer profiles). The one note I’ll mention here is that your content doesn’t need to address every target audience, and you might need to adjust your content mediums depending on your audience. For example, if you’re targeting an audience that you know consumes a lot of podcasts, maybe you stray away from the tried-and-true evergreen blog posts and experiment with the podcast format first. One of our studio companies, The Juice, did a great job at this.
- Content distribution channels — Know where you’ll distribute your content and how your audience will find it. Social media and email marketing are the most common for B2B companies, and you can assume your audience will find your content through organic search if you’ve prioritized evergreen, keyword-rich blog content.
- Topics — The topics you choose to create content around should live in the overlap between what your audience cares about and what your company wants to talk about. Anything else will lead to either content that drives traffic but no impact for your business, or content that your audience doesn’t engage with.
- Content publishing cadence — Notes how often you’ll publish content. You can also create an editorial calendar, which is helpful for planning and aligning your team.
- Roles and responsibilities — Document who is responsible for each part of the content process — everything from writing the content to publishing and measuring success.
- KPIs and goals — Finally, set some goals. In the beginning, it’s going to feel like you’re guessing when setting goals. That’s fine, and normal. The important part is that you set and document them. That way, you build the habit of not just tracking success, but understanding what makes numbers go up or down.
Communicate Progress, Iterate, and Repeat
Content marketing is a long-term play. Because results can be gradual, I’ve seen many great marketers struggle to get buy-in around content not because the output isn’t strategic but because they can’t prove that it’s making an impact.
As a marketer embarking on this long content marketing journey, a large part of your job is to communicate your content’s impact on the business, what you’re doing to improve it, and why people should care. Go deeper than simply reporting traffic numbers. Instead, tell the story of how a prospect read three articles on the blog before purchasing. Show the increase in leads generated from organic channels. Brag about overtaking a competitor in the SERPs.
And, as always, iterate and repeat.