Content Marketing is very much a mainstream marketing activity these days, in nearly all segments of the marketplace. It’s particularly important of tech savvy buyers looking for education in a particular product category. It’s rise in importance corresponds with the general degradation of outbound marketing response rates, along with Internet-driven prospect preferences toward more control over sales and marketing activities associated with the product procurement process.
But it’s also an activity that. when done well, isn’t the least labor intensive marketing method out there. As a result, for many software and hardware technology startups with an overwhelming long list of key agenda items and limited resources, content marketing sometimes becomes an activity that “we’ll get to a bit down the road”.
In most situations this a big mistake. That’s because excellent content marketing – while somewhat labor-intensive – can enable a tech startup to “punch well above it’s weight”. Startups can’t outspend their larger and more established competitors in marketing activities. They don’t have the an existing brand or installed customer base which can provide a baseline level of sales for any newly released product. And they can’t blanket the marketplace with hoards of direct sales people or a large existing reseller network.
What a startup CAN do is position itself as a leader in technology and market knowledge, using lower cost methods such as internally-managed PR and content marketing.
Let’s take a detailed look at some of the most important reasons for investing scarce resources in content marketing activities:
Establish thought leadership via content marketing
In my opinion, the most important reason for a startup software or hardware company to invest in content marketing activities is to build an aura of thought leadership around the company and it’s principals. There is no more powerful “leveler of the playing field” versus larger, more established competitors than to position yourself as offering fresh, innovative solutions to market segment pain points. 30 years ago it was almost impossible to get the word out of a nascent startup’s expertise and competitive advantage without a large marketing budget and the time to nurture the large media gatekeepers. Today, with a BLOG on the company website, GREAT writing, outreach to online market segment influencers and modest promotional efforts on social media, a content marketing-savvy startup can quickly show off their expertise to their prospective target market segment.
Build your brand with limited resources
Only the most generously-funded startups are able to utilize more traditional brand-building approaches such as display/banner advertising, hiring an expensive external PR firm or exhibiting at large numbers of trade shows. Yet it is critically important to start the brand building exercise as soon as possible. In the very long run, even for most technology-based businesses, brand is really the only truly defensible asset a company has. Content marketing enables startups to began that brand-building at the earliest of stages – even before product launch, investing only the time to write (GREAT!) articles which are laser-focused at their target prospects, and promote this content on key social media platforms.
The “fuel” to your sales and marketing efforts on social media platforms
Most companies that aren’t stuck in the dark ages these days have at least some sales or marketing activities targeted at social media. Social media also has become a mainstream marketing method, resulting in very crowded market segments for most social media platforms. Social media users have grown quite weary of techniques such as the social media equivalent of “cold-calling” and out-of-the-blue requests to connect, quickly followed up with unsolicited sales messages. Articles created for content marketing can be the perfect complement to your social media platform presence. This content can be shared with social media connections to demonstrate expertise and provide solutions to pressing issues of your target prospects, which is appreciated by many social media platform participants. Not only can these serve as “ice-breakers” prior to utilizing more traditional outbound sales/marketing methods on the platform, but they can also generate unsolicited inquires from prospects actively looking for the product solutions that you can provide.
Perfect for Lead Nurturing
In addition to providing a great complement to social media sales and marketing efforts, content marketing articles can serve the company very well in lead nurturing campaigns. These important activities -usually email driven, but also using other low-touch platforms such as remarketing – enable the company to continue to engage prospects who haven’t yet reached the “buying” stage. Since these prospects aren’t ready-to-buy, they respond better to solutions-oriented, how-to content then they do more transactional messaging such as “20% discount if you buy within X days”. Content marketing articles can be used very effectively in lead nurturing campaigns to build your brand as well as thought leadership with these “high in the funnel” prospects. This positions the company in a favorable light, when the prospect ultimately enters “buying-mode”.
It’s more difficult then ever to break through with traditional print and online advertising, even if you have the budget to consider it. There are roughly 200 million people today that use ad blockers – so buying mindshare online is not only getting more expensive, but just plain more difficult. In conjunction with the fact that content marketing cost far less than ads, it makes total sense for technology startup companies to commit scare resources to this activity. I’ve also seen statistics that show that companies that are leaders in content marketing activities generate 7.8X the traffic versus those who aren’t.
There is never enough time in a startup for all the activities that appear crucial to success. But I’ve found from personal experience as well as that of my clients, that the return on content marketing activities at the earliest stages of a company’s development – when done well – far exceeds that of most other “budget-realistic” marketing activities available to startups.
That’s what I think about the importance of content marketing for most startup software and hardware companies. There are obvious exceptions to this approach (such as VERY small market segments) where this type of activity doesn’t make sense. However, I believe it is applicable broadly to the vast majority of SaaS, mobile software and hardware startups. What’s been your experience with this approach? We’d appreciate you sharing your views, so please post a comment below if you have a take.
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