By Tracy Vides
Startup founders have lives that are anything but normal: they have to deal with uncertain markets. Their ideas are vulnerable to deep dive into oblivion any time, they suffer scarcity of resources, and they are perennially strapped for cash. Startup founders put their soul Â along with themselves Â through rigorous (almost insane) time schedules.
A considerable amount of energy, passion, love and work goes into a startup, regardless of whether it succeeds or fails. Although digital marketing, including content marketing, goes with the overall scheme of things, while running a startup, weÂll ignore that for a moment and consider content marketing separately.
So, what happens when you bring startup culture to content marketing? How does the way you do content marketing change when you bring in the ethos that startups are known for?
Here are some lessons from startups that you can apply to content marketing, blogging, and digital marketing in general:
DonÂt Fall for the Single Founder Mistake
Paul Graham, author and founder of Y Combinator, lists out some mistakes most startups make, one of the first of which is to have a single founder.
Very few successful startups have just one founder. Google, Apple, Oracle are all examples of companies with humble starts and certainly more than one founder.
Having one founder, Paul believes, is a vote of no confidence. Even if that wasnÂt the case, growing a startup is incredibly hard for one person. Startups need a way to weed out bad decisions, and a one-founder startup has no checks and balances in that regard. Having a team spreads out the hard work, keeps stupid decisions in check, and to brainstorm for more ideas.
Lesson: Content development, likewise, isnÂt a one-person effort. Whether you are a business looking to develop content for marketing, a content marketer working on various types of content for other businesses, or even a content developer or freelance writer, youÂll need a team.
Working with professional writers, in-house content development teams, and collaborating with experts is a great way to give your content development work a boost. Content marketing is best achieved with collaboration Â no matter how you choose to do it.
Starting Up without Research is Doomed
Startups are glamorous. That doesnÂt take away the grueling work behind running one, though. According to Toby Ruckert of Stuff.co.nz, ÂresearchÂ is a fundamental building block for a startup. Technically, itÂs called Âvalidating ideasÂ, in startup circles. YouÂd go out to your potential customer base, launch surveys, brainstorm with your team, and gather material from the web, universities, or libraries.
To know is at the core of a successful startup.
Lesson: Content marketing is impossible without research. Of course, you can hash out trite content but by now, you know that it wonÂt work for your business. Include research into every piece of content you develop.
Know your readers, and gather analytics that matter to you. If you are approaching other bloggers, find out everything you can about them and their websites. Digging into site ownersÂ personal details and preferences is easy Â you can get to know a lot from their About and Contact pages, and social media profiles.
However, to be a true online detective, you need to know their pain and pleasure points with regard to their day-to-day blog operation. You can use Whois to uncover site owner and administration information, whoishostingthis.com to find their hosting details, SEMRush to know more about visitor traffic and how they get it, and so on.
Startups are Hard
Uncrunched.com has a post with this simple message: If you are not comfortable with the fact that startups are hard work and that a lot of time and sacrifice will go into it, you should get yourself a job.
Startups are hard in more ways than you can imagine. Chris McCannÂs post reveals the sweat, blood, and tears involved in a startup founderÂs life.
Yet, Kevin Ready, a contributor at Forbes.com, thinks that the hard startup life is good. Technology helps you overcome some hurdles. The Internet makes it easy to hire people (either full-time or on contractual basis), and the availability of affordable tools make it easier to launch a startup today.
However, if you quit whining, embrace the startup life, and do it right, you make history.
Lesson: Too many business owners and marketers think that you have to Âmake timeÂ for content marketing.
Correction: Drop everything else (except running your business) and go all out at content marketing. Quit whining that it takes a humongous effort, time, money and energy to develop great content, to get good content published as guest blogs, to work on social media, to create videos, and to publish all other sorts of content.
Content marketing Â when you do it right Â has phenomenal payoffs.
The Value is in Speed, Not Money
Tanya Prive of Forbes gave some convincing reasons why startups succeed, some of which were speed, efficiency, and the rush a startup works with.
Startups also succeed because they provide value while keeping the pace of work fast and efficient. Startups, however, donÂt succeed because a VC firm funds them. They donÂt succeed just because they have capital.
In fact, most startups donÂt even have access to any sort of capital from sources such as banks and VC firms. ThatÂs why itÂs not surprising so many of them now turn to crowd-funding options such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Lesson: Traditional marketing spoiled us into thinking that if we had access to cash and an unending stream of funds, we could market and promote our way to success.
All you had to do was to buy media space and bomb the market with as much advertising as your money could buy.
Today, consumers donÂt trust traditional advertising much. Instead, they trust their own social networks and their preferred sources of advice online (blogs and publications). Content marketing is all about making the right information available to seed consumersÂ hunger for information.
As a brand, you need credibility, trust, social proof, and commercial love. Content marketing has to achieve all of that and not to fill up the Internet with more trash.
To achieve speed and to provide value with content marketing, you have to make a splash, no matter what your current state of available resources is like. Danny Iny of Firepole marketing did just that with his super-powered guest blogging campaigns targeted major blogs. All he had was to use his skill in writing and a burning desire with a willingness to put in the work to get his guest blogs out. His outreach success led him to develop a popular report called Engagement from Scratch.
Content marketing is an overall endeavor to get the word out, to generate trust, to marshal goodwill and to amass social proof. ItÂs the key to what is now known as Inbound Marketing.
Your content marketing defines you. It makes you money. It tells the world who you are and why you are in business. It convinces, persuades, inspires, and informs.
How do you approach content marketing? How important is it for your business? Which of the lessons do you think you can pick up and run with?