Startup got funded? Way to go! They’re asking for a content marketing plan? Don’t have that worked out just yet, do you? It’s OK. Well, it will be OK. Set aside some quality time with your marketing director (unless that’s also you, in which case set aside the time on your own calendar), start with this guide, and you’ll have a solid plan worked out in no time.
The foundation of a solid marketing research plan is to understand that any company, whether B2B or B2C, relies on customers to function. That might sound self-evident, but you may be surprised to see how many startups fail for the simple reason that they forgot about their customers in the race to get product to market or secure the next round of funding.
“Marketing research” is a pretty open-ended phrase, used when talking about everything from viability research, to focus groups, product R&D, and target buyer persona development. Then there are the digital aspects of keyword research, audience research, and content development. To keep this manageable and get you started on the right foot, we’re going to stick to the topics of target audience and keyword research. In our experience, these are the main areas of interest when it comes to developing a content marketing strategy for your nascent startup.
Market Research is a Fundamental Piece of any Startup Strategy
Before you can launch or bring anything to market, it stands to reason that you should know said market pretty well, right? And in today’s digital world, a large part of that is going to be knowing how to reach your target market once you’ve identified them. There are 3 critical aspects of any startup marketing research program to have in hand before moving forward: knowing your audience, knowing your product, and understanding the power of perspective.
Know your audience
Like we already said, you can’t develop a marketing plan without knowing who you’re aiming it at. That means research focused on identifying your target audience. Demographics, psychographics, and economics all come into play as the key aspects of your audience to get a handle on at this early stage.
From there you’ll be able to narrow down the tactics and techniques that will help your marketing efforts land effectively and generate the leads and purchases your startup will need to start, and stay, viable.
Know your product
This should go without saying, which is precisely why we’re going to say it. Know your product better than the designers and developers who made it. Your job is going to be convincing the public to invest in this item/service in order to address their pain points, so if they ask a question you darn well better be able to answer it, with facts, figures, and citations to back your claims.
Cultural norms are often overlooked at this research stage, but this is exactly when you should be focusing on them. Where’s your primary target audience located? Do you know how they’ll respond to your product, ads, or copy? There may be regional differences in the terminology used to describe pain points. Or national differences in how they’ll react to the actors in your ads. Or religious differences in how they’ll interpret the whole reason for your widget existing.
It’s your job to know all of that before launching in these areas so you’re not surprised. The goals of all of this detailed research are to decrease time to market, increase customer satisfaction, and to enable better allocation of resources out of the gate. Avoiding boycotts is always a good thing as well.
Free Audience Research Tools Abound
Once you have a well-documented target buyer persona fleshed out, it’s time to meet people and see how well they align with what you have on paper. We can hear the fretting from here. Don’t worry about this step...it’s not as daunting as many imagine. There are research tools in abundance, many of which you can make use of for the simple investment of your time.
You likely have an existing email list, whether it’s your personal contact list or from early adopters eagerly awaiting your product. And if not, use your social media following or LinkedIn contact list. Whatever the source, these folks are a ripe pool of potential customers from which to draw valuable insights. Send out a series of short surveys with different carrots on offer to entice participation. Phrase your questions so as to elicit information on search habits or buying patterns, then use the responses to cull your list of possible topics and keywords to focus your content on, or even to weed out entire segments of who you thought your audience was going to be.
Today’s consumers are craving personalization and one-on-one contact with the companies they do business with. So setting up a series of focus groups, drawing from the same contact list as above, can uncover further valuable insights into what people are looking for in a widget, how they intend to use their next widget purchase, etc. You can increase engagement by making these events exclusive and offering access only to social media followers, early backers, or any other segment of your audience.
Online keyword research tools
Now that you’ve created a master list of content keywords your target audience is likely to be using when searching for solutions to their problems, it’s time to see which of these you’re most likely to be able to rank for so you can focus your efforts and budget accordingly. Our favorite of the free keyword tools out there (and there are a LOT of them) are Ubersuggest and Wordstream’s Free Keyword Research Tool.
These two offerings work similarly. You enter the keyword you’re interested in and they site returns a plethora of data on that keyword. Everything from search volume and frequency to a score telling you how difficult it will be to rank for. We suggest using both and combining the insights you glean to come up with a unified keyword list you can use for your initial content marketing campaign. After all, who knows your audience and product better than you do?
When you’re ready to dive deeper, there are some awesome paid tools that will open up whole new horizons of insight into your keywords options. Moz Pro, Buzzsumo, and Google Ads are our favorites. Google Ads is their combination keyword tool and ad platform, so it’s use is more for your PPC campaign needs should you decide to run any.