Your startup is off the ground and flying—congratulations! Now, time to focus some time and energy on your marketing efforts. What? You don’t have any budget left for marketing campaigns? Hmm, OK, don’t worry, there’s still plenty you can do to start marketing your amazing new widget beyond your initial investors.
There are, of course, a few things you’ll need to skip based on budgetary constraints. However, that leaves you free to experiment and come up with options that work for you and your company. Start by focusing on the small items that have the best ROI, like setting up a content marketing plan of action.
Have a Plan
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 88% of B2B companies say they use content marketing. 68% also say they don’t have an actual strategy, in writing. Don’t be in that 68%. Be the 32%. Setting out your goals, creating a calendar for your content posting, and knowing who’s responsible for what are all key to creating great content that drives conversions and creates customers.
There are free tools available that will assist at this stage. For example, you can use a combination of Google Docs, Calendar, and Sheets to create and share your editorial calendar, content repository, not to mention collaboratively creating and editing your content.
Use Google Forms to create marketing research surveys you can send to existing contacts and customers to request feedback and collect topic ideas. Ask about the pain points your widget helps eliminate, then brainstorm content headlines for articles to address these. Ask for questions they have about you, your process, your development, etc. then use these as White paper themes.
And if you aren’t already, consider using Wordpress for content management duties. This is one of the most robust website backends out there, and you can probably install it yourself in an afternoon with some assistance from your site hosting company. Then you just need to do some exploring of plugins for content marketing to have a solid backend, that’s ready to host your content and do the heavy lifting for you.
Conversely, if you're not completely strapped for cash, platforms like HubSpot or other CRM can provide a lot of value when it comes to connecting your marketing efforts directly to your sales funnel.
Either way, all of this can be accomplished with just a few hours of time and judicious use of free tools.
Know your Audience
This dovetails from the last section. It’s key to know who you’re targeting with your marketing efforts, otherwise you could be spending hours on campaigns that will fall flat. Use the surveys you created in the last step to collect market data. Who are your existing customers? What are their pain points? What’s their role within their company? Use this information to construct your target persona, a fictionalized version of your ideal customer. This is who you’ll be targeting your content at.
Be sure to offer your customers something in exchange for their time on this. Maybe offer a free 30-minute phone consultation, or time with your support department to help sort out any questions they have around implementing your widget. Or give them exclusive access to a new white paper, or ebook you’ll be posting in the coming weeks. Something that tells them that you value their time as much as they do, and that you appreciate the assistance they’re providing.
Part of knowing your audience is also doing some keyword research. Take the information provided in the surveys, combine that with your own brainstorming of keywords related to your industry, then spend some time on Google. Search for these keywords, scroll down to the bottom of the first page, where it shows you “other related searches” and add some of these words to your keyword list. Then take all this information and use sites like Alexa and Google’s own keyword research tool (part of an adwords account) to narrow the field down to a top 5, or 10 subjects. Now you have your starting point for content topics.
Make use of Existing Assets
You’re a bootstrapped startup, we’ve already established that you don’t have the budget for a fancy marketing campaign. What better way to save money, and time, than to make use of existing content?
Your website has probably been up since before you started production, and if you’re like a lot of companies, you at least started a blog and have some pages outlining your amazing product line. Take this content and use it to create a series of new posts. Take your product pages and create a new post based on each feature. Or simply touch up and repost existing blog articles.
Start by inventorying these pages. Use Sheets to create a list of existing page titles and locations (URLs). Then expand that title list with the features of your product discussed above. You’ll use this sheet as the basis for the next stage; creating your editorial calendar.
This is easily done in either Calendar, or even a blank Sheet document. There are plenty of editorial calendar templates out there that will work great to get you started. Use the inventory of existing content, along with your keyword research and plot out a post schedule.
Once you move your topic list into this document, decide on your timing. Don’t worry if you don’t have the bandwidth to post several times per week. Maybe at the beginning, shoot for one big post a month, with an email to follow up later in the month. Work your way down the list of titles, laying out which one to publish when.
Now it’s time to divvy up the responsibility for these posts. Maybe you want a hand in the general interest pieces, so put yourself on those. Maybe your chief engineer has a way with words, so tap them for the product feature series. And maybe you have a developer who’s also adept at persuasion, so hit them up for the remainder.
A handful of additional thoughts to round off your new marketing plan:
Consistency matters more than frequency. Search engines reward sites that add new content on a regular basis, and readers will come to look forward to your new posts, no matter how frequently you can post them at first.
There are some tried-and-true content types that are perennial hits with readers:
Tips & tricks of the trade
Editorial guidelines, established early in the process, ensure that all content shares a similar voice, no matter how many contributors you have.
Keep in mind your customers pain points. These will always make for great subjects to write about, because new customers will have the same ones and will come to you for solutions.
Congratulations again! You are now successfully marketing your startup. You’ve got a solid plan in place, you have a calendar established for consistent content delivery, and you have a repository of ideas and topics to keep yourself writing well into the future. Start building your knowledge base of articles early, and you’ll see the rewards of organic customer growth down the road.