Wondering how to successfully do content marketing for your startup? You’ve come to the right place. In this blog, we’ll cover the ins and outs of scalable content marketing.

Let’s dive in.

1. Get started with your content marketing strategy

Content marketing for startups requires a well-considered, results-oriented, step-by-step plan.

The first step to success is to create a content marketing strategy. This blueprint will help you ensure that your efforts stay on track while you pursue tangible, measurable goals.

Startups can’t afford to spend time or money creating content just for the sake of creating content.

Where do I begin? What should come first?

The first thing you have to do is define your organization’s content marketing goals for the year, or the quarter, ahead.

Broadly speaking, your content goals may include:

  • Lead generation: For startups especially, this might be a very important priority. Your content marketing strategy can help you create collateral that drives traffic to your site and encourages visitors to opt in for future communications.
  • Lead nurturing: Once your leads have been acquired, a certain amount of additional contact may be required to ensure your business stays at the forefront of their thoughts until they’re ready to buy.
  • Thought leadership: Sometimes, marketing plans require you to focus purely on bolstering your brand image by releasing research, studies or other valuable content that shows your followers you really know what you’re talking about.

Some of the pieces you produce may be able to contribute to more than one of these categories. Others can be tweaked slightly or touched up to fulfill multiple purposes.

For example, a write-up with a byline from one of your in-house experts could make for a great contributed article that promotes thought leadership. By distilling the main points of the article into a visual format, you can create an eBook for use in a lead nurture campaign. The same visual asset could be placed behind a registration form, serving as gated content that helps generate leads.

As part of the goal-setting process, you’ll also want to determine how you can tell whether you’ve met your targets or if there are still opportunities for improvement.

Startups that have already generated some content will be able to use their existing analytics to establish benchmarks for future performance. If your strategy is entirely new, you’ll have to decide which key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you assess the results of your work.

A few examples of KPIs that can help you track your progress toward different goals include:

  • Form completions for understanding which content pieces help drive lead generation.
  • Time on page and bounce rate of referral traffic for monitoring success in nurturing leads.
  • Shares on social media for measuring thought leadership impact.

How do you develop a content strategy?

Translating your marketing goals into a content strategy begins with understanding your target audience.

If you want to generate qualified leads, you’ll have to understand who your ideal customers are, and you need to learn how to speak to their pain points.

Create personas

You may have heard of buyer personas before. These are fictional characterizations of the kinds of people who are most likely to support your business or purchase one of your products or services.

Working with your sales team or other internal experts can really help you get into the mindset of your archetypical patron. Where do they work? Are they most active on LinkedIn or Facebook?

By focusing on who they are, you’ll have a better sense of what they need. Then, you can start thinking about what kinds of content will help fill those gaps.

Focus on the current state, too

While you’re setting goals for the future, make sure you don’t neglect your existing pipeline. Closing open deals can lead to growth opportunities down the line if those customers become repeat purchasers. They may even turn into brand champions or be willing to participate in a case study for you — all great signs for the future of your content strategy.

Sync up with your sales team to make sure they have the collateral they need to get their prospects across the finish line.

Determine your resources

What do you have at your disposal for executing your content marketing strategy once it’s ready? These supports can range from digital marketing tools like email marketing software and your content management system (CMS) to internal experts, in-house staff and, of course, your budget.

While you want to be able to start out your creative brainstorming sessions with the unconstrained potential of blue-sky thinking, it’s still useful to know whether or not you can actually afford video in your company’s early days, for example.

This is the kind of pragmatic approach that will go a long way toward helping you determine which channels demand the most attention.

2. Choose your content marketing channels

Once you know what your content marketing goals are and how you’ll measure them, it’s important to consider how you’ll distribute your work for maximum impact.

The second stage in putting together a startup content marketing strategy is to identify which channels you’ll leverage.

Do I need a blog, several social channels and a YouTube page?

While the number of venues in which you publish and share your content may grow over time, it’s best to start with a narrower focus that prioritizes the implementation of sustainable processes.

Put simply, if you try to do too much all at once, you could flame out before you start to see any appreciable growth.

Even worse, you may wind up misallocating your limited resources to venues that aren’t providing you with the kind of results your content strategy demands.

It’s a good idea to start with at least one relevant social media channel in order to drive traffic directly to your content and establish your brand, but if you aren’t investing heavily in video yet, YouTube can wait.

Rolling out a blog is a great way to start establishing a home for your content. While the implementation effort is minimal, you can develop scalable marketing processes that grow your blog with your startup’s overall efforts.

What social media channels are you using to promote your content?

Too many startups feel like they have to be on every cutting-edge social media platform at once, but this isn’t the case.

The key is to go where your target audience is, or where you think they will be in the near future. TikTok may not be a great avenue for B2B businesses, but it can be a great option for youth-oriented B2C companies.

LinkedIn is actively used by many professionals, making it an ideal platform for a B2B content marketing strategy.

Facebook and Twitter can go either way, which is another reason that marketing and sales alignment is crucial. Ask your reps for their opinion on this topic.

Channel-specific strategies for promotion

Once you’ve decided where your content will live, promotion is the next step. After all, if a blog post is written, but nobody reads it, does it even exist?

Support for blogs and landing pages

There are three main ways to drive traffic to a new blog post or custom landing page:

  1. Leverage SEO best practices to drive organic traffic: This includes keyword and competitor research as well as following best practices for title tags, meta descriptions, subheads and more.
  2. Employ paid search to get a boost: Make sure that the landing page or other promoted content aligns neatly with your paid search marketing strategy.
  3. Share your content by email or social media: While you don’t want your social media presence to be overloaded with self-promotional content marketing, establish a regular cadence for sharing new blogs as they’re published.

To get additional mileage out of your blog posts, use an eye-catching CTA to drive visitors over to related gated content as it’s available.

Social media strategies

While social media is an important avenue for sharing content on its own, you’ll also want to grow your following on these channels directly. Good content is one way to do that.

Another method is to reach out to influencers in the hopes that they’ll talk about your content or share their opinion on your products and services. Collaborating with heavy hitters in your industry on new thought leadership pieces can really help you improve your reputation and gain awareness for your brand.

In addition, implementing paid social campaigns can help you engage directly with relevant social media users in your industry.

Video sharing

Depending on the type of video that you’re working on, you’ll want to use different strategies to get the maximum number of views and the highest levels of engagement.

  • Explainer videos and sizzle reels: Brand-focused content and clips made specifically to highlight the benefits of a product or service can be shared on YouTube, but it’s important that these videos are embedded strategically on an SEO-friendly landing page. You can share these content pieces on social media, too, but make sure they’re contextualized clearly.
  • Informational content: As with all other elements of your content marketing strategy, video can be used for purely informational purposes, not just promotion. If this is your intent, make sure to share on YouTube while encouraging users to subscribe. Leverage the appropriate hashtags when sharing on social media to make sure the clip is easy to find.

3. Develop your content creation toolkit

It may seem like we’ve spent a long time building up to the actual “content creation” part of things.

Surprise! We’re going to keep that up just a little bit longer.

Why? There’s a saying in marketing circles: Well begun is half-done. OK, it might not be unique to the marketing world, but it carries a distinct weight here. It’s too easy for your content strategy to get derailed by insufficient planning or a lack of follow-through. Here’s what you need to do to get everything in place.

How can your startup create valuable content right now?

If you’re itching to get started with content creation, you’ll want to leverage your buyer personas — specifically the pain points you’ve discovered — to develop a content marketing plan that can be deployed through the specific channels you’re using.

Put together an editorial calendar

Keep the specific topics flexible at first, but stencil in a road map for content marketing deliverables that can address each and every one of the customer pain points you’ve identified.

For particularly complicated topics, you’ll want to budget more space. Either you’ll write a longer blog post, or you might create a downloadable asset like an eBook or white paper. Perhaps you’ll even create a multipart blog series. Get a rough outline ready for where you’ll go over the next month or quarter.

Align project dates with campaign timelines

If you’ve already developed a marketing strategy that includes nurture campaigns or other time-sensitive publication dates, make sure that your editorial calendar can dovetail with these ongoing content needs.

Give yourself enough cushion so that each blog post can be thoroughly researched, edited and proofed prior to publication. Also, build in a buffer for larger projects that require design or advanced review from subject matter experts.

Engage stakeholders and establish workflows

Almost no content marketing strategy is executed in a vacuum. You may have to work with multiple in-house or outsourced creatives. Additionally, each project may require approval from several people before a new deliverable goes live.

Make sure to work backward from your due date to ensure everybody in the chain of command has sufficient time to review the project.

Here are a couple of other quick pointers:

  • Verify the workflows in advance, and stick to them: It’s definitely easier said than done, but you can lose a lot of time if you’re still tweaking the copy after a project has already gone into design, for instance.
  • Establish who owns project management for each content marketing asset: Without clear accountability for who needs to keep the project moving along, progress can quickly stall out. It’s possible for an initiative to be launched with a lot of energy and drive only for momentum to seemingly evaporate at the first sign of a delay.

Get moving

We know that we said planning was essential. But, it’s just as important to actually get the ball rolling once all the elements are in place.

Collaborative brainstorming and ideation is a great way to not only kickstart your content creation, but also for generating shared interest and excitement about the project. When all team members are equally invested in the outcome of a given task, the initial buy-in from the group will pay dividends down the road. You’ll ensure that everybody can see the shared vision, leading to a unified approach at each iterative stage of the piece’s journey from initial concept to finished product.

4. Decide whether to use a content marketing agency or stay in-house

Content marketing agencies can help you with each of the steps we’ve mentioned so far, or they can take your initial plan and turn it into a reality for you.

Either way, don’t skip over this careful consideration: Are you going to keep your content marketing strategy in-house or share the workload with an experienced agency?

Startups are scrappy. There’s no denying that. It may be the case that your company has all the talent and time needed to devise and implement a comprehensive content marketing strategy from end to end without outside support. However, many businesses, especially in their early days, find that they could use at least a little bit of external support.

How do you decide whether to outsource?

Here’s one likely scenario: When a startup first launches, the founders are looking to partner with long-term, strategic thinkers. After all, inbound marketing success doesn’t just happen. It’s a process that takes time, energy and initiative to achieve. That’s why a thoughtful marketing strategy is so important.

Many organizations have the planning in place, but they fall short by thinking they can do it all by themselves. The marketing head at a new startup might think it’s no problem for them to whip up an SEO-friendly 1,000-word blog every week or so.

The problem is, as the marketing leader gets pulled into more administrative tasks and high-level decision-making, “or so” turns into “never.” Sustainability is crucial.

In addition, some companies will quickly reach a point where their ambition exceeds their internal capabilities. For example, on-location shoots require extensive equipment and expertise. Even for blog posts, the most experienced wordsmiths still benefit from the attention of a thoughtful editor.

Maybe you have specific needs for a one-off deliverable, requiring you to outsource some elements of the technical work to an agency. You might even find it’s more cost-effective to contract an outside party for your entire content marketing strategy. Either way, working with an agency can be a huge help for some startups.

B2B startup vs. B2C startup — Are there differences?

If you do decide to work with an agency, you’ll likely want to find a company that has significant experience creating content for your particular target audience, whether that’s in the B2B or B2C space.

The implications of this distinction go beyond simply deciding whether to post on Facebook, LinkedIn or both. Truthfully, a comprehensive understanding of your buyer personas’ core needs should be baked into your marketing strategy from the beginning.

One crucial difference is that many B2C startups may be more focused on growing brand awareness broadly in their early days, while some B2B startups might prioritize in-depth thought leadership.

Measuring success and scaling

Knowing what to measure and how to assess KPIs is a core competency of many content marketing agencies. After all, these companies have to demonstrate their value to you, their customer, so they better be keeping track of how the content they create for you performs.

As your operation grows, an agency that can scale with you is crucial. You may choose to augment your outsourced support with additional in-house marketing staff members to get the maximum ROI out of your agency support. Alternatively, you can tap your third-party content marketing partner to help you determine the next steps required to keep your operation growing.

An ideal full-service partner will be just as adept at pivoting as your startup is.

How do startups actually get their content marketing to work?

If you’re not seeing the kind of growth in your KPIs that you’d hoped, an agency can help you determine new strategies to grow faster.

Is the problem that the content isn’t valuable enough for the target audience? Is there a distribution issue?

Solutions may range from subtle tweaks like email subject line improvements to more thorough website audits and page re-optimization. In some cases, you may be able to employ strategic interventions, like updating your existing content, instead of starting your whole content plan over from scratch.

The key is to continuously monitor your progress and dissect the data to learn how you can improve your performance with each iteration. Content marketing is an ongoing process, not a one-time investment.

Content marketing for startups: Follow the steps to success

In the world of startups, every dollar spent has to generate value. Every hour of work has to count. Following a step-by-step guide to creating a content marketing plan can make your startup marketing budget truly count. Depending on your circumstances, the support of an outside agency could make that budget go even further.

Molly Ploe is a Marketing Specialist at Brafton. When she's not writing, she spends her time reading, going on walks and drizzling honey onto ice cream.