By Anna Ritchie published April 2, 2012

6 “Start-Me-Up” Tips for Novice Content Marketers

The concept of content marketing can be an overwhelming notion for any start-up business owner. Where does content come from? Who does it? How do I find time between sales meetings, investor meetings, client meetings (and sleep) to do it?

You can. In fact, you probably already are. But to help you gain the confidence you need to become a content marketing superstar, here are six tips just for you newbies:

1. Strategize — it’s worth it

Many start-ups are running at such a quick pace, that there’s sometimes a “throw things at the wall and see what sticks” mentality. But the one thing you may want to slow down and spend some time on is your content marketing strategy. Why?

  • SEO benefits (how will people be able to find you online if you’re not even there?)
  • Reputation (you need to build one somehow)
  • Thought leadership (you need to distinguish yourself from the competitors – and fast)
  • You need multiple touch points – frequently – to reach your target audience.

Pulling together your content marketing strategy will help you document your objectives and assign actionable activities to them.  The plan can be fairly high-level – capturing your goals; key platforms you’ll be communicating on; what your “wants” vs. “needs” are; and prioritizing activities over time so they don’t all feel so immediately pressing (translate: overwhelming). Plan the work, work the plan, and leave room for adjustments as you gather lessons learned.

Elements of the marketing strategy include:

  • Platforms you will communicate through
  • Budget
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • An overview timing (e.g., quarterly or, if that’s overly ambitious, annually)
  • Measurement tactics to make sure you keep doing the right things – and avoiding the wrong ones.

2. Create a message strategy

Creating a message strategy is linked to step 1, but so utterly important that I decided to assign it its own number. A message strategy is the bones of your content marketing strategy because it’s where you identify who you are and how you’ll present yourself to your audience. Some things to consider:

  • Voice (how do I communicate with my audience?)
  • Style guidelines (consistency is key and and this is most important when engaging freelancers or outside communicators into your content marketing strategy)
  • Audience considerations (how might you need to tailor your efforts for, say, long-term prospects vs. existing customers)
  • Key messages: If you can’t sum up in three or four bullet points what your company does and what your mission, vision, and values are, then your customers won’t get it.

3. Start a blog

There are tons of reasons to start a blog; but to put it simply, it will give you the best return on your time and investment.  For start-ups and small businesses, the blog can act as the hub around which all your content marketing activities are centered.  Blogs allow you to demonstrate your thought leadership in educational – and SEO – beneficial ways, at very little cost to you and your company.  A tip:  If you’re short-staffed on writers, engage others in your company, or even outside industry thought leaders that you can interview or ask to contribute insights on your blog.

4. Pick your platform

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Pinterest – you name it, and someone’s telling you that you should be on it. For start-ups, you need to be very careful about where you invest your precious resources and where you distribute your content because this early on in the game, you’ll want to have close watch over your efforts on each platform, and how they are performing. The more platforms you use, the more platforms you’ll need to measure, people you’ll need to engage with, places you’ll need to update and improve (whew! There goes that sleep…), etc.

My advice here is to pick one or two by going online and seeing how your competitors are performing on those channels. If they have thousands of Twitter followers, but no Facebook fans, chances are they’ve found that the platform isn’t as conducive to their content marketing strategy as others.

Always remember to think outside the box. Your content will go miles further if strategically placed on an industry-related forum or community where your key influencers are. Take the time you’d usually be spending trying to figure out how to “Pin” your product on a board, and think about where people are actually talking about the products or services you offer (yes, I just gave you permission to surf social sites as part of your business strategy). Then, get into those conversations (i.e., LinkedIn groups) before trying too aggressively to create new ones (or at least until you have meaty and substantial content to offer).

Speaking of which…

5. Prioritize

Getting the meaty and substantial content needed to engage your audience isn’t easy. As we covered earlier, the blog is a great place to start. But for every blog, there can potentially be dozens of tweets, a couple Facebook/ Google+ posts, some group discussion topics on LinkedIn, a webinar, a white paper (ca-ching!), a conference session, a book… Yes, things can spiral pretty quickly out of control in your head — and what’s likely to happen is that you’ll just shut down and do none of them.

That’s why you should prioritize. Think through every blog post carefully, and leverage content from it that might be unique and engaging to your fans, or the broader community. Then, after a few months, think about rounding them up into an eNewsletter. See how it goes. Measure and test and measure some more. Baby steps.

Now, if you have the time and budget to invest in something more hefty, try some kind of engaging multimedia element: a webinar is a great way to introduce your company, establish your thought leadership, and improve your reputation; as are videos (both are a great source of leads for you to nurture with your ongoing incredible content, as well).

Regardless of what you choose as your top content marketing priorities, just make sure you do it well. Slow and steady wins the content race, and if you distribute a ton of low-quality content, chances are you’ll lose reader’s trust pretty quickly (not to mention Google’s).

6. Take pride in your efforts

One of the things I’ve seen most in start-up business owners is anxiety: angst over their “place” in the industry, fear about their ability to add value, and exhaustion over all there is to do. You can do content marketing. In fact, you probably already are. Take your business plan — the roots of your content marketing and where you establish and first communicate your identify. Take all those ideas in your head that bore your business concept, and all the stories about you and your company that you’re dying to share. Then put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, and start writing.

What other advice would you recommend to new businesses, or companies just starting up their content marketing efforts?

Launching a successful content marketing program has never been easier. Download our free workbook and let us take you every step of the way.

Author: Anna Ritchie

Anna Ritchie is a marketing and communications practitioner, focusing on social media, content marketing and Online Community management.You can follow her on Twitter @apritchie.

Other posts by Anna Ritchie

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  • DKD

    Great post! I need to focus in myself on just a few platforms. Ive spread myself pretty thin trying to keep up with all the social media platforms and create relevant content for them individually.

    • Anna Ritchie

      Thanks! I agree…it’s so tempting to “do everything at once” but starting off bite-by-bite might help your sanity, too :-)

  • tcmarketeer

    The strategy and planning part is really so important when setting out to do great content marketing. Of course the implementation and execution has its own set of challenges in order to have consistent results, but having a truly clear idea of the brand message and what you’re setting out to accomplish makes everyone’s lives easier down the road. 

    • Anna Ritchie

      Agreed – thanks so much for the comment.

      • Chad Story

        Seriously… getting organized for content can be half the battle.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Content marketing is something that can easily get pushed to the side when things get busy.  It’s important to stay on track.  If you’re going to operate a business blog, you need to keep it active.  Develop an editorial calendar that has content activities outlined for weeks or months in advance and follow it.  

    • Chad Story

      I was thinking the same thing. An editorial calendar is key. And if you’re lucky enough to use WordPress there are plug ins you can leverage to make the process a little easier.

  • Susan M Steele

    Excellent post — and applicable far beyond just start-ups.

    • Anna Ritchie

      Thanks so much, Susan!

  • Tom George

    Hi Anna,
    I have been coming to the CMI website for a while and it is seldom disappointing. Great post on content marketing, it was smart, informative and delivered a punch.

    • Anna Ritchie

      Thanks Tom! Much appreciated!

  • MyEnglishTeacher

    I just started my English teacher search website’s blog. I asked all English teachers who advertise on site to write 2 blog posts/month. 1 for our blog and 1 for others blog. 4 of them have agreed. I can’t provide you with any analytics yet, because the strategy works just 2 weeks. But I hope we’re doing a cool thing. :) What do you think as an expert?

    • Anna Ritchie

      This sounds fun- especially with so many exciting things that can go on in a classroom- bringing the community of educators together to share ideas and lesson plans, and even war stories, could be great!

      • MyEnglishTeacher

        Yes, it is! Thank you for you great post! Have a nice weekend!

  • Sam Shepler

    Thanks for this great article Anna, it is insightful, compact, and spot on! To build on the startup owner questions of “Where do I have time and” “where does content come from” I would suggest the “sell your sawdust analogy.”  Knowledge workers often don’t realize how much of their knowledge could easily be transformed valuable content! 37 signals has a good write up on selling “by products” here.  

    My question for you and CMI would be: how do you anticipate the content marketing focus to fluctuate per respective industry in the next 3/5/10 years?  Ie right now high tech, professional services, and e-commerce are the big 3 really really utilizing content.  Do you anticipate this changing or evening out down the road?  

    Thanks again for the great article!

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  • Kevin Clark

    Anna, this is a very good article. Excellent advice all around.

    It’s really important that SMBs (small businesses) know that generating content isn’t as daunting as they might think. It really is just a habit to develop. Spend just a few minutes every day generating content. It definitely goes a long way in the long run. Returns may take awhile, but stay the course and you’ll be at the top of your industry eventually.

    I am a blogger too. It’s taken a couple months but my blog is really picking up steam now. I have seen plenty of leads and business opportunities come out of the blog. Check it out if you have a few minutes (link on my name).

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