If you’ve decided 2015 is the year you finally launch your startup, I’m sure you will have many marketing questions. What do you focus on? How do you get the word out? How do you find investors? Customers? Can you market your startup without spending a fortune?
Our new Startup Marketing 101 series will help you find the answers. First up: a guide to publishing in the digital era, why do it, and how to use it to your advantage.
Content marketing is more than a trendy buzzword: it isn’t going anywhere. In 2015, content marketing is all about establishing authority, whether that’s to attract investment, partners or customers.
Working on a startup in silence is pointless: share your story.
Publishing thought-leadership articles, detailed tutorials, educational infographics, and solving people’s problems will get you and your startup noticed not just in your city, but around the world too.
Content marketing is often misunderstood and like any form of marketing, it requires a strategic plan to see any benefit. Spending hours toiling over a blog that noone reads, sending press releases to journalists that remain unopened, creating white papers without a clear idea of your target audience: if you’re doing these things then stop!
Here’s how to do it properly.
Once the domain of lolcats and food pictures, blogs of today are powerful business tools. Used correctly, they can build a killer brand, inspire viral sharing of your stories, generate new customers and destroy the competition. Used incorrectly, they are a simple time-suck.
As a professional blogger, I advise most startups to start a blog. But do it as part of a clear strategy, knowing your purpose and intent. Is it to build your brand or is it to generate leads? Stick to just one of those aims and your chances of success will improve.
- Buffer Blog – the blog of the social media scheduling tool attracts new clients by tackling common pain points of its target audience: social media power users
- The Cleanest Line – the blog of the online adventure travel store Patagonia builds the company brand by telling compelling adventure travel stories with barely a mention of their products
- Crunch Blog – the blog of this online accountancy firm generates leads by offering hands-on business advice to its target market: small UK businesses, contractors and freelancers.
Churning out blog post after blog post is exhausting work (I should know, I’ve been doing it since 2007!) but there’s also another downside: blog posts disappear off the radar after a week or two. Develop some high value, evergreen content alongside the regular posts and your startup can really make an impact.
Evergreen means content that will always be fresh and useful. Something that your target market can refer back to again and again.
White papers demonstrate in-depth knowledge and expertise on a topic and are considered a valuable marketing tool despite the lack of sales language. They should inform a reader about a specific problem and a specific solution from a technical perspective. They are common in large ICT companies but there is no reason why startups can’t utilise the format to great effect. Infographics are a visual way of representing data, while instructional videos also use a visual medium to explain: really important in these days of short attention spans and especially for explaining a new technology or process.
- Norwegian Startup Scene infographic by Startup Norway
- White papers by Oracle
- Instructional video by AirBnB
Video and audio
Audio podcasts are growing in popularity, although it remains to be seen whether video-podcasts will move beyond the realm of attention-seeking teenagers. If you are developing a product, or simply prefer to talk rather than write, telling your story via video or audio could be best for you. New media and social networks are becoming more focused on video and audio, so it could be a smart move to start now.
Don’t invest in expensive equipment if you’re just trying it out. The newest smartphones and a white wall in a well-lit room will give you a “good enough” video quality, while a quality podcast microphone can be had for under $100. Also, keep them short: 2-4 minute updates should hold people’s attention, any longer, and they will switch off.
If you have the energy, publishing a mix of all of the above is a great, albeit time-consuming, strategy to pursue.
But if you can’t justify the time investment that quality publishing requires – and as a new startup that’s a fair call – there is another emerging option: publishing on other people’s platforms. Content marketers will tell you it’s important to own your publishing platform, but if you approach this with specific aims in mind, publishing on other platforms can be incredibly effective at demonstrating authority and building your network.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular.
No longer just a social network for professionals. Just like Facebook has moved from social network to advertising platform, LinkedIn has morphed into a publishing platform. Do you receive those emails from “LinkedIn Pulse” or “LinkedIn Influencers” with content targeted towards your professional interests? Your knowledge and experience can be in those emails, targeted directly at potential customers, partners and investors. As LinkedIn’s publishing platform is still new, you can strike while the iron is hot and potentially make a big impact.
- Big Idea 2015: The Coming Micropayment Disruption by Walter Isaacson, CEO at Aspen Institute
- Bootstrapped Unicorns by Sramana Mitra, founder at One Million by One Million (1M/1M)
The storytelling platform Medium is gaining popularity as an alternative to business blogging. Unlike with your own platform, you don’t control much of the look and feel of the published posts, but there is an in-built audience and the best posts will “rise to the top” and reach a much wider audience than you could hope for with your own fledgling blog. Here in the Nordics, Neil Murray closed his The Nordic Web blog and went all-in on Medium last year. He explains why here.
I don’t think Medium is a viable long-term strategy, but it could provide a real boost to your startup just when you need it most.
- Medium Tech channel – the most popular tech stories on Medium
- How our startup was bought by Google without even trying – by Early Clues LLC, a terrific example of business storytelling that is almost certain to go viral
If you operate in a defined niche, your best option could be to submit articles to online media covering that niche. Media giants like the Huffington Post accept guest articles but if you’re not a known name and lack a published portfolio, start smaller. If your startup is working on a new widget for the energy industry, consider articles for energy publications. If your aim is to build credibility in a specific niche, writing guest articles could be a winner for you.
Per Harald Borgen of Disco Fingers published a guest post here on Technoport about his experiences pivoting from one idea to another, an issue faced by many entrepreneurs but rarely discussed in the media. In sharing his story, he raised the profile of his new startup.
- 5 Ways Mobile Search Has Changed the Game for Local Businesses – by Ian Mills, co-founder and CEO of Magicdust on the Huffington Post
- We’re competitive players in a world of poker – by Erik Paalsrud, founder of CosyTech on the Startup Norway Blog
Share your story
If you are a startup founder, student of entrepreneurship, or working on innovation within a company and you have a story to share, there could be a place for it here on the Technoport blog. To find out more details, get in touch with us at hello (at) technoport (dot) no
I firmly believe telling your story and sharing everything is the path to success. Good luck!
Next up in Startup Marketing 101: social media.
Share your startup story in person
Join us in Trondheim, Norway, on 18 & 19 March as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset at Technoport 2015.
Photo credit: Living together by Sergio Alvarez