Going all-in on content marketing
I've been a co-founder of Chirr App for about a year now. In that time we've managed to double to size of the company. When I joined we were about 3.5K MRR and today we crossed the 8K MRR mark.
We can now cover all product expenses and we're ramen profitable for all three people on the team. It's a lovely position to be in.
It's also a little disappointing. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I thought we would be closer to 20K MRR at this point. But it has been an incredibly reading and humbling learning journey over the last year.
I came into the tiny startup guns blazing from working as a consultant with 300+ financial tech companies. About 6 months in it became clear that everything I was planning on doing wasn't going to work at this scale. I had to fundamentally reconsider my role and purpose.
After a year, of all the product updates and marketing approaches we invested in, SEO traffic was what worked the best for us.
So now it's time to double down on what worked and go all-in on content marketing over the next year.
In honor of this new direction, I spent the day reading the top search results for...
Why content marketing is important
Content marketing brings in traffic. I'm talking about getting blog content to rank for search queries here. It takes a while to get ranked, but when you do, it's free traffic.
It's relatively inexpensive. Anyone with a clear understanding of how SEO works can start to produce useful content for their audience without any other upfront expenses.
It's effective at converting traffic. Content marketing doesn't just bring traffic to your site, it qualifies it. By creating content for different stages of awareness you can produce content for every stage of the sales funnel and link it together to slowly move people towards a sale on their own time.
It lets you take a break. Unlike social media or pumping money into ads, you can invest a chunk of energy into content marketing and then take a break and everything will keep chugging along. You don't want to take too long a break, but it's certainly more forgiving than other channels.
All other types of marketing are based on content. If you want to run ads, put an email campaign together, or develop a social media calendar, what are you going to say? Ultimately, you are doing content marketing regardless of what type of marketing you are doing. By explicitly focusing on content marketing as the heart of growth strategy you can then reuse the content you create in all other approaches to marketing.
OK, So what is content marketing then?
It's creating useful information for your ideal audience around the problem your product helps people solve.
The key is that you own the content, as opposed to doing PR or sponsoring other people's content.
Content marketing is generally free, doesn't;t have to be though. I'm talking about written content because I'm talking about ranking on search engines. However, video content is exactly the same since YouTube is basically a search engine now.
So how do you do it?
As far as I understand it's a fairly simple 4 step process:
Write for one audience. You have to have a clear vision of who you are producing content for. When you're starting out, the narrower the definition the better. Writing for one person doesn't;t mean excluding everyone else, it just means figuring out who your ideal audience is and giving them your full attention.
Figure out what questions they're asking. Using search tools (and they don't have to be super expensive) you have to build up an understanding of the kinds of questions your audience wants an answer to on your topic.
Then you create super useful content that answers their questions and helps them get from A to B with whatever they're dealing with.
Finally you promote the content, you want the content to get in front of the right people and some of them need to value the content enough to link back to it for it to get picked up and respected by search engines.
And that's the broad strokes.
What does effective content marketing look like?
Ahrefs is really my go-to resource at the moment. They have a super technical product and they have done an amazing job of marketing it by creating heaps and heaps of ludicrously useful content around it that shows you how to use their tool to do content marketing well. If you want to dive further into this their free blogging for business course is the place to start.
Content marketing doesn't just work for super sophistical software products. Lodge is a "boring" manufacturer and retailer of cast iron skillets. They've managed to create helpful content that generates tons of traffic by teaching people how to cook with and care for cast iron pans.
Content marketing also doesn't;t have to be based on a utility or skill. Ben & Jerry’s “What’s New” content marketing blog has, for years, allowed audiences to explore their values and missions. They connect with ice-cream lovers on a different level, by inspiring action and encouraging social change.
Why is content marketing so effective?
Our media environment is so saturated with promotional content that we've all become experts at ignoring it. We fast forward through commercials, we're blind to banner ads, we tune out advertisements and we're incredibly sensitive to when we're being sold on something.
Content marketing doesn't interrupt your experience like ads do. Good content is the information you've made the effort to go out and search for. If the information is clear and useful then it promotes your product or service by directly tying into how your product helps solve the specific problem they're dealing with or by becoming a trusted source of information in relation to that problem.