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You’ve probably heard this sentence to the point of nausea: “No one has ever been fired for buying from IBM.” This is one of the biggest challenges for most startups: gaining the trust that comes with having an established and recognized brand.
If you’re not convinced that content marketing is for you, here are four reasons why it’s important for businesses of all sizes, especially startups.
Related: Here’s How to Improve Your Business’ Content Marketing
B2B buying habits have changed
B2B buyers now demand a shopping experience that minimizes their direct interaction with brands and maximizes their reliance on digital channels for information.
A recent study by Gartner found that B2B customers spend about 5% of their total buying time interacting with a supplier, with the majority spent on independent research.
New shopping behaviors favor established brands because of their brand awareness and perceived authority. Still, startups can compete by producing relevant, high-quality content. Studies show that 47% of B2B buyers say thought leadership helped them discover and buy from a company that isn’t among the established leaders in a specific niche.
To ensure your content reflects the needs and journey of your buyers:
- Survey existing customers. Try to understand their unique journey and the dynamics of their buying team.
- Download Sales Team Analytics. Regularly collect and document sales team information from lead interactions.
- Perform an audit. Audit your existing content, searches, and knowledge bases.
- Get third-party validation. Use credible third-party research specific to your niche.
- Tailor content to audiences. Develop detailed buyer personas and connect your content to their journey.
Content only works if it speaks to your customer. As a guide, always start with voice of the customer data to drive content strategy and messaging. Their feedback should guide everything, with industry research and empirical evidence to back it up.
Related: Content Marketing Quick Start Guide: 3 Things Your B2B Startup Should Publish First
Analytics allow you to better understand your target customers
Today, analytics tools allow businesses to know more about their target customers than ever before. Yet data analytics needs content to generate value.
The more than 100 data points that Google Analytics Leads offer nothing if you can’t drive audiences to your website. All those social media metrics? They also don’t make sense without posts that drive impressions and engagement.
Content facilitates a learning process that allows your startup to survive and win. The more you produce, the more you learn about your target customer and what motivates them to take profitable action. This is important for any business, but especially for startups.
To get the most out of your content:
- Establish a regular posting schedule. Establish a consistent cadence for publishing your various content offerings (e.g. weekly blog posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays).
- Make content consistent. Cross and promote your content offers.
- Learn and apply. Regularly update your content strategy with the information acquired.
This last bullet matters the most and surprisingly gets the least attention. If you capture analytics but never apply them, what’s the point? So, have weekly team meetings that review content performance and focus on improvement.
Related: Why Your Startup Content Marketing Strategy Isn’t Working
B2B buyers use large and diverse teams
As technology-based products and services become more mainstream, B2B buyers are increasingly using large and diverse teams to make a decision.
Buying groups tend to:
While these attributes favor established brands, startups may get more consideration. How? By developing thought leadership that commands attention, demonstrates authority, and makes buying teams smarter.
To increase the chances that your content will resonate with diverse groups:
- Develop different functional decision makers. Develop content that targets the specific interests of different decision makers, such as content focused on business value for executives and technical design for software engineers.
- Develop comprehensive content. Produce a balanced mix of content that focuses on each stage of the buying journey (i.e. awareness, consideration, decision).
- Target different learning styles. Diversify the format of your content offering based on your buying team’s learning styles and preferences (eg, audio, video, graphic, written).
- Improve your visibility. Make your content available where your buying teams go for information.
The above activities depend on factors specific to your business and niche, including product knowledge and sophistication levels of your buyer. Your buyer, and what drives them to convert, should guide everything you do.
Related: 5 Tips to Launch a Content Marketing Program Faster (and with Fewer Resources)
Startups Build Recognized Brands—Fast
Brand recognition is an inherent weakness for most startups. Still, that doesn’t mean they can’t quickly become a recognized name for their niche – with content marketing as their rocket fuel.
fintech Famous currency adopted a content marketing strategy that contributed to its rapid success. Before launching a product, he started a successful blog for his target customers and built an email list of 20,000 subscribers. It only took them three years to be acquired by Intuit for $170 million.
Building brand awareness is most important in the start-up phase, and content marketing is the most cost-effective tool to speed up the process.
To accelerate your brand building, take advantage of content marketing that can scale:
- Take advantage of third-party outlets. Leverage channels that maximize your reach and authority (e.g., articles in credible publications, speaking engagements, guest podcast appearances).
- Engage influencers. Leverage influencers to help market your brand and content (e.g. guest blog post, guest podcast appearances).
- Collaborate with partners. Partner with existing customers and/or partners to develop and cross-promote content (e.g. case studies, co-branded white papers).
- Carry content intentionally. Balance unprotected and protected content to increase brand awareness and leads.
The exact content strategy you choose depends (again) on your buyer persona. But you also need to consider your internal strengths. If you’re a charismatic founder who naturally shines on stage, a keynote or video interview might offer the highest ROI.
Conclusion: Invest in a Content Marketing Strategy
All signs point to a big takeaway.
Content marketing is a reliable (and indispensable) vehicle for convincing customers to give it a try.
So try your luck. Show the world why you’re better than all the IBMs saving jobs.