In every startup I’ve been involved in, there are a few key elements you need to have in place. You need the right people, the right idea, and the right product or service. Then, you’ve got to be able to tell people about your business.
That’s where marketing comes in. It’s in the top four things that you’re going to need to do in your new company, so you have to put a lot of thought into how you’re going to market your products and who your audience is.
To do this, you need to have a marketing plan. Not being a marketing whizz myself, I had a conversation with an expert in a recent episode of our podcast, ‘From The Factory Floor’, who has built an entire business around effective marketing – Georgia Kirke, founder of Write Business Results Ltd.
Together, we will take you through a few ideas you can use in your startup to develop an effective marketing strategy that gets results. Let’s begin.
Marketing without sales
Me: “When we talk about marketing, what do we mean?”
Georgia: “The first thing to be aware of is that although they are interconnected, marketing is different from sales. Marketing is about how you communicate who you are and what you do to your ideal audience. It’s about figuring out who you want to be having your conversations with, and then working out how best to engage those people.”
One thing that any startup should know is that, to grow your business, there are alternatives to having a sales team using effective marketing to generate inbound enquiries.
At thestartupfactory.tech, we don’t have one, and in my previous company, I didn’t either. Quite frankly, when I first started in business, I didn’t have a clue about marketing or sales, although my natural enthusiasm and ability to engage with people covered over the cracks in my marketing knowledge.
The reality was we didn’t have the money to hire marketers or sales staff at my first company. We started with £15,000 to see us through the first three months before we started generating cash flow. In those early days, we went door knocking on every business in our building, which was a converted cotton mill in Stockport!
There were a lot of startups in that building, and they needed help with their websites and back-office systems – so that’s what we did. I knocked on every door, and that provided business for the first 18 months of our existence.
Even in those days (2001), £15,000 wasn’t a huge sum of money so it goes to show that you can grow a business without spending anything at all on marketing or sales.
As we matured and our cashflow improved, we started moving into other areas of marketing that brought us better results. The most effective of these was creating a culture around creating expert content.
Me: “How common is it for businesses these days to rely solely on content marketing without a conventional sales team?”
Georgia: “These days it’s becoming increasingly common for businesses to use content to grow a business – it’s the new normal. It’s been this way particularly in the last three years, but has been ramped up again by what happened in 2020 with the pandemic, and it’ll continue to grow throughout 2021.
Face-to-face is now no longer an option, so if you have a sales team, you’ll need a team of three to five people or more constantly on the phone trying to start conversations, often with people who don’t really want to talk to them.
Instead, you can put some really valuable content out there into the world and let people come to you. By publishing expert content like blogs, books or podcasts in your niche, you are allowing people to disqualify themselves. Only people who are interested in your niche will want to consume what you put out.
It’s not only a more cost-effective way of doing things, but it’s also far more powerful in terms of the overall impact on the business. You’re unequivocally the expert in your field, and you don’t have to spend all day making cold calls. Once you create the content and put it out, it can work for you over and over again.
Content like blogs, podcasts and books are good examples of this ‘long-tail’ content. The longer you have your podcast or blog out there, the more people it can help.”
Creating a culture of expert content
This idea of expert content creation is something I have always considered to be an important part of a business’ culture. Back when I started my first business, there weren’t the blogging platforms or podcasts there are today – it wasn’t a thing.
Where we started was with books. We wrote six books on different areas of our niche, and they were all published. One of them ended up being a bestseller and was translated into 13 languages!
That created notoriety for the company. We published expert content in our niche that became the Bible for the technology we were writing about at the time – this won us a lot of business. This is the same theory used by content marketers today.
Then, a few years later, our CTO began to blog about his experiments with technology and discuss his work at conferences, which won us even more business.
Creating great content is something all startups can do. Of course, you will need to strike a balance between the time you spend creating content and the other tasks you have; by making sharing expert content to your community part of your DNA, you and your team will make it part of your daily work schedule.
It doesn’t have to take you days either – if it’s your area of expertise, you should be able to get something that gives a lot of value to your audience out there reasonably quickly (four hours, max).
Giving back to your community and building your personal brand
If you are doing some really interesting work for your clients, then talk about it! By creating expert content in the form of blogs, podcasts, books and videos, you are also giving back to your community. Of course, check with your clients first so you are not violating a contract or trust. In my experience as long as you are sensible about how you do this most clients welcome the opportunity to give back to the community. After all, it also enhances their reputation.
You don’t have to give away your Crown Jewels, but sharing an overview of your work can really help drive the industry forwards, position you as an expert, and can end up winning you a lot of business. For example, some of the people in your community may work for potential customers and can recommend you to them – that’s how this works!
Another great thing about creating content is that it really helps you build your personal brand. At my previous company, we had this culture of encouraging people to build their personal brands to the point where it became a selling point for us in terms of recruitment and retention.
It made people feel accomplished, and they were much more likely to stay for the long term. If you are able to build this into your organisation, it will have a similar effect for your team too.
Giving back to your community, growing your business and building your personal brand is all driven by creating a culture of expert content creation within your company.
What to consider when creating content
Me: “What approaches can a new startup take to start producing expert content?”
Georgia: “Sometimes people see writing content as a one-off thing or something with a very rigid format, but there’s no law on how many pages make a good book or how many words make a good blog. It’s all about focusing on the reader and what you’re trying to get across.
I would just encourage people not to limit themselves by assuming that creating content isn’t for them or that brand-building is just about a company’s image.
Usually, people’s ears perk up when they start to learn about some of the results publishing content can generate.
For most of the companies I work with, it doesn’t matter what industry they’re in. At Write Business Results, we have a particular process that we use to put books, blogs and podcasts together.
It works for absolutely any industry, and any topic, because it focuses on the way that the information is gathered and how we can reverse engineer it to help people meet their commercial goals by helping their audience.
If you are thinking of creating content, you should first set out your long-term goals. A year from now, what sort of things need to be going on for you to know your content is working?
This could be a certain number of leads, a sales target or even a certain amount of positive book reviews or client referrals.
Whatever those goals are, get clear on them and then set metrics around those targets. Then you can start to put strategies around the content in terms of where to publish it and who to put it in front of through the promotion.
Just to give you an idea of what that might look like:
The business books we create and self-publish for our clients can generate returns of £80,000 to £120,000 in the first 12-18 months after publication, that clients can directly attribute to the book. And this isn’t from royalties.
It’s all about how you leverage your content with the people that you want to be doing business with. For example, most of the business leaders I work with normally have some high-value offer that they sell, and the book acts as a tool to attract the sort of people who might take this offer.”
Be efficient with your content – reuse and recycle
One of the big fears that holds startups back from implementing this culture of content creation is time. Most of them already have their fingers in many pies and will be worried about the time it will take to get a blog or podcast up and running.
You need to be efficient with your content creation and that can often come from sharing the load. At thestartupfactory.tech, we will be publishing a book early next year that has a total of eight co-authors, some of whom are our suppliers!
Also, once you have a piece of content like a book, you can repurpose it for other media. For example, in the last 12 episodes of our podcast “From The Factory Floor” we have been discussing subjects that we have written about in our book.
A lot of these blogs, like the one you’re reading right now, are written from content taken out of the book and podcasts too! You can also do the opposite – take all your blogs from the last 12 months and turn them into a book.
Creating content in various formats is important because it means we can provide content that covers all of our audience’s preferences. We won’t necessarily reach everyone with only one medium. That’s a really smart reuse of content, and it saves you tons of time too.
You can also use these pieces of content to promote each other. For example, your blogs and podcasts can help build up an email list you can use to promote your book. Similarly, your book can direct people to your blog and podcast.
Your content needs to be part of your overall marketing strategy, so make sure you plan the best ways you can use it to leverage your business.
Your content creation also needs to be able to last the lifetime of the company. If it’s a one-off, it’s going to get you one-off results so make sure you are publishing consistently. Pick a time and day of the week to publish your blog or podcast, and stick with it.
It takes time to build a personal brand and to be seen as an expert. Content creation is a long game and you probably won’t see results for the first six months. I’d say if you’re going to write a book, a blog or record a podcast, start them before you start your company and build up a large bank of content to get you started.
If you do that from the outset, it will put you ahead of the game. If you don’t, you’ll be playing catch up.
So, don’t worry about it being perfect, just get started. You don’t need a recording studio to launch a podcast (ours are recorded on Zoom!) or fancy tools to start a blog – just do it. The time and money (if you have a budget) spent on creating content should always be seen as an investment rather than a cost.
I hope you have found this useful. If you would like to find out more about this culture of content creation please check out episode 13 of our podcast ‘From The Factory Floor’ where myself, James and Georgia explore this in more detail.
Alternatively, feel free to email me at email@example.com