The First Month in Start-Up/SME Marketing (Part 3)

In part one and two of this series, I have covered the research and strategic planning that goes into the first few weeks of the chief marketing officer’s (CMO’s) first month in a start-up. We’ve covered things like industry and competitive research, making key decisions for strategy, branding, positioning, messaging, and also developing objectives and key results (OKRs).

With all of the above in place, we can dig deeper into the marketing plan – a more specific and tactical description of how the marketing strategy will be implemented. If you refer to the approach diagram I included in the last blog, you will find that content marketing occupies a large share in the overall plan. Thought leaders have suitably emphasized the importance of content marketing for all kinds of brands – so much so that even the largest of brands have invested significantly in it.

The Importance of Content for a Start-Up

For a small business founded not too long ago, the priorities revolve around awareness as much if not more as lead generation or conversions (for an e-business). Very often, start-ups build themselves around a niche product – a problem that many in the industry face but no one has hitherto thought of solving. Some others compete with the largest brands in the world but by offering clever differentiators (in features, pricing, method of use, etc.).
In all such cases, the challenge of getting new customers is more about educating the target audience that isn’t searching for or on the lookout for their solution. The effective use of content and storytelling have a big role to play here.

Types of Content to Plan For

As anyone who has studied art would tell you, form and content always go hand in hand. Similarly, in marketing, the form in which the content will be shared has great bearing on the way you write it and present it. I believe the following kinds fairly cover all kinds of content a start-up will use in its early years:

  • Website
  • Sales toolkit
  • Campaigns (search, email, display, social)
  • Social sharing (including blogs)
  • Thought leadership
  • Event specific (product launch, feature set addition, new leadership hire, etc.)

Web Content

This might involve starting a new website from scratch or evolving a limited website into one with more pages and better user experience. Things to consider here:

  • How are users currently consuming your website content (check current Google Analytics data, or implement it if it hasn’t been done yet!)?
  • What are some of the key pages or blocks of content required (e.g. home, product, features, testimonials…)?
  • What are the kinds of content that will change/get updated frequently? 
  • How will the content contribute to SEO goals?

Sales Toolkit

This is especially applicable for B2B businesses, since a detailed sales toolkit is a key part of their arsenal. This will involve collecting all existing sales collateral (there can be many documents and many versions if you have a team of sales people), creating a comprehensive list of collaterals to prepare (and get everyone to agree on it), sharing, and a feedback plan. I have usually done the sales toolkit development in two or three phases:

  • In the first phase (30 days), develop all the most critical documents, e.g. corporate presentation (introducing the company), basic sales presentation for each product/services, and data sheets.
  • Before the second phase, do a survey with sales to check adoption of new documents as well as what other documents they might need for their local needs.

Social Content

This is best prepared in the form of a monthly social media calendar. This calendar enumerates the shares (and also the content that will be shared) that will happen on all of the days of the month across all the social media pages the company is present on. These will typically include blogs that you have written, new updates on your website, interesting pictures (e.g. events and tradeshows you or your customers are at), videos, blogrolls, etc. Key points to ponder are the frequency of shares, which media to use for which kind of shares, and the process for copyedits, sharing, and responses.

Thought Leadership

Here is where you plan for upcoming keynotes, webinars, and whitepapers. The things to consider here include topics, content creation, ideal frequency, tone and tenor, balancing the use of graphics with text, etc.

Product/Feature/Partnership Launch

For any big-bang announcements, I usually follow a core content methodology, which I picked up at Adobe. The core content document provides a standard template of all forms of content that will be needed to describe the event. For example, in the case of a product or service launch, you might need an overall positioning statement, boilerplates of different lengths, key positioning pillars/feature sets, etc. This provides one place for everyone to review and agree on content before it is fed to a variety of outlets like the website, collaterals, banner ads, press releases, etc.

I feel the above sections provide a brief summary of different content types to include in your content marketing plan. There will be additional things that will come up, but the ones included here are a good way to begin planning in your first few weeks. Next month, I will elaborate on campaign strategy. Until then, best wishes with your start-up-marketing career!

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