It's been over two years since I started my bootstrapped venture. With very little money to spend and no major investment backing, I was looking at ways to spread the word about my product and couldn't afford to spend money on social media platforms.
That's not all. With no experience in marketing products for consumers via the Internet, and absolutely no knack for churning out viral content (even my cat was way too lazy to do anything that might give me content for a viral video), my situation seemed hopeless.
When you are really pushed into the corner, and your behind is on fire, most of us tend to fight back. I was no different. I tried several things to find a way out of my predicament.
I reached out to digital marketing agencies and realized that I cannot afford even those that claimed to do everything on a cost-effective budget. I tried to hire consultants and walked away disappointed as their game plan also centered on spending myself out of my predicament.
Finally, I decided to do something that did not involve any spend but took up pretty much all my time. I started churning out content across several platforms and that's all I have been doing for over two years now.
Looking back, I am glad I spent so much time on churning out quality content as it has become a big source of qualified traffic for my product.
Here is the proof. My site has seen traffic grow by over 40 times from Nov 2015 to Nov 2017!
When you have qualified traffic, you end up with lots of customers who use your product or buy from you.
Here are the key lessons I learnt about using content marketing as the primary strategy to get your product off the ground.
1. Create The Best Content In Your Industry
Whenever I tell a fellow entrepreneur to create the best content in the industry, they think I am hallucinating.
My argument is pretty simple. If an entrepreneur has the skills to identify an unmet need or want and has devised a product or service that is superior to existing options in the market, how difficult is it to apply the same skillset in creating the best content in the industry?
Here is what I did to create arguably the "best content" in my industry I was operating in.
I wrote 8 chapters on how to create a profile for marriage and made is available for free download. I might have as well published it as a book on Amazon! It took me almost a month's time to do a deep dive on the mistakes people make when creating an online profile on matchmaking sites and also pick out some the best examples of profiles that others can emulate. The book I created acts as a lead magnet even today. And over 50% of the people who read my e-book end up using my product!
The fact that none of the matchmaking sites take the trouble to help their customers by sharing in-depth information about how to use their product turned out to be the gap that I exploited.
Every industry has similar opportunities to differentiate. You just need to spend the time.
Use this action list to create the best content on this side of the galaxy for your business.
- Identify keywords for your business that you want to target.
- Understand the intent of the keyword. Find out what type of keyword you are addressing - navigational (Facebook login), Informational (laptop review), or transactional (order pizza). You should be targeting informational or transactional keywords.
- Once the intent is clear, review the top 10 articles showing up for the keywords on search engines (aka Google).
- List down the broad subtopics covered in the top 10 articles.
- Use tools like Keywordtool.io or Ubersuggest.io (free) to find out if you can unearth related keywords with the same root phrase (psst...ignore ones that have zero search volume).
- Compare the subtopics from the top articles (point 4) with all the keyword phrases you have shortlisted (in point 5). Now you have the nailed down the content gap!
- Create a content outline that covers all the subtopics covered by your competition along with subtopics your competition has left untouched.
Get yourself a tall cup of coffee and write in-depth, actionable content for every sub-topic. If you haven't grown a beard by the end of this exercise (ladies included), you may not have done a thorough job.
2. Horses For Courses
Your content strategy has to run on multiple tracks to maximize the return on effort. You need to exploit all the free publishing options available on the Internet to get your message out in a truly unique way. Once you get on the content train, it's a relentless activity that will suck up your time but the payoffs will eventually outrun your efforts.
Here is what I did to push out content on multiple platforms.
I create the core content which is usually a 3500+ word blog post on a specific topic that might be directly related to my product. The purpose of the blog post is to educate and answer the user's questions and not to sell my product.
I don't just stop with the blog post. Once the blog post is published, I create snippets from the blog post and push it out to Pinterest, Tumblr, SlideShare, Twitter, Medium, G+, Facebook, Quora to name a few.
I also come up with shorter versions of the article which explores a small sub-topic mentioned in the blog post. For example, when I wrote a 7500-word monster of a blog post on wedding night tips, I also wrote a small article on wedding night mistakes to avoid. I use these spin-off articles to pitch to reputed publishing sites in my industry. This strategy not only helps create good quality natural backlinks to your blog post but also give you a steady growth in traffic.
If you manage to get your spin-offs published on reputed sites, your reputation as a leading voice in your industry is burnished and your brand gets additional exposure.
Follow these simple search tricks to identify the best places to pitch for a guest post in your industry:
- Use this super sensational search query to zero in on sites that accept guest post in your industry. Let's say you are selling craft beer and want to publish in an article, search for inurl:guestpost + "craft beer" on Google. If you are not into craft beer, the format will be inurl:guestpost + "KEYWORD RELEVANT FOR YOUR BUSINESS"
- Why stop with guest posts? Maybe your article is an excellent resource for your target site. Just use the query inurl:resources + "craft beer".
- Now use your imagination and play around with the query. Here is a bonus query format. If you want to search all the articles with a specific keyword in the title, use intitle: Your keyword. If you want to look for articles that talk about craft beer brands, here is what you need to do.
Don't forget to reach out to industry associations and relevant organizations that will be interested in hearing from you. Approach all of these organizations as a means to gain credibility and share your expertise. Selling your product is not the objective.
3. Your Content Is Your Garden
My family members always ask me, why do you spend so much time every day of the week (that includes all holidays) writing like as if every day was my last day on earth. My answer to all those that think I am crazy is that my content has a shelf life.
For example, If, I end up writing about fashion trends in 2017, guess what happens when the New Year shows up? Yes, you now have an outdated content that will slowly lose relevance to search engine as years roll by. How many Internet users search for fashion trends from 2017 in the year 2020?
Now write this down and frame it somewhere.
- I treat my content as a garden that needs constant nurturing and maintenance.
- I watch out for content that will automatically expire, I watch out for what competitors are generating,
- I find out what other angles I should have covered in an article that is already popular.
- I improve the graphics, and I look for spelling and grammar mistakes all the time.
In summary, you should always think “When I see an opportunity for improving an article that is already performing well, I just put in the effort to make it even better.”
Create your content maintenance checklist and keep working on it at least once every 3-months.
So what goes into this checklist?
- Use tools like AHREFS (paid), SEMRUSH (paid), Whatsmyserp.com (free), Google Search Console (free) to track search engine rankings for the content you have published.
- If the rankings are slipping, your competition is doing better than you and you may have to go back to the drawing board.
- If there are new developments related to the content you have published, try including them in the content. Example, your article on men's fashion should probably also talk about the latest trend.
- Update screenshots where needed, updated external links if they are no longer working, update content that expires such as pricing information.
4. Don't Forget Conversions
All the crazy effort and time that goes into creating awesome content about your product or the solutions you are offering are worth nothing if they don't help you move the needle or get your business to the next level.
So what is the ultimate goal for the content you generate? The objectives could vary, but here are some usual suspects.
- You want exposure to your brand or service or educate your target audience
- You want leads (usually the name and email address of someone interested in accessing your amazing content)
- You want customers or active participants for whatever you want them to sign up for (could even be a cause you are fighting for).
Invariably, you want all the three happening on your site!
Every content marketing initiative should be based on a funnel that takes your readers on a logical path towards meeting your ultimate goal for the content.
Once you attract the right audience through search engines, offer content upgrades and compelling content that is gated. Gated content requires the user to share name and/or email address. Here is an example of a gated content on my site. I use the information shared by the site visitor to start an email marketing automation cycle that aims to convert the site visitor into a customer.
I also use strategically placed call to action (CTAs) buttons and banners that are closely tied to the content and don't appear like an interruption.
Here is an example of what we have on my site that works wonders. Notice the sticky bar on the top that always reminds my blog readers to start using my product.
Use tools like Sumo, Optinmonster to improve your content conversion game. If you are using WordPress, you can also use free and paid plugins to implement these conversion ideas.
In summary, creating content to drive product exposure and adoption is something every entrepreneur should use as a tool to drive organic traffic to their product or website. As you create the content, you end up discovering a lot more about your customers or target audience and validate the many assumptions you may have made about your product.
If you are one of those people who believe they don't have the skill set for writing, you should do it anyways. After all, if your product is not perfect the day you launched it, why do you expect your content to be perfect?
Start working on your content, measure the outcomes and improve your content strategy. Eventually, it will all come together.