Build Your Content Machine Before Your Seed Round!

Every tech marketer knows how critical content is for an organization’s success. But what many don’t realize is that publishing content can and often should be an early marketing act.

In today’s online world, a B2B organization can get enough market traction to quickly go from a one-man show or small startup to a mid- to medium-size business, or even a large startup employing hundreds or thousands of employees… if content production is taken as seriously as product development from the get-go.

I’ve witnessed this firsthand.

An IOD client we’ve been working with for a number of years (since even before IOD was officially established, when I was still working as a freelancer) understood the value of creating a content machine from the very beginning, and as a result received substantial funding (more than $100 million) within just two years, and this is just one of many examples among our client base.

Considering nearly 71% of B2B buyers consume content prior to making a purchase, it’s vital that content be part of the buyer journey. According to Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute, startups have a huge advantage over large enterprises because they can work on building a loyal audience long before thinking about monetizing it.

We can also take an example from my own personal experience. I’ve been blogging for the past 10 years about cloud and enterprise IT. If you blog for this long, build up a community, and then start building your company, you’re far more likely to succeed. This is because with a decade of online presence and more than 16,000 LinkedIn contacts, I have a built-in audience to market to, and hopefully trust from individuals I’ve met, interacted with, or supported over the years.

A Tale of Two Types of Entrepreneurs

In my experience, there are two types of entrepreneurs with widely different approaches to content:

  • Content marketing enthusiasts are excited by their concept and can’t wait to present it to potential investors. They understand the value of content in the earliest stages and want to leverage it to generate conversations with potential customers and investors about their solution, for example, on boards like Reddit. By building a community early on and receiving product and market feedback, the content enthusiast has a serious advantage over the second type of entrepreneur.
  • The content-averse, on the other hand, prefer to invest in marketing only after the product launch. Often feeling overloaded, they believe that investing time and money in marketing so early on would be unjustified. These entrepreneurs also tend to have an exaggerated fear that their ideas might be stolen and thus fiercely guard their privacy. They fail to realize that investors are far more interested in a company capable of generating public discussion around their product—on social media and other relevant forums— than one too paralyzed by fear to even start marketing.

The Value of Content for Early-Stage Startups

So how does an early-stage startup go about producing quality content that will lead to this kind of growth?

These are the initial steps:

  • Concentrate on building your persona.
  • Identify and focus on your target audience and messaging.
  • Start posting articles and other content on relevant forums, for example:
    • Medium
    • LinkedIn
    • Company website
    • Responding to relevant questions on Quora
    • Guest posting on relevant forums

The content itself could include high-level opinionated pieces discussing pain points or more technical posts, such as how-to guides, writing about a specific open-source product feature, or, for example, a description of a machine-learning algorithm.

Broader Audience, Oiled and Scalable Content Machine

The value of creating content at this early stage allows you to reach a broader audience and receive feedback faster than you would by asking potential users/customers on a case-by-case basis. Once you’ve laid the groundwork and are ready to take the next step, you should be able to quickly scale up the content production in order to grow. This is far easier to achieve than building a content machine from scratch later in the game, with the added pressure from your board to scale up and demonstrate exponential growth at lightning speed.

Also keep in mind that the earlier you start your content, the sooner you’ll see results. For example, that traffic you work so hard to acquire early on through SEO will only show results six to nine months later. And if you wait until your product is ready to launch, you’ll have to wait even longer.

Are you a tech marketing professional seeking AWS experts to contribute expert-based content to your company blog? Contact us to see about hiring this writer (or others) to create content like this for you!

Agile Content Marketing

Establishing and sharpening a brand’s message is something tech startup founders are willing to invest a lot of time and money in. They often fork out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to attend brand positioning workshops that last weeks, even months. But getting a headstart on your content is one of the best ways to build and refine your brand message, and it’s an investment that quickly pays off.

Putting content out there on a regular basis allows you to get invaluable feedback from your audience to help you better understand your brand identity and thus how to appeal to your target audience. As mentioned, your R&D teams will also benefit by knowing the wants and needs of your audience, and hence where the product/service can be improved.

Through content research and blogging, you also learn about your competitors, influencers in the space, and eventually are able to better understand your unique place in the market. And if you keep at it, you’ll eventually reach a point where you know exactly which messages resonate with your audience; you’ll be able to hone your brand voice and deliver this across all of your content. This also enables you to recognize when and how your messaging needs to change as your market and audience evolve.

To summarize here, in the ever-evolving tech landscape, it’s critical to adjust your messaging as needed. This is what I like to refer to as “agile content marketing.”

What to Do Before Your Startup Commits to Content

Whether you’re an early-stage or mid-level startup, if you’ve made the decision to start creating content, there are a few things to consider.

Do You or Your CTO Have the Time?

This is one of the biggest challenges for small startups. If the technical expert or entrepreneur cannot devote at least 10 hours a month to your content writer or team, it will be impossible to create high-quality content, and this will instead result in “fluff.”

Tip: 10 hours a month isn’t so much if it’s distributed across your team.

Entrepreneurs/Tech Experts Aren’t Bloggers

There is a huge gap between most marketers and tech experts. The latter often lack the ability to transform technical language into marketable content. Marketing professionals, on the other hand, may know how to write well, but lack the technical background. This makes content creation challenging, to say the least.

Tip: Bring in a writer to own this and transform your tech content.

The Key to Creating High-Quality Content

Creating high-quality content must be a team effort involving a writer, technical expert, and marketing strategist.

Moreover, if you’re a content-averse entrepreneur, you’ll have to overcome your fear of being on center stage. You can do this by making sure your opinion is carefully thought-out in advance. Be prepared for criticism and make sure that you’re able to defend your position. I’ll be honest, this is easier said than done.

Once you’ve committed to investing your time in content, if you work with IOD, we will provide you with a writer to work with a tech expert from within your organization. The tech expert provides the ideas and technical expertise, while the writer brings it all together as a coherent, well-written, and effective piece of content.

IOD may also assign a writer/editor to work with the company’s tech expert, for example, the CTO of a startup who would create a first draft of the article. The writer/editor would then edit and rewrite that draft as needed to strengthen and add value to the text by improving the language and flow, adding relevant stats, ensuring links are included, and so on.

In this collaborative effort, the tech expert guarantees accuracy and relevance; the writer/editor helps turn it into a polished and powerful piece of tech marketing content.

Client Success Story

Five years ago, a client came to me with just a small team of three or four developers. They had received a small angel investment, but didn’t yet have a product. They were, however, committed to developing their product and content in parallel and had in fact just hired an SEO consultant.

They enlisted IOD’s services to produce meaningful, expert-based content that addressed their audience’s pain points from the very beginning. The content consisted primarily of long-form blog posts, which were initially posted on Medium and LinkedIn, and later to their website. Early on, the articles were written in conjunction with their in-house tech experts, but later required IOD experts to add greater value to their content.

As a result, the company saw a huge uptick in traffic (18-fold), which further motivated its commitment to continue producing high-quality content. This also drove their desire to push their development team to align their product values with the demand generated. They quickly realized they needed additional support to scale up their content production beyond blog posts and soon added white papers, expert tips, comparisons, and analyses to the mix.

At a later stage, IOD also helped them develop bylined content with industry influencers. This brought a higher level of credibility to their content and product, which translated into greater brand trust.

Fast-forward to today, in just two years, the content machine they’ve created with IOD’s assistance has experienced incredible traction and traffic, which includes hundreds of expert-based articles linking to their product pages. It has also successfully secured additional funding. It considers IOD its “secret sauce.”

Again, one of the keys to their success was understanding the need to build a content machine from the very beginning, and doing so in parallel with the early stages of their product development.

Building Loyalty Through Content Early On

While the majority of startups and mid-size organizations understand the challenge of creating high-quality content, not all entrepreneurs recognize the value of building a content machine early on—long before seed funding has been received. But the sooner a startup begins the process of creating high-quality content, the sooner it can reap the benefits.

IOD has successfully assisted early-stage startups by providing quality, expert-based tech content that provides value to their readers. This has been key to their success.

Maximize your reach with expert-based content. Contact IOD today to start building your content machine.

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