Setting up your content marketing engine
As an early stage founder, it can be tempting to defer marketing on your list of priorities.
Achieving product-market fit is an obsession you will have from day one; building your product, hiring talent, ensuring an adequate cash flow will all appear significantly more pressing. However, keep in mind that you aren’t building in a vacuum. A consumer is never going to buy a product they haven’t heard of. Without marketing, most new businesses struggle to generate the sales they need to stay afloat.
Content marketing allows you to organically grow awareness (and soon after, credibility) for your product. Creating and sharing content your users will find relevant means you can add value to their experience at every step of their customer journey.
Investing in content also offers multiple secondary benefits:
- In its most basic form, all you need to invest in creating content is time.
- Tracking performance of your blogs and videos means you can get a sense of your audience’s interest in what you’re building
- Most importantly, good content can help you establish credibility as a thought leader in your field. Consequently making your startup more attractive to customers, investors and talent equally.
Okay, we’ve established that content is important. How do we start?
There are plenty of ways to build content, and just as many platforms on which to share it. Before you put pen to paper (or take your Mac to the nearest coffee shop), ask yourself three questions:
Why do these questions matter? The biggest difference between content writing and content marketing is what comes before and after the actual writing. Take the time to understand your target audience, and how your content can introduce them to your product.
Who are my users?
This is easily the most intuitive. You need to know who your audience is, what their specific motivations and paint points are. This translates into how your content speaks to them - is your brand educational? Or is it supremely confident about what it has to say?
Where are my users present?
A smart person selling towels goes to the beach. The same idea applies to content. If anything, it’s more important, since your content directs a pipeline of users from third-party platforms to your brand’s ecosystem. Understand where your audience is and meet them there; you’ll save everybody effort.
What should I tell them?
As you understand your audience better, find intersection areas between their needs and your expertise. Always leave them with an important takeaway, even if the takeaway is “I need to know more!.”
In order to better illustrate how these questions translate into audience-specific content strategy, we spoke to the founders and marketing teams at three of Atoms companies:
- Brew Money - A neobank which uses DeFi to provide users with higher interest rates on their savings
- Nymble - Building a robot chef which can cook curated meals for users at the press of a button, all tailored to individual users’ tastes.
- Spendflo - A SaaS solution for SaaS solutions, streamlining how companies buy their SaaS tools.
You can immediately see that these are three very different companies in terms of their product, their customers and ultimately the content they use to market their brand.
Now, before we jump into how these differences apply, keep one thing in mind. When you start building content is equally important as how you do it.
Start thinking about your brand and its content as soon as possible. Building credibility for founders and a trusted brand takes time. Three out of three of the startups we interviewed told us their content strategy was in place well before even a prototype was ready.
Exhibit A: Brew Money
Most of the 220 million investors holding crypto today lack the technical expertise required to make the most of DeFi’s potential. To Archisman Das and the team at Brew, it is these investors who stand the most to gain.
The audience we're targeting is not a power-user. These are people who hold cryptocurrencies but are still around the periphery of decentralized finance and self custody. We need to invest a lot into educating these users as to why these things matter. The secondary benefit is that once you start doing that, it also helps you build credibility. That was our approach to content.
Brew started by experimenting with context on several platforms - Instagram, Medium,
Substack and Twitter - before focusing on the latter two. On Twitter, they began creating ELI5 threads about blockchain fundamentals.
This was supported by their weekly #DeFiFriday newsletter, which built on the concept explained and plugged in further reading. All of this is tied together with a discussion on Twitter Spaces, which invites their community to discuss what they’ve learned with experts from around the crypto space:
Most of the team we’d hired, both interns and full timers, were new to crypto. So every Friday we’d catch up and have one volunteer come in and talk about a different crypto concept. And slowly, organically it started evolving from there. ~Archisman Das, founder at Brew Money
Exhibit B: Nymble
Food is a universal human experience, and Nymble’s content strategy builds on that fact. Much of the brand’s tone of voice communicates a feeling of empathy, of someone saying ‘I understand.” This can be traced back all the way to Anusha, who leads marketing at Nymble, and her conversations with their initial users.
Here’s an excerpt of her experience, lightly edited for flow, taken from Nymble’s blog:
There are also many other ways in which these initial sets of calls were helpful. It gave us vocabulary, to think about users and their problems in their own words. Take a look at this particular quote from a user:
“All I want to do is eat”
If I have to cook, even if it is Hello Fresh — it’s too much after a long day. Like sometimes the prep and cooking is actually fun and almost relaxing because you’re just sort of doing that. But most of the time, you know, it’s like, OK, I have to cut all these vegetables. I have to cook them in this particular order. Then I eat and then I have to clean everything up. So when I think cooking, it is not just it it’s all those kind of cutting, cooking and then cleaning . But all I really want to do is eat.
Here’s how we used to describe our product during these calls. “Julia is a smart-cooking robot that can cook most one-pot meals for you, automatically”.
It helped us articulate the value proposition and positioning.
The time Nymble spent with their customers helped the team identify which features would serve their customers best, but also in turn helped devise their content strategy.
What’s interesting about Nymble’s content is their decision to focus primarily on their email newsletters. The team puts out three mailer variants, each personalized for a different subset of their audience. The brand does have a presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and respectable followings on each, but these play more of a supporting role to the intimate community they’re building.
"The gestation period for someone who signed on [for Nymble] back in 2019, versus them actually getting the product in hand is quite long. So, email was our way to stay top of their mind over that period of time." ~Anusha Murthy, marketing lead at Nymble
Exhibit C: Spendflo
The week before this post was written, Spendflo announced it had raised a seed round of $4.4 million. All of their funding coverage, including heavy hitters like Forbes and TechCrunch, touched on one aspect of their business. Their claim.
Take a look at their website, and tell me if you can find it:
In one screen, their value proposition is clear. It’s a bold statement, quite literally. The natural question that arises as you read it, is “How?”.
Spendflo’s content anticipates that question and is prepared to answer it. Let’s take a look at their case studies section:
Remember how I said at the beginning, that content marketing adds value at every stage of the customer journey? Here it is in action, with the content being served directing straight to a lead demand engine.
Spendflo is very different from Brew and Nymble because it’s a B2B business, meaning its audience is far more niche - CFOs and team leads. It’s safe for them to assume that the problem they are trying to solve is well understood, and that quickly getting to the point is appreciated.