Why Startups and Small-Businesses Struggle With Content Marketing

Jonathan Ronzio
Apr 4, 2016 · 7 min read

In the beginning, it sounds easy.

You’ve got this great new idea. It’s going to solve a huge problem for tons of people. It’s different than the rest. It’s cooler. Everyone is going to love it.

You build a website, fire up some social media profiles, and you start a blog.

That’s how it works right? You’ll find the audience and keep them engaged with all your awesome, super-consistent, content?

Sure, but the problem is, you’re not just building a blog. You’re building a startup. You’re running a small business. And that’s a whole different beast.

Content marketing is a business in itself to manage, but it’s just a piece of your business.

And that’s where the struggle starts.

Having a content marketing plan no doubt is extremely important. It’s side-effects are building brand awareness, building customer relationships, increasing trust, expanding reach, and it’s a cheaper alternative to traditional advertising. But, it takes time. And it can be harder than we expect!

You’ve got two major checkboxes when it comes to creating content.

  1. Quality: Provide value that is ancillary to, or in support of, your product or service. Don’t simply promote your product or service.
  2. Consistency: Provide value on a regular basis to build trust and your base of regular readers/brand loyalists.

For example:

Output: New Craft Brewery X (NCBX) tweets daily about how awesome their beer is, and how much better it tastes than Budweiser, and all the awards the won in their town.

Result: No one gives a shit.

Output: NCBX writes a post about all the GMO nonsense that the top 5 beer producers in America use, which incites a compelling reason why you may want to try a craft beer instead. And hey, maybe you’ll try theirs!

Then they do a long-form, well-researched, monthly report on inorganic vs. organically sourced beer ingredients and how some craft brewers (including them) are meeting the needs of a more health-conscious consumer while still making damn good beer!

Result: Beer enthusiasts sign up for their newsletter to stay informed on which brewers are still using GMO ingredients, and they also happen to get news of new NCBX beer styles, new merch, where to buy, and tasting room promos. BOOM!

Ok, so back to your new business.

You start off with the best of intentions in your content marketing. Provide value, and provide it consistently. But very quickly, that “new blog post every Monday” and “newsletter blast every Thursday” plan collapses.

In its wake is a haunting to-do list that follows you around basically giving you noogies until you just PUT SOMETHING OUT! And that’s when you start producing shit.

Not only are you not meeting your own made up content deadlines, (which makes you feel like a big douche because you’re letting down the few readers that you did manage to hook), but when you do post, you post garbage that doesn’t resonate with your audience because the thought and effort just isn’t there.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way!”

I know. This has happened to me, and I’ve seen some of my consulting clients experience the same struggle.

It happens to the best of us — founders and small-business managers being the most affected. It’s simply in the entrepreneur’s DNA to bite off more than we can chew. And like a cheap Chinese buffet, we end up with too much on our plate:

  • Sales
  • Keeping the product/service development road map moving
  • Dealing with customer service issues
  • Building partnerships/affiliates
  • Managing churn
  • More sales
  • Website maintenance
  • Finances. Oh the finances
  • Social media management
  • Blogging
  • The newsletter
  • Getting press
  • Networking and attending events
  • Doing webinars
  • Reading and researching
  • Starting to build a team
  • Managing that team
  • Regular life things

The list keeps going…

So when our content isn’t regular, and it’s kind of blowy to boot, we really shouldn’t expect to see any real value returned from our efforts. Meaning any amount of time we are finding to squeeze out a crappy blog, is just wasted.

“You can’t recycle wasted time.” — Click to Tweet

How then can we stop wasting time, and make content marketing work for us?

There are two obvious issues to address, which go back to the content marketing checkboxes.

  1. Quality
  2. Consistency

How to Create Better Quality Content

This is the easier of the two to fix. Creating higher quality content comes down to better planning.

For starters, you can use tools like Ruzzit, and BuzzSumo, to find inspiration and better plan your content based on what’s currently performing well in your space. Figure out what your competitors are writing, your influencers are sharing, and your audience is reading. It’s powerful stuff!

Diving a little deeper, one of the most effective and easiest ways to create better performing content, is to make sure it’s optimized for the keywords that will first, matter to your audience, and second, rank well for SEO.

I learned this fantastic tip from WP Engine founder, Dan Norris, in his book Content Machine. I’m sharing this one, but definitely check out the book, because it’s just one of many great tips!

You probably have a Google Ad Words account, but if not, they’re free to set up, so do it.

Log in to the Keyword Planner.

Click the “search for new keywords” dropdown and enter the key term/category for your business, and also your landing page.

Click “Get ideas”

Once your results load, click the tab “keyword ideas” and then filter by average monthly searches.

For a startup or small-business with a blog that’s not yet super popular, you definitely don’t want to be going after highly competitive keywords.

Instead, you should aim to use keywords/phrases in your content (title, lede, open graf, etc.) that rank in the 100–800 average monthly search range and have low competition. That’s your wheelhouse.

It’s there that you’ll pick up steam, increase your content’s Google search ranking, and thus drive more traffic to your blog.

And if you have a Wordpress blog, download and use the plugin Yoast SEO. After you’ve done the above exercise and know which keywords will work best in your content, Yoast SEO makes sure you’re implementing it right.

How to Create Content More Consistently

Here is where we need to step back and decide, as founders or managers, our priorities. What is your strong suit and where is your time best spent?

To boost content productivity levels, if it’s not more of your own time that you’re going to invest, you’ve got two options:

  1. Hire
  2. Outsource

If you’re in a place where you can afford it, hiring is certainly the best option.

The most common reason a startup becomes a success story is because the founder understands the value of hiring people to do things better than he/she could.

They consent, maybe uncomfortably, to giving up control of everything, and build a team of experts in their respective fields to man the sails while they steer the ship.

So if you can hire, hire. That’s great. To start, even an intern or part-time employee may provide that breath of new life that your content needed. And they can be more reactive and real-time with audience engagement too.

If your startup or small-business isn’t yet at the scale of hiring an in-house content manager, and you’ve got too much on your plate, then it’s time to learn to outsource.

Outsourcing Content

Have a webinar, event, or new sale that you need to promote on social? You can have Fancy Hands write up 10–20 Tweets or Facebook posts for you. Then load them in your Buffer, and you’re done.

Just published a new blog? Create a recipe in IFTTT to trigger an email instructing Fancy Hands to share your post on StumbleUpon.

Also use IFTTT to auto publish your blog to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and even to trigger a text message letting you know when someone commented on your post.

When you don’t have the time to write, you can order new blog posts from Scripted, or completely outsource your weekly blog, newsletter, and social development, with done-for-you content marketing by Content Jelly.

Learning to leverage virtual assistants and specialized content marketing services is a wonderfully liberating thing, giving both you and your bottom line room to grow.

It’s often difficult to tie content marketing to ROI, but I think with outsourced content, the link is a little clearer.

Not necessarily in the way of seeing sales dollars come in as a direct result of a certain Tweet. But in the way that, when you can free up your time to focus on other things, like attending events and closing sales, then your investment in outsourced content marketing has directly influenced your business’ growth.

Because if one universal truth is certain: Time is money.

Meanwhile, that content running smoothly in the background continues to grow your audience and keep your prospects engaged.

When it comes to content marketing, here’s what founders, startup leaders, small businesses managers, you, need to ask —

  1. What value can I provide our customers?
  2. Can I provide value on a consistent basis?
  3. If I remove “I” from those two questions, is my time more valuable when spent elsewhere?

Is you answered yes to #3 → Hire / Outsource.

Then grow.

Jonathan Ronzio

Written by

At the intersection of mountains and marketing. Authenticity, always. CMO at trainual.com, adventure athlete and co-host of The Stokecast podcast.

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