Quick disclaimer before I dive in: I just want to point out that these three startups all have amazing products, great UI/UX, viral loops and an amazing team in place.
But despite those table stakes, there was a need to amplify the brand and messaging. In addition to extensive use of adwords, PR, and partnerships, these startups tapped into the power of their content marketing strategy helped to solidify their position in the marketplace. Here is why and how they did it.
“Just because a customer isn’t ready to buy from you now doesn’t mean they won’t ever be. You need to make sure you stick around for when that time comes” – Saul Colt
It might be tempting to compare the content that you find on the Unbounce blog to the Kissmetrics blog (in that it is just as awesome), but their focus is mostly towards landing page optimization, lead capture and building the best landing pages you can find on the web. It’s an amazing resource for online marketing and appeals to all those creating and managing marketing pages and landing pages.
Unbounce was using content marketing to educate their community well before they had a polished product. “Before Unbounce launched, we were using content marketing to educate, entertain and attract interest in landing pages and conversion. Pieces like 101 Landing Page Optimization Tips and The Noob Guide to Online Marketing were huge for us in terms of exposure and establishing a rapport with the community,” says Georgiana Laudi, Director of Marketing at Unbounce. They were also very busy guest posting on third party sites.
Every week they produce 2-3 high quality blog posts, half of them are produced in-house, and the other half come from various experts in the conversion community. They spend a lot of time looking for talented thinkers in the CRO space, and always love to promote what others are doing.
On top of a killer blog, Unbounce is keen on ‘giving away’ trade secrets. By hosting numerous webinars, publishing eBooks and expanding their resource library, they are quickly becoming the go-to source for all things landing page-related.
“Engaging content serves so many purposes; Internally, it keeps us going with our best foot forward. We’re constantly learning new ways of doing things, keeping tuned in to the community, and remaining in touch with what our customers want and need”, explains Georgiana. “Externally, it provides us with both educational and entertaining content to share with both our customers and our social network. I can’t imagine doing social media marketing without an active blog honestly.”
Secret: Using Unbounce and a wicked email service is extremely powerful in lead generation. Each action taken by a user places them into a different cohort, thus feeding them the most appropriate content and ‘soft-sell’ upsells. They can then better gauge which content they’re most interested in, and then through email segmenting, give them more of what they’re interested in.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mint.com made this list. They are synonymous for creating great content, especially on their blog. I would say they are one of the first few startups that paved the way when it came to using great content to gain mindshare and visibility in a crowded market. Here is how they did it.
Hired a content marketing consultancy to get the ball rolling in establishing content and presence for their blog. They had full time editorial staff and a slew of freelance contributors and spent time really diving into social sites like reddit Digg. They were also committed to creating consistently great content. All stuff, no fluff.
Hired writers and enlisted top contributors in the space to write for the blog on a regular basis.
“Quite simply we focused on building out a unique personal finance blog, very content-rich, that spoke to a young professional crowd that we felt was being neglected. Eventually the blog became #1 in personal finance, and drove traffic to the app. Our app didn’t have a high viral coefficient but we had content that was. Our infographics and popular articles became regular hits on Digg, Reddit, etc.” explains Mint.com’s former lead designer Jason Putorti.
They also syndicated their content on outside publications.
What else helped? “People often prefer to cite strategy and major social media tools like Twitter or Reddit for these things, but I believe Mint owes much of its fame to Gawker Media, the owners of world famous blogs such as Lifehacker and Gizmodo. They have a large audience of power-users and evangelists who generate all the traffic to other social media tools, bookmarking it on reddit, stumbleupon, and talking about it on Twitter, etc. The bump and exposure from Gawker gave them so many users it crashed their servers repeatedly.”
The takeaway? Create a product and content that appeals to the same audience of an already established publication like Lifehacker or Gawker.
If there is one startup that is in absolute LOVE with their customers, it’s Freshbooks. Having had
one of the THE world’s best marketer on the team, Saul Colt, really helped propel the product forward. If you are not familiar with Freshbooks, it is seamless invoicing for small business. I use them and tons of people I know use them. But how exactly did they leverage a content marketing strategy to get and retain customers?
Though they sell an online billing product, all their customers are entrepreneurs. So they tailor their content to them. Who really wants to read about billing everyday anyway? Their core customers are small to medium sized businesses with average invoices in the thousands. The average FreshBooks user gets paid 11 days faster and saves eight hours a week doing invoices. Largely because it’s a really great product, but also because their content is so educational it helps it’s customers make more money, faster.
“You must surprise and delight and give your customers something they have never seen before. Make them laugh, think or cry and
they will tell your story for you”, says Saul.
They have a four pronged approach, 1. Use content that solves a major problem, 2. Tell stories, 3. Create content that gives people a place to start, 4. Publish content that reveals ‘insider facts’ (AKA the good sh*t).
Freshbooks uses client stories to help get the word out. These are featured customers that have inspiring stories to tell ranging from what they do, what they are learning and how they are using the product to help them with their businesses. There is nothing more exciting than having your startup story featured on a great blog. This is the type of heartfelt content that people love to share and why the Freshbooks blog has a high retention rate.
Content Marketing is unique to every company. Different approaches boast different success stories, from giving away all the secrets (Freshbooks), to hiring professional content creators (Mint), to creating very niche yet unique content (Unbounce), it takes some planning, strategy and time to figure out the right content mix. With the many approaches, Content Marketing still does a few things regardless of how you approach it; it creates credibility, expands visibility and builds mindshare. It is one of the top customer retention tools known to work today.
What are you doing to entertain, delight, educate and inspire your customers?