We Discovered The Magic: Content Marketing & #StartupPR Lessons of the Year
2012 was an incredible year here are Onboardly. We’ve had the privilege of working with some of North America’s most promising startups, we were featured in Marketing Magazine, we grew our team, and we got awesome Onboardly friendship bracelets.
But, most importantly - we learned a lot. And we wanted to share some of our most important discoveries of 2012 with you.
This is a list of the Onboardly’s crew’s favorite tips for getting your startup noticed. They’ve certainly helped us, and we hope that they come in handy for you.
1. Use your keyword list to create effective headings - sometimes
You’re thinking ‘obvious!’, right? But here is the key: don’t always do it. Don’t be spammy about it, and don’t always try to force your SEO Yoast light to turn green. It’s not necessary. Instead, make sure you have a condensed keyword list (maybe 10 words) and revisit them every time you publish content.
2. Use the Content Idea Generator to brainstorm topic ideas
It’s so useful, it almost feels like cheating. But it’s not, it’s just awesome.
3. Always be hiring
Great marketing tip - make it look like you are growing (as you probably are) and it will consistently put you in front of great potential candidates.
4. Get traffic from the bigger players
Link to your blog from other more prominent blogs. How do you do this? Through contributed content. We submitted a guest post to Kissmetrics that saw amazing qualified traffic to our blog. It worked so well, we did it again.
5. Patience is a virtue worth having
Some of our biggest wins for our clients in 2012 didn’t happen overnight, let alone over the course of a week. In some cases, they took several months of tweeting back and forth, email exchanges, phone calls and then some more emails before agreements were inked.
In other cases, outreach was easy but the wait time to have a proper chat with a journalist seemed impossibly long. Calls were rescheduled or postponed, and the fear that we were simply getting the brush off was strong. Turns out, having a little patience and faith was key. Not only did this wait lead to what we expect to be an excellent piece - it led to the creation of a valuable contributor’s agreement that will benefit the client long after the journalists piece has been published.
Always have patience and a little faith in both your abilities, and those of journalists. On top of paying off in the way you hoped for - it could open up doors you never even considered.
6. Strangers don’t owe you anything
While I knew this going into 2012, I think it really hit home this year. Sometimes, you will be lucky enough to have a story or news that is so compelling that even a journalist you’ve never spoken to prior to sending that cold pitch will jump at the opportunity to cover it (ie: large funding announcements). But in most cases - building the relationship first is truly the key to success.
You shouldn’t feel as though you have to court the journalist to get a story published, but you can quickly go from stranger status to becoming a dot on their radar quite easily. With a follow on Twitter and meaningful responses to their tweets or posts/articles they’ve written - you stand a better chance at having your emails read and your pitches received. You may still be a nobody to them but you’re a nobody that they recognize, which can make all the difference.
7. Sometimes writers do not, in fact, care - and that’s OK
Pitching even the coolest startups will sometimes result in crickets (despite your best efforts). I’ve learned that, while giving up may be easy, it shouldn’t be an option. Unless you’re pitching a specific blogger - there will always be another writer.
Do a little digging. Find the next best person (who may even turn out to be better than the first guy!) and reach out. If you think it’s your pitch angle that’s causing friction - try a new one. It will take a concerted effort on your part, but 9 times out of 10, you’ll find someone who does, in fact, care.
8. Just be cool
“Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn” - Gone With the Wind
While you clearly do give a damn when pitching, you can’t let that show. The reality is people want to deal with / work with / help out people they like and respect. Whether you want a writer to work for you, a journalist to cover your startup, or an editor to pick up a guest submission - chances are, if you’re cool - you’ll get a more favourable response. Just like dogs can smell fear, people can smell desperation.
9. Anything is possible on the internet
I used to be guilty of getting a case of the “I can’ts” from time to time. That was, until a year ago when a particularly blunt friend of mine gave me a hell of a pep talk that included the horrifying/jarring question, “If I were holding a gun to your co-founders head, could you get it done?” Of course my answer was YES, I’d figure out a way - and it would get done spectacularly.
Since then, “no” doesn’t exist within my vocabulary. I’m about as far as you can get from a yes person, but I’ve replaced can’t with the occasional “I don’t want to,” “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” and “sorry - not on strategy.”
Because, at the end of the day - pretty much anything is possible.
10. Sometimes you’ve just got to get on a plane and go
When you’re a small company working with other small companies, relationships are absolutely critical to your long-term success. Nothing replaces face time, and sometimes that means you’ve just got to get on a plane and go. I’ve logged some serious air miles this year, but great things have come from each opportunity I’ve been given to spend real, tangible face time with startups and their stakeholders.
Whether it’s been bringing remote workers to our head office, sending team members on a conference or scheduling face time with clients - it’s always resulted in stronger relationships - a net positive all around.
11. Just say yes
When an opportunity presents itself to do something incredible that you aren’t 110% sure that you’re qualified for, go for it anyways. Whether that’s the chance to run an event, join a new team, or speak at a conference - take a leap of faith. Trust that your existing skills, your hustler attitude, and your desire for success will carry you through.
12. Community is built on how you make people feel
There are a lot of blog posts out there about how to leverage social media for your business. You should tweet x times per day and x is the best time to post a Facebook update. While many of those best practices are helpful, community is truly built on how you make people feel.
The number of times per day you tweet doesn't matter if you're not leaving your community feeling inspired, impressed, challenged - something. Your fan and follower counts might grow, but your engaged community won't. Because how you make people feel is what communities are built on, what builds the loyalty and brand affinity - which leads to brand advocacy and is how social media leads are eventually generated.
13. Tunnel vision can be a good thing
Yep, I said it. Last year, I received an average of maybe five or six emails per day. This year, that number increased exponentially. I was spending way too much time in my inbox at the beginning of the year and, as a result, way too much time on tasks that yielded little value.
I learned to focus on the core metrics for each client. Ask yourself if what you're working on will really impact those metrics and push you closer to company goals. If the answer is "no", drop it. A little tunnel vision can go a long way in terms of the ROI of your efforts.
14. Stop hesitating. Do things that scare you!
Whether it was getting on a plane for the first time (I'm scared to go beyond the third step of a ladder) or living life outside of a classroom for the first time in 16 years, I did things that scared me this year. I was often far from 100% sure that I was making the right decisions.
Failure is going to happen anyway. So, hurry up and fail! Try a new paid advertising channel, dive into a new social media platform, accept a big interview request - whatever. Find out what scares you and do it anyway.
The Onboardly Team
What have you done this past year that seemed, well, magical?