This is a Guest Blog by Pardeep Goyal of Cash Overflow.
First of all, I want to make it clear that content marketing is much bigger than just writing articles for your blog. According to me, organic content marketing is the most efficient way to make use of text, audio, visual and video content to convey the right message to the target audience.
I became a content marketer after co-founding two startups in the education domain. I started my first business in 2013. It was a B2B startup where we tried to sell cloud-based ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to K-12 schools.
I co-founded my second startup in 2014, in the B2C segment, where our users were class-10 students and we launched a mobile app to simplify science learning using puzzles and games. The startup was funded by The Morpheus and did reasonably well as compared to the first one.
I did not make any money in my first two startups. Rather, we lost Rs. 15,00,000 in the first startup along with an opportunity cost. You can say that both of my startups were a failure. But I learned content marketing and developed an understanding to grow a consumer base without spending money on paid marketing – and as I would see, it wasn’t all for nothing.
I applied to content marketing techniques in my third startup, Cash Overflow, which became profitable last year – a monthly average revenue of Rs. 2,00,000 looks attractive to me since I am bootstrapping and saving money after paying my personal and business expenses.
Here, I’m going to share a few tips from my personal experience of growing a startup, without depending on VC money.
Identify your position
You must know who you are if you want to make the best use of content marketing for your business. Broadly we can categorize the types of people or organisations who use content marketing, into four buckets:
1. Blogger by passion
They don’t care about marketing in most of the cases. All they care about is writing good content that comes from their heart. They are passionate about a topic and talk about it for hours. For instance, I love to talk about money-saving hacks, credit cards, stock markets and saving taxes. It’s easy for me to write on the topic of personal finance than on politics, entertainment or tech.
You can still make money if you belong to this category but in most of the cases, money is not the driving force behind bloggers who write because they are passionate about it. For example, I love to travel so I started sharing my travel experiences through a blog called TravelBuffer.
2. Affiliate Marketer
The primary motive of an affiliate marketer is to make money by identifying profitable keywords and ranking for them, fast. They know how to manipulate search engine rankings. Their work starts by shortlisting some high margin products from affiliate networks. Then they perform extensive keyword research using some paid SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tools.
In most cases, they don’t write the content themselves. They hire content writers or spin content using the tools. They buy or trade link backs to get fast ranking on Google. Eventually, they make a lot of money when they start receiving high-quality traffic on their blog.
You must have a good, hands-on experience before executing an end-to-end affiliate marketing project.
Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate marketer even if I make 80% of my income from affiliate marketing. Because neither do I think like an affiliate marketer, nor do I apply to affiliate marketing techniques while running my business.
3. B2C Startup
As a content marketer in a B2C startup, you need a totally different organic content marketing strategy.
You should not talk about your product upfront but you need to figure out your customer’s pain points, which can be addressed by writing content on your blog or creating helpful videos.
You should spend more time on organic content planning and hire good content writers. It would be even better if your head of marketing or one of the management/co-founding members, is a content marketer. If your team lacks marketing skills, hire an experienced person as a consultant, who will keep you on track and you can execute your content marketing plan.
4. B2B Startup
Your product or service may be targeted toward businesses, but if the decision maker at your startup is an individual (founder or head of the department) then your content strategy should be the same as that of a B2C startup.
But if the decision makers comprise more than just a single person, then your organic content strategy should be different from a B2C startup’s strategy. In most B2B startups, customers are big corporates where decisions are taken by a group of people. If you don’t know that yet, you have not progressed well with your sales efforts.
In my experience, success with content marketing is difficult for B2B startups, but it’s entirely possible.
Develop an experimental mindset
I will talk more about the content marketing strategies that can be used by passionate bloggers and B2C startups in the Indian market.
Facebook, Quora and Google are the biggest platforms for content consumption (and therefore even brands advertising in a way) for Indian audiences. You must figure out at least one channel where your audience is most active, and make that your preference for marketing/targeting them.
You must be experimental and keep eliminating options that are not giving big results with small efforts. When you have limited resources, try to focus on one thing. It’s better to dig one hole that is 10 feet deep rather than to dig 10 holes that are just 1 feet deep.
Facebook vs. Google
Facebook is about virality while Google is about search. It’s simple but often people mix up these very things while undertaking organic content marketing.
Content for Google
Many people don’t conduct keyword research before writing an article that they intend to rank on Google. It’s better to target one keyword, with a 10,000 monthly search volume, than to target random keywords where you don’t have a clue about the search volume.
Your content should be addictive. I often receive emails from my readers who tell me that they spent more than 30 minutes on my blog.
However, just content writing is not sufficient. You should be able to attract references from all over the internet. Google considers your content highly valuable when people link back to your content in their articles.
Caution: Don’t buy links from the websites. You may get penalized by Google.
Content for Facebook
You must check the virality quotient of any organic content that is intended for Facebook. Ask yourself – why would anyone share this content on their Facebook timeline?
Visual content works better on Facebook. You should create more graphics and videos for your Facebook page rather than only writing text articles. Get your seed audience from Facebook groups but don’t spam. One viral campaign will change the whole game if you understand your audience.
Focus on Organic Growth first
Most digital marketers disagree with me. I don’t believe in spending money on paid advertisements unless you have a transaction-based business model. If your CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) from a paid channel is less than CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) only then should you spend money on a paid channel?
If your goal is just to grow the audience base, then you should always figure out something that can grow organically. Paid channels may give you initial traction but are not sustainable in the long run.
You can get leads at a low cost through paid marketing when you promote a campaign that worked organically.
The math works like this:
Let’s assume that 1000 people viewed your content when a 100 people shared it organically.
50 out of 100 shared your content again to get you an additional 500 views.
Similarly, with the same set of sharing – another 250 + 125 + 60 + 30 + 15 people viewed your organic content.
Now, assume again that you spend $100 to promote your content and get a 1000 paid impressions – then this new audience will also share your content. The additional views that you get as a result of sharing will be counted as organic views.
ROI of shareable organic content is much higher as compared to non-shareable content, keeping everything else constant.
You can hypothesize monetization but the real methods can be learned only once you have a massive audience on your website. I did not have any clue about making money from my online business (other than Adsense) when I started two years ago.
However, today I have five channels of income and I am figuring out additional channels:
Here is a list of a few possible ways of making money from your business:
- Display Ads
- Sponsored Content
- Affiliate Marketing
- Exclusive partnerships with brands
- Influencer marketing
- Selling services
- Digital products
- Physical products
But you can always innovate and come up with a new method. If you can deliver value to your customer then you can definitely charge them for it.
The real secret of success
I can talk about the technical aspect of content marketing but the real secret of success is something else.
Be genuine and authentic.
We are working with intelligent humans and they can sense falseness sooner or later. Falseness is an incurable disease that may give you results in a short-term but will kill everything in the long run.
Rule 1 – Genuine relationships
Build genuine relationships with people. Don’t make friends just because you found someone useful for your business. Make friends only where you feel a certain connection or shared value system. Two genuine people can help each other grow.
Rule 2 – Give without expectations
When you have genuine relationships then you will start giving value to others without setting upfront expectations. I am asking you to work free for someone but I am advising you to be a value giver.
I learned giving value from my mentors who helped me in my growth without any expectations from me.
Rule 3 – Earn Good Karma
Good things happen to you when you earn enough good karma. If you are getting frustrated because good things are not happening, even after doing good things for others, then you are violating rule number 2. You are setting expectations, and therefore, setting yourself up for disappointment.
I should say, good things may or may not happen, but you should keep earning good karma.
If you keep doing great work with pure intentions then you increase the probability of your success. You may still fail but you will be left with a lot of great people around you with whom you build genuine relationships for life.
Work hard. Read a lot. Keep experimenting. Learn from mistakes and grow fast.