How to use content marketing to grow your startup or scale-up

April 24, 2020


John Thomas

It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s marketing Superman! Why content marketing has unique benefits for startups, and how to use them.

If you’re a startup founder, you’ve probably heard of content marketing. It’s everywhere and yet, it’s not a bird (AKA direct sales), it’s not a plane (ads), and it’s definitely not Superman.

Although it can be.

Content marketing works great for most businesses, but it works best for startups. The only trick is in doing it right, and executing your strategy in a way that lets you see the benefits immediately.

Starting from why you need it to tricks for promotion, let’s see how content marketing can help your startup grow — starting today.

Why does my startup need content marketing?

As a startup, your business is in the best possible position to use content marketing.

You’re already innovative, you already know what your customers need. Your product shows it, and that’s exactly why it’s important that your brand shows it, too.

You don’t even have to be Red Bull about it

I could wax poetic about the importance of brand awareness all day, but the fact is that it’s different to buy from a brand you know, and which provides you value — unlike a brand who’s just a means to an end.

When a customer buys from a startup who’s already given them a lot of value (be it through YouTube videos or articles related to your industry), that strengthens trust. It builds relationships that in turn, generate even more sales down the line.

Direct marketing drives sales right now. But when your ad campaign is done, you need a way to build relationships that will keep the sales coming for a long time. That’s where content marketing jumps in.

(It doesn’t hurt that it’s also very affordable.)

To put it simply: you need content marketing because you want your startup to last. You don’t want to sway in the wind of market changes or depend on expensive PPC ad campaigns.

You want your customers to know who you are, and always happily do business with you.

What are the content formats?

Generally, what’s meant by “content” in content marketing is:

  • Articles and blog posts

  • News

  • How-to guides, case studies and white papers

  • Videos

  • Ebooks and PDFs

  • Email newsletters

  • Infographics and photos

  • Podcasts

If it looks and smells like content, it’s content.

The main perk is that is captures long-term attention and stimulates engagement. Convincing is much easier when a (potential) customer is already committed to reading your article or watching your video.

Tweets are great but there’s a 280-character limit and chances are everyone just wants to see memes.

The content format you should use depends on your industry. Ask yourself what kind of content you are interested in.

After that, it’s audience research time. What content format does your audience prefer? For example, case studies and how-to guides are great for entrepreneurs since we’re stretched thin between running our businesses and learning how to do it better.

We want info, and we want it fast.

For other audiences, photos and videos are number 1. Fashion is one of those industries, so focus on visual formats. Infographics work best for (data) science and research.

When choosing the format, take production costs into consideration. You can always experiment with different formats. At the beginning, focus on the formats that will bring you the most bang for your buck.

No matter the type of content you choose, there are a few sure-fire ways you can use it to promote your startup:

Format #1: Articles, blog posts and written content

Definitely among the best content formats you can start with.


  • They show your expertise (and your personality), helping you establish your startup on the market

  • They show you understand your audience and their issues

  • They are very affordable (SEO, if properly implemented, is a wonder)

For example, marketing agencies who publish case studies attract more clients. Portfolio with statistics is great, but customers love tangible proof.

Once again, content marketing works better for startups.

You’re presenting an innovation and by publishing content, you show your audience that you understand their pain points. Your production came from understanding what the customers need, so the natural conclusion is that your product is optimized to satisfy their needs.

This can be as simple as publishing helpful articles related to your niche.

For example, a startup targeting travelers might want to post tips for finding the best accommodation when travelling, or travel guides.

The customer journey:

  1. Your potential customer is getting ready for a trip to Hong Kong. They google “packing for Hong Kong,” “tips for packing,” “sightseeing tips Hong Kong.”

  2. They reach your site via Google search and start reading your article.

  3. Once they’ve finished reading the article, they see your CTA related to the product you’re selling.

  4. Because you’ve earned their trust by offering something that’s not explicitly related to promoting your product, they decide to click through.

  5. They find your product(s) useful = sale. They don’t need your product(s) right now = no sale, but they like your content so they sign up for the newsletter (giving you the chance to capture the sale later on).

Content marketing doesn’t only help your customers.

It helps you reach them, build a relationship and convert them from potential customers to bona-fide customers. All in the span of one article.

All you have to do is make sure your content is useful, interesting and SEO-optimized. If you’re short on time, it’s best to leave that to writers who know exactly what your audience needs to read

Format #2: Videos

According to Hubspot’s research, we watch 1.5 hours of video content every day.

Customers love it; it’s quick, easy and entertaining. If you want to explain your product quickly, you want to do it with a video.

Plus, the share rates are very high: 83% of customers would share the video if they like the content. Of course, this goes for content that’s not directly promotional.

Content marketing is really a roundabout way to sprinkle value on your customers, and motivate them to buy your product because they trust you.

That’s why it’s important to center your content marketing strategy around the topics your audience enjoys.

And while we’re on the subject of Hubspot, why does everyone and their (entrepreneurial) mothers love Hubspot?

Because they offer value with much more than just their product.

They publish insightful case studies, blog posts, guides and long-form content — free. And they always rank high in Google search, their articles are shared all over the internet (generating more organic traffic) and quite simply: they are doing content marketing right.

Keep in mind that the production costs are higher for video content marketing and it’s time-consuming.

However, you can try vlogging. Talking face-to-face (or, well, face-to-screen) to your audience is a great way to personalize your startup’s brand.

Format #3: Resources

The appeal of content marketing for the customer is that it’s free.

With content marketing, customers get a lot of value for $0.00, which poses the question: if I get this much value free, what wonders could I get if I pay?

And one of the best ways I’ve seen startups market themselves is by giving away resources free.

Take a look at Creative Market. They went from being a small market place for creatives who could sell their fonts, vectors and stock photography. How did they generate momentum?

By giving users 6 free resources per week.

Stock photography startups do this frequently. There’s a free selection which is just as high-quality as premium. If you need more photos, you can upgrade your plan in a second.

But the customer already knows what they are buying. These startups are already providing value to their customers — it’s the customers’ (motivated) free choice to pay for even more.

Photo by simon peel on Unsplash

Where to share my content?

To share or not to share is not the question.

It’s: where to share?

Content marketing works great for your budget, too. A lot of the methods are completely free and effective, so you can actually work wonders with a decent marketing budget.

Solution: Google

Method: SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Cost: Free

Google is ever-changing, just like the moon, but it prioritizes useful content that helps users find what they are looking for.

By creating quality content and strategically using keyword research, you can get a lot out of Google search traffic.

This takes some time, so it’s important to choose the right keywords. And resist keyword stuffing. Readability is another important factor — not only for your customers, but for Google, as well. If there are too many drop-offs paired with low readability, the search ranking will decrease.

So, what can you do? Hire writers who know what they are doing. Customers should be your first priority — because they are most certainly Google’s.

Solution: Social media

Method: Building a community

Cost: Free

Everyone’s on social media. And that’s not just good news.

So many of us use it to stay in touch with our friends, our own communities and different brands, so your startup needs to stand out in the buzz.

Since you’re already different and an innovation on the market, make sure your social media shows it. Your voice on social media should always be personable and fit your brand.

Avoid overt self-promotion and curate content your followers are interested in.

And yes, you can use hashtags. Just don’t overuse them since tweets with more than 1 or 2 hashtags have lower engagement and impressions.

Instagram is somewhat different, but be careful of follow/unfollow strategies present in niche hashtags. Everyone’s trying to make it big: don’t confuse competitors for audience. Use low-traffic (but high-engagement) hashtags to reach your audience.

If you’re B2B, use Quora to reply to questions related to your industry.

A note on Reddit

The haven for targeted advertising (paid and free) that hates being advertised to.

The community’s stance shouldn’t discourage you. Useful content is more than welcome, as long as you play by the rules. Just ignore the Despacito copypastas.

And of course, be unique. As a startup, everyone wants you to be innovative. You want yourself to be innovative. It’s your main strength so don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown and experiment.

The only rule is: if your audience is there, you should promote there.

Choose content marketing if:

  • You want to lower advertising costs

  • You want to start a conversation with your audience and keep up with trends

  • You want inbound marketing form that attracts your customers with free value, helping them trust your startup enough to financially invest in your product

And if you need content writers, Draft will always be there.

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