5 Ways to Do Content Like a Startup – When Every Piece Counts

 In Content Marketing, Content Strategy

Big-Omaha-2012-Logo-300x134Last week I attended Big Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska, a conference geared toward helping tech startups grow their businesses. This was DivvyHQ’s first Big Omaha, and it was invigorating to spend time with such creative, fearless people. Being the content nerd I am, I couldn’t help but take notice of the brand messaging and digital content that these smart startups are producing. Here are a few insights that stuck with me.

A “Do or Die” Content Strategy?

Content is important and necessary for every size of business, and in every industry. But perhaps there’s no content more important than to a startup organization. If you work for a larger, seasoned company, you can take a few risks with your content, try things and see where it goes. If it doesn’t work,  scrap it and try something different. As a startup organization, you’re starting from scratch and everything you create must be carefully crafted in a way that people will not only take notice, but fall in love with your brand – and quickly. You don’t have the time or money to try things that don’t work. Every piece of content you produce tells people who you are and what you’re about, and for startups, you often don’t get a 2nd chance. You could say, the startup organization content strategy is “do [well] or die.”

Wait a minute…that’s a great content strategy for ANY size company! What if your organization, large or small, old or new, took a do-or-die approach to your content strategy?

What if every piece of content you produced could make or break your company?

I would bet you would plan your content more thoughtfully, understand your audience more fully and pay more attention to how well each piece is produced. Maybe we should all put ourselves in that mindset, no matter how big, small or seasoned…

5 Ways to Do Content Like a Startup

1. Carefully and Thoughtfully Craft Your Brand Message – This is very important, and startup organizations are getting pretty good at this. They sit down and hash out their story, their purpose for existence and the 1-3 things they want their audience to know about them. Then, they meticulously craft every word of their tag lines, news releases and website copy so that every word conveys their brand value. And yes, we once got into it over whether to use the word, “the.” To a startup, the message matters just as much as the product. Get that right, and the rest gets easier. A great example of a thoughtfully crafted brand message is F*** Cancer. I met them at Big Omaha. This non-profit startup from Canada has their brand value and message down pat…and it’s a pretty easy message to remember. A great piece of advice from their CEO, Yael Cohen was “keep your message simple and concise.” Yeah, I think she did that.

2. Understand Your Target Market Intimately, and Don’t Worry About Anyone Else – When you talk to a startup organization and ask them who they’re targeting, they’ll not only know, but they will then talk to you for an hour and and half about them. Startups understand their market, they know what value they hold with their market, and they know what to say to them. You could say that a startup organization is pretty much obsessed with their audience. They survey, research, and in some cases, stalk their audience online. This is a great mentality for every business to have. Another group that we met at Big Omaha was Thrillist Media Group. See if you can tell who their target audience is just by going to the home page…[hint] it’s not old ladies. Thrillist definitely knows who they’re targeting, what they want and how to deliver it.

3. Get Creative and Make it Stand Out from the Noise – Startups know that going into it, unless they’re creating a new category, they’re going to be up against some big players. But they’re not scared. Startup organizations understand that they won’t be able to compete with budgets, resources and presence, so they compete with different. I can’t think of a better example of this than the startup, Dollar Shave Club. The industry is disposable razors. I can think of a few major competitors and a universe of smaller ones. Not really a category that you can just sneak into and hope people notice you. Well that’s not what this company did. They decided to compete based on a clear value proposition and their ability to be different. If you haven’t seen their launch video, go watch it now. You’ll be inspired to think about ways you can make your content compete by being different, not by being better/bigger.

4. Listen First, Then Speak – Startup organization tend to go into business, not with answers, but armed with a million questions. They question everything. Why this product and not that? How do you use this product? What makes you like this over that? It’s important that startup organizations ask questions because it allows them to listen. I believe that listening to your target audience is what will make or break your company. People will forgive a lot of things if they feel like someone on the other end cares about their needs. Trust us, we know. We have some of the most forgiving users, ever! Startups know that the more they listen, the better their product/service will be and the more in-tune they’ll be with their audience (see #2). Organizations of all sizes could take a page out of this book. Most companies do the opposite, spending most of their time filling the pipeline with stuff they want to say, as opposed to filling it with stuff their customers want to hear. A great example of a startup doing more listening and less talking are our friends, AgLocal. AgLocal has yet to go live with their application, but they’ve spent the past 8 months listening to their potential users and farmers about what they want. Once they do launch, they’ll already have the product that their target audience wants because their audience helped build it. Genius. You may already be “built,” but never the less, you can always include more “listening” activities into your content planning.

5. There’s No Time to Waste on Useless Content. Every Piece Needs to Help Build your Brand – This is a big one for the startup crowd. Time is the only thing a lot of these entrepreneurs have to give, so every minute must be spent on activities that will move the business forward. This is a great lesson for organizations of all sizes. Every piece they produce ties in their brand value and main message and is in line with their strategy and voice and targeted to their audience. Imagine what that kind of focus could do for your organization’s content. I love everything that this startup gal, Princess Lasertron, does. She knows her brand, loves her brand and lives her brand in every piece of content she writes. Plus, she always has on really cool shoes.


So tell me, how might approaching content like a startup impact your organization?

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