The Content Marketing Checklist for Startups (A Tweetstorm)

thunderstorm-567678_1280I don’t do a lot of tweetstorms, but this one has been building up for a while. So I thought, “why not put it on my blog for everyone to see and consult when they’re tempted to do something stupid”? 😀

On a serious note, a lot of people – especially startup founders – ask me about content and this seemed helpful to my twitter followers, so let’s just go with it. Consider it a checklist for when you start thinking about content, which should be pretty early. If you find yourself thinking “I want to deliver some kind of value to my clients/subscribers/followers”, that’s probably the right time.

All content is not equal.

There are several mediums – video, audio, articles, etc. Then there are the formats – curation, interview, article, etc. The question you should be asking is: What kind of content does my target audience enjoy?

After answering that, try: What kind of content does my product warrant for? This might be obvious if you’re lucky.

Yesterday I talked with the founder of a content rating service, which brings up the trending content of the day and shows you where it’s trending as well. I immediately thought his product warranted for a newsletter of trending news and even a breakdown of “what kind of content trends on which network”. I was trying to come up with a logical extension of the service.

This is what content is – the natural extension of your product.

Finally, you should also ask yourself what kind of content you enjoy creating because trust me, “forcing it” doesn’t help anyone.

Use what you have.

When I suggested the newsletter of trending news, I was also thinking about what the founder already had.

Oftentimes we forget to take advantage of that. Your product is a machine, one that produces something that’s not produced anywhere else. In my startup‘s case, it’s meetings. While I can’t use the meetings because that would be a violation of the users’ rights, I can use the information they bring. Like the # of people attending an average meeting.

Every product brings some kind of information to the table. In Product Hunt‘s case it’s product trends, which they utilize in their newsletter.

And when you can’t use something, you can promote it. So in the case of Somewhere, you would be sharing the “sparks” people have posted on social media, but you wouldn’t be including them in an ebook (without asking first) because that would be in violation of the users’ rights.

So you need to determine what you have and use it. It largely depends on what kind of service your product provides. Like content, all products are not equal – some produce lots of information, others very little. If you have nothing, then you can make something up.

Tell stories.

This is a no-brainer. Look at your content – what’s it about? Are your newsletters overviews of features to come? Are your articles about how your product beats your competitors because of this and that?

I hope you answered no to the above. It’s easy to get caught up in your product – after all, you made it or at least you invested a lot of time and energy into it, so you want to talk it up… a lot. But people don’t really care about products. What people care about is people.

So instead of sending yet another boring email update or writing about the way your product solves the latest problem, just tell a story. How did you even think to create it? What did you have to give up? What did you learn?

Stories reel people in and engage them. Stories are king, not content.

Give them what they need.

I can go on and on about “want vs. need”, tools, and analyzing the world’s content to try and come up with exactly what your people need, but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll tell you a story. A founder came to me, desperate for fresh perspective. They showed me the emails they’ve been sending, I asked “what’s the value for me?” Then they showed me the articles they’ve been crafting, and I asked “what’s the value for me”? See the pattern?

There was definitely value for the founder because they were all wrapped up into the product and its mission, which is great! But what about the other side? Every relationship requires two sides. If you disregard one of them, you’re dooming the relationship to fail. I’m sure your users believe in your mission, but before they can even appreciate it, what are you giving them?

How are you making their day better? Once you figure out how to bring value to other people’s lives, then people will start coming to you and caring about what you have to say. What you have to offer.

You can’t ask for anything before you give something first. This goes without saying, and yet so many people conveniently forget it.

The breakdown.


Sometimes I forget that you’re all busy and recently I was reminded of how I can help with that. My co-founder said, just add a summary of the article on the bottom, so people can see the takeaways at a glance.

This is excellent advice because it considers what you need. So in the spirit of practicing what I preach, below are the key takeaways:

  1. Figure out what kind of content your target audience will appreciate – what medium, what format, what topic, etc.
  2. Content is the natural extension of your product, so if you look at your product, you will know what kind of content will make sense.
  3. Use what you have! Don’t waste any information or content your product brings. Whether you can make an ebook out of it or just share it on your networks, never let anything go to waste.
  4. Don’t just write product descriptions and press releases. Tell stories. Your users are humans and as such, they want to connect and engage.
  5. Give your users what they need. Don’t think about what you need or what your product needs. Turn the table around and put your users first.

P.S. Did you like the breakdown at the end? Should I do it in the future? 🙂

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