What type of content to use to grow your business and how to choose the right one? real-life examples.
Some first-time founders I work with (not all but many) tend to ignore content marketing, consider it to be unimportant, or too complicated, or they presume that content marketing = SEO = posting blog articles. This is definitely NOT the case.
To have something to refer them to, I decided to put it together: an overview of what content marketing is about, what forms can it take, what type of content to use and how would you choose the right one for you (including the details like, what to write about in the newsletter).
1. A book
Writing a book can be a perfect content marketing channel. No, you don't need to self publish and sell it on Amazon (though, it will definitely help A LOT with spreading the word about your product or service). If not publishing, then what?
Notion-based project + Gumroad — it's 100% free. Create an account on Notion, create a project, write whatever you want, hit "Share", copy the link.
Go to Gumroad. Create a project there, choose your pricing policy (free or paid for), add description for the book, place the link you've copied from your Notion project and hit "Publish"
Like this — your book is available for everyone to buy and read.
You can also use the same Notion link on your website as a Lead magnet (a free giveaway that you offer to the visitors in exchange for their email addresses).
What to write the book about?
Obviously, you should write about things that you know of. Makes no sense to write about the defence industry if you're selling cooking aprons. But the topic you choose will also depend on the following: what actions do you expect would be taken after the book is read? How does it align with your marketing strategy?
Here are two different use-cases:
Michele Hansen — a founder of a Geocodio , an API-service provider that lets apps offer a better service to the website visitors. It's the same system that is used in GPS navigators, for instance. Recently she published a great book Deploy Empathy - a practical guide to interviewing customers. What does it have to do with geocoding? Nothing! Michele doesn't try to promote her API-service on every page, though there are mentions here and there. The book is solving a more complex problem for her: build her personal reputation and brand as an expert, and provide a long-term cash-flow channel. Yes, it definitely helps with growing the awareness about her current business. But if she suddenly decides that geocoding is not for her she'll have her reputation and followers' base that will allow get customers to almost any other project she jumpstarts.
Kyle Gawley — a SaaS founder. He's got several products under his belt, including a $5M ARR startup years ago. Now, Kyle's main focus is Gravity — a service that offers developers access to some important shortcuts on a monthly basis. Like, if someone wants to ship an app faster and doesn't want to deal with all standard workflows (like, Auth, subscription payments, email notifications, unit tests, user feedback, etc.) plus a set of React-based UI design kits. In a sense, it's a pre-built app with all necessary blocks and a design system — a founder just adds the intended logic and can ship a product in a month instead of 5-6 months. His content marketing tool — a book for aspiring founders A Rocket Science Book. It is written for developers who are still thinking of launching a startup and describes the best ways to do it (how to ship an MVP, how to choose the right idea, how to run tests — important basic stuff).
The intended action for Kyle — is to get more developers to actually start the business and, eventually, become his customers. This is a lead generation tool. Therefore, he writes a lot, how Gravity can help aspiring founders get to the product-market-fit faster.
2. A newsletter
It seems like an outdated marketing tool — who would possibly want to sign up to another newsletter if there are millions around?! This is not the case. There are some absolutely useless newsletters that just add more to your email trash bin. But there are some that are read vigorously because they provide truly useful information.
What to write about in the newsletter
I don't recommend do the "aggregator-style" newsletter (5 best tweets of the week, Industry news of the day, 10 things you missed on marketing this months, etc.), though it seems like an obvious and the easiest path to pursue. People who are on Twitter and care about tweets of the week, don't need your curation. People who are deep in the industry are already subscribed to 2-5 industry specific newsletters, they don't need another one. However, there are successful examples of "aggregators" as well — check out BrainPint by Jannel.
It sounds obvious but the advice will be the same as everywhere — choose your niche.
Great examples and types of newsletter that I see and that clearly gain readers fast.
Types of content in newsletter:
1. Case studies break downs
One of the best examples I've seen recently is Corey Turner from Swaylitics
What he does — he takes DTC brands and breaks down their success strategy trying to figure out how many orders they get daily, what are the main marketing channels etc. His approach is a bit "hacky" and not quite scientific but it definitely delivers value to the readers and the newsletter grows fast.
The same approach works wonders for Andrea Bosoni — he used this type of newsletter with the marketing breakdowns, now he managed to "productized" them into ZeroToMarketing.
2. "Food For Thought" stuff
One of the best recent examples from this type of newsletter group — Mindset Blueprint Community, a newsletter run by Michael McGill. He is a consultant and is focusing his efforts on promoting leadership training programs for tech professionals (engineers, devs, etc.). Therefore, his newsletter is based on the idea that I tech people should embrace more soft skills to become better leaders, and soft skills are based on very "non-tech" stuff: philosophical frameworks, mental models, customer behaviour research, decision-making theories, etc. This is what he discusses in his newsletter issues.
3. Step by step "build-in-public" style guides
No matter what you're doing, your business includes a number of processes that are similar to any other business (except for probably crypto-startups, they are a different game — if you want to find out, why read my article here). Bookkeeping, inventory management, hiring people, testing out new ideas of products, running ads on Facebook. And you probably figured out over the years, what works and what does not. At least, in your use case. But guess what? There are many other companies who do just that and they have not figured it out. Just go ahead and write down what you do, how, why and what results you get.
I call it "build-in-public" style because it is a very popular trend right now. It implies that people share their daily practices, ups and downs for others to know where the traps are and where the best strategies lie. Build-in-public is powerful, because it is based on the principles of storytelling and invokes empathy, connection, loyalty. More on storytelling principles here.
Good examples in this type of newsletter? Kevon Cheung's newsletter where he shares every step of his journey, shows what he makes selling courses, on creating info-products, what worked for him, what did not, why he thinks it did not work. Really useful, hands-on stuff.
I have adopted the same approach in my How To Build a Startup Profitable from Day one series, where I do publicly audience discovery, show how I run user research, how I use vary basic statistics to make sure my results are relevant, how I create basic MVPs, what platforms I use for marketing and why. I also try to include the research that backs up my theories and explanations why I do this or that. If you're interested in these things you're welcome to sign up.
3. A content-based leadgen product
If you already have a newsletter, a book, and a web-site full of useful articles — time to move to the product that you might use as a leadgen magnet or instead of a "freemium" (it was a 🔥 in the early days of MailChimp but now, when everyone else is using, it it doesn't look so attractive anymore).
Good examples from the top of my head:
Funnel Teardowns — a website created by GrowthHit marketing agency. It's the same old case studies breakdowns but on a next level of the loop: nicer, better, more traffic. Plus one can order a custom teardown (for instance, to look up what competitors are doing).
Growth Marketing Command Center Dashboard created by Trevor Longino. Basically, a Notion-based planner for a marketing agency or a business owner that will help with planning and running marketing campaigns.
4. A Community
I like to think of a community as a part of content marketing. Because content = ideas, and community lives on the ideas. It is probably the top of the marketing pyramid, the most powerful and beautiful tool that you can ever use. But it is also the most dangerous one. Because the secret with the community is that it serves as a tool for your purpose as long as it is not very successful, weak and needs constant support. As soon as it turns into a success and becomes stronger — it stops being a tool and starts living your own life, aside from your goals but still supporting them.
Great example: Luma by Lolita Taub. It is a community that connects founders, investors, experts, marketers. Where they come together and help each other to solve problems, find funding, connect and be friends.
5. Social-media based content
There is also social media-based content (what you post on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok). It is a bit different story because its distribution is heavily based on algorithm that social media platform uses. I will discuss the types of content in one of my next posts.
As you can see, content marketing toolset is very diverse. You don't have to stay focused on the blog posts. As soon as you have them covered — go to the next step and explore many other options available.