You’re a founder. You’re busy. You’re being pulled in 100 different directions keeping your company afloat. You don’t get enough sleep, and when you do, you feel guilty about it.
Between running operations, finance, engineering, and sales, not to mention pitching investors, hiring, and HR – you’re stretched thin.
We work with quite a few founders in similar positions.
The problem is limited resources. If you had infinite capital, you’d invest in every strategy out there without a second thought. But when you’re early and running lean? Now you need to prioritize different channels, balancing long-term and short-term goals and constraints.
So, how should you think about where your content strategy fits into your overall growth plan?
Content Marketing Content Misses the Point
The challenge with most of the content about “content marketing” is that it’s written for marketing managers and content production teams. This translates into a hyper granular focus on technical marketing concepts that you, as a founder, don’t necessarily need to know when you’re deciding if, when, and how to launch your content strategy.
Founders need to think about content marketing differently than content marketers do. You need to look at your content strategy holistically, as part of your broader sales, marketing, and growth strategy.
At a fundamental level, you’ll need to think about questions like:
- How are you getting leads?
- How are you converting leads into opportunities and deals?
On the lead generation side, you’ll need to think about inbound and outbound lead sources. With inbound, this could include leads who:
- Find you by searching Google for your type of product,
- Hear about you through a friend/colleague and visit your site,
- Read about you in a publication.
Inbound vs. Outbound
To best understand how content marketing can help your organic lead generation efforts, you must have a clear picture of how inbound and outbound marketing work.
Outbound lead generation involves reaching out to prospects. Your marketing team initiates the conversation with your ideal customers, despite there being no prior interaction.
Common B2B outbound channels might include cold calling, cold emailing, and LinkedIn messages. I’d even consider paid ads as an “outbound” channel since you’ll be interrupting people.
Inbound lead generation is the opposite. In this case, prospects initiate the conversation with you. But rather than passively waiting for that to happen, you create helpful content your target audience is actively looking for. Creating an effective inbound lead generation strategy, therefore, requires investing time, effort, and resources into effective content marketing.
An inbound lead, therefore, is any prospect that initiates a conversation with your brand by :
- Downloading a lead magnet
- Signing up for your newsletter
- Calling your sales team after reading your content
- Reaching out via social media, like LinkedIn
- And more
In general, a strong inbound lead generation strategy takes longer to ramp but it will generate more consistent leads for a lower Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC).
Plus, inbound leads are of higher quality since they express interest in your product.
Outbound channels can usually generate results quite a bit faster, but they often have a much higher upfront cost. Likewise, if you don’t have your sales process dialed in, then you can burn through a lot of capital in a very short amount of time.
So, if you’re an early-stage startup, inbound lead generation would be the best B2B marketing strategy for you. This is because you can effectively generate high-quality leads with a lean budget and team.
This brings us to our next point.
Content Marketing Is the Long Game
Content marketing sits firmly in the inbound, long-term focused strategy.
The content you produce now, may not start generating leads for another 6-12 months.
Does that mean you shouldn’t do it?
It can be tempting to ignore this kind of slow-burn marketing strategy in favor of a short-term strategy like cold outbound email. Depending on your finances and funding, you may need to allocate a significant portion of your capital to finding your next lead, even if it isn’t optimal long-term.
Sometimes, staying alive is the priority. But even when runway is tight, you still need to orient yourself to the long game so that you don’t continually find yourself struggling to stay alive.
This is why you need to invest in content marketing right from the onset. And you have to do it right. A few tips for doing this include:
Design Your Strategy Around Your Funnel
For best results, your content marketing strategy must be designed to meet the needs of people at all three stages of the funnel. These are mainly:
- Top of the funnel (ToFu)
- Middle of the funnel (MoFu
- Bottom of the funnel (BoFu)
Understand Your Target Audience
Personalization is key to getting results with your content marketing. That’s why you must try to understand your target audience. This will help you create content that resonates with them. It also helps you know which distribution channels to focus on.
Craft Exceptional Content
Over 4 million blog posts are published every day. For your inbound lead generation to work, your content must be exceptional. This means it must be relevant, helpful, and well-written.
As a founder, you may not have the time to create content. One of the best ways to ensure you publish lead-generating content is to outsource to an agency that understands B2B brands.
Remember, content marketing is a long game. However, once the results start coming in, it will dramatically impact your growth.
Is Your Company Going to Be Around in 12 Months?
However, if you plan on being around next year, or the year after, then allocating some of your capital towards content marketing will be key to long-term sustainable lead generation.
A good question to ask yourself is, “Right now, would I be in a better position if I had more inbound leads?” The answer is almost always yes. Because content takes time to pay off, you should start consistent content marketing efforts at least 12 months before you expect results (assuming you’re starting from close to zero, with very little domain authority).
Talk to any sales team (or if you’re the sales team, talk to yourself) and they’ll tell you that they wish they had more inbound leads. Outbound leads are more expensive, time-consuming, and harder to close. Putting yourself in a position to supply your sales team with quality inbound leads means investing in your content strategy sooner rather than later.
Think of Content Like an Asset
Your blog is like an asset. Each time you produce a piece of content, this asset grows in value.
Search engines reward consistency so the more consistent you are with publishing content, the higher the probability that this asset will grow over time. Likewise, the nature of content means that you’ll start to rank for a variety of keywords that provide steady leadflow, without much future effort required (aside from content decay, which is a whole other topic unto itself).
A company that generates 100 inbound leads a day for their sales team might have 1,000 different blog posts ranking for 15,000 keywords. You don’t, can’t, and shouldn’t try to do that overnight.
It takes time.
And it takes investment (publishing a high-quality post).
Content provides compounding returns. The more you post, the better all of your posts will do (as your domain authority rises). Each post you publish is like a small reinvestment.
This is why you don’t see companies who kill it with content marketing having just one perfect blog post. There’s no such thing. You need to continually reinvest in your content marketing strategy in order for it to continue to grow in value.
Even if you happen to get lucky and publish a few posts that end up ranking well for certain keywords that generate leads, eventually, search engines will view this content as stale and your inbound efforts will stall. Content teams at high-growth companies aren’t pumping out high-quality content just for fun. They do it because they know that consistently investing in their content is the only strategy that works.
CapEx vs. Opex
Another way of thinking about this is in terms of CapEx vs. OpEx (I’ll assume you’re familiar with these terms, but if not, here’s a refresher).
Outbound and advertising are great. But they’re like OpEx. Inbound is like CapEx. You don’t see an ROI right away, and it’ll take longer to bear fruit. But you keep the asset, even after you stop throwing money at it (although, once it starts working, the reality is that you’ll want to keep putting money into it).
With outbound, the minute you stop contacting leads, you stop getting leads. With content, you can keep getting inbound leads from content that you may not have touched for 2 years (again, aside from content decay).
The reality is, your current business situation is going to dictate your growth strategies.
If you have two months of runway and aren’t about to close a funding round, then you might need to gamble a little on outbound. But, if your vision is to have a robust, predictable growth trajectory, then you’ll need to start investing in content marketing long before you need it to produce results for you.
A good content strategy might take 6-12 months to start generating consistent leads — so the earlier you invest, the quicker you’ll see results. If you already feel behind on inbound lead generation, then start shifting some of your spend toward content. It may take longer to payback costs but in the long run, this is how you’ll build a high-growth, predictable, and robust lead generation machine.
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