Startup traction channel: Content Marketing

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This blog article is based on the 3 Things This Week’s edition dated 21st June 2018. The theme of this edition is “content marketing”, one of the traction channels popularly used by many startups!

Moz, Unbounce or OkCupid. For each of these companies, their blog was their largest source of customer acquisition during an extended period of growth. These companies write posts that receive hundreds of comments, lead to major PR, and result in thousands of shares. Ultimately, this activity leads to new customers.

A company blog can take a significant amount of time to start taking off. It is OK to do things that don’t scale early on (e.g. reaching out to individuals to share posts) because you’re building toward a point where your content will spread on its own. You need to create quality content to succeed in this traction channel. There is no silver bullet, but a decent approach is to write about problems your target customers have. Reaching out to influential industry leaders (on Twitter, etc.), doing guest posts, writing about recent news events and creating shareable infographics are all great ways to increase the rate of growth of your audience. It helps to make a content calendar to make sure you’re posting frequently and consistently. Keeping a running list of topic ideas can help you avoid writer’s block.

Here are this week’s 3 things about content marketing.

Thing # 1: The Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing

We’ve all heard that this “content marketing” thing can do big things for our businesses. It can drive new users, lower marketing costs, and keep current users interested. All of this sounds great, but what does it actually mean? How can I use content marketing for my business?  This guide to content marketing covers you to get all you want to know, right from choosing a topic, what metrics to measure, planning your article, writing the content to promoting your content.

Thing # 2: 49 Tactics to Atomize Your Content Marketing

Content atomization (a term first coined by Todd Defen from SHIFT Communications) is defined as – taking a strong content marketing platform or theme, and executing it in many, strategically sounds ways.  For anyone serious about content marketing, some form of atomization is a requirement, for three reasons:  atomization is resource efficient, atomization helps win the relevancy wars and atomization includes built-in amplification.  In this article, you get a comprehensive list of 49 ways to think through how to atomize your content.

Thing # 3: What Does the Future of Content Marketing Look Like?

In 2015, Buzzsumo analyzed the performance of one million posts. Here’s what they found. Not only is most content under-performing, it’s also getting harder for people who produce really good content to get attention. Engagement (measured by share count) is steadily dropping. What’s happening in content marketing is really the same thing that happens to every marketing channel — they get less effective over time.  This article takes you through the ways in which content marketing is evolving. What this means content marketers will get more strategic about what kind of content we create, content marketers will become much more sophisticated in what we measure, and if a content strategy is based on high-volume, it will be assisted by artificial intelligence, not humans. There will still be enormous returns in content marketing, but it’s going to take a new approach. The approach, that is powered by better research, smarter prioritization, and emerging technology.

What has been your experience with this traction channel?  What kind of content do you produce?  Is that giving you results? Share in the comments.

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How much investment is required to open a small-scale cyber cafe?

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Its not uncommon or rather its more than common to see a question like “How much investment is required to open a small-scale cyber cafe?” in Quora from wannabe entrepreneurs who want to consider starting a new business of this kind.

Or consider a few more questions like:

  • How can we set up an auto components manufacturing unit in India, and what capital is required for this business?
  • How much money is needed to open a profitable spa business in Kolkata?
  • What is the minimum amount required to start a business?

It sounds like a normal thing for one to think about capital needed when one thinks about starting on new business. After all, capital is one of the most important parts of a business and it is something that is not available in abundance for most of us.

The capital needed would depend on your business model. See this slide share – Business model innovations to know what I am saying here.

But, neither your business model nor the investments should be the deciding factor to evaluate business idea to work on. You need to keep all such filters away when you are trying to find an idea.

The first step for any new startup business is to spot some problem or pain experienced by a bunch of prospective target audience and explore if there is any solution that can be of any use for solving the pain.

Why is it important to keep a filter such as “capital needed” away when you are searching for a good idea?

Filters screen out ideas based on our guesstimate of their viability early in the process.
So if you want to find startup ideas, don’t merely turn on the filter ‘What’s missing?’
Also turn off every other filter, such as “how much money will be required?” or ‘could this be a big company?’ There’s plenty of time to apply that test later. But if you’re thinking about that initially, it may not only filter out lots of good ideas but also cause you to focus on bad ones.

The human brain has amazing capacities. It contains billions of neurons, allowing it to process vast quantities of information so that we can function effectively. But can we have too much information? Yes, and, in fact, filtering information is one of the brain’s most important functions. Brain filtering is an adaptive strategy and ensures that only the information relevant to our goals is allowed into our consciousness. This keeps us from being flooded with irrelevancies that might distract us.

The brain filters our access to a vast consciousness, which extends beyond the limits of neural activity. James proposed that the brain acts as a partial barrier and gives us only the surface of what is possible for us to perceive. The process James described so many years ago is, of course, the filter theory, and he said that what the brain filters out is consciousness itself—a supremely expanded consciousness.

When you work on finding a business idea, keep all such filters off. Remember, “how much will this business cost to set up?” is not a question that you need to worry about in the beginning; but more critical question you need to ask, “what are the pain points of this customer that I can possibly solve?”

Why do you need to bother about articulating the pain point during customer discovery?

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The key thing in customer discovery is to discover what works for your business model. There are two resources with an availability of limited quantity – money and time. So, you want to learn if your business model works are not in a short time and with as less spending.

When you launch your MVP and do not get signups, the message is pretty loud and clear – your business model sucks, at least in the present shape and in the current time.

But, this is not entirely true for a reverse situation when you get a lot of signups. Merely having large signups of users does not necessarily amount to a great business model.

When a new tool or a new offering is launched, people who sign up do so for different reasons and some of them are:

  • They mistake your offering as something else that they are looking for
  • They just fancy new things and wanted to check out
  • They believe their sign ups would help a new business
  • They suspect, they would need this solution sometime in future
  • They have a pain point that could potentially be solved by your offering

What is common to the first four types above is that these guys are tough to convert into paid customers and usually drop out after a free trial period. During the trial period too, they are not found to be very actively engaged users.

And, the reasons are pretty obvious; they simply do not have enough motivation and reasons for using your product.

And, this is where your situation on user acquisition sucks!

You want not just users who sign up but you want users who would use your product actively and extensively.

And, it is the users who sign up for the reasons of solving their pain point, who display this behavior. They are so eager to find if your solution solves their problem, they are more than keen to try out, more than once if the product shows some promise to meet their goals.

And, this is where articulating the “pain point” that you want to solve is critical when you are starting up.

How does articulation help specifically?

First of all, articulation of pain point helps you define the customer persona you want to target so you can work on appropriate messaging.

Secondly, it helps you look for places where such people are already looking for solutions, so you know where to find your first few users.

How does getting the users who have the pain point that you want to solve and who are already looking for solutions, help you? In many ways:

  • the discovery of such people gives you the first signal that you are nor doing bad, they validate the problem hypothesis.
  • they happen to be aware of how they think the pain point needs to be solved, they will give you feedback and insights that you aren’t able to gain on your own.
  • they validate or invalidate all crucial elements of your business model – value proposition, channels, price and more.
  • they will go for your product even if it is not a finished one, they don’t mind the bugs so no need to wait till “it’s perfect” before you ship.

Getting the “rights” kind of users or users who have pain points that you want to solve and who are known to be looking around for a solution, on board is crucial in the initial phase.

If you have them on board, your journey to product market fit is on track.

But, if you don’t, you end up having a lot of dead users or users who are not actively using the product.

What can you do in that situation?

You have two options:

  • go back to the starting point and articulate the pain point for your business model well and then look for users who have demonstrated that they have this pain point
  • go deep with the inactive users who you have acquired and explore to find if there is some other pain point they have that can be solved by building something else or tweaking the existing offering.

In both options, as you can see, your work entails articulating the pain point clearly for someone or other, and that is the most important step to boost your first chances of finding that elusive product-market fit before you run out of your resources.

Startup traction channel: Email marketing

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This blog article is based on the 3 Things This Week’s edition dated 14th June 2018. The theme of this edition is “Email marketing”, one of the most popularly used channels for startups!

 

Many online retailers (Groupon, Fab, Jackthreads, Thrillist, Zappos) use email marketing as their primary traction channel, via sales, discounts, and newsletters.

Email marketing is a personal traction channel. Messages from your company sit next to email updates from friends and family. As such, email marketing works best when it is personalized. Email can be tailored to customer actions so that every communication is relevant to their interests.

Email can be used at all stages of the customer lifecycle: to acquire customers, build familiarity with prospects, move customers through your funnel, and retain the customers you already have. We’ll go through how you can use it in each of these contexts.

A particularly effective email marketing technique is to set up a series of automated emails (often called lifecycle or drip sequences) to send to customers or prospective customers. This technique works best when this series of emails adapts to how people have interacted with your product and asks them to take specific actions at some point.

Here are the 3 things this week.

Thing # 1: A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

Getting into someone’s inbox is like being invited to their home for dinner. If they ask you to take your shoes off, you respectfully do so. It’s the same with email marketing, so before we begin I’d simply like to remind you to be on your best behavior at all times and remember…you’re in their house.  This basic guide gives you all you need to know to successful email marketing.

Thing # 2: 15 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen

Exceptional email marketing campaigns need to be cleverly written to attract attention in busy inboxes. Marketing emails also need to be personalized, filled with interesting graphics, and designed for desktop and mobile devices. And above all, emails must contain a meaningful call-to-action. After all, if brands are taking up subscribers’ time — and inbox space — with another email, every message must have a point to it.  Learn this craft from some great email campaign examples and what makes them great.

Thing # 3: 10 Best Email Marketing Software & Automation Tools

Not sure which email marketing software is right for you? This article gives insights on 10 different email marketing tools to help you choose the right tool for the job.  There are a couple of factors that go into deciding which tool to use – First though, how many contacts do you currently have on your mailing list? Secondly, it would be useful to know what type of business or organization you’re looking to use this for. It’s clear that there’s no such thing as a one-size fits all email marketing service and that the right tool for your business will depend on your company’s specific requirements; this article gives you all the information on top 10 tools that can help you decide your choice.

 

What do you think? How has email marketing served you best? What practices help you to keep your numbers growing and your audience engaged? Share in the comments.

Startup tractio channel: Offline events

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This blog article is based on the 3 Things This Week’s edition dated 7th June 2018. The theme of this edition is “Offline events”, one of the somewhat difficult, yet simple channels for startups!

 

Sponsoring or running offline events – from small meetups to large conferences – can be a primary way to get traction.

Such events are especially important when your target customers do not respond well to online advertising or do not have a natural place to congregate online. Offline events are particularly effective for startups with long sales cycles, as is often the case with enterprise software.

Conferences are the biggest and most popular type of offline event. Launching at a conference has been a successful phase I conference tactic. If there isn’t a conference that directly brings together your target customers, consider starting your own. You can test this channel by attending a couple conferences or hosting a few smaller meetups or a one-day mini-conference. Throwing parties, either alongside conferences or across many cities, is another successful strategy to attract and reward prospective customers. Similarly, meetups can be a scalable tactic to build local in cities around the world.

Here are the 3 things this week about offline events.

Thing # 1: What Hosting A House Party Can Teach You About Building Community: Online and Offline

We love hosting events and many of us always had a bit of a knack and love for bringing people together. This interesting article decodes this as it applies to a community for a startup.  These communities are some versions of the interactions we’re all used to in everyday social life – Parties, meet-ups, one-on-ones, concerts, communication, etc… Learn this from a great analog helpful when it comes to explaining how to build an authentic community. In short, treat your community just like you would a social gathering in real life. Here are some tips on the lines of WikiHow’s guide to hosting a good party.

Thing # 2: Three P’s Of Offline Events — Planning, Promoting, Preparing 

Irrespective of whether you have a factory or an e-commerce website, one of the best ways to build an appreciable network of customers is by organizing events. Events are to the corporate world what holidays are to families — you know your people are out there, but it’s only during the holidays that you actually bond with them and have any intimate contact whatsoever.  Find out from this guide on how to go about planning, promoting, and preparing your event.

Thing # 3:  Next Generation Startup Mashups Makes Offline Events Smart

It is impossible to accurately measure engagement levels for offline events like trade shows and business conferences. You really don’t have any accurate measurements for the offline event. The only thing one could get is the generic attendee count, and photos of the booth, and estimates of people that visited the booth. Ensight is an offline event analytics platform that enables event organizers to measure the offline activity of attendees. Ensight gives event organizers and event sponsors the power to track the flow of visitors. It works like website analytics. You can measure unique visitors, visit duration, and return visits. The technology behind Ensight is based on Bluetooth Low Energy modules that are attached to visitor badges that sends signals to receiver beacons and a cloud based analytics engine that crunches the data in real time.  Read this interview of the founder of a startup that has built Ensight.

 

I would be happy to know how you have used this traction channel for your business and if you have some lessons to share with fellow entrepreneurs.