How can early-stage fintech startups approach content marketing? Mai Fenton, CMO at the London-based insurtech Superscript, answers this and shares her first-hand experience and tips in the discussion below.
Content marketing is often the go-to channel for early-stage startups with limited funding.
Indeed, based on your target audience, when well thought-through, content can work wonders in generating brand discovery and driving quality traffic to your site.
I was invited to answer questions around this topic by startup founders at a recent event. There were notable common themes, which afterward prompted me to organise my thoughts and distill them into this short summary.
Here is my viewpoint on the common questions about content marketing for startups:
Should I exclusively write content for search engines?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) allows your website to be found, so it’s important to write search engine-optimised content for your pages to index correctly and rank in search results. Creating content around the keywords your audience is searching for will help you improve your visibility in search engines, which in turn will contribute to driving more traffic to your website.
SEO should form a big part of your content strategy, however, it is important to remember that writing for search engines isn’t the only way to attract potential prospects to your site. You can drive brand or product discovery and consideration through different types of content: product pages, blog articles, case studies, how-to guides and ebooks, videos, podcasts and so on… Some of this content will help you show in search engines results pages (SERPs), some of it will be discoverable via other channels such as social media.
The beauty of content marketing is that you can cast your net wide and attract your audience at different stages of the buyer journey: they may be in the market for your product or service now, or they may be later. This last point is important.
Search tends to attract people ‘mid funnel’ i.e. closer to purchase intent. But by understanding your audience needs at the top of the funnel, you can develop content for those who might not be ready or in need to buy just yet but could be later. They are still prospects, they are just at an earlier stage in the purchase journey than search prospects.
That said, optimising for SEO and fulfilling user needs are increasingly the same thing, so there is less distinction. If you are really creating the right content for your audience, based on the data you have about them, 9 times out of 10 that will perform well in search.
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How can I attract traffic to my site through content if no one is searching for the problem my product is solving?
You have identified a need, and your product is a solution to the problem that prevents the need from being satisfied. So get under the skin of your target audience and ideal customer profile (ICP), their needs and what they are trying to achieve.
If there is no search volume specific to the problem you’ve identified, look into your customer research, talk to your existing customers and find people who fit your ICP through your network and connections. Then try to uncover how they frame their struggle, what they are doing to solve the problem, what alternatives they consider, what else they do to alleviate their need and where they look for information and help. It’s important to listen and ask questions to dig deep into the functional, emotional and social outcomes (keep asking ‘why’).
Those insights will help you find new search terms and related/adjacent topics. They will inform better messaging and help you craft stories and content using customer language around pain points, benefits and outcomes.
Should I be developing my product story around a trend to be more relevant?
Caution is required when building your product messaging around a trend.
Trends that solve a real problem and have a true customer benefit are likely to stay, therefore can be a solid foundation. For example, at Superscript (the business insurance scale-up I work for) a key USP of our product is the monthly subscription. With the trend for everything on-demand, which aligns with a genuine customer pain point around the inflexibility of traditional annual contracts, we are building on a lasting change in customer expectation and behaviour; and we are offering a tangible benefit. So as a product message, it is fine to build a story around this.
However, I would avoid building on shallower trends, such as those that may tap into a cultural moment or those developed from within a subculture to achieve a level of popularity that may be short-lived and turn into a fad. These may be alright for a timely tactical piece of content if it makes you relevant in the moment and with the right audience. But I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise.
As a small startup, how do I decide which social media platforms to focus on to drive traffic to my site?
Who (and where) is your audience? Again, look at your research and talk to your customers and prospects. By asking the right questions as outlined earlier (how do they solve their struggle, where do they go for help and information), you can identify new channels and communities.
For example, do your ICPs hang around on LinkedIn or on Facebook? Do they look for recommendations, opinions and ideas through the likes of Quora or Reddit? Do they assess potential solutions by looking into platforms such as Capterra or G2?.
You can also complement your research by exploring other brands that target the same audience as you do - not necessarily competing in your category, but whose audience has common characteristics with your ICP. Check their social media properties and see where they get engagements from the right people - this could give you additional insight.
How do I convert blog visitors into leads?
Different blog posts serve different purposes, and as above, not all blog visitors are coming to your site with the intent to book a call or request a demo in the near future. Some may just be at the brand/product awareness stage rather than the research/comparison stage of their buyer journey.
For sure, you want your content to generate a positive action, whether it's reading it through and visiting another part of your website; giving it a thumbs up or commenting; bookmarking it or sharing it; returning to your site later on; or sharing their contact details.
But my view is to be selective about when to push a call-to-action (CTA), based on the content viewed - being too salesy with 'book a call/demo' buttons in the wrong place can have a negative effect on your visitors. For content related to a pain point or solution, or for blog posts pushing case studies, guides, tips or ebooks, there are ways to help convert visitors into leads, including:
‘Find out how’ or ‘Want to know more’ lead capture forms
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Gated content i.e. content that is only accessible/downloadable on the provision of contact information, typically a name and email address. Gated content can be presented as a content upgrade i.e. valuable additional content to the blog post the visitor is viewing; white papers and ebooks are other great assets for gated content.
Live chat is also a good way to capture leads
Ready to get started with content marketing? Before you do...
My top advice to seed startups looking to get started with content marketing:
Don‘t spread your efforts too thin trying to do it all at once. Once you've got a plan, as well as the talent and resources to implement it, give it enough time for you to learn and optimise what you're doing. And don't forget to ensure you have tracking in place to be able to monitor performance.
Get your website in order - homepage and landing pages. It’s all good to do content marketing well, but if your website isn't doing its job, it’s a waste of resources. So spend time developing your user experience, messaging and CTAs, and get these right to ensure users find what they are looking for when landing on your site.
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About the author: Mai Fenton is Chief Marketing Officer at Superscript, a London-based Series A tech scale-up that provides flexible, customisable business insurance for small businesses by monthly subscription.
Mai has worked across a range of businesses from startups through to multi-million pound global enterprises, with a diverse background that spans consumer packaged goods, lifestyle, retail, e-commerce and technology.