How Startups Hack Their Growth Through Content Marketing

It seems like we’ve hit a point where the money pouring into technology companies almost seems fake. Every day, you can read about another startup getting an eight- or nine-figure investment. Uber was recently valued at over $50 billion. Airbnb is now worth almost $25 billion. Even Snapchat, which lost an estimated $130 million last year, has a $16-billion valuation.

But while there are a few tech unicorns that get more than enough cash and hype, for most startups, the reality is a little less glamorous. When budgets are lean, growth requires foresight, luck, and most importantly, creativity. But at the same time, without the pressure to live up to billion-dollar expectations, some startups have the ability to make a name for themselves by taking calculated risks.

At Contently’s recent salon, a few top marketers joined us for a discussion on how content impacts the way startups position themselves in an extremely crowded industry.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the the session.

On taking risks:

At Signpost, VP of Marketing Andrea Kayal has the freedom to make creative decisions, but she also stressed taking risks you can justify with data. Her advice? Experiment with fresh ways to generate leads and new business as you’re ramping up. If these risks lead to success, then it’s time to double-down on what worked to stay efficient as possible.

At Chango (now Rubicon Project), Senior Director of Marketing Som Puangladda took a chance by launching “Marketers Against Marketing,” a riff on the popular game “Cards Against Humanity,” and the risk paid off, driving exponential ROI. As a result, the company followed up with a new expansion back titled, “The Ego Edition,” to capitalize on the momentum of the original campaign.

On email:

All of the panelists touched on the importance of email newsletters, particularly for startups that don’t have huge budgets to spend on paid distribution. The ability to marry content to distribution can lead to tremendous organic growth. As Contently Editor-in-Chief Joe Lazauskas put it: “Email is the new homepage.”

On the power of video:

Just because a company has a lean budget doesn’t meant it has to abandon multimedia content. Sara Goldfarb, content marketing manager at AppNexus, pointed to cost-effective live streaming platforms like Periscope as a way to reach more people during events. And Puangladda explained how a few bedrock videos can go a long way towards driving long-tail engagement—like Chango’s “How to Explain Programmatic Video to Your Grandma,” which you should check out as soon as you finish reading this.

Image by Sam Slaughter

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