The Content Marketing Dilemma Faced by New Tech Startups

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For more than a decade now, content marketing has been the prized strategy of startups all over the world. With the help of onsite blog posts, offsite guest authored posts, social media updates, and other forms of content, brands can generate much more visibility and a better reputation—all for a relatively low cost of entry.

But these days, tech startups trying to take advantage of the content marketing hype are finding it difficult to get involved. There’s a dilemma faced by entrepreneurs and marketers alike: content marketing saturation.

Content Marketing Basics

Before we delve into the content saturation dilemma, let’s explain some of the basics of content marketing.

Content marketing is all about creating and promoting content relevant to your brand and your target audience. It could mean syndicating an interview podcast, writing new blog posts on a weekly basis, or distributing eBook tutorials on important topics.

The goal is to provide web users with content that they want to consume, often for informational or entertainment purposes. Because consumers appreciate this content and associate it with your brand, their awareness and trust of your brand begin to grow.

Content is also useful for search engine optimization (SEO). As you write more content for your site and offsite publishers, you’ll build your authority and rank higher in relevant searches.

This is exceptionally powerful because of the cost-to-benefit ratio. Content is relatively inexpensive to produce and syndicate, but it can have incredibly powerful effects. And over time, as you develop more and more posts, the effects get even stronger.

Content Marketing Saturation

Content marketing saturation is content marketing dying as a result of its own popularity. Millions of brands and individuals are engaging in content marketing as a way to build their reputations and attract more customers. In turn, this results in an overabundance of content, if there is such a thing.

This has a cascade of different effects:

  • Visibility for common topics is impossible. For starters, visibility on common topics is next to impossible. General topics have been written about over and over again, meaning there are thousands (if not millions) of competitors. On top of that, the top-ranking entries for each general topic will have years of support behind them, making them practically unfeasible to challenge.
  • Total costs increase. One of the big selling points of content marketing is its potential return on investment (ROI), but that becomes inaccessible if your total costs increase. To remain competitive in a saturated landscape, you’ll need to spend more time and money on your content, and spend more time and money promoting it. This makes it hard to yield a positive ROI, let alone an impressive one.
  • Consumer trust declines. Content saturation also affects consumers. By now, most consumers are aware of content marketing as a tactic, and they’re bombarded with articles, podcasts, and other forms of content as often as they’re bombarded with direct advertising. They’ve grown more skeptical of the online content they consume, and are less trusting of the brands producing it. This can be a major uphill battle for tech startups trying to build trust through content.

The main dilemma here is whether startup tech entrepreneurs should still hold content marketing in high esteem, pursuing it as a main strategy, or whether they should move onto other techniques.

Generally, there are still plenty of opportunities for content marketing success. However, you’ll need to plan your strategy differently if you want to thrive in a saturated environment.

Research Your Competition

The first step is taking the time to research your competition. Even if you’re in a relatively new market, there are probably hundreds, or even thousands of businesses like yours already engaging in content marketing. Your first job is to determine just how good these competitors are and what kinds of tactics they’re using. This will help you immensely in the next step of the process.

Distinguish Your Brand

If you want any hope of succeeding in the saturated world of content marketing, you need some way to stand out. If your brand looks like a hundred others, nobody will even notice your business—let alone trust you.

After researching your competition, you should have an understanding of what your competitors are doing, what they’re doing well, and where they’re failing. Use this information to come up with a plan to distinguish yourself. In which ways is your brand unique? How can you position your brand uniquely in this environment?

For example, can you target a different demographic? Can you master a specific type of content? Can you appeal to your audience using different channels, or a different distribution method?

Avoid Common Topics By Delving Into a Niche

Common, generalized topics have already been done to death. They might get high search volume and lots of attention, but there’s no use going for them—they’re already oversaturated. Avoid this dilemma by writing content in a more specific niche; the more specific your topic is, the less likely it will be to have been covered in the past, and the fewer competitors you’ll face.

Create Original Research

You can’t have competition for something that’s truly original. Unfortunately, most generalized topics have already been explored—but you can always pave new ground in the realm of research. Present new statistical information or new findings to your audience, and carve out a new area of exploration.

Depending on the resources you have available, you could launch a scientific study, analyze data you’ve gathered from customers, or just run simple surveys and report on the results.

Tap Into New Platforms and Channels

Keep an eye out for new content marketing trends, including new platforms and channels that haven’t yet been flooded with new content creators. These are prime opportunities to distinguish yourself—and tap into resources before your competitors. New channels are risky, because they haven’t been tested, but if they happen to take off and you’re one of the earliest adopters, you could benefit massively.

Overhaul Existing Content (If Available)

If you’ve already made some effort in the content marketing realm, consider giving your existing content base an overall. That means running an audit of your current content effectiveness, addressing weaknesses, deleting obsolete posts, and restructuring or augmenting posts that aren’t up to par.

Focus on Quality Instead of Quantity

Too many content marketers try to defeat the saturation dilemma with an endless outpouring of new content. They write new posts almost constantly, and flood social media channels with new posts. But this is inadvisable; in fact, it makes the saturation problem worse. You have to focus more on quality than quantity, and take your time producing the best content possible. Otherwise, you have no hope of standing out—and many of your readers will abandon you.

Market and Advertise Your Content

Because of the sheer competition, it can be difficult to get momentum for even your best content. That’s why, if you want to scale your strategy, you’ll need to market and advertise your content. Most content marketers see content only as a tool for promotion, when in reality, it also benefits from being the target of promotion. Double down on your strategy by paying for some advertising on your best pieces.

Hedge Your Bets With Other Channels

Finally, understand that content marketing isn’t the “blue ocean” it used to be. There are thousands of competitors to contend with and an audience with growing content fatigue. It’s still an impressive strategy, but there’s no guarantee it’s going to be the best strategy for your brand. Accordingly, you should hedge your bets with investments in other marketing, advertising, and PR channels; this way, you can minimize your exposure to risk.

The content saturation problem isn’t going away. In fact, it’s likely to grow even worse with time. The only way to defeat it is to acknowledge its existence and plan your strategy around it. Because content marketing is still a viable—and possibly the best—marketing strategy for tech startups, you’ll need to consider these points if you want to build awareness of (and trust in) your brand.

Nate Nead

Nate Nead

Nate Nead is the CEO & Managing Member of Nead, LLC, a consulting company that provides strategic advisory services across multiple disciplines including finance, marketing and software development. For over a decade Nate had provided strategic guidance on M&A, capital procurement, technology and marketing solutions for some of the most well-known online brands. He and his team advise Fortune 500 and SMB clients alike. The team is based in Seattle, Washington; El Paso, Texas and West Palm Beach, Florida.

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