Lean Content Marketing: A More Affordable Strategy

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Translated by Núria Adell.

When you create your first startup (in other words, a newly established business with high possibilities of growth and, in many occasions, a scalable business model), one of the first books they recommend you read no matter what (which of course we did on our day) is the well-known Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

You’ve probably already read it or heard about it, but just in case, I’ll give you a quick summary on this topic.

What is Lean?

The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.— Lean Enterprise Institute

The idea of a lean startup is to follow a strategy that maximizes the value offered to the client while minimizing the resources used to do so. That is to say, with the minimum resources, bringing to the market the minimum viable product (MVP) that offers a value to the client in order to test and validate your business model and turn it into facts. The aim is to reduce the risk of launching and testing your proposal as much as possible.

 

Lean-startup-image-Peter-post
The iterative process Build-Measure-Learn is the central nucleus of the methodology Lean to transform ideas into products, measure the reaction and behaviour of the clients towards the products, and learn whether to persevere or pivot to another idea. Source: https://crazylister.com/blog/growing-ebay-business-lean-startup/

And this is what we did and continue to do with the development and launch onto the market of Nelio A/B Testing and Nelio Content.

Nelio Content Mockups
Sketches of Nelio Content displays. We’re very computer savvy … but as you can see, we draw like babies.
A startup is not the same without post-its.

Therefore, when you create a startup, if you read the book (plus plenty of information that you can find online on this topic), it’ll be pretty clear how you should face the development of a software and its launch onto the market. I would also like to add that this is the most fun and creative part of being in a startup.

The toughest bit comes afterwards: you already have your product on the market, but how do you actually make your potential clients find you? What is the ideal marketing strategy?

So yes, if there’s one topic with a total infoxication, that’s precisely digital marketing…😱 You won’t be short on recommendations on all types of marketing campaigns that you should do: first (and most importantly) start with the content marketing of your blog (posts, infographics, ebooks, etc.), then start publishing videos on Youtube, write posts on external websites, promote in social networks, carry out SEM campaigns and email marketing, look for influencers that can recommend you, appear in communication channels, never stop networking participating in offline events…😓  and i haven’t even mentioned that on top of all of that you should be able to analyze the impact of all the campaigns…

But all of this is a lethal job… How does this fit into your Lean Startup? Someone please explain me, where the minimization of resources is.

In some cases, you may have been lucky enough to have your startup at a point in which you have managed to successfully validate your product in the market. Then the next step would probably be to get an investment round, and this way to implement all the marketing campaigns previously mentioned to rapidly escalate the model.

But it’s not always that easy, and things usually go a bit slower than what we hoped for (I guess it would be worse if they didn’t go at all), and perhaps we’re not that clear on whether this is the model we want or are able to follow.

The circumstances can be very different: maybe because we like the “lean” and “bootstrapping” model (growing little by little while being self-sufficient), or because we don’t want to lose participation at this stage, or because we have already used up the capital invested up to that date and it’s not the right time to do a second round, or because the validation metrics of the product have not been as good as we expected, or they have been good but not sufficiently spectacular, or because you’re just “crossing the chasm” (referencing the book Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore)…, or any other circumstance in which going for another round of investment is not your ideal option.

If this is your case, don’t exasperate. Even though this is a less known concept, there is also Lean Content Marketing. Let’s see what it’s about and how we can use it…

Lean Content Marketing

Content marketing, as you know, consists of creating relevant and valuable content to attract your target market with the aim of encouraging them to become your future clients. But content marketing is much more than this, it is a tool that we can use for:

  • marketing itself: analyzing the behaviour of the market and the consumers,
  • creating leads: getting the emails of potential clients, 
  • sales: increasing our sales and revenue,
  • brand and perception: creating a name, an identity, an image, and a position that differentiates us from the competition, 
  • trust and loyalty: building trust on the company and the products to guarantee a recurring revenue, 
  • hiring staff: attracting the best talent and make them want to work with you, 
  • training and assessment: becoming a reference point for formative resources in a particular area. 

And to the previous list I would add that, in our case, content marketing is also useful as a tool for strategic reflection and communication amongst the partners of Nelio.

Now the question is: how do we bring this together with the working cycle of Build, Measure, and Learn?

In his article Think Lean to Win at Content Marketing, Ben Harper mentions that in order to start the circle it is necessary to:

  • Identify a problem that’s worthwhile.
  • Build a prototype of marketing campaign, a minimum viable product, an experiment, or a test that allows us to validate the most critical hypotheses of our business model.
  • Measure the results of our experiment. Once we have our minimum viable product, we can measure it, generate data, because we will have established the parameters that will lead us to take the experiment as good, or not.

The result is an approach of content marketing in which, minimizing the investment, you should rapidly learn from each of the marketing steps you take, what is bringing the most value to your potential clients and thus, what encourages them to convert. And this way being able to continuously replicate or improve this valuable content.

Lean Content Marketing = publishing content that brings more value while minimizing the resources. 

So far, the theory seems more or less clear.

Following, with our own example, I will talk about how we implement our content marketing with a lean perspective.

1. Prioritizing the objectives of content marketing

All the objectives of content marketing I previously mentioned are important (although in our case, hiring personnel is not currently our priority). But trying to “think in a lean way” and identifying a problem that’s worthwhile, we decided that we had to prioritize our main objectives.

In our case, our 4 most important objectives are:

  1. High priority: increasing sales
  2. High priority: guaranteeing a recurrent revenue
  3. Medium priority: brand and perception
  4. Medium priority: generating leads

Next, the following question arises: have we produced or are we producing content that brings value to our readers, and so motivates them to buy and keep renovating their subscription each month?

Pensando
To what extent does the content of your website contribute to reaching your goal?

From here, we have tried to focus on our objectives in the most efficient way possible.

2. What content will better contribute to the achievement of your main objective

In our case we have already said that our main objective is to produce content that converts a visit into a subscription of our products.

Let’s try to define the content that will best improve our conversion:

  • Pages that participate in the conversion funnel: if the pages participating in the funnel of conversion are very attractive and with clear calls to action, the visitor will want to try the product.
  • Pages of the blog: the blog attracts visits, but we should make sure the blog clearly shows attractive links to our product page to encourage the reader.
  • Posts: we must ensure that our posts include invitations to buy our product.

You might have noticed that until now we simply had our hypotheses that, as you can see, correspond to having a little bit of common sense. We haven’t thought of marketing actions that attract more visits; we have limited ourselves to focusing on our priority, our main problem: increasing conversion.

3. Test your hypothesis

The next step is deciding what changes in the pages that are part of the conversion of our clients would be the most interesting to try out.

For instance, the landing page of our website is the blog, in which we used to show the pictures of the last five published posts.

NelioSoftware Blog screenshot Oct-16
Screenshot of the landing page of the blog (Oct 16th 2016) in which the newest published posts are shown on top.

We decided to try the following change in the main page of the blog: substituting the image of the last published post with an animated video of our product Nelio Content.

Screenshot Nelio Software Blog
Current view of Nelio Software’s blog showing our two products at the top of the page.

By the way, speaking of the devil, what are you waiting for to subscribe to Nelio Content?

In the same way, we created new versions of the product page and the page showing our plans and pricing to make them more attractive.

Nelio Content Plans & Pricing
Screenshot of our Nelio Content Plans & Pricing page.

And finally, in order to also increase the calls to action, we subscribed to the plugin OptinMonster Dialog to be able to show dialog boxes to the readers to encourage them to subscribe.

4. Analyze the results

When you carry out any action of content marketing you must be able to measure whether it had or will have any sort of impact.

The best way to do so is to carry out A/B tests to compare them (of course, Nelio A/B Testing is the ideal tool 😁) and see what version works best.

The big advantage of doing A/B tests of your hypotheses is that they allow you to confirm whether your initial idea based on “common sense” was correct, before permanently implementing such changes to your website.

We made several tests during the month of December and, after confirming that we had had a considerable improvement, we applied the definitive changes.

Here you have the comparison of the impact before (in November) and after (January) completing our tests. As you can see, the result is an improvement of 155.26%.

Google Analytics Goals URLs
Screenshot of Google Analytics Goals URLs report showing a 155% improvement in two months.

5. And back to the start

Continuing with the lean content marketing, you prioritize a second objective and generate hypotheses for its improvements. And so the process continues.

Conclusion

There are two key points of using a lean strategy. Firstly, identifying “what problem is worthwhile”, instead of trying to cover all the existing marketing actions. Otherwise, the budget is going to shoot up and it’ll be very difficult to measure the impact of your improvements. And then, knowing how to use your common sense. But if you’re not a crack in terms of common sense, don’t worry, the tests are there precisely to help you validate your decisions with real data, not opinions.

Featured image by Anthony Indraus

by

Ruth obtained her PhD in Software Engineering at UPC and did a Master of Information Systems at DePaul University (Chicago). She has professional experience in the business world and at the University. Ruth has been University Lecturer at UPC, Vice-Dean for Corporate Relations of the Barcelona School of Informatics, and Associate Lecturer at ESADE. She specializes in software engineering and information systems management. She is also certified in Inboud Marketing.

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