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Ask a Marketer: Is there a bad way to do content marketing as an early-stage startup?

"Are a tripod, talking points, ring light and a cup of coffee good enough to speak to our company's audience?" Sean Sutherland advises.

(Image by Sean Sutherland)

This is Ask a Marketer by Sean Sutherland, who can help you figure out how to make the most of your marketing budget and time. As the chief marketing officer for Kapowza, a Baltimore-based creative agency, he’s seen it all. Here, he’ll share his hard-won advice from over a decade in the industry.

Ask Sean a marketing Q

Q: Is there a bad way to do content marketing as an early-stage startup? Are a tripod, talking points, ring light and a cup of coffee good enough to speak to our company’s audience?

A: No. Yes.

At the risk of this being my shortest article to date, I’ll elaborate so the fine folks at don’t take this lovely outlet away from me.

Content marketing is a truly difficult subject for companies to get right, but this is one area where an early-stage company holds an advantage over someone established in your industry: There are literally no expectations for you.

This freedom is rare to come by but is lost easily by poor planning and rushing to get something out the door. Take a second before you engage in any content marketing effort that involves filming yourself by asking yourself:

Who is your primary audience?

This should be the first question anyone should ask themselves before engaging in any creative endeavor: Who am I making this for? Your audience should be front and center in your mind when you develop something because without them, it’s never going to accomplish what you need it to.

Ask yourself these questions to determine your primary audience and you’ll be doing the heavy lifting before you even get started:

  • What else do these people like/watch?
  • How do they interact with the video?
  • Will they watch the whole thing?
  • How often should I be putting out content?

Most things live or die by how it’s received by a given group, so make sure you know and understand your audience before moving forward with content marketing.

Is the setup replicable?

This speaks directly to the “tripod, ring light, cup of coffee” crowd but the rise of remote working has made everyone pay more attention to their backgrounds. And yes, it’s super easy to set up your own green screen or organize some attractive book jackets, what should really be asking yourself is: Will my setup be replicable enough?

Everyone that owns a podcast studio or primarily works from a home office has one wall that is their perennial favorite; for me, it’s the one where you can see just how big of a nerd I am.

For you, it can be as simple as a few shelves, some greenery, your microphone or even a backlight. Really, you just need to develop a background and setup that works for your style and personality and execute against that.

Where will this content exist?

There’s no shortage of noise out there, and — even worse news — there is an ever-increasing amount of garbage content out there when it comes to authentic content marketing efforts. “How do I stand out from the crowd?” you might be asking yourself. I’m a big believer in sticking to a single outlet, instead of trying to cover everything and be everywhere.

Especially as you’re just getting started, think about where your audience is, and your existing fans, and devote yourself to updating and creating content that can live natively within that platform. There’s no shame in reposting it to other channels but there should really be one place where people can go to expect to find your latest and greatest.

What sort of topics will I be covering?

Content marketing can come in many different formats. For some, they use it as a way to espouse the entrepreneur lifestyle, others may dispel the myths inherent in startup culture. Think about what you’ve got to say, how can you add to the conversation, consistently, and deliver along that plan.

You can deviate slightly, I’m a huge fan of a mix of content, but make sure that you have some consistency from week to week or from post to post to make sure you don’t rattle your audience too dramatically, too soon.

Be content with your content (sorry)

At the end of the day, be content with the content you’re putting out there. Even if the only people paying attention initially are your friends and family. The journey of an early-stage startup is fraught with plenty of its own twists and turns, so use the freedom afforded to you at this stage of your business’ life to try out a few different angles before throwing in the towel.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what you create!


If you have a burning marketing question you’re interested in getting answered, pop by our handy form to submit your query anonymously and Sean might just answer it. And stay tuned to the Ask a Marketer series page for future articles and announcements.

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