Most new entrepreneurs know that content marketing is the best way to build an audience for a new product.
Many also know that they should build that audience before their product is ready to sell.
But when, specifically, should you begin your content marketing campaign? What stage in the pre-launch process is ideal? No one wants to overspend in the startup phase, or misallocate their resources.
However, as long as you’re realistic with your budget and time, it’s hard to start too early. In fact, the earlier you start with content marketing, the more valuable opportunities you’ll have.
Here’s why you should start planning your content marketing ASAP, even if you’re a long way from your product launch.
Getting Organic Traffic Takes Time
If you want organic web traffic, you need to put in the work. You won’t get organic traffic overnight — not even close, actually.
Ahrefs’ blog noted that only 5.7% of all new pages were able to land on the first page of Google within a year of being published — and it took those pages about two to six months to reach that spot.
If you want your pages to be in that small, winning group, you have to improve the factors search engines use rank your site.
Those factors include things like site speed, site structure, link relationships and social shares — but they also include the “age” of the site and its content. That alone may be a good enough reason to start getting pages published as early as you can.
Your site isn’t a wine cellar, though. You can’t just pop a few articles in there and wait for them to improve with age.
Search engines also measure the quantity and quality of your pages. That may be a part of the reason new sites don’t tend to perform as well as more established ones: It takes time to build up a solid library of premium content.
You should start building that library as early as you can. (Like now).
Building Audience Trust Takes Time
Most folks don’t propose marriage on the first date. Take a note from them — don’t expect people to open their wallets for someone they just “met” online.
The best content marketing strategists approach each new reader as they would a someone beginning a relationship.
There’s an introductory phase before things get a little more personal. There’s time to establish trust before you let it all hang out and ask for favors — even seemingly small ones like replies to your emails with feedback on your ideas.
Your audience needs to know that you’re authentic, that you’re here to help, and that you know what the heck you’re talking about.
The best way to prove that to them is through helpful, educational, content in a personal voice, published consistently over time. (More on how to establish your business as a go-to industry resource here, and more on developing your company’s brand voice here.)
If you start early enough and do things right, by the time your product is ready to launch your audience will recognize your name in their inbox as they would a colleague or even a friend.
You Need Customer Insights Early On
A deep understanding of your customers’ pain points and obstacles is essential, no matter the stage of product development. However, earlier is always better.
A clear sense of your ideal customers’ needs keeps you on the right path. It can be the difference between success and failure. And content marketing is the best way to give you those valuable customer insights, by creating a way for you to connect with your readers. It gives your audience lots of opportunities to reach out to you — whether it’s through email replies, blog comments, or social media posts.
Content marketing also keeps founders customer-focused in another way: It forces them to think hard about how to connect with their customers on a regular basis.
Coming up with truly educational content requires getting detailed about who you want to target, what you want to achieve with your messages, and which messages will benefit your audience the most.
For founders who tend to get weighed down in things like product building, execution, and cash flow, committing to a high quality content marketing campaign has the added benefit of plugging them back into the bigger picture. That’s a habit you can’t start too early.
So, we’ve already established that it takes time to establish trust.
But once your audience trusts you, you also want to have some time to get your pre-launch list ready to commit to trying your product — and even excited about it.
This is important. You only get one chance to launch, and your pre-launch list is by far your best shot at a getting a strong client list.
You can use content marketing to prep your list in a few ways:
- Take them along for the ride. If you’ve kept your audience posted on your product’s progress with content marketing since early in your business, they feel like they’re in it with you. They want to see how it turns out and be a part of your company’s story. It’s hard to get that sense of rapport if you wait too long to build your audience.
- Destroy hesitations. As your launch approaches, you can use your content marketing to build up excitement around your product and address any potential objections or hesitations they have about becoming a customer.
This is a lot to accomplish, and shortcuts rarely work. Getting an early start gives you a chance to do it right and get close to your audience over time.
Caution: Consistency Required
Despite the general advice to start as early as possible, understand that content marketing is not something you should rush.
Building up a list only to ignore it for weeks or months wastes the momentum, goodwill and brand recognition you spent time and money on in the beginning.
Similarly, starting strong and giving up after several months because you don’t see results yet is also a waste of resources. As we’ve mentioned, this stuff takes time. One of the biggest content marketing mistakes companies consistently make is not giving their strategy enough time to work.
Plus, consistency may be one of the top factors in getting higher rankings. As Bill Belew explains in Search Engine Journal:
“The more often the bots crawl your site the more likely the bot is to think, (if bots could think), ‘I’d better stick around this site ‘cuz it keeps changing’ which equals better search results. Consistently update your site with quality content.”
So, if you aren’t sure you have the resources to make a consistent, long-term effort now, take the time. Make it a priority to get those resources.
The first step is to figure out how you want to execute your content marketing. For more on that, read our comprehensive guide to outsourcing content. Once you get a feel for what your content marketing will cost, you should budget for 6 to 12 months of it, at least.
Don’t forget to budget your time, too. A good content marketing campaign requires hours of upfront investment from founders. Thankfully, founders’ time spent can decrease significantly over time if you’re working with the right team — like us here at Audience Ops.
Want more information on what it’s like to work with us? We’d love to hear from you.