Maven Access - Market against the giants

How should startups with limited budget market themselves against industry leaders

What happened:

Recently YouGov has released, based on their Brandindex’s Word of Mouth metric, these findings of the top 10 most discussed brands among Hong Kong millennials. 2 online payment companies and 3 consumer companies took up the top 5 spots here.

We find the results very insightful yet also triggered us to think about what should we do if our direct competitions happen to be among them?

Top brands among millennials

Here are my two cents on how your startups, or for marketers with a limited budget to advertising, can leverage content over ads.

Why you should care about content over advertising:

These are the reasons why content marketing might suit you more than advertising would.

1. Avoid getting into a price war.

Advertising is mostly on digital space now since first, it is much cheaper when comparing to offline ads ranging from billboards, print ads, whatnot. Second, for startup services that focus on a specific group of audience, it's much easy to target the ads and measure ROI, impact etc.

But by SEM (Search Engine Marketing), if you’re a startup, most keywords you want to use might get outbid by a giant. In fact, many keywords have gone way above USD 200 per word in 2018 according to Kantar Media.

Ain't no startup could or should spare that much money on SEM. Either you find a very niche keyword like "Gucci Toilet" or else a keyword like "leather purse" won't be helpful to you.

2. Banner ads and Display ads are losing their glory.

By the way, all the display ads and banner ads don't work as well as they would before. According to LinkedIn, 92 percent of online banner ads go unnoticed or ignored. I know right, it sounds sad. There is a banner blindness effect going on now.

It means the reader will recognize and ignore all the display / banner ads. Even if you use a pop-up window, the first thing their eyeballs go after isn't the tagline but the little "x" to exit.

We know the ads are coming

This is pretty much how they feel about it, phew....

3. Content builds a long-lasting organic effect and it is healthy for your SEO.

Start to think about content marketing. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has almost everything to do with content. You want your website, your blog, your product page is searchable on search engines? Write something! By only doing advertisement, you got next to nothing for search engines to index for. And worst of all? It all stops once you stop paying.

That being said, SEO is less about instant effect though. You're expecting to see results to come in months later. So for starters, it's still good to do both SEO, SEM and other channel's advertisements (carefully).

By building right content on your own content, you build your brand with an opinion and stance. You're putting yourself out there for your audience. We will later have a separate post on how much content and what type of them is good for your SEO strategy.

How to go about it:

1. Any content is better than no content

Content Marketing Institute's report suggests that content marketing has become an almost universal tactic. Since with almost 90% of companies using it in 2016, and even more will be utilizing it in 2017 and 2018. Nielsen's studies shares that average consumers engage with more than 11 pieces of content before making a purchase.

It really isn't surprising when you think about it. When you search for "best mother's day gift", very easily you'd go through the first 4 links in the result page, right? Then when you nail down to getting a bouquet, there goes another search.

The content marketing adoption rate is still low in Asia (and hurray that’s good). As we are helping companies to work on their content marketing in Asia, we know that not so many players are producing much content here. Many consumers even for myself, would reference the content we found from Europe or North America.

There are not so many companies are creating content in Asia yet, especially in Hong Kong, you have a great chance in standing out.

2. Write extremely niche content, that is intended for only 10-20% of your target audience pool.

That way you're getting a higher chance to be searched by a specific term or linked by a relevant post. Take this exact post as an example, at Maven Access, we aim to help companies to become more efficient in content production whereas we help them by providing tools they need and talents required. However, we can’t manage to target all these companies at once.

For organic search, it makes more sense for this blog to be searchable by people from industries mainly dominated by incumbents but they have an intention to compete against industry leaders with next to nothing on their hands.

You can’t fit all appetite at once. Try to tailor. If you're pleasing everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.

3. Adding some flavor of personality. Even for your brand.

I’ve seen this many times, content coming from many established companies are not reader-friendly. Not like they didn’t have good content, but the opposite, too much of it. The whole piece sounds almost robotic (or they really have used machine generated content, who knows).

Only if machine generated articles sound more human in 2018....

When I’m working with my clients from established scale vs startup level, this is super obvious. Sometimes the founders really do know their brand persona the best. It’s our job to dig out all the details, messages, and background stories from them to write about. Yet, if we are only dealing with a manager who newly joined the team, we might need more time to go through this. In that case, we can easily spot the rigidity in their “safe” way of writing. Usually to safeguard their image and make sure thing are objective. Sometimes it invites the image of lacking originality and opinion.

Use more first-person writing style. You could even crack a joke or two. Robots lack your humor:) I still like this video of the Sophia robot on BBC show a lot.

With that being said, we do believe in machine generated work such as machine translation as our other product is heavily involved with NLP (natural language processing). But we believe most tools on the market can't do the one-size-fit-all approach to make content relevant for all occasions. 

All in all...

Start to think of other ways of marketing yourself. Especially when your battlefield has so many giants with tons of resources. There are still methods and channels that require very minimal investment.

Next time before you place an ad for your company, simply ask yourself, "have I installed an ad-blocker?" If the answer is yes, think of an alternative way to get your brand name out.

Write on!


About the author

Edwin Ty

Founder of Maven Access. Passionate in building products, content that saves people time. In love with the future of work, believing that work is a big part of our lives and we should find ways to enjoy it.

Write about #Entrepreneurship, #Content, #product, random thoughts.

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