7 Key Lessons To Build A Content-First Business [Step-By-Step Process]

The traditional approach to building a business is broken in many ways.

Generally, people start with the following approach to build a business →

  1. Find a business idea
  2. Validate the idea by launching an MVP
  3. Improve and launch a better version of the product
  4. Find customers
  5. Scale the business
  6. Test the results and make improvements

People invest a lot of time and budget to make the product and then find the paying customers.

What if we can reverse this process by building a targeted audience first and then creating a product for them.

Yes, this is even practically possible only when you build a content-first business.

The book content Inc will give you a 7-step process to help you start and grow a content-first business.

Let’s get started →

Introduction About The Content Inc Book

The author of Content Inc’s book is Joe Pulizzi, called the godfather of content marketing.

In 2007, Joe started the Content Marketing Institute, which became one of the great examples of content-first business.

This book results from building a leading content empire in the marketing field and interviewing hundreds of other founders who started with the content-first approach.

After completing this guide, you’ll uncover the step-by-step process of building a loyal audience base by creating useful content consistently for the audience.

Let’s dive right into the framework.

“The Content Inc. model helps you build a loyal and trusting audience over time and accomplish your marketing goals.“- Joe Pulizzi.

STEP 1. Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot

Most people make the mistake of creating the content first without having any proper strategy or goal.

The first step of the content Inc framework is to find the sweet spot between your knowledge and your passion.

In short, the sweet spot is the right intersection between what you know and what your audience cares about.

You simply cannot either of them.

Example: CopyBlogger

The founder of copy blogger, Brain Clark, had 7+ years of experience in marketing and writing compelling content before creating and sharing content.

Also, he found that people were interested in learning to Copywrite back in 2006.

As a result, he launched the copy blogger website to teach people how to write content that sells and persuades people in marketing.

STEP 2. Find your Content tilt

Now that you’ve found the content sweet spot for the audience, it’s time to make it different from the rest.

It is hard to get your content to stand out in this information overload era, even if you’re producing high-quality content.

The solution?

Finding the content tilt.

The tilt is a way to differentiate your content, getting the desired attention from the core audience.

One of the best ways to do this is by creating content for a particular (niche) audience.

For example, hundreds of thousands of websites around the web teach ‘online marketing in general.’

But you’ll find a few websites that focus on sharing content specific to ‘marketing for hospitals or healthcare institutions.’

The key idea here is to find content topics or even formats with as low competition as possible.

Don’t just limit yourself to text-based content. Chances are a few content formats (say text content) are saturated in your niche, whereas other content formats (say Video format) are low competitive.

Example: Marketing Examples

Marketing Examples started with creating unique business case studies with useful visuals. The content tilt here was the content structure as every content piece is:

  • Short in length and practical
  • Showcase real-life marketing examples
  • Custom illustrations that add more meaning to the content

STEP 3: Build The Base

Just because you can start publishing content for all the platforms doesn’t mean you have to do that.

One of the reasons most content marketing programs fail is that they focus on too many content platforms.

The reason?

Lack of resources, budget, and skillsets for almost any company. Therefore, it is most preferred to start with only one or two content platforms.

It could be either a blog, YouTube channel, or even a podcast.

After all, becoming great at one platform is much better than staying mediocre on all other platforms.

Example: Content Marketing Institute (CMI)

For almost 18 months, CMI focused on publishing high-quality blog content. In the beginning, they didn’t try to publish on all other possible platforms.

As a result, within a year, the CMI blog became the trusted source of information for content marketers worldwide.

STEP 4: Audience Building

No matter which content platform you choose to share valuable content for your core audience, your ultimate goal should be to build an audience.

And, when it comes to building a loyal audience, one mistake that people make is they focus on rented lands such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

Having a large number of followers on any of these channels is good. But you don’t have control over it. Anytime, you can get kicked out of the platform, and all your audience will be lost in a moment.

This is why you should have a plan of growing your audience on your owned platform.

One example is email subscribers.

If you’re focusing on SEO as a primary channel, try to turn visitors into an email newsletter.

This way, you can even nurture the audience and even get feedback before launching any product or service.

Here’s the preferred platform to own your audience:

Grow Your Followers with a Content First Dtrategy

STEP 5: Revenue

So far, we have learned how to identify the sweet spot, find the content differentiator, build the base, and select the right content platform.

This is what you need to do before even creating content.

Now, after creating and distributing valuable content for at least 12-18 months, it’s time for monetizing the audience.

You might have already built an email list or any specific number of followers. The next step is to monetize the people.

Surely, there are many possible ways to monetize and start earning revenue; you can still get inspiration from the below framework.

Content Inc revenue framework:

STEP 6: Diversify The Audience

Now that you’ve built a large, loyal audience with various monetization options, you need to diversify big.

This is the step where you’ll focus more on scaling a content-first business. Diversification can be done in many ways, such as:

  • Expanding the content platforms and channels
  • Adding multiple sources of revenue streams, etc.

For example, CMI started with only a blog, and later on, CMI diversified into live events, sponsored webinars, and even consulting businesses.

This is all possible because of starting with small and then scaling at the right time.

STEP 7: Sell Or Go Big

Earlier this year, HubSpot acquired the hustle, a business newsletter (content-first business) for a huge amount.

There are many more content businesses getting acquired by large companies.

This shows the importance of building a loyal audience with the help of content.

Now, it’s not necessary but always a good practice to start with a bigger picture.

Whether you want to sell the content business in the future or build content assets, it’s up to you.

Just make sure you have the roadmap for the future.

Final Words

There is no fixed way to start a business in this era. But the content-first approach has some advantages over the traditional approach where you start with product building.

You also take less risk as building an audience isn’t that expensive as building and promoting a product.

Now, it’s your time to start with what you have and build a content empire in your industry.

Author Bio: Himanshu Sharma is the founder of KeeVurds and an SEO consultant with years of experience. Himanshu is currently focused on growing KeeVurds, an online platform that allows startup founders and entrepreneurs to submit their business story.

7 Key Lessons To Build A Content-First Business [Step-By-Step Process]

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