Startup profiles: Why entrepreneurs learn content marketing

May 15, 2017 | Focus Fast

2017 Content Marketing Startup subscriber survey

Earlier this year I sent a short survey to subscribers of the CMS blog. I wanted to find out more about their startup businesses, their interest in content marketing, and how they prefer to learn online.

The title of the survey was “Why are you here?”

In a nutshell, I wanted to know why people visited this website so I could better meet the learning needs of startup owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Although the number of responses was somewhat small – CMS is still an early startup itself, after all – the results begin to paint a profile of this website’s regular viewers. This information is tremendously helpful to me, and might give you an idea of where you stand among this audience.

If you haven’t already responded, please take the survey to add your business to the ongoing composite profile. The survey is completely anonymous; no identifying information will be collected or shared.

Startup business plans

The survey began by asking viewers four simple questions about their business.

1. Do you want to be a business owner?

While most respondents (87%) answered “yes,” I was a bit surprised when over half (54%) said they’d already started their business.

That’s because when I began building Content Marketing Startup I assumed that most of my audience would be planning a startup rather than already running one. So right out of the chute I learned something interesting about my “tribe!”

Perhaps this speaks to the dual meaning of “startup” in my blog title. While it could refer to a new business, it could also mean the startup of a content marketing effort for an existing business.

2. What business startup stage are you at?

This question digs a bit deeper into the development level of viewers’ startup businesses. About a third of viewers (34%) are planning or have just launched a startup. Almost half (46%) have an established business.

startup survey

3. What type of business do you want?

This was another area of revelation. More startup owners (53%) want a service-based business as opposed to an online business (33%). With today’s visibility and promise of web-based enterprises I had expected the reverse.

On the other hand, when coupled with the next question about business structure, it appears there are a large number of freelancers in the CMS audience. These are likely to be consultants and other individual service providers. (I might try to correlate these two responses in the future once a larger response sample is available.)

startup survey

4. How would you structure your business?

This last business-focused question revealed a startup profile that was very close to my expectations. A full 80% of respondents are either going solo or with a few partners or contractors in their startup. Only 14% expected to have employees.

startup survey

Startups and content marketing

The next four questions deal with the role and maturity of content marketing in startup businesses.

5. What’s your interest in content marketing?

Given the higher-than-expected number of owners who’ve already launched their startup, it follows that the majority of readers (66%) want to use content marketing to grow an existing business.

startup survey

6. Where are you at on your journey to learn content marketing?

Nearly half of viewers (46%) are at the starting gate on this one: just curious enough about this thing called content marketing that they’re willing to learn more. Another 20% are beginning to create the initial content for their startup.

Combined, that puts two-thirds (66%) of the CMS audience in the early stages of content marketing development.

The other third is working on more advanced stages: driving sales and enhancing efficiency.

Bottom line, I think, is that the majority of the audience is truly in the startup phase of their content marketing efforts.

startup survey

7. What content skills do you need the most help with?

Since this question allowed multiple answers, the responses add up to more than 100%.

Web technology, content strategy and email technology are the top three areas where startups need assistance. Knowing this, you can expect the CMS blog and other learning materials to focus even more on these topics in the future.

startup survey

8. Which CMS blog topics have been most helpful?

Here again, multiple answers were allowed.

Top five most useful articles:

5. How the best landing pages drive content conversion

4. 9 ways content marketing benefits your business

3. How to start a business blog: An 11-step guide

2. 9-step social media checklist for startups: How to talk with your tribe

And the number one most useful article:

1. The 5 stages of content marketing for beginners

If you haven’t read these popular lessons yet I encourage you to do so!

Startup learning style

As the CMS site continues to grow, I plan to offer additional ways for entrepreneurs to learn how to leverage content marketing in a startup business. The survey’s last two questions delve into how my audience prefers to learn online.

9. How do you prefer to consume content on the web?

More than half of respondents (57%) preferred written material. That bodes well for continued readership of the CMS blog, but is surprising given the busy nature of most startup owners and entrepreneurs. I would have expected more preference for easy-to-consume video and visual formats, especially given the preponderance of visual learning styles in the population at large.

“Written material” can, of course, mean more than blog posts. I’ll consider adding more e-books, white papers, case studies and other written content to help readers learn.

I’ll also plan on offering more info-graphics and explainer videos for visual learners in the audience.

startup survey

10. How would you prefer to learn more about content marketing?

CMS followers are a decidedly autonomous bunch! Nearly two-thirds (64%) would prefer to learn by self-directed browsing rather than a packaged course. Nonetheless, 36% indicated they’d prefer a more teacher-directed curriculum such as a video course or workbook.

I’ll continue to support “learning by browsing” and also plan to offer packaged courses in the future.

startup survey

Feedback from the startup trenches

One of the most gratifying aspects of this survey came in the open-ended comments.

You told me about your personal startup motivations and how you hope to use content marketing some day.

You gave me praise for the valuable information I’ve already sent your way, but also offered suggestions for improvement.

You shared your struggles with finding time to pursue content marketing in the midst of all your other business and startup passions.

You gave me tips on what to include in a content course to make it more useful to you.

Most of all you communicated with me. One of the loneliest parts of content marketing is putting one’s self out there and wondering if anyone is listening. Your feedback gave me an answer.

Thank you!

Put your startup in the mix

Do these results fit your startup situation? Are you surprised by any of these answers? Do you have other insights to share about using content in a startup environment? Let this community know in the comments below.

Also, this survey will stay open indefinitely. I’d love to include your startup in the composite profile.

Take the survey here.

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