Content Marketing

with Neil Patel

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Branding tips for early stage startups

Neil Patel

Entrepreneur, Influencer, Investor & Advisor

Lessons Learned

Get as much press as possible. PR drives traffic and also creates fantastic SEO.

Focus on creating a great product and writing content as much as you can.

Do not spend any money on PR or branding, if you can avoid it at the beginning.


Lesson: Content Marketing with Neil Patel

Step #9 Branding: Branding tips for early stage startups

If you're a startup, you’re strapped for cash, and you don’t have a lot of time, the one channel you should start off with is press. Get as much free press as possible. It's typically easy especially if you’re a startup in San Francisco or New York, one of the major regions. The press will only drive visitors and some of those visitors will convert to customers but it also drives links. Those links will help you a long-term SEO rankings.

In addition to that, just try to create a good product, good service, whatever you're offering and write good contact whenever you have time. That's what I would do if I was a startup. Early on in a startup I don't think you should actually spend much money or time on branding or PR. If you can get PR without spending much money and it's free or is it's easy to access, great. Go and do it. If you can't, then you're just spinning your wheels and you should be spending that time on product, engineering, etc.

Because what ends up happening is that you spend all this time, for example like Airtime. Sean Parker ended up creating Airtime. He spent so much money on branding and PR and what happened to the company? It didn't work. I'm not saying Airtime was a bad company or they're bad entrepreneurs or not smart, it's just sometimes startups don't work. It doesn't matter who you are and how smart you are. A lot of times it's luck, it's timing, and things that you can't control.

Now if you spend all that money on branding and PR, etc. and you don't get attraction, what did you do? You just wasted a lot of money. Instead you could have put that money towards product, marketing. It could have get into product market or whatever it maybe but there's way better ways to spend money than it is on branding and PR at the beginning.

So with content marketing it's finding a balance from taking off the user to not taking them off. From a tone perspective, a friendly tone, use the words “you” or “I” that creates a conversation is always going to work the best when you're writing content. As for the blog and the stuff you show, you can try showing some pop-ups and sliders, some surveys. Sometimes it will tick off people, sometimes it won't. You have to find out how many people you're ticking off and is that damage going to slow down growth in a long run. If it's not, then by all means keep pushing forward. If it's going to cause more growth in a short run but in the long run it’ll actually hurt you, then you should probably reconsidering not doing it at all.

And also when you're doing these kind of tactics make sure you're not doing anything unethical or deceiving because if you're causing people to sign up to something that they're not expecting or you're taking force continuity, getting people to pay whether or not supposed to be paying and you said free trial but you're charging for five years upfront, eventually it’s going to bite you in the butt.

On the Internet, you can have multiple different personas, but I've learned sometimes what people want to see isn't always the person you are. For example, my LLC is called I’m kind of a big deal LLC. The reason it's called I'm kind of a big deal LLC was just a shell company and it's supposed to be a name of a book and then the whole purpose of the book was hey, it's personal branding is a reason that a lot of people get to where they are and the person is not the big deal. It's not me. It's actually you. But when people want to see again is sometimes different than who you may be and it's a fine you line. You got to pick who you want to be or do you want to play both sides. And I myself play both sides. Sometimes it does bite me in the butt but overall I found that it drives much more traffic.

Another good example of this is a gentleman named Tim Sykes. So Tim Sykes has a terrible reputation, probably especially in the Valley. Now his model is he finds fake stocks like the movie Boiler Room. People calling and saying, "Hey, you got to buy this stock." And all he does is say, "Hey, everyone. This is a fake stock. Look at their terms of service, their privacy policy. They even got their company name wrong in there. It's just a company that's selling sponges with water and soap and they claim they're worth billions of dollars." It's like something is false here like, "Look, they don't even have any sales. They didn't have websites to sell. It's like how do they generate?"

And you'll call them out and stock get shorted. So by that he's creating a bad reputation because all those people that he's calling out have way more money than him. And also he starts flashing around Lamborghinis and like exotic locations that he's going to like the Maldives or wherever it maybe. And hotel rooms that are costing like $5,000 because he's like, "Hey, I'm rich, you're not. And like you want this lifestyle, sign up to my courses." And he's making millions of dollars a month from that.

He's playing two sides in which people hate him for it, and people love him also because he's teaching you how to become more successful. But if you got to know Tim in real life, he's humble. He doesn't care for money, he donates most of it away actually. But he's playing both sides. Now it's the question of which side do you want to play and is the money really worth it.

So the way I look at it is the juice worth the squeeze. If it's worth it for you and you want to deal with the consequences then do it. If not, don't do it. And so when you're playing both sides it's actually really tough to stay authentic because what ends up happening is by playing both sides to some extent you actually end up turning into the other person. Whether you like it or not if you do it for enough years, it ends up becoming you. The way you stay authentic hopefully is your friends, the surroundings, the people around you that’ll bring you back down to reality.

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