Do you want to start a content marketing business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a content marketing business with NO money and no experience. I would define content marketing as the process of generating content that adds value to a very specific audience with the aim of generating profits or  growing a business.

The business of content marketing has been in existence since the 19th Century, when companies began to print magazines or newsletters they would send to their clients to further advertise their services. But with the invention of the internet, we have seen more content marketing done over digital platforms.

What makes content marketing different from other traditional forms of marketing is permission rather than intrusion. Other traditional kinds of marketing are intrusive, they interrupt our television programs to advertise, and they interrupt you on the street or even at home to market their services or products to you. With content marketing, the prospect gives you permission to market your product to them.

See it this way, if you are in the detergent business and you want to sell more of your products to clients, you can sponsor the production of a magazine about how detergents make clothes last longer without getting worn out.

Inside of that magazine would be tips on how to iron your clothes, how to keep your clothes, different types of hangers, different types of irons etc. Your content in the magazine revolves around the laundry process and industry, adding value to people who would definitely desire to clean their clothes.

The next time a person who buys your magazine decides he wants to get a detergent, which brand do you think he will use? You guessed right, yours. So you see the power of content marketing. You are advertising by adding value to your potential clients, it is powerful and they don’t even know it, they don’t feel like you are interrupting their day or their leisure time, they permit you to offer your services to them.

But today this approach to marketing has gone fully digital; the digital form of content marketing is taking the world by storm. With the invention of mobile devices, marketing has entered the very lives of people in real time. Whether they are in the office, at home, watching a basketball game, businesses can constantly present their services to a wide range of prospects and expect high returns on investments.

I know that when you think of content marketing, all you think about is Social Media, but there’s more to this than your various social media platforms. There’s the e-mail approach where you can send newsletters to your clients. In fact, this has been said to be the most effective means of content marketing in the United States of America. It is one way to get close and personal with your clients or prospects.

It is so powerful that even if there is wrong information out there in the media about your client’s brand, the e-mail list is the only way you can correct such an impression. There is also SEO (Search Engine Optimization), a creative way of making your client’s website pop-up as a potential answer to people’s search questions, causing your clients to receive more traffic in their websites.

There is the use of blogs to effectively communicate ideas surrounding your client’s brand, answer popular questions before they arise in the minds of the clients and advertise new or improved services.

Every business needs to make more sales and content marketing is one of the ways to do that, however this strategy of marketing can be used to achieve different things. It is the job of the content marketing agency to use the tools available to them to achieve the end desire of their clients.

19 Steps to Starting a Content Marketing Business

1. Understand the Industry

An industry that is projected to make above $312 billion US Dollars by 2019, gives us something to think about if one wants to enter into the business of content marketing. Since the early 2010’s the industry has seen a tremendous growth, with many more businesses beginning to see the merits of content marketing. In 2014, the industry saw a growth of above 10% making it more than $12billion US Dollars; this was the first double digit gain, with the second happening in 2015.

The industry continues to get better and better each year, the United States has the world’s largest content marketing market, utilizing different channels of approach online, social media, gaming, video, apps to mention  a few channels, by which the industry in the US became the world’s largest. With continued improvement in technology and web apps, this figure is expected to keep increasing.

In 2016, above 40% of business to customer marketers promised to increase their budget for content marketing and this percentage slightly increases for business to business marketers, revealing to us more room for opportunities to be seized when going into this industry.

Out of all the various aspects of this type of marketing, emails have been proven to give more that 120% returns on investment, showing us the effectiveness of this approach to marketing when taken seriously and done well. Content marketing is said to be the future of marketing, bringing brands to their prospective clients in ways that would not have been imagined before.

With all of this growth and expansion in the industry, one begins to look at one of the major threats one would face when going into such a business. The long time challenge of competition cannot be over emphasized. There is a sea of content marketing agencies in the US, most of which are amazing at their jobs.

We will also be able to say that these competitors already have their client bases and have committed to a continued stream of content marketing. This is by far the greatest test one would face when coming into such an industry.

Another challenge of course is the issue of gaining trust with your prospective clients, becoming an agency who knows what they are talking about by having a strong internet presence. You can’t offer to help a company with their content marketing when you have not made a strong impact in the digital space yourself.

The truth is that if a company was being approached by a content marketing agency to offer their services, the first thing that company is going to do is look at the web presence of the supposed agency. If it is nothing above average then the company will lack enthusiasm in hiring such an agency.

So, in order to make good first impressions and stand out from your competitors, have a solid web presence, develop your own content for your own company and find your niche. This is the best way to stand out from the other agencies doing the same thing as you.

This industry is booming and has no intentions of slowing down; meaning that lots and lots of agencies are currently coming into the market because of how economical it is to start a content marketing business.

So be rest assured that it is an industry with a lot of promise, but there’s a lot of fight to be had to stand out, win and make profits from your content marketing business.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Basically your major targets for the content marketing business are businesses, both large and small. Businesses that are looking for a stronger brand identity, the kind that wants prospects to glance at their online presence.

Customers should be able to know everything the brand stands for, how they operate, their customer service approach and the general feel of the brand. You could look for businesses that don’t have this clearly expressed either on their website or social media platforms.

You could develop a strategy for them and if they agree with your plans and fees, you can begin to help such a brand represent themselves better online.

You could look for companies that already have some type of content marketing going on but want to improve on their productivity. Of course the ultimate is to increase sales, but other objectives can be desired by your prospective clients.

They may want to increase more website visits, grow their network, increase their email listings, to mention a few. Depending on what the company has stated as their major objective for their current digital presence, it would be your job to achieve this for them.

You could look for companies who want to analyze the patterns of their consumers. You can look into their response to your content marketing online. This is a cheap way to look at how customers are responding to your products or services.

The company stands a chance of getting real time feedback from clients and responding to them in real time. You as the content marketing agency can use such data to inform the company about the best manner of approach when introducing a new service or product.

You could look for companies that want to maximize their return on investments. One of the ways to drive more sales is through engaging content marketing. Companies that want to generate leads will also find your services useful, while they continue with their regular day to day running of the business.

Most companies may not necessarily specialize in this type of marketing and may need an external body to handle this aspect of their marketing for them, or train their in house staff to take up the job from within. Businesses are constantly looking for how to make more sales and settle any doubts about their services, and content marketing is one of the best and most economically friendly ways to achieve this.

3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On

This has to be one of the most important things you may want to know about content marketing. With so many competitions out there, how do you stand out of the crowd and make your prospective clients pick you over your competitors?

Well, first of all your niche would have to be the particular area of expertise you naturally find yourself to have. For example if you have a natural flair for entertainment and media, then one would suggest you focus on marketing your content marketing business to entertainment companies or those within the field of media.

If you have a natural disposition to finance, then focus on topics that have to do with finance then marketing your agency. This will quickly establish you as an authority in that area of content marketing. It will be unproductive to want to focus on everything at the same time as there are an endless variety of content marketing niche. You have to find that one that comes easy to you, and stick to it. Another thing that can make you stand out is if you are seen as credible.

Many prospective clients would want to know how you became an authority in that particular field, while some would be looking for awards, and others would be looking for companies you have worked for before and if you have ever done anything for a company like there’s.

So be sure to answer these questions by putting case studies or testimonials of companies you’ve worked for on your site. Make sure the logo’s or a brief note on their experience with you is clear to see on your site, plus if you have attended any kind of training or received any kind of award, it would be very advantageous to place that on your site too.

Another way to create a niche for yourself is to constantly play around guest blogging. Borrowed influence is an amazing part of success, get known bloggers to write on your site or you get to write on some prominent content marketer’s sites.

Nothing says you are a professional like having other professionals endorse you by allowing you showcase your connection to them. This type of practice is a statement where the well-known bloggers are saying “we put our seal of approval on this guy”. It’s like when you put your referees on your curriculum vitae.

Another way to create a niche for yourself in the content marketing business is to do your research yourself. It is easy to simply go online and look for someone else’s hard work and just work with that. But when you get contracts to handle the content marketing side of a business, do your own research on that company. This will give you a more generic insight to the strategies you will use in changing whatever needs to be changed.

When companies know you performed your own research on them and the data you collected proceeded from your own hard work, it sends a good message of you. Another way to establish your niche in this type of business is to stick to your corporate brand. Never compromise on your brand identity; this is what instantly makes you stand out from other companies that are doing the exact same thing you are.

Your brand is more than just your logo design, it is everything about your content marketing business, from the way you approach prospects, to your service delivery.

The Level of Competition in the Industry

The Level of competition in the content marketing business may be overwhelming when you think about it. There are so many content marketing businesses in the United States of America that if they gave you a dollar for each one, you’d be a rich person.

These agencies are also aggressive, talented and experienced. It will do you good to research the enemy, find out what you are up against. Find out how they go about providing their services, what challenges they may be having and what areas they may not be looking at.

Look at the companies they have worked for to find out what your competitors may have missed out while handing their digital content. From all this information you get, you will approach the market with full confidence.

Be ready to work very hard to get your company to the place where you need it to be, because it takes a lot of ‘proving yourself’, to be established in this industry.

And even when you are established, you would still have to keep your eyes on the ball, because some other upstart or even a fellow competitor may be watching you as well, thinking of how to step into your place. It’s a dog eat dog world in the content marketing business world, you must always be at the top of your game.

This is a world where trends change at the drop of a hat, and should you be stubborn about getting on with the times, your clients may begin to see you as old school or not up to date, hence giving the impression that you cannot meet their needs. Keep with the ever changing trend but do not compromise on your general brand.

4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry

A few of the well-known brands in content marketing are;

  • Equinox
  • Patagonia
  • Orange Cycle
  • HeadSpace
  • Rue la la
Economic Analysis

This appears to be one of the cheapest ventures to go into, as what you need is your laptop and access to the internet. Of course you cannot offer to handle another business’ content management if you have not developed your own followership on the digital front.

So it will cost you some time and money to generate your followership. Of course you will have to register your business like every other business and obtain the legal documents and licenses to operate. But this type of business can be very economical, that is one of the main appeals of content marketing.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

Unfortunately not many content marketing agencies are looking to sell their business to others because content marketing is mostly focused on a particular area. Even if the company needs presence somewhere else, there would be no need to physically get an office elsewhere since 95% of the work is done online.

While other businesses like retail shops may need to open branches in various cities in order to get into that market, this type of business does not need that as all they do is send emails or proposals to the potential clients. These potential clients get to see the proposals online, check the statistics of the company and choose to either do business with them or decline.

If one does find a content marketing business to purchase, it will be very expensive if the business is already a success. We see the purchasing of certain content marketing platforms like instagram or whatsapp by a singular company, and details show the price for such purchases is very high.

These companies had already done the ground work for years; they have already gained some kind of followership and loyalty before they were bought. This large influence of people is what the purchasing company is buying.

Starting from scratch gives you the option of building your customer base while raking up experience. This experience would be valuable in time because it will make you very knowledgeable in your field.

This experience would build credibility for future clients to work with you having seen how far you have come. So at the end of the day, it depends on what works for you; and though starting from scratch may seem cheap at  first, it takes a lot of fight to move into a place of success within the field.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

One of the major threats to this kind of business is when users choose to block ads. Ad blocking as it is called is when the user chooses to stop certain advertisement advances like pop-up ads, banner ads etc.

There are various reasons why one would want to block ads and privacy is one of them. Data theft is one of the things most online users are concerned about so keeping unwanted ads away from our online user experience may help us in that regard.

Also with the development of sophisticated viruses, it is only safe to keep your online business free from intrusion.

Another reason why most will block ads is because we want a pleasant online experience without having interruptions of different ads from time to time. Actually this can be all the time, and could prove very frustrating.

Another major challenge of Content Marketing is the fact that it cannot reach people who do not use the internet or who are not technologically up to speed. In as much as traditional marketing is looking to catch up with that of digital, but there are still those who have not been bitten by the online bug yet.

Another challenge of course is the negative effect it may have on the brand if the campaign does not work. Brands would have to face the aftermath of a failed campaign, and it usually creates a stench of failure that may change the way the brand is perceived within its market space.

Keeping abreast with the ever changing trends that come with engaging such a venture could be challenging. We are in a world where trends change as quickly as people change clothes; this threatens the structural strength of your marketing approach.

Then there is the issue of changing human behavior, likes, dislikes and requirements. It would appear that people are fickle, one moment they say they want a particular thing in a certain way, the next moment they damn the previous desire for another. To keep up with this will be very challenging to the content marketer.

The digital space offers free speech, so if there are prominent people giving your client’s brand bad reviews, the way you can handle the situation may bring a positive change to the situation or a negative one. Just as word of mouth is one of the best ways to advertise a business, bad publicity may not necessarily be good for your client’s brand.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

Depending on how far you intend to go and what you intend to do with your company, I would suggest a Limited Liability Company is the best to go. Usually one may want to register their company as a sole proprietorship; because they figure that at the beginning, it may basically just be them.

But if you are good at what you do, chances are that you would want to expand, grow and eventually become large enough to handle multiple accounts.

Plus with the increase of the brands you manage, comes the possibility of getting into some negative run-ins along the way. Registering as a Limited Liability Company exempts you from being held responsible for any damages in a personal way.

Partnership is also another good way to register this type of business, because you may want to partner with people who may have more experience that you in certain niches of the business. They can help your company seem better rounded and able to manage a large variety of accounts.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below

  • Silvergate
  • Embibe
  • Weekend Tinz
  • Look Good
  • Rewire This
  • RoundNews
  • Goldensaphires
  • Edibles

9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

Without certain insurance policies, it is impossible to do business in the United States and the content marketing venture is not different. It may seem pretty causal but there are compulsory insurance policies to purchase before running your business without any hitch.

Another reason why taking up insurance is important in this type of business is that you are communicating with a large number of people, most of which may get the wrong message.

If you unknowingly slander a client’s competitor or give a marketing advice that costs your client lots of money without presenting any return on investment, you could come under a lot of heat. It is at times like this that you need insurance to cushion the effects of such negative events.

A list of some of the insurance policies you may need are as follows;

  • General Insurance
  • Commercial Liability Insurance
  • Cyber Liability Insurance
  • Business Insurance
  • Employment Liability
  • Workers Compensation Insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

The major area where you will need to protect your intellectual property is in the original content you develop. Of course you will need to trademark your logo and brand.

Be sure you are not infringing on another person’s intellectual property so as not to come into any legal issues. At the same time make sure your Intellectual property is properly protected by the law.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Like we stated earlier, it will help your credibility level to get some type of certification for your profession as a marketer. This certification is in no way a must, but it will help develop trust in your clients.

You can equally take certain short courses on marketing. Again it is not a must, but it will certainly help your clients trust you enough to place their brand in your hands.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

Just like any other business, you would need certain documents to approve your operation as a content marketing agency. As the name implies, you are a marketing agency, so the necessary legal documents and licenses needed to operate an advertising agency is also needed for this kind of business.

Below are certain legal documents you would require to do this business;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Tax ID Number
  • Trademark Registration
  • Business License
  • Insurance Policy
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Online Terms of Use
  • Online Privacy Policy Documents
  • Company Bylaws
  • Business Plan

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Like every other business, content marketing businesses also need some form of financial push to get going. If you are starting from scratch, you would need to improve your online followership and influence and doing this means you would have to use your own content to generate followership.

Also if you want to buy a franchise, you would need proper investment capital to both buy and effect proper transition from the previous owners to your own company. In either case, you would need a good amount of money to get the ball rolling.

Below are some very interesting ideas on how to generate funds;

  • Savings are a good way to start a business like this since the beginning may not be too financially tasking
  • If you have property, you can sell it to kick start your business.
  •  Shares of the company are also things you can sell to kick start your agency.
  • Soft loans can easily be received from friends and family.
  • Banks offer a wide variety of loans from micro to macro.
  • There are always people looking to invest.

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

The choice of location for this kind of business can be from your living room to a business complex in a place with heavy human traffic. Majority of the work is done digitally and it is more of a result oriented venture, so clients may not feel the need to come to your office.

If you need to meet with clients, there are nice places where discussions can be had. However when you choose to expand and begin to work for major multinationals, you will need to hire more hands.

The need to supervise your copywriters will be a major thing, plus you will have a little more balls on your hand to juggle about. So getting a proper office space to accommodate a handful of content developers will be ok.

Clients can come visit the workstation of the agency they are about to pay lots of money to represent them in the digital space. It just makes you more of a professional at what you do, as opposed to just doing it from home and appearing like an upstart.

Since most of your prospects are going to be contacting your digitally, there is no real need to look for a place with much human traffic. In fact, you can get a place in a serene quiet environment that is conducive for deep thinking and content creation but also not too far from the urban life. This would be one of the perfect places to set up your office.

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

Apart from the need to be a digital guru, there are other people needed to make a business like this effective. The equipment you may need to run such a business is your laptop, modem, external hard drive and some other computer related devices.

When it comes to manpower, there are some very necessary people needed to make a business like this thrive; a few of them are;

  • Lawyers
  • Administrators
  • Sales and Marketing Official
  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Accountants
  • Web Designer
  • Web Developer
  • Copywriters
  • Bloggers
  • Video Editors
The Service Delivery Process of the Business

When request is received from clients, the content marketing business goes into research about the brand to identify how the brand has been operating in the past and how such operations have been accepted by its clients.

Once information is gotten about why the brand has been experiencing what they have been experiencing, a marketing strategy is developed as to how to effectively change the brands experience to the desired one.

After such a strategy is developed, budget is raised and an estimated time for the company to see returns on their investment is stated.

After all of this is done, the content marketing campaign is launched, this campaign could last anything from 6 months to 3 years or more. It can totally change the face of a brand, causing for this to be one of the most influential ways of brand transformation.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies

Marketing ideas and strategies for this particular business include;

  • Traditional forms of marketing still works, you can place adverts on TV and radio stations.
  • List your business in local directories.
  • Yellow Pages.
  • Network by attending business seminars, especially the ones that center around digital Marketing.
  • Use  Marketers
  • Promoting your business through the digital space is obviously a strong way to go.
  • Offer promos from time to time.

17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

One of the best ways to win over your competitors in this business is to be very effective in what you do. Make sure you have the best web developers, copywriters, web designers, lawyers and even traditional sales and marketing professionals in your agency.

This industry is all about results, when your team is very effective in what they do, then it will show it the results they keep putting out. These results will definitely get noticed by brands and they would be coming in by the hundreds to do business with you.

18. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

The only way to keep your clients coming back for more is by delivering on your marketing campaign strategies. Nothing causes for repeat business like a satisfied customer.

So satisfy your customers by using your content marketing strategies to produce the changes they hired you for and they would keep coming back for more.

19. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

You can boost your content marketing business with these few ideas;

  • Digital Marketing. Obviously!
  • You can also have billboards all around the city.
  • Branded official cars would work wonders.
  • The putting on of branded attire on certain days of the week will help awareness.
  • Advertising your business right on your website is a given.
  • Use word of mouth.
Ajaero Tony Martins