Is Cold Emailing Better Than Content Marketing For Early Stage Startups?
Growing a startup is infinitely harder than starting one. This is especially true for startup founders with an Engineering background, who commonly do not have Sales or Marketing experience. Whilst most startups are able to launch a product or service within months, many startups will find growing and scaling their biggest challenge.
If you’re starting a company, chances are you can build a product. Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have are enough customers. – Gabriel Weinberg, Founder of DuckDuckGo
One of the first steps that founders need to take to grow their startup is to choose their acquisition channels and figure out where to invest their time and effort. Cold emailing and content marketing are two of the most common strategies for customer acquisition in the early stages of a startup. In this post we evaluate the pros and cons of each channel and make a recommendation for which strategy to take when scaling your startup.
What is Cold Emailing?
A cold email is an email sent to someone that you’ve not yet had prior contact with. Cold emails are sent with the intent of having the recipient take an action such as providing feedback, booking a meeting/call, signing up for your service, reading a blog post, or watching a video. Startups can use cold emails for a variety of reasons, including:
- Acquiring product feedback
- Acquiring early users
- Getting new customers
- Finding partners
- Reaching out to investors
- Connecting with influencers
Here’s an example of a cold email written by Justin Wilcox from Customer Dev Labs that was used to acquire an interview with someone with expertise in his startup’s field:
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing involves creating relevant, high quality, and valuable content to attract, inform, and engage with an audience. Content marketing comes in many forms, including:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Case Studies
Product/Market Fit – What Early Stage Startups Need To Grow
To evaluate the better acquisition channel for early stage startups, it’s critical to understand the key factors that contribute to startup growth.
Product/market fit is one of the most important factors that determine whether a startup is ready to scale. Product/market fit is defined by influential Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen as “being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market”. Dan Olsen further defines product/market fit as “the end-game where a startup has built a product that creates significant customer value…this means that your product meets real customer needs and does so in a way that is better than the alternatives”.
You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close.
And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening.The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account. You’re hiring sales and customer support staff as fast as you can. Reporters are calling because they’ve heard about your hot new thing and they want to talk to you about it.
Getting to product/market fit requires a continuous process of testing theories out by building minimum viable product/features, finding people to use your product, and then measuring what gets traction. For most early stage startups, the hardest part of this process is finding people to use your product.
Cold Email – The Fastest Way to Product/Market Fit
If finding people to use your product is the hardest part of getting to product/market fit for early stage startups, then the best acquisition channel will make this process simple and fast.
Cold email can help startups gather feedback, acquire early adopters, & get new customers within minutes of sending out each email. It’s also a fairly simple process to begin that doesn’t require too much initial setup – all you need is an email address and a list of people to contact. The downside of cold email is that it’s not a particularly scalable acquisition channel – if you stop cold emailing people you’ll stop getting results. This can be remedied over time by creating a repeatable process and using tools to automate cold email outreach.
For startups, content marketing is a slower acquisition channel. Neil Patel, Co-Founder of Crazy Egg estimates that it can take anywhere from 6-9 months to see results. This means that content marketing isn’t as well suited for the early stages as acquiring product/market fit requires constant experimentation and fast feedback cycles. The upside of content marketing is that it’s a scalable, long-term growth channel which leads to compound growth. With content marketing, each piece of content created can continue to generate leads & customers months/years after it was first published.
Should I Still Be Using Content Marketing in the Early Stages?
Yes! If you’ve determined that content marketing makes sense for your startup (and it will for practically all startups) then you should use this strategy combined with cold email. Since the pay-off for content marketing takes time, getting a head start is important. Cold email should be treated as another tool in the belt, rather than as a strategy aimed at replacing content marketing.
Content marketing can also be useful for determining product/market fit due to the research required when creating content. Tracking the content which your audience is engaging with the most will also provide feedback and direction for your product.
How Do I Start Cold Emailing?
If you’re a startup that’s looking to start cold emailing, take a look at our 6 step guide that details a step by step process aimed at helping you send your first cold emails. We also recently explored 3 of the best cold email templates for SaaS startups that are specifically aimed at getting feedback, early adopters, and new customers – the key ingredients to getting to product/market fit faster.
Are you a SaaS Startup looking to send your first cold emails? Get a free actionable.me account and automate your cold email process today to start acquiring feedback, finding early adopters, and getting your first customers.