There’s a startup renaissance going on right now, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. 2021 was a record year for U.S. venture capital, with investment nearly doubling year over year and first-time, early stage financings on the rise. But that doesn’t mean it’s getting any easier to start your own business. There’s an outdated mentality that you have to move at breakneck speed to innovate, and it’s preventing startup founders from being intentional about how they’re going to scale.
Startups face a number of obstacles when trying to get off the ground, some of which are obvious: funding, customer acquisition, and building your team are just a few. But there’s one barrier that you may not even realize is holding you back, and it’s crucial to the continued success of your business: content.
Content is everything. It’s the pitch decks you create, the metadata you collect and the videos that greet consumers on your website. Content is even sometimes the sole visual representation of your brand, which means it’s essentially the lifeblood of your business. Failing fast in content creation can come back to haunt startup leaders as they scale, especially if brand and content issues are allowed to proliferate across an increasing pool of employees, customers and investors. Content infrastructure is the key to building brand equity, and startup leaders need to make it a priority if they want to compete in an ever-crowded marketplace. Let’s take a look at the role content will play as you scale your business and the resources that exist to make sure you get it right.
Content, at scale
Content is central to the health of your startup. You’re already new on the scene and have to navigate the tricky world of funding and growth. But you’re also tasked with quickly learning how to implement technology and processes — some of them likely for the first time — in a distributed and remote world. You don’t have time to get your content wrong as you look to scale and chase after more funding.
Over the past few years, and particularly during the pandemic, there has been a major shift to the “digital HQ.” The majority of business is now conducted entirely online, and with automation on the rise our workflows are becoming more and more digitized. That means employees now have a fat tech stack full of applications and services that help them do their jobs. These could be anything from Google Workspace tools to social media engagement platforms to transcription services — much of the hybrid workflow is heavily reliant on tech tools, and that’s not going to change.
With this explosion of technology comes an explosion of content. Every app and service an employee uses stores and exports vast amounts of content and data. If your average employee has 10 tools at their disposal, and you have 50 employees, that’s a whole lot of information! And as your company scales, so, too, does your content.
In the past, there were much fewer apps at the center of content creation. Often you could click into a single folder and pull your content from a single source. Sure, searching through enterprise repositories for content could be cumbersome, but it was at least possible to find what you were looking for with a little effort.
That’s not true anymore. With so many tech tools involved in the average employee’s daily workflow, it’s virtually impossible to track down every single piece of content you need — and even harder to ensure it’s all up-to-date with the latest branding and regulatory requirements. And with new standards like GDPR and the California Privacy Law constantly arising to regulate and protect the tech tools within the digital HQ, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up and ensure compliance.
The state of content
That brings us to the seemingly inevitable mistakes that appear in final content, which are more common than you think. Even small errors can have serious repercussions on your business, especially during the early stages.
At Templafy, we recently surveyed more than 600 full-time employees based in the U.S. at companies with more than 1,000 employees. We wanted to capture the role content plays in supporting brands, and we found the average employee is heavily burdened by a lack of content infrastructure.
Ninety-three percent of respondents agreed even small errors in final content can damage client trust, while 76% said the same for employee trust. As your business grows and you have more people to juggle, you’re increasingly at risk of old brand collateral being used in explainer videos or incorrect disclaimers landing in the hands of your clients and prospects.
When the onus is on employees to keep their content in order, it becomes incredibly easy for materials that are out of date or noncompliant with the latest regulations to end up in front of your customers. In fact, respondents said despite extensive reviews, only 4% of final content makes it out error-free.
So what does data from global companies with upward of 1,000 employees mean for your seed stage startup? Manual errors and mistakes in content — no matter how small — aren’t going to fly when you don’t have existing brand equity to fall back on.
Startup teams are lean and mean, and they don’t have as many resources to remediate these issues as established companies do. You need to remove the possibility of out-of-date or flat-out incorrect materials landing in the hands of your customers so you can focus on the more important task at hand: growing your company.
The power of content enablement
As you scale your business, you shouldn’t have to worry about information getting lost in the ether or falling out of step with regulatory requirements due to human error. While there’s no good time to fall out of compliance or provide off-brand content, a particularly bad time is during the startup stage when market awareness and investor buy-in is an everyday battle.
This is where content enablement comes in – a new category of tech that supports and connects content throughout the modern enterprise. The need for content enablement solutions, and in turn connected content, has largely been accelerated due to four significant changes in the future of work:
Content is everything. We’ve already covered this one — your brand reputation hinges on the terabytes of data, documents, emails and audiovisual materials your business owns. But with this much information at your disposal, locating the right content at the right time is impossible.
Content creation points are multiplying as we speak. Microsoft Word isn’t the center of the content universe anymore. There are so many apps out there today that need to integrate with employees’ workflows to make the creation process seamless.
Regulatory requirements are multiplying, too. Businesses are under increasing pressure to ensure compliance, and we’re just going to see more regulations crop up as the digital HQ takes hold.
Data must drive your content strategy. Your email campaigns or video explainer series don’t mean anything if you can’t tell how they’re performing.
Content enablement technologies bring your static content to life, no matter where you are in your growth stage. As an evolving category, it’s emerging as a replacement for ECM technologies, which include different types of tech such as Digital Asset Management, Sales Enablement, Document Generation, Document Management and Content Creation solutions. When these kinds of platforms are governed by content enablement, it ensures that content throughout an organization’s entire tech stack is always compliant and on-brand.
Without content enablement, organizations risk being unable to maintain brand integrity, compliance and quality across all employees who create content, which is invaluable especially as a business is just getting off the ground. There isn’t the luxury of being given the benefit of the doubt when you’re starting out. To avoid this, organizations need to invest in content enablement technologies from their conception. That way their entire tech stack intelligently connects content to people and workflows, right where they work, allowing organizations to win in today’s digital HQ reality.
But it doesn’t stop at choosing the right tech stack. While this will certainly give you better insights into how your content actually performs and automates the steps of the creation process that are most susceptible to human error, the right tools won’t mean much if you’re not doing the work to reframe how you and your company think about content in the first place.
As the way we do business evolves so, too, must our mindset around our critical business assets. Simply by acknowledging the fact that both the scope and role of content have changed and letting these four pillars inform your creation and compliance processes, you’re already on the right path to protecting and promoting trust in your brand as you scale.