I left Confab 2019 thinking, “Wait a second. There’s no one in the content strategy world focusing on startups. And there’s no one in the startup world focusing on content strategy. I wonder if there’s an opportunity here.”
I spent the rest of 2019 exploring and developing that thought. I did a lot of general market research and spoke with several dozen startup founders.
I then developed VirtualCCO.com, the minimum viable product (MVP) for a “content stewardship” membership program. The intention is to provide virtual Chief Content Officer services and information for startups that aren’t large enough to hire their own content leader.
The concept of the virtual C-level advisor is well-established in the startup world. Virtual Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) roles are very common. The idea of an analogous content role had arisen in brainstorming sessions and had resonated with several founders in subsequent conversations.
Some interesting UX and content challenges arose as I built the MVP.
Articulating customer pain points
I began testing the MVP with the founders who had emerged as my best customer segment (Series A- or bridge-funded SaaS startups with an experienced founder team).
In my discovery interviews, founders had shared a variety of ways in which content strategy had come to their attention. Most had expressed at least two or three of these concerns. I wanted both to remind my interview subjects of their contributions and to show new prospects these common issues. So I reviewed my notes and compiled a list of the most common ways that founders discover the need for content strategy.
My users had expressed different levels of commitment to the “content stewardship” concept. I also wanted to offer tiers of service to test different product price points. So I came up with a three-tiered service offering.
I tested a number of possible labels with several founders and settled on an evocative trio of names:
- Subscriber for members at the free level
- Supporter for members who also paid for an executive-roundup industry newsletter
- Steward for members who also joined the “Content Stewardship Club” (a mastermind group)
WordPress plugin updates
When you’re building an MVP you always want one that can be tested quickly (many MVPs are essentially the digital equivalent of paper sketches). I was fairly confident that I’d end up with a subscription service no matter how the product evolved. I was also concerned with balancing the need to test quickly with making a good first impression.
So I settled on a solution that would look good and be quick to build and easy to iterate on later. I set up a WordPress website and added to it a well-regarded membership management plugin, Restrict Content Pro.
Restrict Content Pro microcopy updates
Restrict Content Pro does a great job with basic membership functionality. But their developers’ choice of words wasn’t always aligned with my customers’ style or my business intent. So I set out to find the best way to update the microcopy in the onboarding screens.
I knew about the .pot files that translators use to work with text strings and first looked at ways of updating that way. In the process of researching how translators work with text strings, I discovered the Say What WordPress plugin, which provides a simpler (and safer) way to work with strings. Problem solved.
Restrict Content Pro onboarding emails
Restrict Content Pro provides default onboarding email copy (which I have seen used as-is on other membership sites). But their scripts lack context, so I customized each of them for my users.
Customer validation of the MVP revealed that there wasn’t enough demand for the product to justify continued development. While many founders share the concerns listed above, too few of them are ready to invest time and money in content stewardship right now.