Before Square, you had to carry cash if you wanted to buy a burger from a food truck. Then, Square introduced a way for merchants to accept credit cards anywhere they had an internet connection. Other companies, like PayPal, Verifone, and Intuit, also offer that capability now, but Square remains a top pick for small business owners. We take a look at the Square marketing strategy and how it continues to keep the company’s name at the top of mobile-payments processing choices.
Square’s Meteoric Rise as it Disrupted the Payments Processing Industry
Square was founded in 2009 and reached a valuation of $3.25 billion dollars in just three years. In 2017, the company was continuing to grow, with stock up 175%. In May 2017, Square’s first investor-day presentation revealed that 254 million unique payment cards were used on Square over the previous year. In other words, Square was processing 35 transactions every second.
How did they get there? Everette Taylor of Growth Hackers argues that the company was able to grow because of its approach to product design and the card reader’s eye-catching appearance.
While there’s no doubt that the product design helped create interest, it was content marketing that helped the company gain a core group of loyal users and then scale that success.
How Square Used Content Marketing to Grow Awareness
From its early stages, Square focused on customer stories to show how its product made a difference.
“Telling our story by showing how our customers are actually using the product is extremely effective — it shows how valuable Square is,” said Khobi Brooklyn, director of product communications and marketing at Square from 2012 to 2014.
According to Brooklyn’s interview with First Round Review, influencer marketing came into play early on. The Square marketing team targeted tech- and social-media-savvy shop owners in the Bay Area, and these early customers helped them spread the word. Then the company used niche marketing and focused on specific industries, like beauty shops and food-service providers. Whenever they released a feature that would be relevant to those industries, they engaged highly targeted publications to get the word out.
These stories helped the company’s marketing team fuel word of mouth, which piggybacked off the product’s novelty and ease of use. It didn’t hurt that Square was solving a problem that merchants simply had no other solution for. But the fact that Square’s system was so easy to set up helped adoption grow rapidly. Then the company gained trust by partnering with established entities that their customers were already comfortable with, like Apple, Visa, and Starbucks.
This social proof validated the small business owner’s faith in a new product that could easily help them sell products where they previously couldn’t.
Square Continues to Stay Ahead of its Competitors
In 2019, Square was named the best mobile credit card processing option by Fits SmallBusiness, Business.org, and Fundera. But it faces competition: Shopify POS, PayPal Here, QuickBooks, and GoPayment are hot on its heels. How will Square continue to stay ahead?
The momentum the company generated in its first few years led quickly to a large user base. GrowthHackers points out that “positive word of mouth and delightful experiences” helped Square raise barriers that are difficult for the competition to overcome. In addition, shop owners seemed to have little reason to switch providers. So once the company had a foothold, it was fairly easy to hang on to existing customers.
But Square has not rested easy. Tapping into its trusting user base, Square diversified its product offerings and acquired nine complementary businesses by 2018. This meant that those trusting users could now turn to Square for help with their businesses on more fronts. Square now offers employee-management software, small-business loans, and even marketing services. A retail store owner can send its products to Square to have high-quality photos produced for its website. And Square also offers marketing software it calls Engagement, which helps small businesses grow their email list automatically.
In October 2019 alone, the company launched seven new features and initiatives.
With this heavy diversification, one might wonder how Square can compete across so many competitive industries, like payroll software, small-business loans, and marketing. The answer is, it doesn’t.
Analysis of Square’s Content Marketing Today
We can use our tools to quickly grasp a snapshot of Square’s website, squareup.com, and its major competitors to see how it’s using content marketing to fuel growth now. Below, we’ll zero in on particular aspects, including where traffic comes from, engagement metrics, and keyword opportunities for future content.
Square supports its services for small-business owners on its website with a blog, which it presents as a business resource center called “Town Square.”
The company produces content about how to start, run, and grow a business, highlighting sellers around the world. The categories of information you’ll find run from growth strategies to finances, management, payments, marketing, and more.
It also publishes in-depth guides to relevant topics on its product pages. Below, see eight guides to support its email marketing product, for example.
Let’s take a look at how the Squareup marketing strategy compares to other websites that operate in the same space. Using our Site Overview Tool, which provides a free analysis of competitors across several metrics, we captured a broad overview of Square’s competitive space.
From this overview, we can see that Square’s content competes with these websites:
We can use Alexa to look at a few basic stats and get a sense of how it compares to those sites:
Traffic: The Square website gets only 17% of its traffic from search engines. This is meager compared with the average of 59.6% of traffic that comes from search engines for competing sites. Square receives slightly more traffic from social media than competing sites: 0.9% of all traffic versus 0.5% for stripe.com. A whopping 65.7% of traffic comes from direct sources, and referral traffic makes up 16.5%. (Square has 1,612 sites linking to it that bring traffic vs. the industry average of 434.)
Bounce rate: The Square website has a much lower bounce rate when compared with competing sites: 24% vs. 60.9%.
Social media: Digging further into sources of traffic in the industry using our Advanced plan, we can learn more about the role that social media plays. Our Content Exploration tool shows us Square’s most popular social media content, which appears to be about its products.
This phenomenon — when a brand receives a lot of engagement on announcements about its products — is something we see after a business has reached a high level of brand awareness in an industry, often signaling maturity. A startup in the payments processing industry would not expect to receive this level of attention for its announcements. Rather, a new entrant usually has to find a unique angle and begin with educating potential users, much like Square did by tapping into user stories initially.
So, what does all this mean?
SEO is Not Core to Square’s Content Strategy
User stories, word of mouth, press, and strategic partnerships have set Square up with a strong industry position. Now, as it defends that position, we see it diversifying into complementary services. This allows Square to sell more products to its customers and help them with problems that extend well beyond processing mobile payments.
In its content marketing, the company is publishing information across such topics as growth strategies, marketing, management, and starting a business. This means the company’s content is competing in many different verticals. Carving out a more widespread presence in organic search would require a huge investment.
But Square doesn’t necessarily need SEO to reach more buyers. For Square, the more impactful distribution channel is clearly its own customer base. It is creating in its blog a destination where small-business customers — who already use and trust Square’s product — can learn about topics they care about. This can fuel growth powerfully in a strategy to sell more products to a vibrant existing customer base.
Alexa tools can help you find topics your audience loves and optimize it for your readers. Sign up for a trial of our Advanced plan to get full access to Content Exploration, Competitive Backlink Checker, Keyword Matrix, and other useful tools today.