Whether your business is just starting out or you’re trying to scale it up, content marketing is an ideal way to grow your audience. It encompasses everything from information-rich blogs to explainer videos, all of which help expand your brand presence and drive more conversions. As with any business tactic worth your time, content marketing does cost money, but doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are four steps to optimizing your efforts and utilizing content marketing on a budget.
Step 1. Set your priorities and assess your budget.
First, identify your primary goals and what you can afford. Are you mainly interested in building awareness? Do you need to reach new target markets? Does your website need to attract more traffic? Establish one or two chief goals so you can figure out which types of content to prioritize.
Next, evaluate your current spending. If you’ve been spending a lot on PPC campaigns but haven’t been seeing a good ROI, it might be time to redirect some of those funds to content marketing. If you have a very limited budget, you’ll need to prioritize tactics with a high ROI and minimal startup costs. (For example, email marketing has a notoriously high ROI and you can usually get started for free.)
Your team’s available resources make a large impact, as well. For example, social media marketing is relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of content marketing. However, you should expect to invest a lot of time and energy into it. For best results, you’ll need people to create quality content, regularly engage on the platforms, and track trends and audience behavior. These activities can easily make up one or two full-time positions!
In short, you have three factors to consider:
Budget: Are you willing to spend more? Do you need to cut costs? Or can you keep the budget the same but redirect funds to new tactics? Content marketing is an investment — you will always be spending money on something, even if it’s only the wages of your internal team. As a reference, most businesses allocate 25 to 30% of their marketing budget to content marketing (and most businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue only invest up to 8 percent in total marketing).
Team resources available: Does your internal team have the skills and time needed to execute a content marketing strategy? Will you need to bring on outside consultants, freelancers, or agencies? Remember, stretching your own team too thin could be disastrous, and you get what you pay for when it comes to external creatives.
Desired outcomes: What do you want to achieve with content marketing? A better brand reputation? More organic traffic to your website? More conversions from social media? Great content attracts qualified leads. It’s up to you to decide where you want these leads to go.
Step 2. Make your initial investments
Once you’ve identified your goals in the three factors listed in Step 1, you can build a matrix that will guide your content marketing budget. Here’s a quick rundown of what might work for you:
Low budget, lots of time and labor available, interested in building a community around your brand: Focus on social media marketing.
Low budget, little time available, interested in driving conversions and cross-selling: Focus on email marketing.
Mid-level budget, little labor available, interested in bringing more organic traffic to your website: Focus on building a company blog and publishing downloadable lead magnets (e.g. e-books, worksheets).
Mid-level budget, lots of time and labor available, interested in demonstrating thought leadership: Focus on creating videos and pillar content. (Note that it’s cheaper than ever to create high-quality videos with your smartphone, and people love video content!)
Next, think about what types of content would best resonate with your target audience. Your goal is to boost traffic and encourage engagement while providing value to potential customers. Remember, your content often doubles as a portfolio of your work, so be sure it aligns with your offerings. (For example, if your company creates videos, you absolutely want to prioritize video marketing.)
If you’re a service-based business, you want to demonstrate that you can provide value. You should start by investing in quality copywriting and long-form content that you can use in emails, blogs, and lead magnets. If you’re a product-based business, focus on obtaining high-quality photos and graphics for use in your social media posts and website.
Step 3. Establish thought leadership
Content marketing isn’t just for attracting leads, although that’s certainly a major benefit. What sets this type of marketing apart from PPC advertising, cold outreach, etc. is that it focuses on providing value first. Rather than relying on typical sales tactics, you lead with the assertion that your brand has an authority that attracts your ideal customers. This authority is often called thought leadership. By creating content on your areas of expertise, you demonstrate to your audience that your brand is worth their time.
Many companies get tripped up while brainstorming ideas for their content marketing campaigns. They want to tap into trending topics, but without leveraging their brand’s uniqueness, they end up lost in the crowd. To make your content marketing stand out, identify the core value(s) you offer your customers. What do you know about that none of your competitors do?
Then, do your research. You can use a social listening tool such as Sprout or an SEO tool such as SEMRush. Look for what your competitors are creating, then find your points of difference. Make a shortlist of general content ideas. Then, refine your topics with a key phrase suggestion tool such as Answer the Public, which shows you what people are searching for online. Once you’re done, you should have a good list of core topics to create thought-leadership content around.
Step 4. Find an affordable partner
Obviously, this is a lot of work — and you haven’t even started publishing yet! While your internal team may be able to handle the workload, you’ll likely find yourself in need of some external help at some point. Many businesses find it helpful to outsource some of the creative work so they can focus on strategy. Others simply don’t have time to produce the content. No matter what your goals and budget allow, it’s important to find an individual or team who can support your strategies.
Here are your options in a nutshell:
A freelancer who can create blogs, emails, social media posts, videos, etc. Prices vary widely depending on expertise, and not all freelancers are available on a long-term basis. This could be a challenge if you want to release a lot of content. You would have to constantly juggle a flow of freelancers and train each of them on your brand. For major projects where you need additional help or if you need something created in a pinch, a freelancer is a great option.
A virtual assistant who can engage on social media, set up emails, publish videos, etc. VAs work for your company up to a certain number of hours per week. Most focus on administrative tasks, although some also create content. If you already have the resources to create content marketing assets but don’t have the time to manage and publish them, a VA is your best bet. You can even hire one simply to engage your followers on social media.
A part-time employee who can create and manage your content marketing. If you can’t afford to bring on a full-time content marketing specialist or manager, a part-time employee combined with the occasional freelancer could be a good compromise. You can trust that this person would know your brand and be available for long-term strategies.
A full-service content agency that can handle it all for you. Ideally, you don’t have to do all that homework and legwork yourself — you have a team of experts who can cover your content marketing strategy from conception to execution. These agencies aren’t as pricey as you might imagine, and you save valuable time and money when you don’t have to devote internal resources or juggle freelancers and VAs to get things done.
Content Marketing on a Budget
Content marketing doesn’t have to blow your marketing budget. And with a high ROI for many forms of content marketing, it’s well worth your time and effort. You can better connect with your ideal customers, expand your brand presence, and demonstrate your thought leadership — all while avoiding the bloated costs and poor ROI of PPC campaigns, cold calling, and print advertising!
If you’d like expert help crafting your strategy and creating great content to suit it, look no further than Breezy Content. We offer an affordable, scalable solution for startups and small businesses that are strapped for time and cash. Reach out today to learn how we can help your dominate your niche with amazing content.