Nowadays, if you’re not using content marketing to further your brand and attract new customers, you’re in a swiftly shrinking minority. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report 89% of UK Respondents rely on content marketing, and that number grows every year.
This study also shows that the most successful businesses spend 33% of their total marketing budget on content marketing, and 96% of marketers had allocated at least some of their budget to producing content.
So what do you do when your start-up company needs content marketing, but can’t afford a huge investment? Here are three, simple tips to make your money work harder for you, pound for pound:
1. Have a strategy
Do you have a content marketing strategy? It turns out that only 37% of UK marketers can confidently point to a documented strategy. Other companies (an additional 42%) claim to have a strategy, but it’s undocumented. Which is absurd.
How do you build brand cohesion around a strategy that you can’t properly communicate?
An undocumented strategy is an unhelpful ideal, and you have no way of knowing how clearly your staff understand it. You may not even understand the goals of your company yourself.
So why is strategy important?
As Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics, says, “Any strategy — even a bad one — is better than no strategy. With a bad strategy, you can at least figure out that it’s bad and change it. With no strategy, you’ll just keep on doing what you’re doing, wasting your time, losing money, and ruining your brand.”
Here are some fundamental elements your content marketing campaign should have:
- Specific and measurable goals – Who are you targeting with your content? What do you hope to achieve? How will you know when you succeed or fail? Make sure you start simple and set achievable goals that are consistent with your long-term business plans.
- Extensive research and planning – Do your homework; do not base your strategy on gut feeling. What services do you specialize in that you could turn into content? What are some of your customers’ pain points that you could address? What type of content do your competitors produce?
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) you can track – Figure out what software you need to track your success and what you want to measure (e.g. views, traffic, conversions, shares, likes, click-through-rates, etc.)
- Promotional strategy – Creating great content is only half the battle. If you don’t promote it, you won’t attract new customers. Figure out which platforms you will use to promote your content based on where your target audience lives.
- Due date – Yes, you need to publish your content according to a predictable schedule—readers trust this sort of reliability. You also need to have a day in mind when you will accomplish all of your content marketing goals, so they don’t stagnate.
- Adaptability – The one thing you should not do is get pigeon-holed into one strategy, as your company and consumer-base outgrows it. Your strategy should evolve as your company does, and you should be constantly tweaking your strategy to improve results.
To be clear, content marketing itself is not a strategy. A strategy is what informs your content—it considers direction, tone, audience, and profitability.
2. Repurpose your content
When you think content, you probably think of blog posts first and foremost. Let’s shake that notion up. Content comes in a wide variety of formats, including…
- Blog posts
- How-To Guides
- White Papers
- Case Studies
- Curated Lists
There’s a forest of content, ripe for the picking. Whether you choose content that teaches or delights (or both, ideally), you’re guaranteed to find at last a few formats that fit your brand and appeal to your customers. However…
Content is expensive.
Don’t expect to pay some poor copywriter a pittance and get a piece of content worthy of the Man Booker Prize in return. As with all business practices, you get what you pay for.
The key to making the most of a limited budget lies in repurposing your content.
Repurposing is when you take something you’ve already produced and turning into a number of smaller, spin-off pieces of content that all touch on the same topic. It will make your content stretch further, and keeps your material tightly focused on the goals you outlined in your strategy. Effectively repurposing takes foresight, but it results in a great deal more content at a fraction of the cost.
Here’s how you repurpose:
Arrive at one, winning idea
Please notice: the first step is not “create content,” nor is it “pluck a random idea from the air.” Instead, you’re going to do homework. Lots of homework:
- You’re going to revisit your strengths and weaknesses.
- You’re going to visit ideation sources (e.g. Quora, Reddit etc.).
- You’re going to find stats and quotable material.
- You’re going to suss out what you audience wants.
- You’re going to look at what your competitors aren’t doing that you could.
When you’ve finished researching, you need to take all of your information and arrive at a topic. Usually this is a problem or a niche service you excel at solving. This topic needs to be substantive enough that you can produce high quality, long form content addressing it.
Write/commission a cornerstone asset
My partner, Joel Klettke, describes cornerstone assets as the “largest/most comprehensive resource you will create.” He notes that usually this is a guide, whitepaper, or eBook, but it could also take the form of a presentation, an event, or even a long video.If you don’t have the confidence, time, or writing acumen needed to produce this content yourself, this is where you invest whatever modest budget you have. This piece will be the single most important piece of content you produce for a long time, and it will inform every other piece of content that comes afterwards.
Produce supporting assets
Producing one big, beautiful piece of content is great. What’s better is turning that cornerstone asset into a myriad of supporting assets. Now that you have all the research done and the major piece written, you can produce smaller pieces of content using the same research and material. Consider:
- Turning stats into tweets or infographics.
- Sectioning out your chapters, then reframing them into a blog series.
- Producing a podcast that talks about your findings.
- Summarizing your key takeaways in compelling FAQs.
- Compiling a curated list of corroborative research.
- Rewrapping your main points into a slideshare presentation.
- Focusing on different elements of your findings to be turned into guest posts.
- Rolling the juiciest tidbits into an email campaign.
Voilà. By creating one valuable, high quality piece of content, you’ve also created a whole slew of complementary material.
3. Promote, promote, promote
It’s not enough to create great content. You also need to share it.
So go ahead—tweet about it, post it on Facebook, alert your email list to it, and shout the good news out of your car window on your morning commute.
You need all the promotion you can get, because every minute of every day 1.3 million pieces of new content get uploaded to Facebook alone. That’s a lot of competition. Your content, earth-shattering as it may be, will not promote itself—you need to give it a helping hand by:
- Creating landing pages that promote your content/area of expertise.
- Crafting email newsletters that keep your users informed.
- Using social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc…)
- Guest blogging on sites with a similar niche and a larger audience.
- Commenting on related content and mentioning your material.
Also, don’t forget to promote yourself by linking back to your cornerstone asset, along with any older pieces (blog posts, podcasts, etc.) with every new piece of content you create.
If producing one piece of content and milking it for every additional asset it’s worth seems strange to you, it’s probably because you haven’t settled into a solid content marketing strategy yet.
The goal of all content marketing should be to build your brand and establish your expertise. When you know everything there is to know about one topic, you’ll be considered a thought leader in that niche. That’s the sort of expert that people seek advice from for best-in-class solutions to specific problems—problems which you excel at solving.
Yes, content marketing will take time, energy, and some investment to get right, but it doesn’t have to be a huge drain on your wallet. When you do it well, you won’t just lay the groundwork for new content tomorrow, you’ll shape the entire direction of your business.