If you’re a small business with a finite marketing budget, your first instinct may be to disregard content marketing as a big-business, big-budget strategy.
But that’s far from the truth. In fact, it’s often the small businesses that experience the biggest impact and the quickest return from shifting to a content-focused marketing strategy.
And that’s because, unlike traditional advertising, content marketing doesn’t rely on big production and big spends. If you approach your content marketing plan in a smart, strategic way, you can – and should! – create an amazing and effective storytelling strategy on a shoestring budget.
Here’s how small businesses can get big rewards by being budget-savvy with strategy, content and tools:
1. Reallocate your team’s resources.
If you’re ready to start a content marketing initiative but are worried you don’t have the time or the budget, start by reviewing how your communications or sales employees are spending their time. Are they wasting energy and resources on outdated practices that have simply become part of your daily routine?
This process must include analyzing which tactics are working and which are not working. For example, is your team putting out press releases that don’t get any traction? Are they creating sell sheets no one uses? Are they posting on social media with no clear strategy? Review internal practices and do an honest assessment of your current marketing plan. If you can eliminate tasks that aren’t making an impact, you can free up resources to focus on content marketing.
2. Develop – and write down – your strategy.
Research shows that if you want to be effective at content marketing, you need to document your strategy.
Although many marketers know the importance of developing a strategy, 48% say their content marketing strategy is not documented. As the research states: “Having a verbal strategy is a great first step. However… it pays to take the time to write it down: 60% of those who have a documented strategy rate themselves highly in terms of content marketing effectiveness, compared with 32% of those who have a verbal strategy.”
Without a written strategy, you will waste resources. Period. And you don’t have resources to waste if you’re trying to get results on a tight budget.
3. Make someone accountable.
To get your content marketing off the ground, you want to have one person or team accountable to make it happen, or it will continuously get pushed aside. The goal is to make content part of your business culture, and you need someone to lead the charge.
In big business, the accountable person is given the title Chief Content Officer. But small businesses can get by without someone at this level (and pay grade) if they have a strong content team – and workflow – in place. The title is not what is important. What’s important is creating a culture that embraces the idea of storytelling and providing true value to the customer.
1. Start small.
You don’t have to kick off your content marketing with the most robust, challenging and all-encompassing plan in the history of history.
There will always be ways to make your strategy bigger, bolder and better. But you will never there if you never start. So you do come to a point where you have to stop strategizing and just friggin’ do it.
Have a plan for today, and a plan for tomorrow. And then have a plan for next year. Keep the ultimate vision in sight, but don’t let it keep you from getting started small.
2. Repurpose past content.
New things are shiny and fun. But old things that maintain value are timeless. Don’t forget about those timeless pieces of content to which you devoted your energy, resources, sweat and tears. Make reusing them part of your plan.
To effectively repurpose your past content, you need to have a complete understand of the content you own. And the best way to gain that understanding is through a content audit or content inventory. Once you know more about your content assets, you can develop strategies to repurpose them and extend their quality and value.
Even creating a plan to share evergreen content on a regular basis can have big returns – we experienced this first-hand when Howard Stern read one of our articles on air 1.5 years after it was initially published.
3. Curate like a pro.
Content curation is an important component of a content marketing plan that is usually less resource-intensive than creating content from scratch. (Note that I say less. Content curation is not an easy way out. It’s a marketing art.)
It means actively searching, finding and sharing third-party content your audience will find interesting and trustworthy. You know what your audience wants and needs, you sift through the sand to uncover the gems that they would find useful, and you add your own value through commentary or critique.
By doing so, you’re positioning yourself as a trusted resource on the forefront of your industry.
4. Outsource what you can.
In a recent Content Warfare podcast, host Ryan Hanley talked about the overwhelming pressure for business owners and marketers to “do it all” in content marketing. He said:
“We can’t be great at everything. … In order to be successful at this game, because there’s so much work to be done, and it’s labor intensive .. it’s ok to pay someone. It’s ok to solicit help. … The ‘I’m gonna try to be everything and do everything and pay nothing’ way is not going to work.”
This is so true.
And while it may seem counterintuitive to spend outside dollars in order to remain budget-savvy, it’s often the best way to get quality work done now and done right.
(There’s another quote that is a constant share on LinkedIn, which states: If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur. Same idea.)
So what does this mean? If your team doesn’t have the expertise in house that you need, find someone you trust who does. You have to be efficient with your resources, so instead of trying to become an expert in all things content marketing, create strategic partnerships to help with critical aspects of your plan. You will be more effective – and save time and money long term.
If you have a strong, technically able team, you can pull together much of your content marketing platform with low-budget tools.
We won’t get too deep here, because we’re already throwing a lot at you, but if you are at the stage of researching tools and platforms to help you get the job done, here are some of our favorite free-to-low-cost tools:
- Build It – It’s no surprise that nearly 75 million websites* rely on WordPress web software. WordPress in intuitive, accessible and easily customizable. It’s the best place to start if you’re building an online home for your content marketing.
- Design It – As long as you have a set brand standard to work from, you can use online design tools like PicMonkey and Canva to create graphics that enhance your content’s online appeal. And there are many free image resources that offer stock photos that aren’t so, well, stocky.
- Capture It – We use OptInSkin for email signups ($67 for a single website), and the free WordPress plugin MailMunch for our Subscription pop-up. Both help tremendously with lead generation.
- Distribute It – For social media, tools like Hootsuite and Buffer have free options that allow you to schedule social media posts on multiple networks. We use Buffer’s low-cost Awesome plan ($10/month), which allows you to connect RSS feeds to your account, add up to 200 posts, and have two people manage your profiles.
- Email It – MailChimp is our go-to for creating eNewsletters. It allows you to create and manage lists, and develop email forms, and the free version has some basic automation. The low-cost upgrades also provide some fabulous features.
- Track It – From Google Analytics and Keyword Planner to the high-level reporting offered by Buffer and specific networks like Facebook, there are many free research and analytics resources out there. It pays to make them part of your measurement toolbox.
These are just a few of the low-cost tools that together can build the foundation for your content marketing program. As your program becomes more aggressive, so can your tools.
In conclusion, it’s possible to create a strong content marketing strategy on a budget. But the key word in that sentence is strategy. Without creating a strategy for your content marketing efforts, your budget size won’t matter. So, start with strategy, make smart purchasing decisions, and give your plan time to grow.
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