Boost Your Content Marketing on a Start-Up Budget
This article looks at some practical ideas to kick-start, refresh or optimize your content marketing. All can be done without a large budget, so you can maximize every dollar you spend.
If you’re currently fending off (virtual) queues of customers, you should probably stop reading now. For the rest of us, this article looks at some practical ideas to kick-start, refresh or optimize your content marketing. What each has in common is that the impact and outcomes are not inevitably reliant upon huge budget resources.
Content Marketing is a compound term for a reason – it assumes you have good content and also assumes you are actively promoting it. This can be a problem if you are marketing poor content or leaving great content to gather dust, but of course, proper planning will avoid those mistakes.
So what’s your strategy?
In business, you won’t get where you’re going without a road map, so a content marketing strategy is essential. Though a few subject matter experts (SMEs) may prefer a more laid-back stance, by citing the “no such thing as bad publicity” argument, astute marketers will want to avoid an aimless drift of unscheduled content or any risk of unforeseen “Ratner moments” – a term referencing an unfortunate instance where a single throwaway comment from a CEO crippled a business.
Drafting an achievable content marketing strategy means first assessing your strengths and weaknesses, and then deciding which aspects you plan to develop and address. Before rushing to publish your decision, it’s also sensible to look carefully at what your major competitors are (and are not) doing – information which is likely to further refine and influence the course you choose to steer. For instance, if you are about to push one of your company’s key attributes but know several of your rivals are much stronger in that sector, then you’re probably in for a long, expensive campaign. However, you should also spot areas where you can use the expertise of your current talent pool to be more competitive. If you are looking to build a brand, it may be wise to favor opportunities for qualitative developments. Though this may sometimes result in slower growth, these components are the most likely to ensure a steady and positive enhancement of your commercial reputation, which bodes well for your future marketing prospects.
Remember too that your content marketing strategy is a cycle not an event (see diagram). So once your document is launched and active, you will need some measurement of outcomes to monitor your progress (tools such as Google Analytics and BuzzSumo are free) as well as a timeline to inform your review phase. These measures will respectively flag any need to make adjustments and help you judge the extent to which your goals have been achieved.
1. Content Marketing Strategy Cycle
Having aligned your content marketing efforts to your business goals and direction of travel, it’s time to look at some content resources already at your disposal:
Your satisfied customers already know what you do well, so they represent your potential brand ambassadors. Suitably incentivized via rewards, discounts and privileges, they can become a ready source of ratings, reviews, advice forums and case studies. In addition to the inherent value of this form of content, you can easily repurpose and convert this content into blogs, editorials, surveys and eBooks, and even provide content for a comprehensive FAQ section and relevant inspiration for regular newsletters. Much the same applies with dissatisfied customers, with the added bonus that their complaints add a new perspective – telling you, in advance, which particular behaviors and improvements will have a direct and positive impact upon your future sales.
Of course, none of this discourse will even be possible without a well-maintained email list – undoubtedly one of your most valuable commercial assets. All your online communications via this vital tool should be informed by the simple truth that people are much more inclined to do business when they feel known, liked and trusted.
If marketing means knowing your customers well, Kenny Jacobs, Chief Marketing Officer at Ryanair, has proved that paying very close attention to their behavior can bring even more benefits. Tapping into the multimedia habits of today’s smartphone-equipped travelers, Jacobs says, has paid spectacular dividends for his company:
“We’ve had over 1,000 pieces of user-generated content that have been created in the past six months. We’ve run competitions and got customers creating content. You might get a mum with two kids who does a review of Lanzarote for young families. That’s exciting, [and] improves the quality of user generated content over time.”
Jacobs thinks Ryanair has unearthed a potent, low-cost content engine which the company plans to grow and develop, and says: “… more and more video content is what we’re looking for. And we’re trying to find ways to weave the content and social media together.”
Ryanair’s success is an important reminder that there are many different forms of content with a long, unbroken wall of text being the least appealing. Photos, videos and audio material all produce vibrant content that can bring your products to life, and smart marketers know data transformed into an infographic format is far more likely to capture attention.
2. The Realities of Data Retention
Are you aware of the skills, potential and aspirations of your company colleagues? Some may see a content-creation role as a career progression – and you may find it a move which more than pays for itself. Internally created stories will be connected to your core business in some way, though the methods of capturing and distributing your material would ideally have a multimedia dimension. Such formats are easy to access and work well on social media channels.
Your sector and current events
News and popular current events are obviously high profile topics, and if you can find interesting ways to link them to your business, you’ll gain content and extra online exposure without incurring costs. Similarly, you should make sure your site always reflects important developments within your sector. These can be presented in various ways, including news items, opinion pieces, interviews, or whatever format suits the content and is most likely to catch the eye. This type of industry-specific content will also boost your company credibility and brand image, once again without cost implications.
The icing on the cake
If you do have some funding, the best option is to use it to secure some top-dollar content you really need but can’t do in-house. For example, a creative designer can lift your content to another level adding seamless coherence, visual appeal and an eye-catching sparkle guaranteed to maximize its impact. Likewise, a copywriting expert or multimedia producer will similarly embellish your content to professional standards via different means.
Where budget constraints prevent buying-in expertise on a regular basis, the best strategy is to use your spend to create an enduring “flagship” resource for which you can also produce your own range of supplementary materials and/or develop a sequence of spin-off content items inspired by your primary material. For example, with a premium resource like a high-quality video sequence, you can use still photos taken from it in other content, perhaps to create a slideshow, and then produce a series of blogs addressing the core material in different ways for the benefit of different audiences.
Careful planning combined with a thorough audit of your own content resources and followed up by a creative and thoughtful deployment of your material will allow you to develop successful content marketing campaigns at minimal cost. Perhaps even more important, it is also an excellent way to ensure you are constantly promoting relevant, engaging material to the right target groups – the very essence of effective content marketing!
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