Content marketing no longer feels like an option for businesses—it’s a necessity. To compete digitally (and so much of business now depends on digital success), you need to produce quality content that helps your audience find and connect with you.
The biggest problem most companies have with content marketing—and it’s a doozy—is the cost. Inc. broke down the estimated costs a big brand (Nestle, in this example) likely spends to produce frequent content and found the company spent an amount comparable to the cost of renting out three jets for every hour of each day.
Most of us could never dream of renting out one jet for even an hour, so how are we supposed to make content marketing work without that kind of budget?
To start, we have to address a hard truth: You won’t find success in content marketing without making a serious investment—whether it’s in money, time or a combination of the two. But the vast majority of businesses don’t have to spend anywhere near what a brand like Nestle does to start making progress.
With some smart planning and the right approach, you can find a number of ways to minimize the cost and make content marketing economical for your organization.
In their annual content marketing survey, the Content Marketing Institute has consistently found that one of the things successful content marketers have in common is that they take the time to develop a content strategy.
Many businesses feel the pressures of starting content marketing and end up rushing in hoping they can just figure it out as they go. That’s a great way to waste money.
You’re better off starting to produce content later because you took the time to really understand:
If you work with your team to clarify the intersection of what you want to accomplish and what you can afford to pull off, the work you do will be much more likely to pay off.
Your employees are experts in your industry. Many of them have learned useful lessons and insights in their years working for you that can be turned into valuable content for your audience. Now, they may not be experts at writing for the web, but your content writers can interview them or help polish their writing to make it web-friendly.
You also probably have a lot of valuable information living in places like business emails or your customer service software. What questions do you hear repeatedly from your customers? If people in your company have already done the work of providing those answers (probably again and again), then you already have the content for a blog post that you know will be helpful to your users. Once again, you’d want to take some time to clean it up to get it into the right format, but that’s less work than creating something from scratch.
Do a serious review of all the resources you already have available that could be turned into content. You may find you have more to work with than you thought.
As more and more businesses adopt content marketing, each one has to spend more money and do more work to compete. Where early adopters could simply create great content and people would find them, now many businesses must spend time and money on promotion if they ever want people to see the content they’re already spending time and money to create.
The broader you go in your marketing focus, the more intense your competition will be and the more you’ll have to do to gain an edge. If you start with the goal of reaching everybody, you’re making content marketing harder for yourself and will face an uphill battle no matter how much you spend. If you can hone in on a more specific audience and topic area that’s relevant to your business, you can start reaching people faster without spending as much money.
One of the great things about the web is that it’s easier to reach a specific target audience. Andrew Davis suggests looking for the content holes in your industry. The chicken whisperer, a man who managed to become the foremost expert on all things chicken online, was able to do so because he found a content hole. No one else was seeking out that particular audience or claiming the mantle of best chicken expert, so he could launch his brand to success relatively quickly.
Finding a content hole in your industry may not be easy, but if you can pull it off, it will make the content marketing you do much more effective and you can to see more results with less investment. Even if you end up covering a topic others have covered, by focusing more your competition won’t be as fierce and you’ll have an easier time cutting through the clutter with what you put out there.
Shakespeare famously pulled almost all of his story ideas from elsewhere. The man we regard as one of the greatest storytellers of all time knew better than to waste energy sitting down to create something from scratch every time he wrote.
When you already have research that’s been completed, you can save yourself a lot of time and energy by re-using it.
HubSpot wrote about content it successfully repurposed into six different formats:
Each piece of content took some work on its own, but each also required less work than if the original case study hadn’t been there as the foundation.
In addition to making your life a little easier, repurposing also makes it possible for your audience to consume the information in the form they prefer. Your readers can stick to the blog post, while those who prefer to listen while they go for a jog or sit in traffic can go with the podcast.
One of the most common mistakes businesses make is to try to do everything themselves. Content marketing takes time. It takes work. It takes skill.
If you don’t already have in-house writers, and you try to push your already busy employees to learn something new, you risk having overworked, stressed-out employees who don’t produce effective content marketing at the end of the day anyway. If you then bring new people on to help out, you’ll incur full salaries and benefits on top of the ones you’re already paying. And you’ll still likely end up with a couple of overwhelmed content marketing generalists trying to do everything, rather than a team of specialists who understand each part of a good content marketing strategy inside and out.
Sometimes what looks like the more affordable option will quickly end up costing you more.
A content marketing agency knows the space and has already done the work of hiring content marketing specialists that have the full skillset needed to create and execute a content strategy. By spending money on their expertise to start, you’ll get better results for less in the long run.
Finally, you must track what’s working so you don’t waste money on the marketing activities that aren’t paying off. Content marketing is a long game, so it can be hard to see progress from early on, but the longer you do it, the more accurately you’ll be able to see which topics earn you engagement and which ones don’t get clicked or read much at all.
You can use the marketing analytics you have to better shape your content plan around what people respond to and, more specifically, what drives them to take the actions you most want them to.
A cheap or rushed approach to content marketing won’t get you very far, but a strategic one that helps you prioritize and focus on the approach most likely to pay off can help you achieve results without going broke. Content marketing doesn’t have to be out of reach—you just need to figure out the most efficient way to work with the resources and budget available to you.