Dealing with a tight budget is one of the biggest challenges to an entrepreneur, particularly a small business owner with limited resources, limited capital, and an unsteady flow of revenue to boot. To an unacquainted small business owner, faced with countless financial challenges, the prospect of a “content marketing campaign” may seem frivolous. Why spend so much essential money on hiring a writer or specialist when there are more important needs to take care of?
It’s true that content marketing isn’t your top priority—securing the stability of the business must always come first. But investing in a content marketing program is a way of investing in yourself, and if you don’t make that commitment, you may suffer the consequences in the form of lost business and reduced brand visibility.
Fortunately, in addition to being nearly essential for any modern business, content marketing is financially flexible. If you have money to spend, you can go all-out with a spectacular campaign, but even when you’re working with a shoestring budget, it’s possible to gain the benefits of a campaign.
With a content marketing campaign, you won’t be spending much money on tangible items. You might need to purchase an image, and you might want to pay for some extra advertising, but for the most part all you’ll be paying for is the work that needs done—namely, writing and pushing your content. Because the typical and most conventionally successful options for this are hiring an agency or bringing on someone full-time, many entrepreneurs immediately write off the opportunity as being too expensive.
However, content marketing is flexible—it can be as big or small as you want, with only the mediums and channels you choose. Obviously, the more you do for your campaign, the better it will do, but if you’re just getting started with a minimum budget, all you really need is a minimum viable product—the least amount of work that will give you preliminary results. For most small businesses, this minimum viable product won’t cost much money, but it will be enough to turn a reasonable ROI.
As you become more experienced and familiar with content marketing, and as you have access to more revenue, you’ll be able to gradually scale up your efforts, adding in new mediums or new resources to help you handle the work.
When you get started with a content program, all you’ll need is a skeletal foundation—enough content to get indexed in search engines and enough consistency to start attracting an initial audience. If you’re working with a limited budget, there are a few options that can help you get through this stage, including hiring freelancers, taking on the extra work yourself, or divvying up tasks between your existing team members.
Your first goal is to set a direction for your content campaign. Without a direction, your content marketing campaign will be a voice without ears. At this stage, you’re going to want to establish an environment for your campaign. That means deciding on a niche topic for your blog (which should be as specific as possible), the audience for your material, and your primary goals. Some business owners will want to weight their strategy in favor of achieving search engine visibility through SEO while others will want to build a greater following on social media. You’ll also need to decide on the qualities of your brand voice, which will carry you throughout your campaign. This shouldn’t cost any money: only a few hours of work.
Next, you’ll need some kind of blogging platform. Hopefully, your website already has one. If not, or if you’re in the process of building or launching a website, WordPress is a free, easy-to-use CMS platform that supports simple blogging and has plenty of options for designers and developers to build something unique. No matter what type of platform you choose, make sure you can update your blogs easily and regularly, with embedded images and videos as well as meta titles and descriptions. Getting a website set up with a blog might cost you some money, but it’s an absolute essential for any business.
Once that groundwork is set, the bulk of your budget should go into writing your regular posts. You won’t need to go all-out in the beginning; just make sure that your posts are long enough, well-written, interesting, and consistent enough to be recognizable as a unique piece of your own. One 400-word blog post a week is an okay start—you’ll want to step up both the length and the frequency eventually, but one 400-word post will only cost you a couple hours of work at the most (or a relatively minimal expense from a freelancer).
Syndication is also relatively easy and inexpensive. If you’re just starting out with a minimal budget, your best option is social media; Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles are free to create and maintain, and they’ll give you amplified potential visibility for your blogs. Publish links to all your new articles as they roll out, and if you have the time or budget for it, make daily updates to engage your budding audience.
Once you’ve conquered the basics, you can take a look at your budget and determine whether there are areas ready for expansion.
Your first goal, once you have access to more resources or more income, is to step up the frequency of your posts. Instead of merely posting once a week, go to twice a week, and increase the length and detail of your posts. If you continue to see results, step your frequency up even further, and be sure to add more social posts to your regular schedule.
Greater Syndication Reach
Once you’ve increased the frequency of your posts, your next step should be to increase the reach of your syndication. You can do this in several ways; first, you can use paid press releases to maximize visibility in new channels and attract more links. Second, you can use paid advertising, such as PPC ads with Google or Facebook, to attract initial eyes to your content. Finally, you can reach out to new people on your social profiles in order to build a greater following. Each option requires a different level of spend and commitment, so choose the blend that works best for you.
Finally, once you’ve built up a decent posting frequency and a respectable reach, you can start adding more diversity to your posting habits. Include a wider variety of topics, or feature guest posts from other bloggers. You should also include other mediums, including images and video, in the context of your blogs. Publishing interactive pieces of media, like infographics or entertaining videos, can help your reach dramatically by circulating virally and attracting external links.
Content marketing programs don’t need to blow your audience completely out of the water—at least not right away. You don’t need to hire an agency immediately, nor do you need to spend countless hours doing research before you can make a move. Anything you do for your content program is better than nothing, and the sooner you start, the better, so if you’ve been holding off the start of a content marketing program because of financial concerns, it’s time to finally get started. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to measure your progress, analyze your ROI, reassess your strategy and build on your previous structures.
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