Excuses abound when presenting a small or large business with the idea of content marketing. “There’s nothing to write about in my industry.” “My legal department won’t approve content we write for our website.” But the biggest excuse of all we often hear is – “it’s too expensive and time consuming.” While the first two excuses are certainly worth examining, in this post I’ll address the expense of content marketing. Content marketing on a budget can be done, and here’s how.
Scenario:$1,000/mo Budget & 6 Hours Per Week
It’s important to plan ahead whenever you begin developing content. Having a strategy behind your efforts is pretty much mandatory if you want to be successful. Sure, throwing content against the wall to see what sticks might be one approach, but we feel strongly that a thought out strategy aides in ensuring more “sticks to the wall.” We recommend investing some time into developing your content strategy first and then proceeding with the following tips.
The content medium you choose to execute your content strategy with will ultimately determines your budget – depending on whether or not you need to outsource the work.
Most may think video is very expensive to produce and outside of your $1,000/mo budget. With advances in technology and the price of equipment dropping, these days great videos can be shot on a cell phone or digital camera and edited with low-cost software. PCWorld.com provides some great examples of low cost video editing software. If you can shoot the video yourself and edit it in house as well, or even hire a freelance video editor, your outsourcing budget may be flexible to accommodate.
Much like video, photos can get expensive but they don’t have to. Cell phone photos can actually make great content; it’s all about the creativity. Lifehacker voted Instagram, Snapseed, Pixlr-omatic, Camera+ and Camera ZOOM FX as the best photo filter apps. Try out a few and see what works best for your needs. The possibilities can be endless!
Freelance writers can become quite costly if you’re not careful. A technical writer required for a more in-depth, research intensive piece such as a whitepaper may be out of your price range. But consider outsourcing part of it, not all. Freelance writers can help with creating the bulk of a content piece but don’t have to create all of it. Placing careful thought into how you plan to utilize written content is key. The bulk of your content is likely to be in written format so make sure you research costs and choose the best freelance writer before allocating your funds.
You may have a graphic designer in house, but if the need presents itself to outsource, you’ll want to talk to designers or agencies to see how much an infographic will cost. Look into hourly or flat rate costs, as this will ultimately affect your $1,000/mo budget. There are also tools for creating simple infographics and data visualizations on the Moz blog you should check out, most of which only take time and no budget.
Determine Your Budget Allotment
Our next suggested step in developing content on a budget is to map out about six to twelve months based on different content you’d like to develop. Mapping it out may look something like this (numbers are used just for illustration purposes, your actual costs will differ):
- Hire an editor to review and finalize one blog post per week for one year ($2,500)
- Find a writer to develop one blog post per week, which you’ll place on third party sites ($1,800)
- Schedule out the development of two free guides (8-10 pages) that can be downloaded on your site ($3,500)
- Develop two infographics over the course of a year ($3,000)
The total to develop these pieces is roughly $10,800. That leaves $1200 of your $1,000/mo budget for promotion (see below) or is money left to develop yet another piece of content anytime throughout the 12 month period.
For the purposes of writing this article we established a 6 hour per week maximum for a content marketing plan on a budget. Doesn’t seem like much time does it? With the above suggested mapped out plan in mind, here are a few tips on how to make the most of your time.
15 Minutes Per Day
It’s important to manage your social media accounts regularly to maintain engagement. That’s why we suggest a daily allotment of roughly 15 minutes to interact with others about your content, respond to tweets, posts and comments. Try not to lose track of time, you’re limited in the amount of time you have to give to this effort so use it wisely.
Four to Five Hours Per Month
Managing your outsourced projects can become laborious if you’re not careful. Plan for the time it will take to explain your idea to your freelancer, manage the project and oversee the development. They likely will have questions until you get in a rhythm with any new freelance partner you bring on.
Two to Three Hours Per Week
You may consider allotting time to drafting a blog post each week, which can be handed off to your editor (expenses allocated in the plan above). Plan for the time it takes to actually publish your blog as well. It’s recommended that you plan a specific day of the week for publishing and attempt to stick to it. This is something that is likely to come up in your content strategy plan, but worth mentioning here.
One Hour Per Week
Take the time to draft and schedule out social media messaging to your audience. Using a tool like Hootsuite or Facebook’s own status message scheduler, you can schedule out your outbound social messages. Experts suggest utilizing hashtags, limiting tweet length to allow for RTs, use of custom URL shorteners and selecting proper images for Facebook status updates. These are all elements you should take time to integrate into your social media messages.
One Hour Per Month
Measurement of your activities is a requirement no matter what plan you have in place. Take about an hour to gather and measure data. This time could be used looking at Google Analytics, measuring click through rates on shortened URLs, examining Facebook Insights, or whatever other means of reporting and measurement you can find. Save yourself some time in the long run and set up custom reports in Google Analytics to gather the data at a glance.
Tips to Making this All Happen
All together this represents roughly 24 hours per month dedicated to managing your content marketing plan. It’s important to stay on task and use scheduling tools to ensure you remember to conduct each of these daily, weekly and monthly tasks.
There are some things you can do to try to expand your content marketing efforts such as incentivizing staff members for writing on your corporate blog, which ultimately makes the most of your time. Those in the office who are looking to brand themselves as industry experts and maybe try their hand at speaking at conferences, should have a drive to write on your corporate blog. Offering a few hours off work or a small bonus might be another idea to get others participating in content marketing.
Writers can be all around you and you (and they) don’t even know it. They could be your top notch salesperson who has a mommy blog and a knack for writing. Maybe it’s your AP/AR folks who took a writing course in college. Or even a warehouse manager looking to expand on the English degree they got but never used. Heck it could even be someone on your staff you KNOW writes great e-mails. You won’t know until you ask, so put out the word about the ability for others to write content or be involved in your content marketing efforts. Sell the value to them and you may be surprised who steps up.
Save Money Where You Can and Use the Extra!
In our example scenario listed above, we saved about $1,200 for ‘extras.’ As you develop your content and measure what works, look to utilize extra budget and be flexible as new ideas pop up. As industry news is announced look to keep aside extra money for a content marketing initiative you didn’t plan on. Another example may include a blog post and donation to Red Cross when a natural disaster strikes as these posts often get shared and are a great way to show your support through content marketing.
Another use of extra funds are for Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, or promoted tweets. Paid media can often help garner earned media too, and aide in putting your content in front of a wider audience. Save money where you can and make sure to put the extra dollars to good use.
In this post we’ve given examples of a very limited budget and low time availability. The plan is completely scalable, however. Larger budgets will of course allow for additional options with your content. More time available to dedicate to content marketing will help in producing more pieces, allow for time to re-purpose existing content into other forms, devote more time to promotion, distribute to additional marketing channels and more.
As you measure your results and find that content on a budget is working, you may look to increase the amount of budget and time you’re spending. If the return on investment is there, it would be in your best interest to attempt to find that balance point of investment for return.
There are tactical ways to measure your results and determine whether or not it would be in your best interest to invest more budget or time. For instance, looking at your reports monthly and examining your social channels may prove that with only a few hours a month you’re driving a significant amount of traffic to your site and converting well. Think about upping the amount of time on that platform, or think about paying for ads to drive even more traffic. If you observe that search engines are crawling more of your pages, and ranking your site well for content, think about increasing the frequency of your onsite content.
Don’t feel like you’re limited just because your time availability and budget are less than you think is needed to be successful. Work with what you have and make a case to your higher ups (or yourself) that this content marketing initiative is worthwhile by proving the return on your investment. More money may make itself available if you find content is performing better than other marketing channels.
Have you executed a successful content marketing strategy on a budget? What tips do you have for readers?