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Kathryn Hawkins

How Startups Can Rock Content Marketing on a Budget

Kathryn Hawkins
How Startups Can Rock Content Marketing on a Budget

Startups need to be scrappy and resourceful as a rule. Whether you’re bootstrapping your business or in a mad scramble for venture funding, you know that resources are limited, and you need to make the most of what you have.

So when it comes to content marketing, you’re probably not in a position where it would be wise to hire a dedicated content marketing manager, as tempting as it might seem. If you’re still uncertain of your company’s financial prospects, the $75,000 to $100,000+ it would take to hire someone experienced enough for the role is a lot of money to set aside.

Instead, startups should consider taking a scalable approach to their content marketing strategy. On a budget of $2,000 to $4,000 per month, you can develop a successful, highly targeted content marketing strategy.

Here’s how.

Decide What Your Goals Are

Come up with the metrics you want to use to measure your content marketing program’s success. New leads and sales are significant, of course, but what about more subtle metrics that nonetheless demonstrate your growing influence, such as increased Twitter followers or growth in your online mailing list? Before going any further with your content marketing plan, it’s important to know what results you’re after and how you plan to measure them.

Do the Prep Work In-house Before Reaching Out to Marketing Consultants

If you run a startup, you’ve already put a lot of effort into planning your market strategy in your initial pitches for funding, so there’s no need to pay extra for this type of strategy consulting work. Before reaching out to consultants, come up with a list of proposed audience segments, key messaging to get across, a tentative editorial calendar, and potential outlets for guest blog outreach. You probably already know your company well enough to define these goals, and it will save money on preliminary research on your vendor’s part.

Scope Out Potential Vendors

Rather than paying big bucks for an all-in-one digital marketing company, look for a consultant or agency that specializes in content marketing. This will help you ensure your team knows what they’re doing when it comes to the written word (and won’t just outsource content development to another agency), and you won’t be paying extra for all the bells and whistles that many digital marketing agencies add on by default.

While hiring an individual freelance writer may be slightly cheaper, contracting with a content marketing agency ensures your content requirements will be met, regardless of whether a writer gets sick or has vacation plans. Mediabistro offers a freelance writer directory, and the Content Marketing Institute offers a list of content marketing agencies (scroll past the sponsored links for the smaller and more affordable options).

Repurpose Existing Content that You’ve Used for Other Purposes

Did you give an awesome presentation at SXSW last year? Don’t let all that great content go to waste once the conference is over — draw from your slides to quickly turn that material into blog posts or e-books that you can distribute through your website. Likewise, if you’ve sent detailed emails to VCs or prospective customers about your business solution and how it can transform your industry, you’re free to reuse this content (barring any private details about your correspondent) in content marketing materials for the general public. Do a quick content audit, and you’ll no doubt find dozens of topics that you or your writing team can quickly turn into content marketing gold.

In Addition to Researched Content, Include Original Interviews with Industry Experts

Interviewing experts in your field is a fast and free way to get access to great industry wisdom that your audience will love. Take the time to build relationships with up-and-comers in your industry, and they’ll likely want to participate in an interview and may even return the favor by featuring you on their own sites at a later date. Consider offering interviews to your readers in multiple formats, including podcast, video podcast, and written transcript.

Maximize the Impact of Each Piece of Content

Whether you’ve chosen to create the content in-house or you’ve outsourced it, you’re not done once the content’s been written and posted online. Now it’s time to promote it through whatever platforms you’re using, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email marketing. If your articles include citations from influencers within your industry, don’t be afraid to reach out to those people with a Tweet or personal email — they may help to promote the content too.

Scale Your Content Marketing Plan as You Grow

Once you start seeing results from your content marketing program in the form of new leads and sales, you won’t be quite as strapped for cash. That means it’s important to re-invest some of those funds back into your content fund, by adding new deliverables and additional outreach strategies to your quarterly plan. Increase your agency’s retainer to factor in additional work, and consider whether it might be time to hire a dedicated employee to support your efforts.

Content marketing can help build trust in your brand, gain new leads, and generate sales — all without the costly and unsustainable expense of keyword advertising or PR. Build an audience for your brand on a tight budget in the early days of your business, and you’ll be set to scale in no time.

Kathryn Hawkins is Principal of Eucalypt Media, a content marketing agency in Scarborough, Maine that works with startups, B2B companies and nonprofits around the world. She contributes to Content Marketing Institute, Business2Community and many other leading marketing publications.

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