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Thomas Szmidel
Thomas Szmidel / January 24

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy with Zero Budget

Startups need to get noticed. In a sea of content, getting ahead of the pack is not only a way to get your voice heard, but it’s also a way of differentiating yourself from the competition.

But the cost of content continues to rise, and the sophistication required to execute a minimal strategy is pretty high. How can businesses get the word out through a content play without the luxury of a large budget?

It can be difficult knowing where to start. With businesses spending thousands of dollars on custom video, written content and other initiatives, developing such a strategy can be intimidating.

But being paralyzed by fear would be a critical mistake. Not only is your SEO strategy and traffic heavily dependent on a rich content plan, those businesses that have implemented strategies consider themselves to be more successful at marketing in general.

But without a massive budget, what’s a startup to do?

Uncover your hidden talent

Before any type of strategy is laid out, businesses need to recognize that any content needs to be developed in-house. Without a budget to bring on freelance writers, video producers or editors, it’s important to come to terms with the fact that internal resources will need to be dedicated to content.

This is actually a good thing. It means you have the opportunity to engage your employees. Put the call out. Identify talented creative minds within your team and get them to step out.

Once your creators have been established, they should get in step with each other. It could be one person or five, but they all need to work together – over 60% of the most effective B2B marketers meet with a content team daily, or weekly.

When the team is established, they should get to work establishing a style guide of topics they want to cover, tone of voice, and what areas to avoid. This is where the leadership needs to be involved. Primarily, the content marketing strategy direction should be led from the CEO, with input from the creative team. Without that leadership, each content creator will simply follow their own philosophy.

Think of the outcome first

Before you develop your content marketing strategy, you first need to determine your outcome. What is the action you want people to take from reading, or watching your content? Whether it’s signing up for an email list, taking up a trial of your product, or simply being informed that your product or service exists and is differentiated from the competition.

Scoring leads to a prospect list may see one of the leadership team guest post on range of blogs with a link to a sign-up lead. Whatever the strategy, keep it tied back to an actual outcome, so you have something to measure and you aren’t just wasting your time.

Think beyond the blog

Including a company blog in your content marketing strategy goes without saying – there’s no point in not having one. But think beyond having a simple post every couple of weeks. Take inspiration from the blogs businesses such as Todoist or Buffer, which post significant insights related to their industry’s offerings of productivity and social media strategy. 

todoist blog

Todoist Blog

They have one thing in common – they give away their secrets. There’s nothing wrong with giving away some information. And with a zero-budget content strategy, your production values aren’t going to differentiate you from the competition. But your knowledge will.

Publish posts from the leadership team, product mangers, or even employees, discussing successful initiatives within your business that have produced real results.

In fact, having posts published on behalf of employees will help promote your business as one that identifies and rewards talent on all levels.

Having your leader publish on LinkedIn is an excellent, free way of differentiating your business. And 66% of B2B marketers ranked LinkedIn as their most effective social media platform. Creating a list of blog posts with the CEO and publishing one every week will create a good volume of content.

Either those posts, or unique content, could form part of a newsletter. Differentiate your content in the newsletter to focus on industry news, but also success stories – customer profiles are a good way to show you’re having an impact in your industry.

But here’s the tricky part – you need to focus on how you can collect that content and then package it in new formats which can produce leads, or indeed, even revenue.

For instance, creating dozens of LinkedIn posts from the CEO could lead to aggregating them into an eBook. That eBook could be leveraged on the site to create more prospect leads for the ongoing newsletter.

Focus on easily shareable material. Infographics about results from within your business are a great way to both showcase impressive statistics, (if you have them), and make sure they get shared. (Tying it back to KPIs – if you’re after social shares, infographics are a fantastic way to up that metric).

(Infographics were among the most successful pieces of content for B2B content strategies in 2015.)

Get cheap and dirty

Don’t think you need to be particularly scripted. Some of the best B2B content on the web right now is coming from people simply pointing a camera at themselves, such as Gary Vaynerchuk’s AskGaryVee show, (from which he just published his latest book). Again, build an audience by giving away some of your secrets for free.

The #AskGaryVee Show

The #AskGaryVee Show

Podcasts are an excellent method for getting the word out. While listeners may be skeptical about tuning into a branded podcast, companies like GE are showcasing how brands can overcome that prejudice.

Also consider that a content marketing strategy doesn’t have to be formal. Identify the areas that are most beneficial for your business, but continue to play on new areas like Instagram and Snapchat, and focus on content that play to those medium’s strengths. For instance, creating a team-based Snapchat account for life in the office can help promote your business as a fun place to work. (As long as that message fits in your brand.)

With content, it’s important to keep experimenting. Try new videos, newsletter ideas, blog posts, and continue to track which of those ideas resonate. Once you hit on a niche, then continue to double down on that strategy. When you do, you’ll continue to build a viable audience – one that will inevitably follow you and support your business.

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