Affordable Content Marketing Rule #1: Plan Ahead and Find Your Focus

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This is the first of a four-part series called “Content Marketing on a Budget: How To Get The Best Content Mix For Your Buck”. Over the next few posts we’ll be helping you understand how to think about content marketing so you can make the right content choices when you have a limited budget.

You’re probably already familiar with the fact that content marketing has become an accepted part of how businesses market themselves on the web. But although it has become more normal and familiar, the fact remains that budgets for content marketing are still a fraction of many companies’ total marketing budgets. This is the case even though content marketing has been shown to have a clear impact on growth and business goals by enabling brands to be unintrusively present in the online spaces where their audiences spend their time.

Plan to Succeed With A Limited Budget

Marketers and business owners need to be smart about the content mix that fuels their content marketing efforts. Budget constraints place tight limits on the quality and quantity of content assets that can be created (compared with traditional marketing campaigns) and because of that, a lot more planning is needed prior to creating and distributing any content for it to be effective. There is an upshot, however — in the long run, well-planned and well-executed content marketing campaigns can justify bigger budgets, so there’s good incentive for doing a bang-up job when the budget is tight.

In general, before going full speed ahead with any content marketing effort, here are the main things you’ll want to think about.

  • What business goals are you trying to achieve with the content and the budget you’ve set for it? What’s realistic?
  • What content can help you best achieve the goals you’ve established, and what channels are you going to push it through?
  • How are you going to create the content you need, and what is important to you about the content creation process?
  • How are you going measure the success of the content that you’ve created?

Set Your Goals To Sharpen Your Focus

This week, we want to focus on the first of the these points: realistic goal-setting.

When planning content, the thing that people most often lose sight of is the journey of the intended audience towards the desired conversion action. Whether you call it a sales/marketing funnel, a buyer journey, or a customer lifecycle, this model provides the key distinctions that will enable the right content decisions to be made. Affordable content marketing doesn’t need to be ineffective content marketing — if you plan properly, you can get outsize results from a small budget. Each stage has different associated goals, and the content created for these goals should have a specific purpose in getting the audience closer to these goals, otherwise the content will be ineffective.

Since content marketing budgets are limited, it’s not realistic to think that there can be a strong, sustained content push evenly distributed across the entire journey. And while it’s not too difficult to execute an affordable content marketing campaign, businesses need to determine where they are strong and where they are weak in communicating with their audiences.

Here are some example questions that can help marketers determine where to focus:

  • Do the people who know about us understand why they need what we’re offering?
  • Are the people I want to reach aware that my brand exists, and how large is that audience?
  • Are we offering a level of post-purchase support that really makes our customers glad that they went with us?
  • Do people know enough about our strengths to compare us against the competition when they’re ready to make a decision?

Every business is different and it shouldn’t be too difficult to see where content could help the most.

Marketers need to be 100% sure of the what the business’s customer journey looks like before making any decisions about the actual content assets they want to create. It’s important to think about this stage so you can choose a channel and mix of content that delivers optimal levels of engagement. Thinking in terms of the customer journey mapped onto a sales/marketing funnel, it’s highly likely that one stage of the funnel will need more content support than the others. Some preliminary analysis is hugely helpful in deciding the proportions of focus and investment to place on each stage. Once this has been determined, marketers have a guide for how to divvy up the budget in a way that’s maximally effective.

Every Piece Of Content Needs A Purpose!

Once you have an idea of where you need to focus in the customer journey, you still need to decide what the content at each stage needs to do. Each piece of content should have a single purpose. This achieves a number of things. First, it enables clearer and more focused direction when creating the content. Second, it makes it easier to determine whether or not the content is achieving its desired result. Finally, a single purpose makes for a more powerful, undiluted audience experience.

If you need some ideas about what purposes your content can have, here are a few to get you started:

  • To instruct
  • To provide information
  • To persuade
  • To spark conversation
  • To express an opinion
  • To show capabilities
  • To present differing points of view

Once you have an idea of what your goals are, where you’d like to focus your content efforts and what the purpose(s) of your content will be, you can start making decisions about what form your content can take.

The next post in this series will take a look at the various content options you have at your disposal and give you some tips on how to pick right the content and channel for your goals. Stay tuned!