Now that almost every B2B brand seems invested in having content marketing as part of their marketing strategy, here at Radix we’ve been wondering if it’s still possible to create great content without relying on a big-brand budget.
The story of Marcus Sheridan, a.k.a. @TheSalesLion, and the blog post that generated over $2 million in sales, today reads like a content marketing legend, with its tale of how a low-budget, high-quality content approach won out over bloated advertising spend.
Four years after Marcus Sheridan found success for his River Pools business through content marketing, the barriers to produce good content on a low budget have been reduced. The collective sharing of best practice and the proliferation of content tools has enabled marketers and salespeople to strategise, create and publish content in ways that couldn’t have been imagined 15 years ago.
Are there still barriers to producing good content?
To a degree, the barriers are still there, but they’re manageable. The costs of producing good content mainly come in the form of time and skills, with software and hardware less of an issue that it once was. Time is spent on generating content ideas, creating content and promoting it. Then there are the skills you need to write, design and promote your content effectively – and this where you have to decide whether to do things in-house or outsource some of it.
Like 99.3% of private sector businesses in the UK, Radix is a small business. This means we are keen to keep our own marketing content as cost-effective as possible. Fortunately for us, Radix is a copywriting agency, so we can produce most of our own content in-house. We only outsource those elements of our content that we can’t easily do for ourselves, like the complex illustration work we used in our ebook on using comics in marketing.
Having a written content marketing strategy helps
Having access to in-house writing skills isn’t the only thing that helps us produce content on a small budget. What helps us to create good content is having a written content marketing strategy. The strategy is based on four key areas:
- Our business objectives
- Knowing what types of content our audience finds valuable
- Creating content that draws on the skills and knowledge we have within the business
- Creating content that fills an informational need that our audience has
A written content strategy should be any business’s main tool for producing good content marketing. Not convinced? Of the respondents to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America who said they had a documented content marketing strategy, 60% said they are effective at content marketing in contrast to the 32% who had only a “verbal strategy”.
The number of tools and services to help you produce your content, often for free, are many. From platforms that can help you with social listening, to apps that can help you write, to services that let you build infographics: there are a lot of tools out there for helping with content creation.
But once you’ve researched, planned, written, added images to and posted your blog post or released your latest ebook, that’s when things start to be less easy.
You may have been able to take advantage of half a dozen free tools, combine them with insight from your content strategy, and create a pillar of awesome content. But there’s one group of essential tools that are often out of the reach of small businesses and their limited budgets.
Meaningful metrics and data
During an interview with Content Marketing Institute, Marcus Sheridan pointed out that you need to know more about your content than whether your blog post managed 1,000 hits in one day. Vanity metrics, like the kind you get from Google Analytics, don’t tell you anything actionable about who’s looking at your content or as Sheridan said:
“We’ve got to be able to see true behavior, not have all these hypotheses based on what Google Analytics is telling us. Google Analytics is fine, but it’s clearly not the depth you need from a sales perspective.”
Basic analytics won’t help you accurately check whether your good content has generated a return on investment. It certainly won’t let you know if your social content is helping you more than search. And you won’t know who is looking at your content and thus whether it’s reaching the right people.
The CRM and marketing automation platforms that will give you meaningful data are often out of the budget reach of small businesses. You can get some of the functionality of industry darling platforms like Hubspot or Pardot through separate, cheap apps – but you’re putting your data into silos when you start doing that. And siloed data can just as equally leave you in the dark.
Good isn’t great
Small businesses now have access to content creation and publishing tools to a degree they never have had before. But the democratisation brought about by these tools has yet to be reflected in the post-publishing process. Without actionable data about their content, small businesses can produce all the good content they want on little to no budget, but they won’t have the information necessary to go on and produce great content.