Winning at Content Marketing on Different Budgets


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In a past job at a B2B software company, I held the title, “director of content marketing.” In a sense, the title was deceptive. While I had responsibility for content marketing, I didn’t have direct reports. Typically, a “director” title is a “manager of managers” role in which you lead a large team.

Despite being a “team of one,” I produced a fair amount of content marketing that generated business results. A key formula I used: try something small, demonstrate results, “market” those results to higher-ups and earn a little budget to spend on further efforts.

When those further efforts created even more business results, I could earn more and more trust, and higher and higher budgets. In speaking to peers at marketing conferences, I discovered that my situation was quite common — people who owned the content marketing function often had small teams or were, like me, a team of one.

In this article, I’ll share approaches I took in three budget scenarios: no budget, small budget and medium budget:

No Budget: Build Organic Content

Budget range: $0

When I say “no budget” here, I mean that there were no specific funds allocated to content marketing. What did I do? I borrowed from the demand generation team. Our lead generation efforts were centered around webinars. We hosted two to four webinars each month, featuring employees, partners and customers.

The trick? Leverage the substance of the webinar presentation and the expertise of the presenters to create companion content. Before the webinar, I might do an email interview with an expert presenter. I’d send an email to the presenter with questions related to the topic of the webinar.

If there was enough substance in the answers, I might turn that into a blog post with the presenter’s byline. Otherwise, I’d publish the Q&A on the blog. In both cases, I’d link to the registration page for the upcoming webinar. When the webinar was over, I’d upload the slide deck to SlideShare, then publish a summary blog post about it.

Example:

Our VP of product did a webinar on “10 Tips for Website Performance Optimization.” It was a useful presentation that any web admin (ie, not just customers of our product) could use to improve their site’s performance. I summarized that presentation into a blog post titled, “10 Quick Tips for Website Performance Optimization.” It has 25,000-plus page views.

Related Article: 9 Steps to Create a Successful Content Strategy

Small Budget: Recruit Authors With Experience

Budget range: $500 to $10,000

As I mentioned, I used early wins to show that content marketing was working, then parlayed that success into small budget amounts. Even though I was a team of one, I could use my small budget to assemble a virtual team. For product-specific content, we looked at our internal collection of subject matter experts. But for top of the funnel, thought leadership content, I could hire freelance writers who had expertise on particular topics.

First, I developed the blog editorial calendar for an upcoming quarter. Then, I flagged the blog posts that I could assign to a freelance writer. My trick to finding the right writers? Don’t ask for recommendations or referrals. Instead, I browsed websites I trusted and looked for content written by freelance writers. If I read multiple articles from one writer that I found useful, I’d reach out to see if they were available to take on more assignments.

Example:

I was a frequent reader of the Social Media Examiner blog. I particularly enjoyed the long-form pieces that provided step-by-step guides on how to make use of a feature within LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc. There was one author who consistently wrote articles I found valuable and well-written. I reached out to her and hired her to write a long-form post for our blog.

Related Article: Takeaways and the In Person Experience at Content Marketing World 2021

Medium Budget: Find the Right Partner

Budget range: $10,000 to $30,000

In this budget range, it’s time to look for organizations you can partner with on industry research. This could be a non-profit association, a research organization or a non-competitive vendor. Look for partners who have an audience that matches your ideal customer profiles. Also look for organizations that have access to first-party data that your customers would find interesting.

These arrangements work best when the two parties are equal (or near-equal) partners. If your partner uses a survey to generate data for a research report, you should have a say in the structure of the survey and the specific questions used. When creating the final product, you should have a say in the narrative, the layout and how data is presented.

If you do this well, you can sustain two wins:

  1. Creating valuable content you couldn’t have done by yourself.
  2. Publishing a piece of research that your target audience finds useful and valuable.

Example:

A current client of mine sells services to senior engineering leaders. Last year they partnered with an engineering leadership community to co-create a report titled, “The State of Engineering Leadership 2021.” The report combined survey responses with 1:1 interviews with engineering leaders. It was a highly successful lead generation asset for my client.

Wrapping Up: Stay Scrappy if Funds Are Low

A boss of mine once told me that creative and elegant solutions can arise from restrictions and limitations. This can hold true for content marketers with limited budgets.

Someday you might have the luxury of a six- or seven-figure content marketing budget. Until then, it helps to be scrappy, both in whom you can lean on and in maximizing the yield from your efforts.

Dennis is the founder of B2B marketing agency Attention Retention, where he works with clients on content marketing, product marketing and social media marketing. Previously, Dennis led the content marketing job at DNN Software.

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