15 Ways to Make Small Budget Content Creation & Marketing Work

small-man-big-penAs 2013 is now just days away we’re into the critical planning period for most marketers.

While time will undoubtedly be spent drilling down into a multi-faceted digital strategy plan, necessity should dictate that at the very heart of it lies great content.

Industry websites like this one have been filled to the brim with posts preaching the content sermon during the latter part of 2012 and the New Year offers businesses a chance to realign budgets and plans to take full advantage of the shift.

For big businesses that may mean employing a chief content officer and launching a major new agency push to realign their available resource and skill sets, but for smaller firms this just a pipe dream.

But a smaller business can execute a successful and effective content strategy. There is still a huge amount you can do as a small business with a great idea creation process and time. Irrespective of what niche you occupy.

Here a few ideas to help you formulate a quality content led digital marketing plan.

How to Come up With Ideas

Great content strategies stand or fall by the quality of the ideas that come together to make them.

And the best bit is that ideas are free!

You don’t need huge budgets to brainstorm ideas. Yes, larger numbers of people can help with idea creation but in reality too many cooks do spoil the broth.

The optimal number for any one brainstorm is 10. Any more people in a room and communication and sharing breaks up into smaller sub-groups, which makes capturing output that more difficult and ineffective.

Creating the perfect environment is easy and cost effective. While meeting rooms work, rooms with light and things going on make for a more stimulating conversation. Pubs are great for this if you can secure a side room, alcove, or similar.

Other brainstorming tips include:

  • Appoint an “idea recorder” to note each and every relevant idea.
  • Clearly define the problem you wish to solve at the beginning.
  • Develop ideas communally. Don’t always write down the initial idea as often the group will throw it around and create a better final output.
  • Break every 90 mins and force people outside or to grab a drink. It allows the brain to reset.

Want to know even more? Read up on techniques such as reverse brainstorming, starbursting, brainwriting, or read this piece on how to keep them coming even when the ideas dry up.

How to Get Organized

Ideas are nothing without structure, however. The times we have seen great ideas die through a simple lack of structure, or a team full of great creative not living up to expectations because of their adversity to planning then we’d be rich.

This post goes into a little more depth around how you can then translate that list into an editorial plan that then covers every major distribution channel. The central document in all of this is the editorial planner. The one I have used and perfected over the past 12 years looks like this:


How to Get Your Content Noticed?

This post isn’t really about planning or idea creation, however, but rather sharing real tactical tips on how you can make your small budget content plan fly.

Below is a list of cost effective tips that every business can action to maximize the ROI of any content investment made.

1. If Your Audience is Local

Create content of relevance for your community and seed to hyper local bloggers and print news outlets. Local paper reporters are hungry for any kind of good news story and often have trouble finding them! Help them by placing it in their laps. Google has also been offering local businesses a chance to register their business for some time, so do this as a bare minimum.

2. If You Have a Promotional Budget

It can work really well to assign budget to paid search, across Google and Facebook. Even Twitter at a push. By creating super targeted ads to download pages you can collect lots of data and reach many more people than without it. This works really well for podcasts, whitepapers etc. that can sit behind a sign up form.

3. If You Want More Return Visits

Interact. Allocate time to becoming a valuable part of the community by sharing knowledge via your blog, in forums, and in guest posts.

Add into your time the set up of Google news alerts around your brand and mentions of snippets of your latest content. By spotting them you can build relationships with those sharing your content. This creates brand allegiance and trust and in turn effects return visits.

You can then affect this further on page by offering loyalty or gamification schemes for repeat purchases, review writing, etc. There are now lots of great plug ins for key CMS platforms that help with this, including sweettooth for Magento or Punchtab, which can work across the board.

Customers who feel appreciated are going to give the love right back in the form of loyalty.

4. If You Want to Prove How Great You Are

Give your products away for free. It’s the best possible way of driving awareness and trialing as you de-risk the situation. People also like ‘free’ and it can be used to create new audience via competition outreach.

5. If You Want to Get Rid of Stock

Sales work but with every man and his dog doing it you need a way of turning it into a content event. Some try the “share to grab a bargain” option to incentivize social sharing, others get even more inventive.

There are sites like this one devoted to weird sale items. By adding in an unusual item, or creating a strange reason for the sale that make the “January Sale” norm look totally dull. Craigslist is full of oddities and you can use this to your advantage. Make sure your sale includes weird items to attract attention and links.

6. If You Want to Get Really Creative (Desperate!)

If you’re really creative (desperate!) there is no end to what you can do. This guy is selling the rights to his last name during 2013. You can bid to legally own his surname for the entire year!

7. If You Have Willing Friends

Check out guys like iwearyourshirt.com for a fun, creative, and relatively cheap way to get your company seen. These guys promote companies by wearing their T-shirts and doing crazy stuff for them via social media. You can do this too!

8. If You Like Face to Face

Organize a meet-up for either local people or niche enthusiasts via a site like meetup.com. It may not seem like a great way of creating or marketing content initially but the reality is those attending will write and tweet about the experience.

9. If You’re an Expert

A great way to engender trust is to share that knowledge. Publishing whitepapers, eBooks and regular quality article creation will help build that association. You can do this “off page” too by getting involved in Q&A aggregators like Yahoo Answers, LinkedIn Groups and Quora.

10. If You Feel Like Giving

Donating to charity can create great positive PR. You can wrap the giving element into some kind of competition also where the winner can decide who the beneficiary is. You can also work with the charities themselves to leverage audience reach.

11. If You Have a 404 Page

Make your 404 page memorable. It costs very little to get really creative with your ‘this page is broken’ message – like these here.

12. If You Like Surprises

Why not randomly upgrade people. Everyone loves an unqualified and unexpected extra and Zappos have made it a key marketing trick. It’s also relatively inexpensive to do.

13. If You Like Saying Thank You

Why not create or improve the existing thank you page on your site that a customer receives shortly after buying.

Even better why not partner with a strategically relevant business to reciprocally exchange space on each other’s thank you page? This works incredibly well if your products or services have real synergies. So, think car dealers and warranty businesses for example.

14. If You Like Debate

Make sure you content plan has a regular opinion piece as opinions sell papers. Opinion is something we aren’t yet that great at online and it’s a real opportunity in your niche as people will come back to it and interact with it for its controversy.

15. If You Like Using Emotions

Fear, love, and the other emotions are key triggers to brand affinity and purchase. Ensure you have content mapped to this as part of your plan based on the emotions most important to your particular niche. Just be careful if you use humor, as you need to clearly understand your audience to get it right.

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