Content marketing has become one of the most popular digital marketing strategies, with 88% of B2B marketers now using it in some form.
But it costs significant time and/or money. What if you don’t have those dollars to invest? What if you’re just starting out, or what if you’re already investing the bulk of your marketing budget in other strategies?
Though not ideal, it’s actually possible to start a content marketing campaign with no money whatsoever. Here’s what to do:
1. Rely on surface-level research
You don’t need to invest in heavy-duty market research when you’re first starting out, digging into complicated details of your demographics’ personal lives. Instead, do as much research as you can with basic Google searches and subsequent reading. Take a look at the type of content your competitors are producing, and what kind of audience they’re targeting. Research your key demographics and how they typically behave and make purchases online. This basic information should be enough to help you craft the skeletal framework of your content campaign.
2. Get a free blog and start with a free template
Starting a blog is easier than it’s ever been (and it was never that difficult). There are dozens of completely free options out there, including the ever-popular WordPress, and all of them offer user-friendly tools that make designing your site simple. You may have a limited choice in templates, but it will be enough to get you started. Remember, this doesn’t have to be perfect-it just has to get you started, so any platform that allows you to make regular content posts should do fine.
3. Claim your social media profiles
Next, take the time to claim your social media profiles-you’re going to need them later in your campaign. It’s good to claim these early so you can nab your domain name and start building your profiles before you’re ready to syndicate your content. Eventually, when you have ongoing new content to publish, you’ll use these channels to give those posts an extra boost in visibility.
4. Write what you know
Eventually, you’ll want your writing to focus only on what your target audience wants to read, but in the meantime, you can find common ground and save money by writing what you already know. You’re probably an expert (or close to being an expert) in your given field already, so write original content based on your insights and experiences. Chances are, there will be plenty of people who want to read about them.
5. Rely on free images
Visual aids instantly make content more effective, even if you’re just using a “featured image” to complement the written content of a blog post. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire a designer or shell out money for stock images to get those visual elements. There are dozens of sources of free images online, and most of them are easy to use. My personal favorite is Wikimedia Commons, which is easily searchable and loaded with images that are all in the public domain.
6. Build your personal brand
Setting up social media profiles for your core brand will help, but you can always go further with a personal brand. Personal branding allows you to develop a social media presence around yourself as an author, rather than the entity that is your company or organization, and gives you a separate outlet for syndication and audience building. It’s also valuable to have for future career opportunities, should you change direction later.
7. Start building a network
Next, you can start building a network on Facebok, Linkedin and other social media channels. Hopefully, your syndication efforts have already yielded a budding following, but now’s the time to step it up. Engage with others in conversations related to your realm of expertise, talk to your most active and most loyal followers, and don’t be afraid to follow new people-they’ll probably follow you back. Almost everyone you engage with will become a part of your recurring audience, and you may even find some influencers or guest posters to help boost your campaign even further.
8. Have an end goal
Finally, you should develop some kind of end goal for your campaign. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to drive more people to convert? If so, you’ll need more calls to action in your articles. Do you just want to build traffic to eventually make money on advertising on your site? You’ll need to focus on building and retaining as much traffic as possible. These goals will provide focus and strategic direction to your campaign, but more importantly, they’ll give you a path toward recurring revenue, which you can then use to reinvest and make your campaign even stronger.
9. Gradually invest more
Remember, the goal here isn’t to run a content marketing campaign with no money-it’s to start one with no money. If you want to get better results over time, you owe it to yourself and your business to invest more.
You can start small-with a budget of just a few hundred dollars a month-but eventually, you’ll get to a point where your ROI basically demands a higher investment. Find talented writers, designers, social media marketers, and branding experts to round out your team, and consider outsourcing the work for even greater cost efficiency. You get out what you put into content marketing, so even though you can start with almost nothing, your minimalistic approach shouldn’t last forever.