Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or have been in business for decades, you know that inbound marketing is crucial.
Content marketing has become an essential piece of top businesses' marketing efforts; in fact, American organizations now dedicate 28% of their communications budget to content marketing on average.
Some business owners turn to traditional marketing, as they are more familiar with it, but content marketing can be much more cost-effective. In fact, content marketing can have conversion rates that are six times higher than traditional marketing.
The bottom line is almost always cost, but no matter your business’s content marketing budget, there are typically multiple types of content marketing efforts to choose from.
Disclaimer: For the content marketing examples included in this post, I don’t know the actual amount spent, as they’re external examples. However, I’m providing them as a reference for what you could potentially create with your available budget.
Content Marketing Budget: $0 - Basic Blogging
Advantages: This low-cost strategy allows you to start building organic traffic to your site and building your authority in your subject area. Blog posts can also be useful for sales collateral.
Caveats: While blogging is free or low-cost, it still takes time from some of your team members, and they need to be well-versed in keyword/audience research to be the most effective. Note that it's hard to scale up production and promote the blog posts without budget.
Even if you have absolutely no budget for marketing, you can still have a content marketing strategy.
Blog posts can live on your existing website and provide valuable content for your target audience. While blog posts would be written by members of your team and that time needs to be paid for, blog posts don’t require you to pay for any external products or services.
Before just posting whatever you want on your blog, take time to create a content marketing plan in which you consider:
- What is your goal with these posts?
- What will you write about in a general sense?
- How will it be helpful for potential or existing customers?
For that third point, you can tap into your knowledge of your audience personas, but your marketing team can also conduct keyword research. There are dozens of keyword research tools online, like Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, Keywords Everywhere, Keyword Surfer, and more. In some tools like Ahrefs, you can enter your topic ideas, and it will generate keyword ideas to help you better create your content. In other tools like Keywords Everywhere and Keyword Surfer, you can search right in Google and see the keyword volumes for your search and related searches.
While further reading is encouraged to understand what you should look for in a keyword, the most important thing is to make sure your blog post answers an existing question. If someone isn’t searching for your content or looking to have their question answered, you won’t be seeing much traffic to your blog post.
Need an example? Here are three great business blogs, written by members of their team:
Content Marketing Budget: $100-500/month - Basic Blogging + Email
Advantages: Building a list of email subscribers means you have a way to directly communicate with your potential customers without being at the mercy of third-party platforms like social.
Caveats: Email should be personalized and consistent, meaning more allocated time and resources will be necessary.
Now that you have original content on your business’s blog, email marketing allows you to send that content to subscribers and customers directly. Nearly 9 in 10 adults in the U.S. would like to receive a monthly promotional email from companies they do business with, so make that email count!
Email from Sign Up Genius
Personalize your email to make sure it is as appealing to customers as possible. The more personalized, the less likely your readers will send your email to their spam folder.
While personalization is important, it doesn’t mean that you need to send a personalized email to one customer at a time. There are dozens of budget-friendly marketing tools available, like Sender and Mailchimp. Their services include customizable templates, individual recipient personalization, audience insights, and perhaps most importantly, tracking analytics.
By tracking how many customers opened your email and clicked on the included links, you can better determine how well your email marketing strategy is working. Both tools above offer free plans, and paid plans, which begin at $10 per month.
Unsure of what an effective marketing email looks like? Check out over forty email marketing examples below:
- 10 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen (Mailbakery)
- 19 Examples of Brilliant Email Marketing Campaigns (Hubspot)
- 13 Brilliant Examples of Email Marketing From The Pros for 2019 (Impact)
Content Marketing Budget: $500-1,000/month - Basic Blogging + Email + Social Media
Advantages: Social media is another way to reach new audiences and further connect with your current audience. It feels more personal and can help establish trust, which is a common objective for content marketers.
Caveats: Social seems easy, but to do it right, it requires a lot of time. You can’t just post about yourself; you have to engage with others, which takes a great deal of effort.
Beyond an on-site content and email marketing strategy, social media content marketing could be the next step if you have at least $500 per month in your digital marketing budget.
Before creating great content for social, identify which social channel(s) makes the most sense for your brand. Where is your audience most likely to be, and will they be receptive to your message? Choose one or two channels max to start so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Instagram Story snapshot from Retrospec’s account
If you’re not already sharing your existing blog posts on your social media channels, start sharing them on a regular cadence. But you can also create or repurpose content specifically for the platform, like Retrospec did in the example above, in which they asked questions of their community and collected/shared the responses.
Once you have been posting regularly, you can conduct a social media content audi to see what type of content is performing well with your followers. Tools like SPROUT SOCIAL and BuzzSumo help you track social media audience engagement, and plans range from $99 to $499 per month.
Once you have a better idea of what your social media followers engage with, design your content to be even more engaging. Of course, like any marketing tactic, it’s important to keep in mind your goal for the channel overall and for each individual post.
For example, are you trying to increase general brand awareness or get people to sign up for a newsletter? This will help determine the type of social content you should create and promote, because even the best content will fall flat if it's not in front of the right audience on the appropriate platform.
For social media content creation inspiration, we’ve linked to examples for some of the most popular platforms:
- Instagram Content Marketing Examples (Wishpond)
- Facebook Content Marketing Examples (Social Media Examiner)
- Twitter Content Marketing Examples (Search Engine Journal)
Content Marketing Budget: $1,000-$10,000/month - Advanced Blogging + Email + Social Media + Tools
Advantages: The more effort you put into your on-site content creation, the more you’ll get out of it. With more money and resources, you can create blog posts that target every part of the customer journey, creating a more cohesive and informative experience with your brand and building significantly more traffic and awareness.
Caveats: When you create this many pieces of content at a more sophisticated level, it will involve much more analytics tracking and reporting to make sure you’re spending your money wisely.
If you have at least $1,000 per month for your content marketing budget, there is the opportunity to considerably level up your existing blog content.
If you’re a services-based company, one opportunity would be to conduct a case study, which can help prove your authority to potential customers as well as blog post readers. By showcasing effective work in a featured case study, potential customers will see that your expertise isn’t just talking; it’s backed by experience.
Looking for your onsite content to convert into a purchase? Bottom-of-the-funnel content will directly call attention to one of your products or services in an attempt to turn a reader into a customer.
Other options to consider include:
- Use cases for your product
- Tools to build links and brand awareness
- Interviews or compilation posts that feature thought leaders, who will then share your posts and get you more brand awareness
- Explainer videos or other video content
- How-to instructional guides for top-of-the-funnel SEO
- Instructional webinars for lead generation
- Infographics that illustrate a complicated topic simply
SEMrush provides your site’s SEO data to you, so you can better track your organic keyword rankings, traffic, and more. In addition, they offer tools like competitor analysis and SEO site audits. In order to improve the content itself, try Yoast SEO, which optimizes your onsite content. It’s the perfect tool if you are newer to SEO, as it helps you better understand how to rank for your target keywords.
By investing more than $1,000 a month on your content marketing, you can substantially improve your results, like increased consumer trust, conversion rates, organic keyword rankings, and so much more.
For examples of high-quality content, we’ve linked below to examples of a case study, bottom-of-the-funnel content, and how to optimize site content with Yoast SEO.
- Hubspot - Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Case Study
- 7 Creative Examples of Bottom-of-the-Funnel Marketing (Business2Community)
- How to use Yoast SEO’s content analysis tool
Content Marketing Budget: $10,000+/month - All of the Above + Data Journalism and Digital PR
Advantages: You can earn massive brand awareness and really high-quality links at scale if you invest this much per month on creating and promoting engaging content with a data focus, resulting in an increase in organic traffic to your site.
Caveats: This is often too much for internal teams to handle, so it often requires an outside marketing agency.
Once your onsite content, email, and social media marketing strategies are running smoothly, it might be time to consider creating content to earn backlinks and earn more authority in Google's eyes.
Designing content that will appeal to publishers is more costly than the previous options reviewed, but the ROI of link acquisition content marketing is much higher. Companies who spent more than $10,000 earned 150% more links than those who spent between $5,000 and $10,000.
How do you ensure that your content will be picked up and linked to by publishers? There’s never a guarantee, but you can start by coming up with content ideas that are focused on data. This is our bread and butter at Fractl.
Try surveying your customers or analyze Google trends on an interesting and emotional topic. What are the most interesting takeaways? What surprised you as a reader? If survey results, how do they vary by different demographic groups like age, gender, or location?
Once your content marketing campaign is complete, utilize your PR team (or hire a vendor) to reach out to publishers. Try tying your findings to a trending news story that a publisher has recently covered, or look for publishers who have linked to outside content on similar topics.
Most importantly, do the research of publisher pitching do’s and don’ts. Lack of personalization, too many follow ups, and lack of research can automatically send your pitch to their trash or spam folder.
If you do decide to engage in link acquisition content marketing, try your best to be patient. High-quality content that will appeal to top-tier publishers will take at least a month to produce, and then more time to procure that first backlink.
It’s worth the wait, however, as the link building content can provide a long-term value that other forms of content marketing cannot. We’ve linked some of the best examples of high-quality link acquisition campaigns below:
- 10 Case Studies That Show the Real Impact of Content Marketing (Fractl)
- 7 Inspiring Content Marketing Examples (And How to Replicate Them) (Ahrefs)
- 3 Innovative Content Marketing Examples That You’ll Want to Know About (Alexa) [Disclaimer: former client]
Finding the Perfect Content Marketing Strategy
The importance of content marketing can’t be understated. Not only is it effective in its own right as a digital marketing strategy, but it’s often the foundation for most other aspects of marketing like social, paid, and SEO. As these examples of content marketing show, no matter what your budget, you can create content that can have an impact on your brand’s awareness, authority, and reach.