5 Ways To Craft A Killer Content Marketing Strategy—Without Creating Any Content

This isn't another article about content marketing. Okay, it is, but different. Here are the 5 best ways your company can up its game with high-quality content--but without writing a word.

This is not another article about content marketing. It’s not intended to convince readers that content marketing can help differentiate them from their competitors, showcase thought leadership, drive traffic, or engage their customers. A quick Google search of the phrase “content marketing for small businesses” yields more than 200 million search results, meaning that there are already plenty of people out there talking about these things (and probably trying to sell small businesses something in the process). So who is this article for? Anyone who’s convinced, but not sure how they can make it work for their business. It’s for anyone who’s ever wondered whether it’s possible to have a content marketing strategy without creating any content.

While the short answer to this is no, there is good news. The first is that the investment of time and money it takes to create great content doesn’t have to be a barrier to entry. Almost any small business that really wants to get into the game can do so by being smart about how they’re allocating their resources and maximizing the content they do have. The second piece of good news is that the sheer amount of free content online makes activities like curation arguably more important than content creation itself.

That said, content creation still needs to play a role in your strategy. Original content--whether it’s in the form of a blog, case studies, videos, infographics, etc.--will help you define the point of view you want to convey and should help set the tone for all of your content marketing efforts. The key is to maximize the ways in which you distribute and supplement it with other, lower touch tactics. Read on for five of the best.

1. Seek Professional Help

While it’s important that at least one person in your organization is creating content, outsourcing some of the work is an easy way to supplement your overall output and incorporate new perspectives. If you’re looking to leverage the skills of a professional writer, Contently is a good option. After filling out a creative brief, their platform can connect you with freelance journalists who are interested in taking on the project. Whenever you bring someone in from the outside to help with content creation, it can take time for them to learn and adopt your company’s voice, so you’ll likely see better returns from this kind of arrangement over the long-term, as opposed to a one-off project. Once you’ve developed an audience for your content, you can also enlist the help of experts in your industry who may be looking for exposure. Beauty subscription service Birchbox is a great example of this--they regularly feature up and coming beauty experts as guest posters on their wildly popular blog.

2. Repurpose Earned Media

If you’re already investing in PR or getting coverage in the press, you should absolutely be getting extra mileage out of media placements. An incredibly easy way to do this is by including coverage on your blog (check the original publication’s reposting guidelines first). You can also drive traffic to it through content recommendation tools that will link to placements on other relevant content sites around the web.

3. Curate, Curate, Curate

As mentioned before, the role of curation is becoming increasingly important as the sheer amount of stuff out there continues to grow. As a business, you’re in a wonderful position to help your customers make sense of all the content on the web, particularly if you’re in a niche market. It’s important to note that curation means more than just reposting content from the around the web. Forbes contributor Susan Gunelius puts it nicely in a recent post on the topic: “Well-executed content curation isn’t just a regurgitation of content that was already published but rather a personalized retelling of a story. The human element of content curation is what makes curated content compelling.” Scribit, NewsCred, and OpenTopic are all useful tools that can help with your curation strategy by enabling you to lease content from top publishers and host it on your site.

4. Partner Up

The phrase “content partnership” means different things to different people, but the basic idea is to get guaranteed eyeballs for your content by leveraging someone else’s audience. As more and more brands and small businesses get into the content marketing game, we’re increasingly seeing a content ecosystem that opens the door for creative partnerships amongst non-competitive businesses. Cross-promotion through social media and email marketing, content sharing, and exchanging of ad space are all examples of potential partnerships that can help expose your content to a new audience.

5. Crowdsource It

Similar to earned media, if you’re already investing in social media, you should be incorporating it into your content marketing strategy. Storify is a great tool for this purpose--it enables you to turn social interactions into beautifully designed content. So conversations with your Facebook or Twitter followers can easily be repackaged for another channel.

The bottom line is that a good content marketing strategy requires time and money, but there are plenty of supplemental activities that can help justify the investment and lessen the emphasis on the daunting task of creating content. As the web becomes more and more saturated with content every day, I think that we’ll start to see some of these other tactics take on even more importance. All the more reason to master them now.

--Lisa LaCour is vice president of marketing at Outbrain, a content discovery platform on a mission to help readers find the most interesting content online. Follow her on Twitter at @llacour.

[Image: Flickr user Sodanie Chea]

Add New Comment

5 Comments

  • Nick Beaumont

    Nice article. I especially agree with the curate part. By cherry-picking the best content out there, you can create a trust with your customers as a thought leader in your topic.

    I think another important job is to create an editorial calendar to plan in advance when you will post. Here's a few more ideas: http://nbcontent.com/2013/10/0...

  • Anthony Reardon

    Lol! "This is not the greatest song in the world. No, this is just a tribute". -Tenacious D

    I usually find reasons to object to "content marketing" solutions, but I thought this article was profoundly good. Nice job!

    This is what I have found too, that there are tons of people out there saying "content is king" but there is almost universally a catch- a sort of desperation to make a sale for some platform, software, or service. It can be hard to quantify what is wrong with these propositions, but I think it usually reduces to some manner of applying traditional advertising models or over-reliance on the automated efficiency of technology. You don't do your business any good by just blindly buying into the hype and going through the motions. I think you have to develop a practical understanding about what you are going to do online, focus on what makes sense for your company, and accept this might involve changing the way you think- even requiring you to put some serious work into it.  

    So I often say it's not so much the technology, but about the people that use it. Now if you understand that, then you can make better decisions on how to apply technology. You can easily be asking the wrong questions if your premise is that "digital" media is just an alternative to print, radio, and television media. The same goes for "social" media if you think of it merely as a direct and viral distribution mechanism for lead generation. You do better if you first think about the customer perspective- to put a priority on optimizing the end-user experience. Most people don't go online with the intention of being advertised, marketed, and sold on something. They go online mostly to serve their own interests. This implies a minor adjustment in paradigm that can be the major difference- like instead of making your media all about you (predisposition to exclusivity) to make it more about them (being open to inclusivity).

    Too much to like about this article, and not surprisingly liked what I saw on Outbrain too.

    Best, Anthony

  • JessieCoan

    Great article! And you're spot on with including curation into the mix. Using 3rd-party content to help tell your story not only provides credibility but additional perspectives and helps push you as a thought leader. I wanted to share an ebook I published that oulines a few more brands who are using curation successfully - this includes Intel, IBM and Adobe - check it out. http://www.curata.com/resource... Thanks!

  • Anthony Reardon

    Would have but I fundamentally disagree with pre-registration access. If you made it immediately downloadable and had a compelling call-to-action within in it- that would be better IMHO.