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.
[Image: Flickr user Sodanie Chea]