Content Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

On July 10, 2013, Cyndie Shafstall (Founder and CEM of Spider Trainers) and I spoke at our second “Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget” webcast—this time we focused on the topic of Content Marketing. While you can still listen to the webcast, the event triggered many questions from participants, and I thought it might be helpful to address the most popular topics in this column.

On July 10, 2013, Cyndie Shafstall (Founder and CEM of Spider Trainers) and I spoke at our second “Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget” webcast—this time we focused on the topic of Content Marketing. While you can still listen to the webcast, the event triggered many questions from participants, and I thought it might be helpful to address the most popular topics in this column.

Q: How do you keep regularly scheduled content fresh (and keep me, the marketing director, from burning out)?

A: Commitment to regularly publishing content can be a daunting assignment for any business—large or small. To be perceived as an expert, you need to publish expert content.

Sit in a room with three or four others in your company (ideally the sales folks), and stand at the whiteboard and ask for ideas on any relevant topic to your industry. To get the conversation going, ask the sales folks the top 5 questions they each get asked during the sales process. While each question may not be fodder for content, you’ll quickly see a few themes emerging. I usually sit with clients and after a 30-minute discussion have over 100 topics on our whiteboard!

Then organize those topics into the most logical groupings: Topics that will have fairly short answers/discussion are probably most appropriate for a blog, while topics that require a lot of background, and supporting charts/graphs, are best used in a whitepaper. If your first meeting only yields 10 topics, hold the meeting every quarter and ask your team to keep their eye out on what topics interest them—and probe them for their areas of expertise. You’ll quickly discover that there are many possible topics available; you just have to use your journalistic instincts to ferret them out of staffers.

Q: What’s the difference (and how do you leverage) a blog vs. a whitepaper vs. other marketing content? And how should you decide which method to use when?

A: This is probably the question I get asked the most. So let me try to address each channel:

  • Blogs: Not every company needs (or should have) a blog; If you don’t have an industry thought leader in your organization (or somebody you can position as a thought leader who will let you put words in their mouth), you may want to hold off creating a blog in the first place. If you do, post blog topics that are timely and relative to your industry. Read trade publications and identify the “hot topic” du jour, and blog thoughts about that topic. Attend industry conferences, gather information from other speakers’ presentations and blog about what you liked and didn’t like about what they were saying. If you run a travel company, you can certainly blog about “hot” travel destinations—but even better, blog about “how to” at the destination … like “How to throw a wedding in Thailand” or “Best surfing vacations in Mexico.” You need to think like a journalist who is writing a story that others will want to read.
  • Whitepapers or Educational Primers: You can expand a blog topic into a more robust whitepaper or primer (a whitepaper provides a strategic point of view on a topic; a primer educates by taking the reader through the basics of a topic). Whitepapers should include quotes from outside sources to give it credibility and value. Primers can be simply “How to” guides that teach your audience the ABC’s. But be careful NOT to chest pound within your content. A whitepaper is supposed to be just that—a document, written by a 3rd party, on a particular topic of interest to readers in your space. It is NOT an advertorial for your product or service.

I carry around a notebook, and when I see/read/think about an idea for my blog, I jot it down so, when the time comes to sit down and write, I have a number of ideas to stimulate my thinking. Since I’m committed to Target Marketing to write this blog every 2 weeks, I’ve already got a notebook full of ideas!