Anybody can produce content. A Facebook post, a blurb for your new brochure or a simple set of instructions for your new product are all forms of content.
All things say something about who you are as an individual, business or organisation. Through their substance and their style, they communicate messages to your customers. Your content is often the first substantial interaction consumers will have with your brand, so getting it right is essential.
Of course, with an unlimited budget and resources it is easy to have a killer content marketing strategy underpinned by an endless stream of well-researched, data-driven content that drives engagement with customers and increases sales.
Red Bull is rumoured to have spent more than $50 million on a single content initiative in 2012 (the guy who free-dived from space) but received multiples of its spend in free media coverage.
In the real world, time and money is tight. You’re expected to turn water into wine while spreading your marketing budget across an ever-increasing number of platforms.
So where should you be spending your content budget to get maximum bang for your buck?
What content works?
Before working out where to allocate your money, let’s take a look at what types of content actually work. A landmark study released earlier this year – Content Marketing Australia 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends – identified the 10 most “effective” tactics used by content marketers in Australia.
The report shows in-person events are the most effective tactic (65% last year v 72% this year). The effectiveness ratings for all the other tactics shown on the chart also increased over last year, except for case studies, which stayed the same.
The greatest increases in effectiveness were for social media content and videos, both of which increased by 17 percentage points (from 53% to 70%).
Events are great, but expensive
In-person events consistently poll as the most effective content marketing tactic. The CMI study lists the most important B2B metrics for content marketers as sales lead quality, sales, and higher conversion rates. Events help with all three of those metrics, just like great content does. But why are events more effective?
The simple reason is face-to-face conversations make it easier to build more meaningful relationships with prospects, potential partners and existing customers. By representing your brand in person, you can go beyond the bullet points of what your company does, and have a more meaningful dialogue with your audience.
However, the resources required to initiate this face-to-face experience can be prohibitive. Tried to book a stand at any trade show recently? They are getting ridiculously expensive and demand more and more time to execute effectively.
When considering the cost, not just financial, events can be a major commitment, and are not feasible for many small businesses or those on a tight budget.
Social is cheap, but time-consuming
It costs nothing to set up a Facebook page and start gathering followers. Set up a Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram and you’ve just about completed a social media full house.
However, to do any social media marketing effectively requires a large investment in time. It is a grind that requires discipline and persistence. Posting every day, or multiple times a day, involves creating and sharing your own content, researching and curating other people’s content and then responding and engaging with your audience.
The real payoff may not happen for months, or years, as you slowly build your audience. This audience will be incredibly valuable to your business, eventually. Hopefully you’ll be around to enjoy it. In the meantime, adopt a light touch to social media and focus on other content pieces that won’t suck all of your time.
Video is best, but still pretty expensive
Video is massive. It is quickly becoming the main weapon in any marketer’s social or content marketing toolbox. If you’re not convinced, the stats speak for themselves.
- Facebook users watch more than 4 billion video clips a day.
- 64% of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies in the near future.
- By 2019, 80% of all internet traffic will be video.
Jamming hard up against this opportunity is the clear challenge of producing video content in a simple, cost-effective way. For most small business, the days of hiring a camera operator, sound guy, producer and editor to produce 60 seconds of video for $30,000 are well and truly in the past. Thankfully, like many industries, there are lots of smart people out there finding ways to let companies produce relatively affordable video content. Try biteable.com, Shootsta or BigReviewTV.
Blogs (like this one) are the best value content you can produce. Full stop.
A well-written, insightful and engaging blog is the best value content marketing you can do. If you have a small budget, spend it all producing great blogs, once or twice a month, and sharing those blogs.
If you are a competent, proficient writer (nobody expects you to be Charles Dickens, but they do expect proper sentence structure) you can probably push out a good blog in a couple of hours. If you are not so great, there are plenty of professionals out there who can help, for a small fee.
The return on investment for a great blog can be massive. Here are just four reasons why blogs are the most effective content marketing tool:
- If underpinned by strong SEO, a blog can drive more traffic to your website.
- With a strong call to action, blogs help to convert traffic to leads.
- Blogs are foundational content for almost all other marketing – online, social and direct.
- Blogs keep driving results long after they have been written. The graphic below demonstrates the compounding effect of blogging.
So next time you are faced with a decision about where to spend your marketing budget, sit down and write a blog.