Statistics show that a marketing budget can take up as little as 1% and up top 30% of sales across industries.
I don't know about you but that's quite the chunk of change. Not to mention the fact that if you're running a small business or a startup, a third of your revenue spent on marketing is a tough pill to swallow.
It doesn't have to be that way though.
For companies doing hundreds of thousands, or millions, of sales every year then that gives them a hefty marketing budget. But what about smaller companies?
Startups that are pre-revenue, or small businesses that are trying to compete with bigger players. For companies in this bucket, when it comes to building your business and brand you’ll have to juggle between sparing no expense and pinching every penny you’ve got. It begs questions as to whether it is possible, or worth it, to compete with companies that have deeper pockets. Are there even cost effective content marketing strategies anymore?
Fortunately, it is possible.
What is marketing other than telling a story. It has to be a story that resonates, otherwise it won't stick, but at it's core marketing is about telling a story that people cannot ignore. It takes work, but good content has a way of rising to the top. Thanks to Google's algorithm and the practice of SEO, focusing on creating quality content is the biggest differentiator your business has. Your design and content must be top notch to jump ahead of your competitors, fortunately, building a brand that resonates with your target market doesn’t have to be expensive – it just requires being smart with your budget.
In fact, I would dare to venture that you can build an effective marketing strategy for free (or at least just a few dollars a month).
This might seem like a silly question, but for the company that is not investing in their website or creating content, it's a valid one.
The purpose marketing serves is to drive awareness and spur business growth. If you want to grow you need to reach out to/be found by new prospects and draw them in. That’s inbound marketing in a nutshell.
You may think you work in an industry based on referrals and word of mouth, but let's face it: when you are prospecting and your future clients can't find you on the web or see you have no social presence the only word that will come to mind is "irrelevant". We don't want to be irrelevant, and I know you don't want to be either.
In fact as small business/startup you’re just as much a salesperson as you are a marketer. Without a marketing strategy in place you will rely entirely on the fact that you hope your prospects come back and bring their friends. If you ask me, that’s a good way to fail at reaching your quarterly goals. Or any measure of success, for that matter.
Fortunately, marketing doesn’t mean breaking the bank. As long as you have the time to tell a story, and it's the right story, you can succeed. You could plunk money down on an advertisement, or give money to Facebook hand over fist–but none of that is necessary.
Your own website is an excellent place to start when it comes to marketing, it's just a matter of knowing how to leverage it.
If you have a website on any standard CMS (Wordpress, HubSpot, SquareSpace, etc) then you have blogging capability built into your website. That means you can start writing blog posts to appear on a blog page at no extra cost. Most content systems even offer templates to style your blog for free, ensuring it looks clear and professional.
Blogging is one of the most effective ways to improve your site's rank on Google, position yourself as a thought leader, and bring in new leads. The more you blog the more pages Google will index for your website, and the more content you have on hand for Google to serve up in web searches. What's more, blog posts serve as handy pieces of content to share on social media or in a newsletter to engage your audience and fans.
Speaking of sharing on social, let's get to the next cost effective content marketing channel.
Social media is a goldmine when it comes to building a brand and following. That's the bread and butter of positioning your business as a thought leader and the best part is you can do it all for free. You have the world at your finger tips and all you have to do is reach out and make the effort to connect.
Yes, your social strategy can be benefited by the use of ads (especially Facebook which has seen decreases in organic reach for business profiles) however you can make excellent progress for free as well.
By producing quality content you can reach thousands, if not millions, of new people around the world, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. By being smart and strategic you can grow your fanbase, giving you a larger audience than ever before to connect to and share content with. That's who your followers are, they're your fanbase. When you think of fans you may think of sports teams, or band followers, but companies have fans too - their customers.
At a minimum you must have a profile on the major networks set up for your business.
Once again, you may be tempted to run a paid campaign to promote your account–don’t feel that you have to. Ads are a great way to accelerate your growth and reach, but nothing can replace the value of forming a meaningful connection.
You may think that email is old fashioned, but trust us it’s most certainly not dead.
Email may seem like a tired old hat in some respects but it is still a powerful tool to promote your blog and one that I feel is terribly underused. People check email constantly, so be sure to have an email list so reading your blog can be part of every subscriber’s daily, or weekly, routine. Given that, it's no surprise that email marketing nets an excellent ROI. In fact, studies show every $1 spent nets $40 - that's a cost effective marketing ploy if I've ever seen one.
The best part: you can begin email marketing for free.
There are a host of email tools at your disposal:
Just to name a few (seriously, Google ‘free email software’ and dozens will pop up…).
You can create an account, start collecting subscribers and contacts from your website, and run targeted and effective marketing campaigns to move them down your marketing funnel.
Remember that the effectiveness of a marketing strategy is not dictated by the money spent on it, so much as the impact it makes. You can spend all the money in the world, but nothing can replace the value that lies in adding value to your prospects, understanding them, and telling a story that resonates.
Ultimately as a marketer your job is to serve your prospects, delight your customers, and add value. Armed with our cost effective content marketing strategies to build your brand there is nothing stopping you from achieving these missions and growing.
Seriously, free marketing is powerful and easier than ever thanks to social media and free apps that help facilitate site growth. So don’t spend the big bucks and see them go down the drain, instead get your hands dirty and dive in headfirst and watch your business grow and reach new prospects.