Is content marketing free advertising for your business?

Is content marketing a cheap or even free way to get your business in front of potential clients? Running a business involves a lot of costs. Sometimes you might feel that as fast as money comes in, it’s going out the door again and not necessarily into your pocket. Most of us go into business to make a profit and naturally, we’re eager to spot opportunities to save some cash. Is content marketing free advertising for your business?

Well, no. Even if you do it all yourself, there is still a cost to content marketing. It’s taking up your time and that has a price tag attached. What’s your hourly rate? How many hours a week are you spending creating content and then sharing that to your email list and on social media? If you don’t have a set hourly rate, then what could you achieve for a paying client in that time and how much would you charge them?

A person working on a laptop while writing on a notebook in a coffee shop window. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

With everything in your business, including the work people pay you for, it’s important to know how much time you’re spending. You might be surprised when you add it up. I’ve retired services which didn’t make any sense when I looked at the time (including headspace) they involved.

Content marketing isn’t free but there are ways to keep down costs

Make a content plan

What are you going to cover with your content? How often are you going to produce new content? What are you going to do with the material you have created? Having a plan which is tied to your business objectives and produces content your clients want to see means you’re not wasting time creating fluff or material that never gets eyeballs. Don’t create anything which doesn’t merit being on your website.

A planner headed 'this week' on a table with a pen and a camera. Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Identify what content you can create quickly and easily in-house

Are you the kind of person who can knock out a blog post in less than a couple of hours? Or are you able to speak on video for a minute or two without hesitation, repetition, or deviation and come across well? Can you create videos without spending hours editing them? If so, go with that.

Decide what someone on your team can do for you

Who is going to write the articles or the scripts? Who is going to edit them? Who will find photos and gifs? Who will upload them and who will distribute them? All of these things take time and that time doesn’t have to be yours. If you have a team member who would be better at doing any or all of the above, then delegate it.

What if you don’t want to do it in-house?

Content creation is a skill and it takes time. If any of the above makes your heart sink (or you’ve realised it’s taking you at least 4 hours a week and as a result you’re still at your desk on Friday night) then consider outsourcing. There are lots of content creators who can help you.

You can’t outsource content marketing entirely. At the very least you need to provide a brief, which needs to be based on a plan. You may well need to provide material or take part in filming.

The best content marketing is original. You want to work with someone who is going to bring out your stories and expertise, the things which matter to your clients, the reasons why they will want to work with you. If they’re going to do that, you’re going to need to give them some of your time.

There are different skills involved in content creation and content marketing and you may need more than one person to work with you. For instance, does your website have a good user experience? Have you optimised it for search engines? It’s no good if someone clicks a link to your content and leaves immediately because your website doesn’t work for them, or they can’t tell where to go next.

If you are creating video, a good editor will take your footage and make it stand out. Likewise, a podcast editor will improve sound quality and deal with any recording mishaps where you’ve stumbled over your words, or needed to say something again.

Make your content work hard for you

Look at all the time and effort you have put into content creation. You want people to enjoy it. Don’t just put it on your website, or Youtube, or a podcasting platform and hope someone will stumble across it. Have a plan for distribution. Where do your clients hang out online?

Think about all the different ways you can make use of your content. You can turn it into shorter posts, you can make it more visually appealing, you can transform text to video, and create articles from videos or podcast episodes.

You can do all this in house or you can ask a social media manager to work with you. Social media is not a one-way broadcasting channel. Your social media manager can help you identify conversations to join online, or act on your behalf.

A woman looking at her smartphone while working at a desk with a laptop and notepad. Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

Go faster with advertising. Content marketing is a long game, you want to give it at least 6 months to see what traffic you’re getting and what the feedback is. It’s not an overnight solution. You can put your content directly in front of people with ads. You’ll need an advertising budget and a budget for paying a specialist to create and manage your ads.

Is content marketing worth investing in?

If it’s done well then yes. According to Orbit Media Studios’ 8th annual blogging survey, published in 2021, “the bloggers who put in 10x efforts are winning.” And the Content Marketing Institute reports in its 2021 insights into B2B content marketing that 73% of respondents are using content marketing to nurture subscribers/audiences/leads. Meanwhile 64% are using it to generate sales/revenue.

Content marketing enables you to attract organic traffic to your website, that’s visitors who haven’t come in via advertising. You can answer their questions, show your personality and let them get to know you, which builds trust. They’re going to be ready to buy from you when they get in touch because your content has enabled them to do their homework.

A woman reading at a desk. There's a laptop to the side and books in front of her including Linchpins by Seth Godin. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat on Unsplash

Before you start your content plan, check in with your existing clients. How did they hear about you? What kind of content do they like? What online platforms do they use? Do some online research. What would you type into a search engine if you were looking for a company that does what you do? Use that information to kick off your plan.

Let me know in the comments, are you making use of content marketing in your business? What do you talk about?

Picture of Rachel Extance

Rachel Extance

Award-winning journalist and blogger. I help service-based business owners communicate who they are, what they do, and why. If you struggle to talk about yourself on your website or your content marketing, get in touch with me.

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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. The Story Cave Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.