Content, content, content! It’s the Marcia Brady of marketing, getting all the attention these days. You’ve been told content will help you engage new customers, breed loyalty among current ones and drive sales. It is the end-all-be-all of your marketing strategy. Answers to all your marketing problems lie in content. And not just any content. It needs to be the best content — the most hilarious videos, the most thought-provoking podcasts, the most intriguing infographics — and you need a lot of it.
So you start reaching out to agencies, writers, designers, illustrators, photographers and videographers, and that’s when you realize there is a reason why a lot of smaller brands aren’t doing content marketing: It’s expensive.
Yes, a full-scale, multimedia content blitz is expensive. But businesses of all sizes can do something, and do it well. You just need to use your budget as strategically as possible.
Start with a Plan
Part of making the most of your content marketing budget is having a comprehensive plan. Without a plan, you could miss opportunities to save money, for instance, by assigning overlapping topics to the same writer at a slightly lower fee or reimagining a piece of content to get more traction out of it rather than writing something new. And not having a plan could mean you end up with content that doesn’t support your marketing efforts and is, therefore, a waste of money.
If you’re new to content planning, need help with story idea generation or simply don’t have the time or inclination to do a content plan justice, consider bringing in help. It might take up a large chunk of your budget, but it also could be so worth it. See what’s involved in our content plans.
Of course, not everyone needs help planning their content. If you have a plan and just need some guidance on how to save money while executing it, you’re ahead of the curve. Since content typically starts with copy, that will be your first opportunity to save. Here are a few ideas for getting the most out of your writing budget.
Do as much as you can, and then hire for the right skills.
Even if you don’t fancy yourself a writer, you can write. You wouldn’t have your job if you couldn’t. So get your ideas out on (virtual) paper. That’s the most important step right there. Then bring in assistance. Send your draft to a writer to round out your thoughts into an article.
Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and your draft will turn out pretty good. In that case, you can send the piece to an editor for finessing. Or if you really impress yourself and like the piece as is and just want someone to look it over for grammar, punctuation and style, send it to a proofreader. All of these options will cost less than hiring a copywriter to start from scratch.
Be smart about assignment letters.
If you decide to hire a copywriter from the get-go, make sure you are clear about your expectations and communicate them via a creative brief or assignment letter. A lot of writers will gladly accept project rates for assignments as long as you are clear about the project’s scope and the number of provisions is limited. But if your expectations aren’t clear or you plan to go back and forth requesting multiple rounds of changes, a writer will charge an hourly rate, and that might be less cost-effective for you.
Don’t wait until the last minute to assign.
Not knowing what you want isn’t the only thing that will drive up the cost of copy. Another is a short turnaround time. A lot of copywriters have standard turnaround times and charge rush fees when they’re asked to work faster. Even on a retainer, you might see added fees for expedited writing or editing, or weekend work, for example.
While it may not always be possible (things come up, we know), try your best to plan ahead and assign copy with a reasonable lead time so that all members of the team have enough time to produce good work.
Hire good writers who get it right the first time.
No writer is perfect. But certainly, some are better than others. If you put together a solid assignment letter and you hire a proficient writer, you should get copy you’re satisfied with — at least for the most part — the first time. And getting it right the first time means fewer rounds of revisions, which means a lower cost for you. Plus, it saves time.
To ensure you choose the right writer, ask for samples. But instead of final clips, ask for a few unedited manuscripts so you can see exactly what you can expect to be turned in to you. (Skilled editors can make mediocre and even poor writers sound good!) For more tips, check out this piece.
Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. Strategically.
When you take the time to create thoughtful content, get your money’s worth out of it by using it more than once. And we don’t mean just posting the same article over and over or including it in every edition of your e-newsletter. You need to be strategic. Again, it helps if you have a plan for repurposing before the copy is even assigned.
Could a series of blog posts be combined into an e-book, for example? Would the subject matter expert you’re going to interview for a white paper be charismatic enough to feature in a podcast? If so, record the interview (ask first!). And, of course, consider all the ways your blog, podcast or video channel can make for social media fodder.
Taking all six of these steps will ensure you get the most bang for your copywriting buck. Just remember, you never want to sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to content. A few thoughtful pieces will serve you better than loads of subpar drivel. Check out Why Content Creators Should Focus on Quality Over Quantity Every Time for more.