For a small to mid-sized business content marketing often seems like a daunting, looming task. It’s time-intensive, requires creativity and commitment, and often times it’s left on the back burner as other pressing matters require your attention. But content can, and does, matter when it comes to creating amazing buying experiences for your customers. Luckily there are thousands of affordable tools and tricks to use when it comes to creating the content you want for your brand (without breaking your budget).
Don’t get carried away; choose up to 3 formats at a time that you want to master. Once you are effective at regularly creating those formats, then consider expanding your content creation further. Remember, your resources are limited so choose those formats based on the biggest gaps in your content experiences.
Not sure what those gaps are? Visit my prior post on conducting a content experience audit for your business.
Let’s get started!
#1 Blog Posts
Maintaining a blog is a low-cost way to create content experiences for your potential customers and clients. This, however, is a time-consuming option as it requires regular publishing to be successful. Plan to write at least one blog post per week for your business and diversify the types of posts you write to include:
- Opinion and thought leadership pieces
- Industry or product how-tos
- Lists aimed at helping prospects learn and succeed
- Product or service success stories from past customers/clients.
- Industry trend spotlights, or news.
Don’t have time to write yourself? That’s a common problem among small to mid-sized businesses. Inexpensive alternatives to writing the content yourself include: compensating employees to write for you or using a freelance service like Upwork.
Source: The Wistia Learning Center
Infographics are really expensive to create, right? Think again–you may be able to visualize your ideas at a cost that doesn’t break the bank.
Infographics definitely can be pricey if they include a ton of custom design work, and while that is usually worth the cost in quality, it’s not always in your budget or realistic for your business to scale. Consider a templated alternative that can help you visually illustrate:
- Product specifications
- How-to do something relevant to your industry or business
- Industry trends or history
- Comparisons of your product or service to others
- Decision trees for prospects to reach a conclusion or decision
That’s right! There are affordable ways to create eBooks too. Plan to put the time in to create the content yourself, and then use a templated solution to format your write-up. As with blog posts, if you’re short on time you can also find a freelancer that can write-up content for you (but that adds cost, and you likely know your industry better than a freelancer may).
Some solutions for eBook formatting and creation are Lucidpress, and also again, Canva. You will see Canva all over this post because it’s my #1 go-to tool for visual creation on the fly.
Whether it’s a series of webinars, training videos or even just thought leadership interviews or musings, a video is an effective format for engagement. Luckily, there are many tools out there that allow you to create polished video content without the need to spend thousands of dollars on a production crew. Most of the time video taken with an iPhone and a tripod works just fine. For added quality get a clip-on microphone and Voila! Think about creating:
- Product demonstrations
- Explainer videos
Did you know you can get your podcast on Spotify? I’m surprised to say, I didn’t — until I looked it up. If you like to talk about the ins-and-outs of your industry, a podcast may be a great way to grow your audience.
Make sure to purchase a fair quality microphone, and plan out your podcast topics in advance; meaning rehearsing them ahead of recording!
I only recommend podcasts to those who genuinely enjoy educating others, and are willing to commit to keeping their podcast regularly produced, and minimally branded. Aside from your sponsorship of the programming, and creation of it, it shouldn’t be a sales pitch for your business.
#6 Worksheets or Templates
If you have Word and Excel then you’re capable of creating this content format. Have a template you use to accomplish a task? Have a worksheet to help you organize your ideas? Share it with your customers. They likely are experiencing similar challenges.
Offering tools to help your customers with their day-to-day, especially as it pertains to your industry is often underutilized and a great way for your business to stand out. Ask yourself:
- Would a checklist help my customer make a decision?
- Are there any regularly repeated processes I can make a template for in my industry?
As for creating polished checklists and templates…Have you met my friend, Canva?
#7 Product or Service Catalogs
Having a visual content asset to hand over to prospects considering your products or services is a necessity. If you don’t already have something like this, then consider creating a product or services catalog. This format should include topics such as:
- A company overview
- Product and service overviews
- Product and service specifications
- Customer testimonials of your products and services
- Where or how to move forward with purchasing your products or services
But, no really, you should be using Canva. Also, you may want to format this in a way that can be used as a Google Slide Deck or PowerPoint for pitches and sales calls.
#8 Case Studies or Use Cases
Give you prospects ideas on how they can use your products or services to improve their business. The easiest way to do this is by putting together use cases or case studies on how past clients or customers reached their goals by working with you. Be sure to include:
- An overview of the customer’s challenges
- An overview of how your product/service helped solve those challenges
- Success metrics that showcase end results and outcomes
As for affordable creation options, Xtensio has some nice case study templates, and of course, Canva and Lucidpress are also great options.
Source: HubSpot use case of Care.com
#9 Product or Service FAQ Pages
What questions do you get asked constantly about your product or services? Chances are if you can identify trends in questions then you’re not doing a good enough job answering those questions on your website. Create an FAQ page about your products and services– go one step further and create an FAQ page about your industry and common questions that arise in your space too.
Not sure where to start? If you have a WordPress website then there are many FAQ plugins that you can use to format your FAQ page easily.
#10 Pricing Calculators or Cost Calculators
If you have a product or service that has standardized pricing based on usage, tiers, or other factors then it can be difficult to provide pricing transparency on your website. You need to provide ranges, and not be too diagnostic with your displayed pricing. That’s where a pricing calculator or cost estimator comes in handy.
Now, this sounds pricey…I mean developing that kind of logic, and creating something that has an ounce of good user experience. That’s impossible, right?
Wrong, there are actually tools you can use to build these types of calculators without needing an engineering team.
Having captivating presentations in the age of distraction… (hold on I just got a text message)…what was I saying?
Oh, yeah–presentations need to be breathtaking in order to hold people’s attention. Luckily, it’s not hard or expensive to create great experiences for your:
- Presentations for speaking opportunities
- Sales decks
- Webinar decks
- Internal training decks
As for the options; there is one top of mind right now that stands out. The first time I saw someone using beautiful.ai to create a presentation it made me stop and say “what IS that?” Try it out. You won’t be disappointed, and because the product is rather young, it’s also free for now.
Source: SEMRush, Content is King, Are You? Quiz
#12 Surveys & Quizzes
One great way to collect data about your industry, your customers or a topic relevant to your customers is through surveys or quizzes. The main difference between the two being:
- A survey is typically a one-way exchange where you are asking for information. Survey participants provide that information without expectation of anything in return.
- A quiz is a two-way exchange. The quiz participant provides information and then is scored or sorted in some way. The quiz maker provides an outcome or answer that helps the quiz taker.
Each can be useful in gaining feedback, insights, or primary-source data about your customers or prospects. Also, this can be a great way to pre-qualify your leads as they enter your lead nurture program to better personalize content to them. This all might sound complicated, and expensive, but once you have an idea for a survey or a quiz, then creating that asset isn’t all that hard or expensive with the right tools.
One solution that I have found to be powerful is Typeform. I’ve been using it for a couple weeks and it’s really simple to learn.
#13 Customer Testimonials
Asking your customers for their feedback and opinions can be an excellent, low cost, way to create fantastic content. Tell stories about your customers’ successes using your product or engaging with your business. Consider asking your customers to help you create:
- Product or service reviews
- Short, and sweet customer testimonials to use on your website and other collateral
- Co-branded blog posts about use cases
- Co-branded pages with success stories and metrics
Ideally, this shouldn’t cost you much aside from your time & some customer collaboration.
Source: Animoto email campaign
One of the most effective ways to get in front of your customers with relevant messages is email. Your email marketing program can be as simple, or complex as you need, but some must-have email formats are:
- Transactional emails and reminders
- Product or Service Special Offers
- Event Invites
- Post-download drip campaigns
Choosing a platform for sending email can be overwhelming. There are a lot of options. There are full-scale marketing automation platforms like HubSpot that are great for growing mid-size businesses which need complex workflows (it’s my favorite platform to work in, but can be pricey for the average SMB).
As a small business owner, your best bet for getting the most functionality for a price-point that is realistic for you is Mailchimp. I’ve found it to have everything you needto get started with simple automation, landing pages and forms.
#15 Social Posts
Last, but not least social publishing is a fantastic way to extend your content visibility beyond your owned properties (like your website and blog). Social publishing is a content format that requires an art and strategy of its own. Here are some post-worthy things to consider:
- Share all new blog posts
- Share recently published blog posts
- Share old blog posts that are still relevant
- Post about industry news
- Share a post from an industry publication
- Ask your followers to take your surveys and quizzes
Also important to note: social media visibility for organic posts is extremely low. Consider boosting your posts, or running ad campaigns to increase the likelihood that your audience and new prospects might see your content.
Feel Empowered to Create Your Own Content
It can be intimidating to dive into content creation as an SMB owner, but you’re not without help. The number of tools on the market to help business owners, and small marketing teams, become creators is growing every day.