Effective content marketing has to cost some money, right? You always end up needing the advanced features on a marketing tool, or help creating your visual content, or some other task that costs money.
There’s no denying even a small budget can go a long way to scale your strategy. But you really can start content marketing right now with a zero budget and see results from your efforts.
Here’s a crash course on how to really do content marketing with zero budget.
Step 1: Pick your platforms
First, you need to decide where you’re going to publish and promote your content. Assuming you already have a website, your blog is the perfect place. But that’s far from the end of your options. There’s blogging platforms like LinkedIn Pulse or Medium, and a ton of social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Vimeo, etc.
You need to pick your platforms first, as they’ll ultimately impact what kind of content you create. For YouTube and Vimeo you’ll need video content, for Instagram and Pinterest you’ll need visual content, etc.
Start by Googling “social media demographics.” You’ll find all sorts of research on the kind of people that use the different social platforms. Choose the ones where your target audience spends the most time.
Step 2: Create your content
Now you’re ready to create content — all by yourself because you have no budget. Start by writing and publishing blog posts. You can use free stock images for your visual elements. Here are a few places to find them:
If you need to create infographics or other visuals for social media, Canva has all the features you need to do it yourself with no artistry skills whatsoever. Of course, if you want access to premium templates, you’ll have to pay.
If you plan on creating content for YouTube, Biteable is the tool you need. With it, you can create videos (animated or otherwise) and publish them to YouTube for free.
Step 3: Promote your content
Next you can publish and promote your content on social media. Here’s how to best promote your content without spending money:
You can automate this for free using the basic version of Buffer app. It allows you to schedule up to 10 social posts at a time to share on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram. If you want to schedule more posts or share to Pinterest, you’ll need to upgrade for $10/month.
Use your social media platforms to search for relevant hashtags related to your niche. On Instagram, for example, you can simply type in a #keyword and it will show you related hashtags. Use these in your social posts to broaden your reach.
Join niche conversations
Start participating in relevant Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or relevant boards on Pinterest to reach a smaller, more engaged audience with your content.
Follow your audience
Strategically grow your social following to increase your content’s reach. You can use the free version of a tool like ManageFlitter to search for and follow Twitter accounts related to specific keywords in your niche.
Step 4: Start capturing leads
Once you do start attracting traffic back to your site, you need a way to capture their contact information, so you can send them marketing emails and eventually convert them into paying customers.
MailChimp offers a forever free plan that allows you to send up to 12,000 marketing emails a month, as long as you have less than 2,000 subscribers. You can also create custom lead capture forms use a lot of other cool features to optimize your email campaigns.
Step 5: Analyze your efforts
Of course, you’ll want to measure how your audience responds to your content so you can create more of the good content and less of the bad content. Buffer doesn’t offer analytics on their free plan (just link tracking), but your social media platforms may offer their own free insights. Twitter Analytics is free, and you can get information about post reach right from your Facebook Business Page. The free version of MailChimp does offer reports and A/B testing tools to optimize your lead capture and email marketing efforts.
Step 6: Scale your strategy
Scaling your strategy is probably the hardest part of content marketing with no budget. To do this, you need more content, and there’s only so much you can create by yourself.
But there are a few ways to start doing this without spending money:
Repurpose your content
Instead of always starting from square one to create more content, try getting more mileage out of the content you already have. You can do this by updating and republishing old content (e.g. Update a 2017 ultimate guide for 2018) or republish content in a new format. Turn an old YouTube video into a slidedeck, or an old blog post into an infographic, etc. Then you can start the promotion process over again.
Encourage user-generated content
Once you’ve built an audience, they can help you create content as well. For example, you can send out a survey to your email list and publish their answers in a blog post. Or you can run a photo/video contest on social media and publish the best submissions. Encouraging user-generated content is a smart idea no matter if you’re strapped for content or not, since it’s an opportunity to engage.
Start accepting guest posts
Get other marketers to create more content for you by accepting guest posts on your blog. No matter what your niche is, people are looking to network and reach a new audience through guest blogging. All you have to do is publish a guest post submissions page on your site and the requests will start coming in.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible to do content marketing with no budget — it simply isn’t true. As long as you create great content that speaks to your audience’s interests and take the time to promote it properly, you don’t need a single dollar to start seeing results from your content marketing efforts.
And the great part is, once you do get even a small return-on-investment, that will be all you need to start investing in tools and strategies that will really scale your efforts, such as hiring a team of content creators and using paid promotion. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to success with zero budget.