How do you feed the beast without going broke?

I’ve written in this blog previously about the extra demands on your business time created by new technology. One of the biggest pressures is the pressure to publish.

Rebecca Lieb, the former chief editor of ClickZ and head of information merchant Econsultancy in the US, said to me in an interview, “Brands are not just businesses; they’re now media companies.” As a result, she said, all businesses now have to think like an editor.

That means you need to stop viewing your marketing with a campaign mindset (with a beginning, middle, and end) and adopt a long-term perpetual strategy.

Constantly changing content is a necessary feature of this approach. Your online presence – your website, your social media activities, etc. – is now, use as one of my favorite phrases, “the beast that must be fed”.

I make part of my living out of helping large organizations “feed the beast”, while some companies hire their own in-house team of writers and editors to produce search-friendly content for their various online outlets. But most small businesses don’t have a big budget (or any budget at all, in some cases) available to feed this hungry mouth. What can you do?

You need to work smart and plan how you will feed the beast effectively and efficiently. Thinking like an editor, you will want to develop an annual editorial calendar for creating new content for your site, as well as publishing regular features and “sticky stuff”, quirky things that keep people coming back to your site.

So what types of interesting content can small business produce without breaking the bank? Here are a few examples:

• Publish ‘Top 10’ lists – e.g., top 10 signs that it’s time for a new.

• Set up Google Alerts on keywords relating to your business and write quick summaries of interesting, relevant stories that turn up on those alerts.

• Find a way of hooking into a current news topic – e.g., how the carbon tax will affect the price of widgets.

• Reprint articles from other sites (with permission, of course) or syndicate or license content from news sites

• Create videos – despite what you think, this can be done at a low cost (read this earlier article for more info)

• Ask your customers to send in their questions about your product or service and post an article answering each question.

• Interview relevant, interesting people – these could be people within your company.

• Create polls and quizzes and write a story about the results – e.g., if you sell paint, ask people their favorite color for a bedroom

• Promote your latest offers – if you’re advertising something offline, publish the details online as well – it counts as new content. Better yet, create offers that are only available online, to see what sort of traffic you’re getting.

• Produce how-to articles that involve your product or service – “how-to” is arguably the most frequent phrase typed into Google.

Relevant, frequently updated content will drive people to your site. But also be prepared to surprise people and instill some humor into your brand to keep people coming back. A textbook example of this is Blendtec, an industrial blender that used YouTube to extend its reach to retail customers. The company founder donned a white coat and started blending objects such as iPhones, golf clubs, and blocks of wood to show off its product. 150 million downloads later Blendtec has a firmly established retail business for its product, as well as taking credit for introducing the phrase “Will it blend?” into the vernacular.

Remember that Google doesn’t distinguish results by the size of the budget behind a website. Well-targeted content will bring traffic to your site, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Dr. Ray Welling is Director of Digital Strategy & Communications for healthcare communications consultancy Vivacity Health. He also manages a small digital content agency and strategic consultancy, and lectures in marketing at Macquarie University.

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