9 Actions You Can Take To Get Better Content Results Without Spending More

In my career, I’ve seen it all. I’ve been through economic downturns. I’ve been through booms. I’ve worked with startups. I’ve worked at large publicly traded companies.

And I’ve always had to come up with scrappy content and marketing solutions that didn’t cost any budget because we just didn’t have enough.

I know many of you have experienced that situation. So, at Content Marketing World 2023, after months of high-profile tech company layoffs and much speculation about the U.S. economy, I shared some advice.

Barely two months into 2024, the conversations sound eerily similar. You’re possibly working with a smaller team, given many companies are holding off on filling positions vacant from job changes and voluntary departures.

Even under those circumstances, you can take action to get more from your content program without spending more. Here are nine ideas to improve your marketing repertoire:

1. Refocus your content marketing on what your audience needs now

When I worked in the software industry, Gartner predictions for IT spending drove our content strategy. In July 2022, it forecasted a moderate increase. So, my team created content focused on AI advancements and innovations to try.

But in January 2023, Gartner revised its forecast downward based on the economy. And a lot of our customers had to work harder to justify their software investments.

So, we refocused our content to help them explain to executives the value of the software they wanted to purchase. We also explored the ingrained features in the software that made it difficult for customers to leave. We created content about the why and how of those features. That content helped the customers, and it helped the company retain those accounts.

Takeaway: As the economy changes, so do customer and audience needs. Assess your planned content to see if it focuses on your customer’s needs today. If not, refocus your editorial plans.

2. Ask an outsider to explore your visitor and buyer experiences

Does your website or buyer experience contain absolutely no hiccups? Most likely not. But you know it so well that you may not see those mistakes or friction points.

It’s time to phone a friend, as they said on the old game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. In other words, get someone outside your company to go through the buyer journey.

Ask someone you trust — an industry colleague, a member of a community you belong to, etc. — or hire a consultant if you have the budget. Ask them to review the content or buyer experience and determine where things break down.

When I last did this, my friend found small but embarrassing things, including:

I found something more problematic when I did this exercise recently for a software vendor’s site. They still had the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant posted on their website. Not only was it years out of date, but it also violated their usage contract with Gartner. (They took it down as soon as I pointed it out.)

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Takeaway: Have a trusted external person review your website and buyer experience to find what’s old, confusing, or broken.

3. Revisit your journey with your current team

Now, revisit your customer journey map internally to ensure everything still works. Ask questions, such as:

  • Should we still be doing this?
  • Is the content still relevant to this step?
  • Who owns the execution of this step?
  • Who uses (and owns) the metrics for this step?
  • Where is this step documented?
  • Could an AI tool take over a step to free up some human time?

Reviewing internal resources and processes can save you from the kind of mistake that occurred in one of my previous roles. We looked at our newsletter metrics and saw that the subscriber number hadn’t increased in three months. We didn’t know what went wrong.

We looked at the website, but nothing had changed. We looked at our internal process and found the mistake. Someone left the company three months earlier — the person who manually uploaded subscribers because an automated process didn’t exist. No one knew it was a manual process, so that step fell apart when the person left. Once we automated the process, the subscriber numbers went back up.

Takeaway: Document all processes so that the work can continue as people leave or change jobs. (Just make sure to revisit that documentation when someone leaves.)

4. Offer multiple ways to subscribe

Don’t limit yourself to a single subscription method. Encourage people to sign up for your content throughout their journey with your organization.

Look at this webinar registration from the Harvard Business Review Ascend brand:

Ascend targets young professionals who want to advance in their careers. The webinar sign-up includes the usual fields — first name, last name, email address, country, ZIP code, and state/province. It also asks whether the attendee already subscribes to HBR and Ascend. And then, it asks if they’re willing to opt in to HBR and (separately) Ascend emails.

Takeaway: Think about how to get people to subscribe to more than one part of the funnel whenever they engage with your brand.

5. Review and improve the unsubscribe experience

Marketers never talk about the unsubscribe experience. When was the last time you reviewed yours?

Many companies reply to unsubscribe requests with messages like this:

  • Unsubscribe successful — You will no longer receive email marketing from this list.
  • Unsubscribe — You have requested to opt out.
  • Unsubscribe — I don’t want to receive special product/service offers anymore.
  • You have been removed from the list.
  • You have been unsubscribed.
  • No more calls, no more texts — we’re breaking up.

None of those responses allow for any nuances to their reasons for unsubscribing, such as:

  • They bought something else, so they’re no longer interested in your content.
  • You just send too many emails.
  • They’re changing jobs.
  • They’re taking a break (family leave, sabbatical, busy season, etc.)

Create an unsubscribe strategy that accommodates people who might want to hear from you later or at a different cadence.

Look at this example from NetLine:

The form asks for the current email address. The next field gives the person the opportunity to change that email address.

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As I’ve changed jobs, I’ve unsubscribed and resubscribed to vendor content seven or eight times. A feature like this would have made that easier. I assume this option leads NetLine to retain more subscribers.

Note that the form still offers the unsubscribe option under the my-preferences heading, which also includes an option to add a subscription. Here’s how they phrase it: “Add or remove subscription preferences by checking/unchecking.”

Then, it identifies two options — products and services and NetLine monthly newsletter.

This example from Sendoso offers the option for a pause.

In the settings section of the form, the first option is “I need a break” with a checkbox and clarifying copy (“Suspend emails for 3 months”). The second option is “Unsubscribe from all email communications. You’ll receive no further updates from us.”

Takeaway: Offer more than one unsubscribe option to accommodate people who want to stay in touch, just not right now or not as frequently.

6. Review your chatbot experience

I love building chatbot playbooks and seeing the metrics of content engagement and event registration improve with a great chatbot experience. But some chatbots offer a less-than-great experience.

See how well your chatbot lives up to its goal — a conversational experience that helps visitors find what they need and moves them along their journey.

But many chatbots lead to dead ends, like this one: “How can we help you today?” followed by only three options:

  • Purchase a plan
  • Talk to sales
  • Get support

Those choices do not welcome chatbot visitors who aren’t ready to talk sales or have already made a purchase. The chatbot also doesn’t allow the visitor to type a question.

A better chatbot would ask, “What can I help you find?” It then should walk visitors through the different content and opportunities.

Takeaway: Ensure your chatbot helps visitors in every stage of the journey and doesn’t lead to dead ends.

7. Find interesting data or start collecting it

How often has a data point in a headline or social media post prompted you to click it?

This technique usually leads many people to do just that.

You can find the data to create interesting data-driven stories without hiring a big research firm or consulting a data analyst. In fact, you may already have the data that could be turned into compelling, clickable content.

In 2022, Zoom detailed how people used their product. This screenshot shows their findings about the busiest days of the week:

As they detail in the content:

“The ‘Monday scaries’ might be more apropos in the hybrid work world since Tuesdays see a lot of action on Zoom. Fridays are a little quieter. Seems like we all have our heads down toward the end of the week — or maybe we’re just taking time off.

  • Tuesday is the busiest day for the number of meetings, conference room usage, and hosting hybrid events.
  • Wednesday is the busiest day for making phone calls, sending team chats, using virtual whiteboards, and hosting webinars.
  • Thursday is the most popular day for people to use @all in Zoom Team Chat.
  • Friday is the slowest workday for meetings, phone calls, chats, webinars, and the use of rooms.”

That data from Zoom made for a catchy and clickable article. It tapped into people’s curiosity about how everyone else uses the tool.

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A lot of companies track user activity on their products (yours might, too). The trick is to figure out what is confidential and what’s OK to use in marketing. Check with your product and legal teams before you include internal data in content development.

If you can’t find useful data internally, do a survey to get it. You can do a smaller survey with a tool like SurveyMonkey or yes-no questions on social media.

8. Recruit help for content creation

Even if your marketing team isn’t small, there’s always so much content and work and so little time. Find help somewhere else in the organization.

I talked with an evangelist for a software company who is the face of their marketing. She presents webinars, podcasts, and customer events. When she told me she wanted more time for focused work and less travel, we brainstormed where else she could find that next great presenter in the organization. We came up with these places, which also could work for other marketing needs: 

  • Product managers can write technical blogs and handle webinars and demo videos.
  • Enablement team members can share FAQs and testimonials to feed your marketing or create drafts of these materials, and their demos can help populate a video library.
  • The documentation team has a lot of detailed information about how to use your product that you could turn into a content piece for new customers.
  • Customer support people write email responses to customers explaining how a feature works, why a feature works, and the benefits of a feature. These could be turned into technical blog articles.

Takeaway: Don’t go at it alone. Look outside the content and marketing teams to find more helpers in your organization.

9. Eliminate one project

You can’t accept every project request. You may struggle to handle everything on your team’s plate. Practice saying no.

At one company I worked for, the executives wanted to create a podcast. A team got together and sketched out what would be needed:

  • A host
  • A content plan
  • A booker to find and schedule guests
  • A promotion plan
  • A production service

I asked, “Who’s got the bandwidth to pick up any of this?” Nobody volunteered. We dropped the podcast idea. The executive in charge raised an eyebrow. But when they saw the needs list, they said, “OK, I understand.”

Takeaway: Itemize the tasks for every project and see if there’s one project you can eliminate.

Don’t let resources limit success

When economic uncertainty, layoffs, and vacant positions leave your marketing team with fewer resources (financial and human), don’t despair. You can still improve your organization’s content and marketing. Consider following one or more of these tips to maximize the resources you do have and deliver the best and most you can.

All tools mentioned in this article were suggested by the author. If you’d like to suggest a tool, share the article on social media with a comment.

Register to attend Content Marketing World in San Diego. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100. Can’t attend in person this year? Check out the Digital Pass for access to on-demand session recordings from the live event through the end of the year.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

منبع: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/articles/better-content-results-limited-budget/