December is an incredibly busy time of the year for most small and medium-sized businesses.
There’s a built-in time crunch the holidays creates—essentially giving you three weeks to wrap up the current year and plan for the next. On top of that, you’re likely hard at work on your 2017 projections, including your content creation budget.
Considering the ever-changing world of content marketing, this budgeting is easier said than done. It’s difficult enough to project spending for your marketing efforts without even factoring in the fact that your content creation needs may be quite different by the end of 2017 compared to where they are now. You also need to look at what did and did not work in 2016 and perhaps make some adjustments to your strategy.
Despite all the challenges, there are a few factors to think about that can direct your content creation budget development process.
What are your content creation goals?
We’ve found that the best way to start this planning is by establishing an overarching goal—one that may reach beyond your marketing strategy alone. For example, you may wish to increase sales for your business by 15 percent over the next year. Once you’ve determined that overarching goal, you can get more specific about how your content creation efforts will help you reach it.
This process may require some calculations and projections, but you may determine that you need to attract X more readers to your blog, and convert X percent of those readers into leads. How will your content make that happen?
A good place to begin is to take your current content creation strategy and ramp it up by the amount of new leads you would like to see. If one of your goals is to increase the number of readers who fill out a contact form on your website by 30 percent, for example, you may need 30 percent more content than you have right now.
These numbers will likely never correlate perfectly like this, but again, it gives you a good jumping-off point as you plan your 2017 content creation budget and editorial calendars.
You should also look at how your current efforts are working and if you need to experiment with changes. If in 2016 you focused mostly on blogging and social media and the results were so-so, you may wish to expand your content creation efforts to include things like white papers, case studies, podcasts, videos and longer articles. With a New Year comes the opportunity to completely rethink your strategy.
What challenges lie ahead?
Developing useful, informative and engaging content can be a challenge for just about any business. Beyond the actual content creation process, however, many companies also struggle with tracking the return on investment of their efforts, developing topic ideas and staying on track with their editorial schedules.
This latter issue is especially problematic for small business owners, who often must place their attention on other areas of their companies and can easily let their content marketing fall by the wayside.
In addition to funding your content creation budget, be sure to consider how much time it will take to ramp up your efforts, if that’s what you decide you need to do. If your team is already stretched, consider hiring an outsourced content writing service. These firms can assist with content strategies, editorial calendars, topic generation and writing and editing, and thus can alleviate some of the burden off you or your marketing team.
What are you competitors doing?
As you plan your 2017 content creation budget, you should also look at what others are doing in your industry space—especially your direct competitors. Are there already a lot of blog posts or white papers out there on a particular topic? If so, you may have a difficult time competing amongst all the noise. Instead, look for any topics or angles others don’t seem to be covering very well and see if you can fill the void.
If you are in an industry in which your competitors have not done much in terms of content marketing, you may be able to get away with a lower content creation budget. However, if there is already a lot of content out there, you may need to increase your efforts in 2017 to make sure you keep pace.
As you work on your content creation budget for 2017, remember that you may need to be flexible as the year progresses. To that end, make room for new topics and strategies as they emerge, as your strategy in October may look somewhat different than it does in early January.