Create a Content Marketing Plan on a Budget

a calendar, clock, calculator and coins represent making a content marketing plan on a budget

Your content marketing plan is crucial to the success of your content efforts. According to HubSpot Blog Research, 39% of marketers say they allocate 31%–50% of their total marketing budget to content marketing. In dollars and cents, that looks like:

  • 38% of organizations spend between $40,000–$100,000 quarterly on content marketing
  • 11% of organizations spend between $1,000–$10,000 quarterly

There is no one-size-fits-all marketing budget, nor is there a “right” amount to spend on content marketing. But you can create a cost-effective content marketing plan no matter your budget.

What Is a Content Marketing Plan?

Let’s first take a step back. Any good content marketing plan will begin with a content marketing strategy. At its most basic, a content marketing strategy dictates how you create and distribute content—everything from e-news blasts and blog posts to podcasts and Instagram stories. All of these efforts should help your organization meet its business goals.

39% of marketers say they allocate 31%–50% of their total marketing budget to content marketing

This strategy provides the foundation for a content marketing plan. The plan is simply how an organization chooses to execute its strategy.

To start building that content marketing plan, organizations should consider the following necessary components:

  • The specific tactics to implement your strategy. What types of content should you produce? What topics will you cover?
  • A schedule for when content will be produced and distributed. Creating a content calendar can be handy for mapping out this strategy and stay on track.
  • Your budget. Which channels do you want to spend the most money on? What percentage of your overall marketing budget should go to content marketing?

Building your content marketing plan will take time and resources, but you can be efficient with both to save money. Read on to learn how you can leverage some free, affordable and scalable methods to create a content marketing plan on a budget.

Gather Audience Insights

An effective content marketing plan will require delivering content that’s specific to your audience. What do they need? What’s the best way to deliver content to them?

Survey Your Audience

To find such answers, you might want to conduct a reader survey, which can be an affordable way to gather audience research while also helping identify content opportunities. When conducting a reader survey, ask readers what they like about your current content mix and what they feel is lacking. Additionally, find out which channels your readers prefer to engage with. Both insights can help prioritize what to cover in your content marketing plan and what formats to focus on.

Create Personas

When gathering this info, consider various audience segmentations. For instance, many organizations already implement demographic and behavioral segmentation. But psychographic segmentation, which includes considering what your audience values in life and the pain points they face, can provide instruction on the types of content you should be creating.

Comb Through Your Web Analytics

Organizations can also look internally to understand their audience. For starters, use your website’s search data and Google Analytics to see what brings people to your site and what they look for when they arrive. Additionally, be sure to look at the most popular articles on your site: Which posts are gathering the most views? The longest time on a page? These analytics can help you identify trends to create more content around those topics.

Use Your CRM or Customer Database

Look for segments within your customer database that are ripe for a content campaign (e.g., Can you decrease churn by developing welcome content for new members or customers? Can you target current customers for upsell based on their education level or job title?)

Study Your Competitors

Organizations should look to see what competitors are doing, as well. According to a post on Semrush, which provides free tools to see how other organizations are performing with their digital content, understanding how competitors are approaching content can help you benchmark your current efforts, find gaps in your current content mix and keep your content fresh. (Similar Web is another free tool that provides comparable free services.)

This type of research is called a competitive content analysis and typically begins with making a list of your competitors and seeing what content they’re offering.

  • What content format are they producing?
  • Are they offering magazines, podcasts, webinars, white papers, videos, infographics or e-newsletters? What social media platforms are they using?
  • Where do they seem to invest most in content marketing?

To get the full picture, register or opt-in for all of your competitors’ content, and see where their content mix—and your own—may be falling short. According to the Content Marketing Institute, one easy way to analyze all this output is to search for publicly visible markers of popularity and engagement. See what pieces are getting the most shares, comments, likes, etc. Throughout this evaluation process, identify your competitors’ successes, and use them as inspiration for your content.

Leverage Artificial Intelligence Tools

One of the best reasons to explore adding AI tools to your content process is that they can help you scale your work at a more affordable cost than adding headcount.

In general, AI is being used for automation. While processes like ChatGPT have gained a lot of popularity for generating content, AI can do a lot more. For instance, AI can track user activity, record engagement and predict the types of content that will have success. With AI keeping track of audience interests, your organization can work on content that is extremely targeted to your audience. Tools like ChatGPT can also help you save time by generating content marketing ideas. While we don’t recommend relying on these tools to write content, they can be useful in the planning phase.

Once visitors are on your site, AI tools such as a chatbot can provide targeted answers to your website visitors, turning static knowledge bases into interactive resources that improve user experiences. Chatbots can also be a source for additional content ideas as they gather user questions and responses.

Consider a Content Partner

Marketing team employees often wear multiple hats—overseeing education initiatives, helping organize annual meeting content and more. With so much time dedicated to other priorities, tackling thought leadership content or the full breadth of a content marketing plan can be difficult.

Working with an agency can help you focus your internal resources on strategic initiatives by offloading tactical activities. An outside partner can provide fresh ideas and perspectives, as well as advanced expertise. Additionally, the cost of a partner engagement can be less than that of full-time staff, especially where multiple skill sets are needed.

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