ROI or RIP: The Lean Content Marketing Handbook for SMBs

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lean content marketing handbook

Some say content marketing is only for people with deep pockets, and that short of creating Star Wars, you’ll struggle to make an impact. We happen to disagree.

Over the past three years, we’ve been diligently working with SMBs to find success with content marketing via our products, our blog, a Meetup series, and endless conversations with clients as well as subject matter experts. The results of this work have added up the lean content marketing ideology, which is the practice of optimizing content strategies in order to create the highest impact with the smallest amount of time and resources.

Now more than ever, SMBs are in need of lean content marketing strategies. It’s for this reason that we’ve put together this 85+ page ebook containing all of the information needed to make that happen. This handbook is a combination of original, curated, and repurposed content coming from the blog and its contributors, the team, and more than 15 experts in the content marketing space.

content marketing influencers

Lean Content: Why 2015 will be the year SMBs embrace content marketing

Pre-Internet, the media belonged to the giants with deep pockets. Now, though, it’s easier than ever for anyone to become a publisher, leading to a vast sea of noise in which it has become next to impossible to stand out. It’s because of this that the new trend of lean content marketing has emerged: SMBs who are able to develop an online presence with positive ROI by means of clever publishing can now succeed.

If this sounds complicated, don’t fret. It has actually never been easier for SMBs to become media. Why?

  1. Now is the time of the niche media. Those able to define a specific editorial line within a niche market are less likely to be overshadowed by the larger players who tend to be, by essence, more generalist.
  2. There now exists a rich spectrum of SaaS-based software solutions to help small businesses succeed without having to spend an arm and a leg.
  3. The practice of content curation allows marketers to leverage the abundance of content already in existence, enrich it with insight, and share it in a contextual way, effectively rising above the noise and generating measurable results.

lean content marketing handbook

The Lean Content Marketing Handbook for SMBs will guide you through the concrete steps to take now and deliver ROI from your content strategy. Here’s how:


  • Align content marketing goals with business objectives of the company
  • Define an editorial line, content genres, and target personas
  • Plan your resources in order to squeeze the highest potential impact out of them
Per Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer at the Content Marketing Institute, “the number one thing a company can do to get more results out of content is to start thinking first about what the customer needs and wants, and how the company can deliver it. In other words – it’s content as a product not as marketing.”


The ability to define and understand a target audience and deliver content accordingly is crucial. If done correctly, your content should solve the same problem that your product solves, albeit on a different level.

Barry Feldman, content strategist and founder of Feldman Creative, says that “the formula to achieve each of your content marketing goals is to get inside the minds of prospective customers and figure out what questions they have. Answer them. Do it proactively and regularly.”

Doing this regularly, though, can add up:

cost of contentIt’s because of this that planning resources and how to get the highest impact out of them with the least amount of spend is extremely important. There are tactics that SMBs can use in order to reduce the cost of content without sacrificing the impact:

  • Using curated content as a part of your marketing mix
  • Using software and tools to optimize your productivity and that of your team
Finding a balance between curation and creation will “not only alleviate the pressure of having to devote valuable time to creating content, but it will also help add credibility and third party validation to your efforts,” says Jason Miller, Senior Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn.


Build the foundations of your content strategy

  • Build and integrate a content hub with your website
  • Isolated social media publishing is dead; social media distribution is not
  • Landing pages and inbound marketing to help generate demand
  • Email marketing and marketing automation to help distribution and lead nurturing
Creating a home for the base of your content marketing can change everything. Not only does sharing content via a content hub archive all of the curated pieces you’ve shared, but it allows them to be indexed in search engines which leads to increased SEO performance. Further, when you own the place where your content lives, you can add conversion and engagement CTAs to capture the information of your readers and turn them into potential clients.
Content hubs also prevent marketers from “committing random acts of content,” which further separate silos and make it difficult to measure, per Andrew J. Coate, Senior Content and Community Manager at Kapost.


content hub key points

Publishing at scale with limited resources

Those who publish the most don’t always win. Those who publish the best, though, don’t always win either. That’s why it’s crucial to be able to scale content volume while still maintaining quality; marketers who publish the highest volumes of the highest quality content instead of sacrificing one to focus on the other see a 10x increase in traffic.


Broadsuite’s Chief Digital Strategist Brian Fanzo reminds us to “focus less on creating content for content’s sake and more on creating great content and upcycling it into different types of media.”


How do you create good content, then? Blogger and SEO expert Jayson DeMers provides these four steps:
  1. Invent a captivating introduction
  2. Include an attention-grabbing image
  3. Cite outside data or information
  4. Present content in an easy-to-read format

Content curation, contribution & outsourcing

It’s not all about creation, though. Content curation is a proven way to scale content volume while maintaining quality.


Rebecca Lieb, analyst and content marketing expert at Altimeter Group explains how to make content curation work: “Add value! Don’t just repost/retweet an article or headline, but play it forward. Curation is an opportunity to add the value, insights, or perspective that positions you or your firm as a thought leader.


To take it one step even further, SMB marketers can use content curation to inform their creation. Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers, puts it best: “Curating from what already exists will help you discover awesome content that can inspire your readers and not only that, but help you stay inspired in your own original content creation.


Scaling content publishing doesn’t always mean your business creating and curating more, though. There are many other methods, including outsourcing, community contribution, and employee contribution, to ramp up content volume, Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing stresses that “co-creating useful content with your community incentivizes participation, engagement, and promotion,” and is echoed by Ted Karczewski of Skyword who points out that “SMB marketers should look internally for help telling stories.”



Mark Schaefer, marketer and creator of Business Grow puts it best:
“In my small business, I have many old blog posts that still have valuable ideas. I can re-use this basic content in a number of ways, including:
  • assembling several posts into an ebook or white paper
  • designing a SlideShare presentation
  • narrating and recording slides and creating a YouTube video
  • rewriting the ideas into a new post
  • using the post as a chapter in a book or customer guide.”


  • Synchronize your owned channels
  • Leverage existing channels
  • Run paid media campaigns

According to Ian Cleary, founder of RazorSocial, warns, “there is so must content available you will not succeed unless you get your content to stand out among your competitors…you need to allocate time to promote it because great content just sits on the shelf without the relevant promotion.”

SMBs should leverage social media, email marketing, and even existing communities and publishing sites to gain higher distribution for their content.


Convert through Content

  • Turn readers into contacts by collecting information
  • Create landing pages and content for lead generation
  • Create content for lead nurturing and social selling
Paul Chaney, principal at Chaney Marketing Group, specifies that “it stands to reason that if I’m relying on you for information and advice based on your curation efforts, I may choose to do business with you as well.” Making this easy for those interested to find and reach out to you is another crucial part of content marketing strategy.


Measure ROI

  • Measure the output (the investment)
  • Use analytics to measure the performance of your content
  • Use Google Analytics to measure progress on brand awareness
  • Measure thought leadership through pingbacks and social mentions
  • Track conversions with Google Analytics
  • Track your SEO progress with tools like Moz or SEMRush

So why, you may be wondering, should you choose to read this handbook over all of the other useful and informative guides out there? Because this is the first one that is focused strictly on SMBs and companies wo are on a budget but still reliant on content marketing. 2015 is the year of the SMB and we are ready to help those businesses succeed.

If you’re ready to jump into a lean content marketing strategy, to create processes that allow time and resources to be saved while making the same, if not more, of an impact, and to measure ROI and finally prove the value of content marketing, we’re here to help you get started.


Tell us what you think in the comments: how can we help you make the most of your content marketing?

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About the Author

Ally Greer
Ally is's Director of Content & Community. She loves to geek out over anything social, Internet, or tech related. When she isn't working, you'll probably find her running the streets of San Francisco. Follow Ally on Twitter @allygreer.
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Mike Searles
9 years ago

Outstanding post Ally — one of the best I’ve seen on content marketing.

Ally Greer
Ally Greer
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Searles

Thank you so much @Searles:disqus!! What a nice compliment to hear 🙂

Ram Babu SEO
9 years ago

Thanks Ally, wonderful job

sanjana murya
sanjana murya
9 years ago

This is the best

Claire Pay
Claire Pay
9 years ago

This is exactly what we are doing with our clients but struggling to put into words for them – this is a brilliant post that sums up the entire process and objectives – Thank you

tom luther1102
tom luther1102
8 years ago

Thanks Ally, wonderful job

tom luther1102
tom luther1102
8 years ago
8 years ago

Its magnificent 🙂

8 years ago

Thats superior…

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