No-poute routes: Ways to do content strategy on a budget

Melissa Rach

Maybe you’re a small organization. Or maybe you’re trying to introduce content strategy to a large one. Either way, getting the budget for a full-fledged content strategy can be a challenge. But never fear, just because you don’t have a lot of budget doesn’t mean you have to stand around looking like our friend, Eel Poutface.

You can make a lot of progress by starting slow and getting a few quick wins. Here are a few ways Brain Traffic helps clients with limited budgets get some content strategy satisfaction.

Audits & diagnostics

It’s often said, “knowing is half the battle.” Audits and diagnostics are the quickest way to get to know your content and content processes inside out. During these projects, you take a thorough look at your content and/or content processes, in order to:

  • Understand the scale and scope of your content or resource expenditures
  • Identify risks and opportunities
  • Make the business case for further content strategy work
  • Prioritize future content projects

When you’re done with audit and diagnostic work, you’ll be able to back up your opinions about content with real examples and stats. Persuasive tangible data, like this:

There are a wide variety of ways you can do audit and diagnostic projects, but the two most popular requests we receive are:

  • Qualitative content audit—A content audit (sometimes called an inventory) is a traditional way to kick off content strategy efforts. During an audit, you’ll go through your content, piece-by-piece, with a fine-tooth comb. A qualitative assessment is an audit that helps you understand thequality of the content you have. You can measure your content against industry best practices, competitive benchmarks, strategic business objectives, or all of the above. You can look at all of your content or just do a sample. At the end of the audit, you’ll have a thorough understanding of what content you have and what state it’s in.
  • Content organization diagnostic evaluation (CODE)—You’re probably familiar with financial auditors who review a business’ financial processes and records. A CODE works the same way, but it’s focused on content and has no threat of reporting you to the IRS. In fact, it’s not scary at all. Basically, a third-party content expert (or team of experts) takes a good, hard look at your content ecosystem—they examine your content, your content workflow, the user’s needs, competitive strategies, industry trends, and more. Whether you do a comprehensive CODE (which takes several weeks) or an accelerated workshop version, you’ll wind up with a better understanding of your pain points—what causes them and how to eliminate them. And, you’ll likely discover new areas of competitive advantage to boot. Bonus!

Quick-start strategies

If content strategy is new to your organization, another terrific option is to start with a small, contained content strategy project. That way you can:

  • Introduce your organization to content strategy concepts
  • Get measurement data to prove your case
  • Show concrete results—with your own content

If your project goes well, you can share the results with anyone and everyone. It’s much easier to get a bigger budget next time, when you can prove past victories—no matter how small. Again, here are a few of the most popular budget-friendly services Brain Traffic offers:

  • Strategy sprint—A strategy sprint is a two-day, facilitated workshop where you, your key content stakeholders, and Brain Traffic team members sit in a room and go through the content strategy process at a super-human pace. (Think Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, without Ty Pennington or his megaphone.) At the end, you get a preliminary content strategy (accompanied by a long list of assumptions and to-dos). If you’re a medium or large organization, a sprint can be a perfect way to jumpstart a larger conversation about content strategy. If you are a small organization OR have a really small project, you can take the strategy and run with it.
  • Strategy pilot—You can also do a full-scale content strategy for a small segment of your content. In her blog post, “The Inside Job,” Brain Traffic’s Christine Benson advises: “Find low visibility content with high potential. People often have strong opinions about the home page and main section pages. These content hot spots can be difficult starting points until you have some success stories to back you up. Look for things that have high potential for customer engagement, but usually get ignored. Support content like help sections, customer service pages, or error messages are good candidates.”

Awareness initiatives

If you have absolutely no budget for content projects right now, don’t be discouraged. No matter what, keep building your case for content strategy, slowly but surely.

Keep engaging your colleagues in content strategy conversations:

  • Do brown bag lunches to discuss what content strategy is, and how it could help your organization
  • Forward relevant blog posts or pass around your copy of Content Strategy for the Web
  • Or, contact us to have a Brain Traffic strategist do an hour-long webinar about content strategy for your team

And, get involved with the content strategy community:

Keep at it, and be patient. It’ll be worth it.

OR, you could just pout it out

Of course, if you’d rather not take any action AT ALL, you can try to pout it out. At Brain Traffic, we don’t have any experience with that method, but who knows, it might work. Maybe the people at the Eelpout Festival can give you some pointers.