Step back and take a look at your content marketing strategy. That’s a luxury many of us don’t get to do, because we’re so caught up in the day-to-day running of it. But make the time. What do you see?
There is a very good chance your project is funded from one source of revenue. And driven by one, or at best two, individuals.
There’s nothing unusual about either of those scenarios. But what do you do if that source of funding dries up? What do you do if that individual who is the champion of your content gets another job? Or worse, gets very sick?
If you’re like many content marketers, you’re probably working with a small, closely-knit team. And a small budget. Neither of those realities should stop you being ready when disaster strikes.
What to do when the money dries up
It’s hard to understand what it felt like during the early days of those weeks at the end of 2007 and the start of 2008. That was when we first started talking about a Global Financial Crisis. I remember all of us doing our best to keep going on as normal.
We distracted ourselves by moving from a big warehouse space to a smaller office. We gossiped about a problem staff member who had run off to another State. And we silently noticed that the trickle of money into the bank account had slowed. Then stopped.
We were publishing a magazine on behalf of a client. Advertising revenue paid the big bills for printing and distribution. The deal was a true partnership. We would have to wear that revenue loss if bills weren’t paid, but we got to keep the profit when they were. So when the GFC hit, we had two problems: getting the money owed to us, and keeping the client.
So we phoned around to chase money. We always got the same response: “Head office has put a hold on payments. We don’t know when they’ll start paying again.”
“But we have bills,” we’d say. “We have kids to feed.”
“Same here,” they’d reply.
Plan for your MVS in your content marketing strategy
Content marketing should be an ongoing process, not a campaign. So the effect of having your money disappear is more serious than having an advertising budget cut.
If you have spent time and effort building an audience, then stop stalking to them, they are left with a very negative view of your brand.
Even in the best case scenario, where you get a budget back, you will have to start from scratch rebuilding that audience. Many of them may have moved on. Others won’t trust you anymore.
So it’s good practice to work out a minimum viable size (MVS) for your content project as part of your documented content marketing strategy. Work it out based on a percentage of the budget you have allocated, and expected minimum costs.
What does an MVS look like?
For example, if your content marketing is digital, you may have a budget for external contributors. Your first instinct may be to divide that up between months, so you have an idea of how much you will have to spend every month.
But if you divide up the budget unequally—so you are spending less at the start and more at the end of the year—you create a buffer for yourself. In a worst case scenario, if the budget is cut halfway through, your content output stays the same. In a best case scenario, you can ramp it up towards the second half of the year.
Similarly, if your content project is a printed publication, costing a minimum viable size for the magazine will give you buffer. Your printer will be able to tell you the most cost-efficient number of pages for your publication, and sometimes that’s higher than you think.
For example, paper on a web-press comes in a 32-page form. So a 32-page magazine may be cheaper for you to produce than a 24-page one. Because the printer will have to allow for the cost of cutting forms down to smaller sizes.
Have a transfer strategy
Finally, costing in a buffer will also help you transition your audience to a different, or cheaper, platform if your budget is cut. And shows no sign of coming back. Moving a magazine online is common nowadays. It will become more and more common to see blogs moved to social media platforms like LinkedIn or Medium too. You will lose a percentage of your audience in the move—but losing some is better than losing all of them.
So if someone has turned off the printing press and shut down your broadcasting studio, have a plan for the wholesale move of your content to the web. If someone has pulled the plug on your website, you have one more option.
As a final buffer, it’s a good idea to have a presence for your content brand on the relevant social media sites—particularly Facebook. It’s not ideal, as those sites will own your audience. But at least you can stay in touch with some of them. And you may even pick up some new fans on the way.
Although it’s slightly depressing, a documented plan for your MVS as part of your content marketing strategy is just sensible. It’s the content version of an insurance policy. You hope you never have to use it. But it should be there when you need it.