Content marketing has enjoyed consistent, and speedy growth as a practice in the business world over the last few years. Having a large budget and a team to dedicate to content marketing certainly helps with adoption, but some small-to-medium businesses have to find ways to get more done without additional resources. While content marketing jobs have grown 350% since 2011, your organization might not be in a position to hire a content marketer.

Because of relatively low costs to getting started, content marketing is still worthwhile even without designated staff. Many small businesses can find—and have seen—great success by investing in content creation. Over time, content can drive revenue by delivering more qualified leads than advertising—allowing businesses to reduce their spend on outbound marketing methods. Rather than letting limited staffing hold you back, here are some things you can do to get started with content marketing.

Have a Strategy and Measurable Goals

Content marketing can help with everything from brand development, to lead generation, to SEO, to sales acceleration, to customer adoption, to competitive positioning—and everything in between. However, if your resources are limited, it’s best to identify which goal you would like to target with a content strategy, and plan your activities accordingly.

If search rankings and visibility are a priority, for example, you will want to focus on producing a steady stream of blog posts. If demonstrating industry expertise and generating leads through third-party campaigns is top of mind, you might spend your time on creating white papers or research reports.

Developing an ecosystem of interconnected content will help you across every category over time, but you can’t target all of them at once. Align your content plan to areas where it can make the biggest difference.

Start with Customer Questions

Without a content marketing manager on your team, there might be some concern about not enough creativity or fresh ideas to sustain a content marketing program. While content can be intriguing, entertaining, and dazzling, it should deliver value to your audience first and foremost.

Commonly asked questions from your customers, prospects, and people in your industry are a wellspring of ideas for blog posts, more robust assets, videos, webinars, and any other content you can imagine. Even “boring” industries are rich with opportunities to become an indispensable, trusted resource to a large audience by providing educational, instructive, and useful content. While you can’t forget entirely about making content interesting and engaging, ensuring that it is helpful first will earn you credibility that money can’t buy.

Commit to a Publishing Schedule—or Pay the Price

Content marketing is not a short-term tactic, so you won’t see immediate results. The good news is that unlike traditional methods, your ROI is proportional to content quality and consistency rather than just budget. Over time, the content lineup you’ve created becomes a nearly self-sustaining lead generation machine.

The catch is that you do have to commit and keep at it. While it can take a few months to really start seeing the impact of content marketing efforts, if you’ve built up a publishing cadence and then you stop—you’ll feel the difference very quickly.

Keeping up with a publishing schedule is a lot of work, and it will have to come at the expense of some other activities, which might not be a bad thing. You can also augment what your current team can do by outsourcing to trusted freelancers, or repurposing your existing content to give it new life.

Illuminate a Path to Next Steps

If you choose to integrate content marketing into your overall marketing strategy, keep your business goals in sight at all times. While creating heavily brand-centered, self-serving content is a no-no, you can still make it easy for viewers to engage with you after consuming your content. The content should be about what your ideal customers find interesting and valuable, but you should direct them to other related content and calls to action that include a next step.

For blog readers, a next step might be to subscribe or download an asset so that they become part of your database—and leads that can be nurtured. For prospects close to a buying decision, the next step could be using a proposal template or case study you provide to help convince stakeholders in their organization. For new customers, it could be ensuring that they activate their new license, get training on a new feature, or keep using your product past the initial trial period.

Time to Start Content Marketing

To borrow from an old adage: the best time to start a content marketing program is 18 months ago; the second best time is today.

Don’t let limited staffing or resources get in the way of getting started with content. The potential long-term ROI, cost savings, and impact across every area of your business is too valuable to delay. Begin with targeted goals, and focused, consistent activity, and you’ll be on your way to reaping the rewards content marketing has to offer.

About the Author

Karo Kilfeather is the Content Marketing Lead at Crescendo Content Marketing, where she divides her time among writing and researching new content, developing an editorial strategy, coaching new contributors, and convincing the sales team that telling stories is good for business. Born in Poland, she learned to speak English from watching Saved by the Bell and is just beginning to appreciate baseball.