A Zero Budget Content Marketing Quick-Start Guide

zero budget content marketing guide dave huffman

photo credit: Golly Gforce on Flickr

If you’re like me, chances are you’ve run into one of the following marketing scenarios:

  • You have zero cash to spend on marketing, but total buy-in
  • You have zero buy-in for marketing initiatives and therefore zero cash

As you may very well know by now, marketing online, or at least getting started is cheap.  And since a lot of companies lead with product first, most marketing software companies even have a free option.  And I love free.  As a digital marketer, free has helped me open the door and build a case for more robust paid options many times over.

I made 3 assumptions with this article.  All based off prior experience:

  • You don’t have a website or money to pay for hosting
  • You either have a camera or a way to borrow one once a week (smartphone camera, flip, etc.)
  • You already have social media outposts of some sort (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but do not have much to share aside from curated content and random updates.  Read that again as I will not be covering social media here.  Only tools for longer form content publishing.

As you’ll see below, there really isn’t a good reason to not get started with content & inbound marketing.  In the interim, the only real investment you’ll have is time.  Then, once you get rolling, maybe a little cash here and there.  We’ll cover that next week though.

Step One:  Start WordPress.com Blog

Before you experts slap me, yes, I know that this is not ideal.  Something though, some-thing is better than nothing.  In one case, I took a wordpress.com blog, published 2 times a week with links back to the corporate site that refused to host a blog.  In under a month, we started out-ranking the other folks in town going for the same keywords.  Ultimately, referral traffic to the main site and revenue increases followed.

Warning:  Eventually you will want your own domain.  The experts out there will caution you that by going the free route and switching over later, you stand to lose rank.  And they’d be correct.  However, as Andrew Epperson, Senior Web Specialist at Lieberman Technologies put it:

Yes, you will possibly lose rank, but doing something is better than just sitting on your thumbs.  The free blog at wordpress.com does have limitations, but the initial cost, $0, outweigh the entry level approach. To add to this, you are getting more familiar with the WordPress interface and the content is pretty simple to migrate to a self-hosted WordPress site. So starting at wordpress.com for free would be a great way to prove value in the tool and lean into a cost effective CMS solution (self-hosted WordPress site) when money can be allocated to the venture.”

Hosting will only run you $150-$200 a year.  If you can save up, do it.  If not, press on with free, build your case and your cash, then make the switch at a later date.

Step Two:  Start a MailChimp Email Marketing Account

An essential part of leading your marketing charge with content is using email to deliver it.  A free account will leave out the automation features that are great for lead nurturing and progressively delivered content offers (like 10 day e-courses), but it’ll still give you a place to collect subscribers (up to 2,000 of them) and get started.  You can always export your subscribers if you decide to move on OR maintain them as you upgrade to a paid account.

Either embed the form into your wordpress site or create a link to the form. Put it in a prominent place on your home page if you can make room.

Step Three:  Develop a Top Funnel Offer

This is the quickest way to turn your site from a trampoline that bounces visitors away into a funnel that collects leads. You’ll hear the word “funnel” a lot in digi-marketing, and it’ll get old, but it is a great way to picture how your website should function in respect to collecting leads for your business.

Depending on your current resources, meaning what you have on-hand, zero cost top funnel offers may include:

  • Free trials or tutorials
  • Free classes
  • Ebook or Whitepaper using physical form content (i.e. brochures) lying around the office.  Simply use Powerpoint/Keynote to create and save as a PDF.

If you deem the content worthy and helpful, then gate it behind a short form using either your MailChimp form (this works just fine in the short term) OR try a custom landing page from a company like Unbounce. Unbounce has a free option that gives you 200 unique landing page views per month. Disclaimer:  I’ve never used Unbounce, please comment below if you have.  

Step Four:  Start a Youtube Channel

Youtube is one of the quickest and most effective ways to gain content marketing traction on the web.  Some studies even suggest that a Youtube vid is 50x more likely to show up in search than an HTML optimized web page.  Make sure to populate your meta description with call to action, hyper-local keyword focused copy and a link back to your WP.com blog. Insert the link in the beginning of the description and use a link shortener like bit.ly if your links are too long.

Assuming my second assumption is wrong and you do not have a camera or access to one, then the first 3 items will give you everything you need to start generating content and leads for your business.  So c’mon!  Get started.  Let’s go.  Chop, chop.


Since this post was more of a “here are the tools you can use to get started”, next week, I’ll walk through some of the basic strategies for using them. I’ll also include some resources to more advanced writings by folks like the Content Marketing Institute.

If you have any experience with being tasked to start inbound or content marketing with zero budget or buy-in, would you leave a comment below?



  1. says

    This is a great overview post, and I’m looking forward to diving in deeper next week. Hopefully then I’ll have something constructive to add. 🙂

    • Anonymous says

      Hey thanks Amy!  Hopefully, I’ll be able to provide a more substantial post 🙂  Sorry for the late response.

  2. Anonymous says

    Great tip about YouTube! As the internet’s second largest search engine it still uses user input meta data to rank the videos. A great way to easily get yourself exposure in hyper local searches.

    • says

      Thank ya!  Since some of that “2nd largest search engine” stuff started to surface awhile back, I’ve used it as a way to get some rankings super quick.  And I don’t know if the “50x more likely to show up than an optimized web page” stuff is still true, but it seems that way sometimes.  

      Plus, as you know, those vids are so easy to embed, share, link back from…it’s crazy how awesome and often overlooked it is.  One of my favorite things to use.