Guerilla Content: 30 Growth Hacks To Content Marketing Success On A Limited Budget

My journey into content marketing actually started in 2004 when I left The Nielsen Company after 9 years to work for a local firm.

They hired me as their first VP of Marketing. My team of 1 (me) had absolutely zero budget to start. My first boss there wanted me to cold call to drive leads.

That didn’t work out so well. But then the CEO of the holding company fired him. And they asked me to run marketing like a marketing person would.

How do you execute a marketing strategy for a company with no budget?

The answer is what we now call content marketing.

The company I worked for was a nationally-ranked market research firm that very few people had actually ever heard of.

So I took our greatest asset: survey research. And used it to continuously update our newly revamped website to drive inbound leads for our sales team. I taught myself SEO basics and used a list of target keywords to create and distribute stories on our latest research.

Traffic on our website grew exponentially. Inbound leads started coming in to the company on a consistent basis for the first time. I even spent some time teaching the CEO of our holding company (the guy who saved my job) about digital marketing and how to do paid search.

Growth Hacker Content Marketing

When I initially proposed content marketing at SAP, many people asked, “How much software you gonna sell with blog posts?”

Luckily I had a direct manager who saw the declining effectiveness of traditional advertising. She knew that the digital age demanded more engaging and continuous content marketing.

At the time, we were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising landing pages. These destinations had 99% bounce rates, no organic search traffic and zero social engagement. I asked for a fraction of that cost to build our thought leadership content hub.

So for a third of the cost of a throwaway landing page, I built a branded content marketing hub to serve as the landing destination for advertising, and to reach new people with great content marketing.

Once we started publishing, we saw a 20% lower bounce rate, almost immediate organic search traffic and a growing level of social engagement.

That is growth hacker content marketing. The site basically funded itself – it had a return on investment from day one! And we were continuously testing, iterating and improving our results.

Guerilla Content: How To Growth Hack Your Way To Content Marketing Success On A Limited Budget

OK, so now you have a site built. But how do you produce enough and a consistent volume of content, at an acceptable level of quality, to stay relevant to your audience?

This is where you can turn to what I call Guerilla Content:

Guerilla Content: content created with almost no budget, simply be re-purposing things your organization already produces.

For example, people ask me all the time how do you find to time to create and share content? The answer: I re-purpose stuff I already create. I look at my email outbox. Each one is an answer to a question!

In many cases, it is a few paragraphs and detailed enough to turn into a blog post. I turn my powerpoints into slideshares.

Why keep content created for a few dozen people from reaching hundreds or thousands?

The first 24 blog posts I wrote on SAP’s Business Innovation were all white paper summaries I wrote from content that was sitting in a campaign library.

So if you are looking for your own Guerilla Content, here are some ideas I’ve used along with some examples:

30 Growth Hacks To Content Marketing Success

  1. Gather Executive or Customer insights on top issues, or
  2. Top challenges, or
  3. Biggest mistakes via simple email questions. And turn them into blog posts.
  4. Profile your executives and customers by asking Who are you? Greatest challenge? How you solved? + Profile photo and turn it into a blog post.
  5. Ask multiple experts “what is the future of, biggest challenge,” or
  6. “worst mistakes,” or
  7. “Best examples of [your topic]?” And turn them into blog posts.
  8. Answer the simplest questions about your solution category: What is [your topic]? Such as “What is content marketing?
  9. Use Klout, Buzzsumo, Topsy, YouTube, Slideshare to identify “best of” lists like this, this or this.
  10. Highlight content you love from others (OPC = other people’s content): Infographics,
  11. People to follow,
  12. Blogs to read,
  13. Slideshares,
  14. Linkedin Pulse articles,
  15. Videos,
  16. Conferences,
  17. Books,
  18. Quotes,
  19. Facts, etc.
  20. Define the terms You Need To Know on [your topic]
  21. 8 Steps To Success In [your topic]
  22. Best Practices For [Topic]
  23. What [Hot Topic] Means for [Your Issue]. My Example: What Google’s New Algorithm Means For You
  24. Re-purpose content from your own campaign material, or
  25. Cover research reports, or
  26. Highlight analyst reports
  27. Turn executive Slideshares + Speaker notes into articles
  28. Customer service people are a great resource. Ask them to identify your customers’ biggest questions or FAQs
  29. Turn customer testimonials (talking head videos) into “customer profile videos by just taking out the promotional parts.
  30. Ask your employees who attend events to provide you with their notes.

I also suggest teams sit in a room once a quarter and bang out lists of content ideas. Here are a few resources to help you with brainstorming your own list of Guerilla content marketing ideas:

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. And please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

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Showing 13 comments
  • Carla Johnson

    This is a great list, thanks Michael. I wish more people would share their worst mistakes because there’s a lot to learn from them. Understandably, few people want to admit how bad they fell on their face, but I think it would help “raise the tide” a bit faster.

    • Michael Brenner

      I agree. I did a “biggest mistakes” series for a while. Maybe need to pick that back up. Sharing lessons learned is great because it requires the humility to admit that you are never perfect but always striving towards getting better. It’s exactly what growth hacking is all about.

  • Gordie Smith

    Great list. I loved your story at the start of the article. A lot of really successful content marketing today has truly unique, proprietary data that sets it apart. Your work at the market research firm would be an example.

    So, it can be harder to tackle, but another tip is to think about what kinds of unique data or information your organization has access to, and how can you use that to produce new data that’s broadly interesting or ties into popular media topics of the day. Your content effectively becomes a primary source for 100s of other people’s content.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Gordie, I really appreciate the support. And totally agree with you. Many brands try to focus so much of their differentiation on how they speak but the real value in my opinion is in the unique research and expertise they have to offer. Tone and voice are important, but not as important as the things you are speaking about!

  • Mark Chesney

    Great synopsis, Michael, and great advice for those starting out. Even for those who have lots to share, you’ve given some valuable tips & tricks.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks so much Mark. Really appreciate your support and great to “see you” here. Hope everything is going well.

  • Mael Roth

    It is really interesting that you share insights on how you started content marketing at Nielsen and SAP :=)

    Is “Guerilla Content” a thing or did you “invent” the term? :=)

    • Michael Brenner

      I thought the name was apt. I googled it briefly and didn’t find a single thing. But I have never “invented” anything in my life. I probably overheard some say it somewhere and the poor guy or lady deserves credit 😉

  • Rene Power

    Great post Michael. Long time reader. Personal context and scores of helpful links and lists. We’re glad to have you and your insight.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks so much Rene. I’ve been getting over to the UK (London) a few times now this past year. We should grab a coffee or drink next visit.

  • Alan Gray

    Jay Conrad Levinson (RIP) was “The Father of Guerilla Marketing.” Jay was all about teaching people to really think about their marketing – and of course, about their target market, and how to reach them without blowing your budget. If he was still around, I’m sure Jay would say this is a great post.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks so much Alan. That might be one of the nicest comments I could imagine getting. I appreciate the support. I truly believe that good marketing is less about getting more money and much more about being more “guerilla” – stopping the stuff that doesn’t work and focusing relentlessly on results.

  • Scott Aughtmon

    Hi Michael. Great post.

    I love stories, so I especially loved the story of how you got into content marketing. I think your idea of repurposing content is so important for two reasons:

    1. It saves time.
    2. It extents the life of the content.

    Those are two huge things we all need to do. All of us are short on time and all of us would love for all the work we put into creating content to have a greater impact.

    And the list you put together is such a great resource.

    I especially love your point about creating a book. Many people who think they don’t have time to write a book would be surprised to discover that they probably have ALREADY created enough content to repurpose as a book.

    I just took over 3 years of blog posts that I wrote on my site (and other sites) and compiled them into a book. I added what I call “content marketing hacks” at the end of each chapter and it ended up being 48 chapters and 258 pages! And the final product has been very well received.

    I would anyone else with a blog to do the same. Take care, Michael.