How to Budget for the True Costs of Content Marketing

6 minute read

There’s a whole lot of moolah getting pumped into content marketing efforts over the past year. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 Report showed that B2B businesses are spending 28 percent of their total marketing budgets on content marketing, with B2C close behind at 25 percent.

But even with all that spending, 41 percent of B2B and 46 percent of B2C businesses cite lack of budget as a major barrier to their content marketing success.

Those numbers ought to prompt some serious questions for marketers, the most important of which is “What does content marketing actually cost?”

Here’s the first thing you should know: I could lead you down a long, long road of “It depends.” For example, it depends:

  • If you hire an agency, or handle it in house.
  • If you bring on in-house creative or use freelancers.
  • How aggressively you want to promote your content.
  • On the strategy you’re employing.

Ultimately, it also depends on how big of an investment you really want to make.

But hey, that’s not exactly helpful, is it? Instead, let’s lay out the stages of each content marketing process and flag each and every item you ought to set aside budget for.

Please note: Financial figures are meant to be approximate. There are cheaper and more expensive exceptions to everything.

1. Research

As so wonderfully summarized by Vertical Measures, if you want to do content marketing right, you’ve got to set aside some time to:

  • Learn about your audience.
  • Evaluate your existing content.
  • Study your competition.

To get this done professionally, you’re going to need a content marketing audit, as well as persona and competitive research. Depending on the extent of the research and size of your company, you may want to hire an agency or consultant to conduct this research on your behalf.

Note: Time can be as big a factor as cost here. If you choose to handle it in house, a proper content audit could take you anywhere from just a few hours (a precursory overview) to several weeks.

2. Strategy

Armed with your research, it’s time to put together a strategy. I’ve broken strategy into three major parts (though there are many more), as each can be delivered as its own billable service if you hire external help.

Roadmapping

Roadmapping sessions are deep-dives into your research, customer personas, business goals and ideal outcomes. They’re meant to help you set benchmarks, outline your strategic approach and get stakeholders on the same page.

Documentation

If there’s one thing the Content Marketing Institute’s report proves, it’s that the most effective content marketers have a documented strategy. But creating documentation takes time, and there’s a lot to put together. Examples include:

  • A strategy roadmap
  • Persona pull sheets
  • An editorial calendar
  • Style guides, creative briefs and other editorial collateral

Ideation

Coming up with content ideas is an oft-overlooked part of the content marketing process, and one that can take some serious time. You should allot at least 1 to 5 hours of time for idea generation, depending on the level of research and how in-depth you want to go.

3. Creation

Content creation is the part most marketers jump to when thinking about content marketing budgets. When it comes to budgeting for content creation, your cost will vary substantially depending on who is creating the content, concept, timeline and so on. Here’s an overview of the most popular and common formats:

Blog Posts

When it comes to budgeting for blogs, you’ll find a huge disparity depending on the quality and length you’re looking for.

For an experienced writer, subject matter expert or thought leader, don’t expect to pay less than $0.35/word (and sometimes up to $1.00/word).

If you want custom illustrations or photos for the post, expect to increase that amount.

eBooks

Like blog posts, eBooks vary in length and the amount of research required. However, unlike blog posts, eBooks also require the help of a designer. Because every page must be designed and paid for, length is a very serious consideration for your budget here.

Whitepapers

The cost of a whitepaper differs from eBooks or blog posts in that the research is your most important budget consideration. This is because whitepapers are usually much more data-rich and research intensive.

Infographics

Design-heavy and filled with statistics, infographics require budgeting for research, writing and design.

Video

Video can be anything from a self-shot vlog to an ultra-professional product video, making it nearly impossible to lump video costs together. Costs can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars (though we’ve got some tips to avoid breaking the bank at any cost level).

I’ll focus on two video types:

  • Short animated explainer videos: This will require a small but skilled creative team made up of a script writer and an animator, who will both need appropriate software and tools.
  • Short tutorial videos: Assuming you’re doing the filming yourself and already own the equipment, tutorial videos can be surprisingly affordable. You could either hire the help of a copywriter to draft the script, or just take a stab at writing an outline yourself. Of course, if you don’t own any of the equipment or if you want to hire a professional production firm, costs can escalate quickly.

4. Promotion

It wouldn’t be fair to say that everyone needs the same promotional budget. After all, someone like Nestle drops millions into promoting their content, while a small business might only have a budget of a few hundred dollars.

What I should say, however, is that everyone needs some promotional budget. If you want your content to be a success, you absolutely must set aside a distribution and promotional budget. There are three major channels to consider here:

Paid Media

Paid media is perfect for reaching new audiences, making it especially useful for businesses that are just starting out. Some available paid media options include:

  • Twitter-promoted posts
  • Facebook sponsored content
  • LinkedIn advertising
  • Google Adwords
  • Remarketing (especially effective for middle-of-funnel leads)
  • Syndication (Outbrain, Taboola, etc.)

Owned Media

This refers to channels you own, such as email lists and social accounts. You might be tempted to think that owned media is free, but a little money can go a long way in this arena. For example, consider pouring money into:

  • Management: Time invested in promoting the content, replying to comments and tracking engagement.
  • Email nurturing campaigns: Consider hiring a copywriter to write compelling marketing emails.

While owned media is generally the most accessible promotional platform, keep in mind that unless you are actively working to grow your audience, your reach will be limited.

Earned Media

Earned media is that oh-so-attractive “going viral” element of promotion, where other people share your content just because they like it so much. Like owned, you might be tempted to think this is free, but it usually takes some serious work (and budget) behind the scenes.

For example, you’re going to need outreach emails to promote your pieces and reach new audiences. That may include the costs of a copywriter or outreach manager.

Also, earned media is often the bi-product of owned and paid media efforts, so you must layer those costs onto this channel, as well.

5. Reporting & Measurement

The final step is reporting and measuring your impact. Some potential costs here include:

  • Paying for reporting: You can hire an agency or purchase an automation platform to track your campaign performance for you.
  • Reporting tools: While there are free tools to keep track of things like shares, popular content, traffic and so on, more in-depth tools come with a cost.

It’s possible to do your own reporting on the cheap, but keep in mind that unless you’ve been trained to interpret the metrics, you may steer your campaign in the wrong direction.

Remember: It all adds up!

I don’t say that to discourage businesses from undertaking content marketing, nor do I think every campaign should be a six-figure plummet. However, when your business’ own time, energy and budget are involved, you must move forward with awareness in your investments. In other words, do not wing it.

And just remember: Even though your final budget may look intimidating, the ROI of content marketing is certainly there because you’re reaching customers in a way they prefer. After all, 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to get information from articles vs. ads.

If you’re still trying sell your content marketing budget to higher ups, just toss them this gem: Content marketing is proven to produce 3 more leads per dollar than other methods.

In other words, don’t be scared to invest. If you go in with a researched strategy, choose your creation methods wisely and carefully monitor your impact, the budget you invest will redeem itself many times over.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: How to Budget for the True Costs of Content Marketing

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