While content marketing can often be a far less expensive option than many other lead generationstrategies, there are still costs attached to it. And when it comes to defining your budget it can sometimes prove tricky, especially if you’re just starting out.
When working out your costs there are many elements that you need to consider, including budgeting to ensure you’ve covered off all the key challenges that today’s content marketers face – which we’ve helpfully outlined for you here as some further food for thought.
The big issue
At the end of the day, the effectiveness of your content marketing and how well it produces leads for you (assuming that is your main goal) will ultimately depend on the resources you have available to create, manage and promote your content. It’s simple – the bigger your budget, the more activities you can do, the better content you can produce and the quicker you’ll achieve results.
The most important question you’ll ever need to answer about content marketing is what return on investment it achieved. Once you’ve proven a positive ROI and how effective it can be, it’ll be much easier to secure the budget you need moving forward. Thanks to the digital world we now live in, there are many ways to measure activity and behavior which can all make proving ROI relatively easy.
Just remember, content marketing is about playing the long game – especially in the first 12 months – so it may be difficult in the beginning to pull out the evidence you need.
What to budget for
So what’s the best way to approach the content marketing budgeting process and what do you need to think about?
Scenario 1: never done content marketing before
In this situation, you won’t have any of your own data to call on, so you’ll need to rely on the numbers you find from others. Your focus in the beginning phase should be on testing the water. Many companies are understandably wary of throwing a lot of cash at a strategy that they don’t fully understand and have no experience in. They’ll first want to know (or at least have a good idea) of how well or not it will work.
There’s lots for you to think about in this first phase. Your main focus is going to be putting together your first campaign, ensuring your basic assets are covered off and starting on your core content.
If you want to be a bit more aggressive that’s absolutely fine too, but remember to start by focusing on a few tactics – those which are most likely to work well for you – then test them thoroughly.
Working out solid KPIs is a must, particularly in this phase, and putting mechanisms and tools in place to help you track ROI is going to be key for your ongoing success. Having everything set up correctly before you start, including spending time developing a strategy covering at least the first two years, will be time and money well spent. It will help you prove ROI in the long-term, i.e. enable you to show how your content marketing is developing over time and becoming even more effective.
Scenario 2: 6-12 month’s content marketing experience
By this point, you are likely to have found your feet. You’ll have produced your first few pieces of content and landing pages, and figured out how big your audience is and who they are.
To ensure you’re keeping tabs on how effective you’re being and how well you’re engaging your audience, it’s time to build in assessment and improvements to your planning. This will, of course, need consideration when it comes to budgets. Far from simply adding more and more content, this is about checking what’s worked and what hasn’t. It will take time and skill to do it right but is an important part of the process.
Your main goal in this phase is to cement your initial experiences by figuring out what you should build on and what needs to change. Use this information to help you revise and strengthen your strategy. You should then increase your output and turn up the heat now that you have some solid experience to call on.
This is also the time to start thinking about running more specialized campaigns, perhaps something that is time sensitive, or a campaign linking with a partner organization. By now your basic content machine should be ticking along and working well, if not then you need to focus on that first. But if it’s all going smoothly then it’s time to start adding some extras.
Scenario 3 – seasoned content marketers
At this point, it definitely becomes about proving an accurate ROI. Can you correctly trace back all the new business you got from your marketing activities? You should be able to if you set up good KPIs and have had tracking in place from the beginning.
All the data you have collected should tell you exactly which content works for which audience and what you need to focus on. It is also time to re-evaluate your resources in terms of whether in-houseor external support is still the best option for you and how the overall process is working.
When it comes to the content itself you should now be looking to dramatically increase your reach. Armed with knowledge about what works and what doesn’t you can go ahead and put together more sophisticated and elaborate content plans, perhaps spending more money on not only improving speed but also quality.
Who does what?
A large part of your budget is going to be decided by the question ‘who will do what?’. You need to decide what will happen in terms of internal vs. external skills and resources.
How much you outsource is a key question. Consider what skills are going to be needed for your content marketing and consider what resources and talent you already have in-house. Just make sure you avoid falling into the trap of simply piling extra work onto people. Their other tasks will suffer and so will your content marketing. Something will have to give.
Ask yourself whether you need to hire new talent or will outsource. This will largely depend on how your particular organization does things, and the role content marketing will play within your company.
There are many different options here, for example, in the beginning it may work best to simply work with a couple of freelancers to get things going. But however you do it, it’s important for the success of your content marketing that you have at least one person working on it – no matter what the size of the organization is. They should have full responsibility for everything content related. They will most likely be a strategist, managing the overall picture and all the various bits and pieces that are needed. Then as your content marketing machine grows, so will your need for talent.
What you need to budget for with content marketing
Put simply, content marketing is about producing and promoting various forms of content (usually digital content) that aims to help fulfil business goals. The associated costs for this are mostly going to be around personnel, with some potential media and material costs.
The skills you need
To effectively implement and carry out content marketing, you’ll need the following skills:
- Strategy: a generalist who can help devise a strategy and produce a workable plan
- Management: someone overseeing the whole thing and making sure all the wheels are turning. They will be checking on the deliverables, chasing if necessary and organizing all elements.
- Creation: this is the creative talent you need to actually produce the content, such as copywriters, graphic designers, web developers, video & audio professionals.
- Promotion: someone with an understanding of maximising the impact of the content. This should include knowledge of SEO, SEM, PPC, social media, referral marketing, influencer marketing, etc.
The smaller the organization the fewer people you will be able to assign to doing all these things, which will again go back to the question of how big your budget needs to be.
Other budget items
Apart from the cost of the people element of content marketing, you also need to budget for materials. For example, you may decide to print off one of your e-books for your sales team to use and pass on. Or to undertake advertising to help push your content out – as it can be difficult to find an audience, particularly in the beginning. Plus any extra campaigns you might be planning, such as events, linking up with a partner and other guerrilla tactics that can help you get the word out.
While it is true that the more money you have available the more exhaustive content campaigns you can build, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take a shoestring budget and be successful. In this digital world we now live in there are many ways to get your messages out there and sharing has never been easier. If all you can afford to do is have one download, then make sure that download is absolutely fantastic and a really helpful resource for many people. It will generate leads for you.
Overall, remember it’s about quality over quantity. With a strong, well thought through strategy, high quality content and constant evaluation and improvement to maximize the impact of what you’re producing, you’ll be on to a winner in the end.