Important: This article is a part of my step-by-step guide on how to create a fully functioning Content Marketing Strategy that will serve as a backbone of your content marketing efforts.
Step 7) Setting your content marketing budget <<< YOU ARE HERE
It's not easy being one of those "pesky" content marketers who want to create free content and help the customers out without any expectations.
"It works! I swear!" they keep saying.
Too bad no one in their organization believes them, right?
When they finally wear down their boss after the tenth meeting and manage to get a 'maybe' out of him or her, a giant elephant appears in the room.
The last thing anyone involved needs is to fight over every dollar spent and to keep having to justify every move they make.
It doesn't matter if you're the boss or the marketer from this little story, arguing over budget isn't fun.
Is there a way to avoid this?
Keep reading and you'll learn how to set a content marketing budget in a frictionless way.
How much does content marketing cost?
In every article discussing content marketing and money you'll see this magical claim – content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing efforts.
Heck, I'm guilty of using it too.
This figure comes from a Content Marketing Institute's blog article so it must be well-founded.
They're not ones to carelessly throw around claims.
The number itself is meaningless without context, however.
For example, a brand new Ferrari costs a fraction of the price of a G5 private jet, but it's still way too expensive for most of us.
In other words, content marketing might be considerably less expensive than traditional marketing efforts, but it'll still cost you something.
Luckily, the beauty of content marketing is in its flexibility.
It can cost you however much you have.
Sure, more money means more content which means better results down the line, but anything is better than nothing.
So, how much should you spend?
There's no one-size-fits-all type of answer to this question.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when setting a content marketing budget, though.
Content marketing doesn't yield results overnight and, if you did most things right and after a year it finally starts to, it can be tricky to calculate the ROI.
For these two reasons alone, pumping your entire marketing budget into content marketing would jeopardize your entire business.
Not to mention the confused looks of the marketing team after radically shifting the marketing strategy.
Don't worry, the "frictionless approach" comes in to save the day!
What does "frictionless approach" even mean and why is it important?
The frictionless approach entails setting your content marketing budget in such a way that the marketing dollars you spend on content production and distribution don't jeopardize the business.
Because you won't see the results for quite a while and you'll still have to keep doing whatever you did before to get leads and sales.
The results might never even come, quite frankly.
Just because content marketing works for a lot of marketers, there's no guarantee that it'll work for you.
It all comes down to execution, at the end of the day.
You could have a huge budget and produce a ton of content and see zero results if the content is terrible and unoptimized.
Sooner or later, you'll have someone breathing down your neck, asking to see the ROI.
To avoid this, use the frictionless approach and your life will be much easier.
Even if your content marketing efforts bring in zero ROI, your business will still be fine and you'll have maneuvering space to figure out what went wrong and adjust your approach.
In the meantime, the frictionless approach will ensure that whoever is creating and publishing content can do so in relative peace.
Does business size matter when implementing this budgeting strategy?
No, the size of the business does not have any influence on whether this budgeting strategy will work or not.
The frictionless approach works for both the solopreneurs and companies, big or small.
In fact, the bigger the business, the better this kind of approach works.
It all depends on how much pushback there is to using content marketing from the decision-makers, of course.
Obviously, more and more businesses are starting to realize the power of content marketing, but the transition could still be bumpy for various reasons like:
- Content production and distribution costs money
- Employing content creators like writers, editors, videographers, etc. costs money
- If you're outsourcing content production, it'll still cost you money
- There are paid tools that are really helpful, but they cost money
- Marketing agencies are also helpful… and expensive
- You can do ALL of it on your own and for free, but it'll take you a lot of time to develop the necessary skills, let alone keep creating content on a daily basis
However you spin it, you'll have to either spend time or money. Or both.
The frictionless approach can eliminate some of the conflicts by having a budget you can freely spend with no regrets.
That's not to say it's OK to waste money.
No, you should still try to spend every dollar as best you can.
But mistakes will happen along the way and having the peace of mind that your business will be fine no matter what is priceless.
And remember, no budget is ever set in stone.
If or when you start seeing the results of your content marketing, you can always increase the budget and scale up content production.
Average content production expenditures you can expect
It's impossible to exactly tell how much money any piece or type of content will cost you.
There are just too many variables.
For example, you can hire a jack-of-all-trades freelance writer for 2 cents per word or you can hire an authoritative expert on the subject.
They'll both write a 2,000-word article if you hire them, but the price will vary dramatically.
And so will the quality, but that's a matter for another topic.
Luckily, Izea conducted some research on average expenses for various content types in their 2017 State of the Creator Economy report.
The report mentions the following content types and their prices:
- Articles - $249
- Listicles - $219
- Infographics - $185
- Motion graphics - $156
- Photography - $349
- Topical videos - $631
- White papers – 959
Even though your "mileage" can vary significantly depending on a few factors, these numbers are meant as ball-park figures and they do make sense.
There are quite a few expenditures when it comes to content marketing.
They don't all warrant their own sections but you should still be aware of them.
If nothing else, but to point you in the direction of things to investigate further.
How much does a new domain cost?
I suggest buying your own domain from one of the domain registry services out there.
You should always purchase and own your own domain separately from the web hosting provider.
I say this because most web hosting companies offer to purchase the domain for you.
There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but just to be safe, purchase your domain separately.
Typically, domains cost between $10 and $20 per year.
How much does web hosting cost?
When starting brand new, a shared hosting plan is all you need.
I use and suggest A2 Hosting.
They're one of the few independent providers who are still managing to compete with the big dogs in the industry and not compromise the service quality.
A shared hosting plan will typically cost you between $3 and $5 per month, which is around $50 per year, give or take.
What free tools do you recommend?
AnswerThePublic is a great free tool for keyword research and topic ideas.
Keyword Sheeter is a nice free tool for keyword research.
Other than those two, Google gives you a wealth of information in the SERPs.
Are paid tools worth it?
Most of them are not worth it.
There are exceptions like KWFinder (from $49/month), Ahrefs (from $99/month), and BuzzSumo (from $99/month).
Definitely not cheap for solopreneurs that are just starting up, but for companies with budgets, they're worth the investment.
What graphic design tools do you recommend?
When you're bootstrapping, the free version of Canva is amazing.
Also, Pexels and Pixabay have some great royalty-free stock photos.
If you want to spend money, a Canva Pro subscription at $9.95 per month will give you a great bang for the buck.
For bigger budgets, Shutterstock has great stock photos but is pricey at $49 per month for 10 images as a starting plan.
Is hiring an agency worth it?
Definitely, if you can afford it.
I would only consider hiring an agency to help with the content production and distribution if your budget is $10,000 or more.
Where to find freelance writers?
ProBlogger has a great writer job board where you can connect with freelancers.
Upwork is also a good place to find quality freelance writers.
Entry-level freelance writers typically cost .03-.06 cents per word, intermediate .07-.12 cents per word, and experienced .13-.20 cents per word.
A good tactic is to find a "newbie" that is talented but doesn't yet command anything more than entry-level pay.
Expect to go through a few trial candidates before you find a good fit.
Where to find freelance graphic designers?
Fiverr is a great place to find paid help for anything related to graphic design, video editing, narration, etc.
You can find freelancers for as little as $5 dollars per gig but don't expect miracle workers for that price.
Are article writing services worth it?
You get what you pay for are my general feelings on the content writing services.
Expect to have to heavily edit and revise the cheapest ones and pay a premium price for the ones that deliver decent content.
If you're willing to give it a shot, I suggest Textbroker which offers tiered pricing plans.
The 4-star tier seems like a decent bang for the buck option at 2.7 cents per word.
Keep analyzing the results and adjusting your spending
No budget should ever be set in stone when it comes to places where it could be spent.
It's always a good idea to continuously analyze the results, even though they might take time to start showing.
In content marketing, when you have a winner on your hands, double down on it.
For example, if one of your articles ranks in the lower end of page one or upper end of page two of Google, you should consider improving it and shoot for the top of the SERPs.
In this situation, I would put the budget meant for creating a new piece of content towards improving that near-winner and making it a true winner.
In fact, if the keyword targeted by that near-winner article is important for your business, I would double down on it and acquire a few legitimate backlinks too.
Backlinks are really important when it comes to ranking and, odds are, that's what your content is missing to rank even higher.
The difference between, say, rank 7 and rank 1 on Google is dramatic and worth every penny.
Once you're dominating that query, aim your budget at the usual activities like creating new content.
10 Content marketing budget-related statistics
Some of these content marketing budget-related statistics are motivational, some illustrate the pain points content marketers are experiencing, and some show the direction the entire industry is heading in.
I know statistics without context aren't worth much, but they're still fun to take a peek at sometimes.
27% of marketers say securing enough budget is their top marketing challenge. (Source: Hubspot)
B2C marketers dedicate an average 26% of their total marketing budget towards content marketing. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
39% of marketing budget is spent on content marketing by the most effective B2B marketers. (Source: TopRank Marketing)
1 in 4 content marketers struggles to secure required budget. (Source: Quoracreative)
46% of companies didn’t shell more than $10k on content marketing in 2019. Most aren’t planning to increase their content budget significantly in 2020 either. (Source: Elite Content Marketer)
Only 24.26% of companies will increase their content budget in 2020. (Source: Elite Content Marketer)
This year 25% of marketers anticipate spending between 10% to 20% of their total budgets on visual content creation. (Source: Elite Content Marketer)
To achieve such significant goals, most companies spent up to $10,000 on content marketing in 2019. In the upcoming year, more than 62% of the respondents are going to increase their budgets to improve their content marketing success: 9% significantly, 23% medially and 30% slowly. (Source: SEMRush)
Approximately 28% of marketers say they have reduced their digital advertising budgets in order to produce more content assets. (Source: Gartner)
Of content marketers currently using interactive content, 75% plan to increase their budgets to produce more interactive content in the coming year. (Source: SnapApp)
Hitting a content marketing sweet spot is tough.
The results come slowly and there are many unknowns.
Every business has its own nuances and should have its own custom-tailored approach to everything including budgeting.
The frictionless approach allows you to have a content marketing budget and still continue with the traditional marketing efforts that bring you results on-demand.
How much are you spending on your content marketing efforts?