How to Determine a Budget for Content Marketing

Heads of marketing ask me all the time how they should budget for content marketing.

 

A straight answer: As a benchmark, on average, a small business may spend around $2000-$6000 per month on content marketing, while larger companies may spend $10,000-$50,000 or more per month.

 

A more nuanced answer: The cost of content marketing varies widely depending on factors like the size and complexity of your content program, the number of campaigns you plan to run, your industry and niche, the breadth and number of target personas, the channels you want to publish on, and the level of expertise and specialization needed.

 

(I.e., if you need an SEO blogger specialized in the manufacturing vertical then that person will come at a premium. But this might be exactly what you need to create high-quality content that meets your business goals).

 

In this article, I’ll explore how to figure out a budget that suits your business objectives and maximizes your results.

 

But first, no content before strategy

 

Don’t dive into a content program before you have some sense of strategy. You do not need a 100-page strategy document, but you do need to think about and write down at least these four things:

 

  • Content goals. Do you know your content goals? For example, if you need your content to attract an audience and build awareness then that is one type of content and plan. If you need to drive leads, that’s another. If you want to rank in search, that is another altogether.

 

  • Do you know your buyers and what they prefer? For example, if they go to YouTube before they read blog posts, then your content development program will likely be more expensive.

 

  • What’s your stage of business? If you’re just getting started, then one blog post a week + social content for LinkedIn might be good enough. If you need to do full-court press to launch your brand and establish a presence, then maybe 4 blog posts/month, social 5x/week on Twitter (I mean X) and LinkedIn, a newsletter, and one lead magnet or ebook a quarter may be more like it.

 

  • Competitor content. Do you have a sense of what your competitors are doing? Find out the types and frequency of content your competitors are putting out. Make a list of the topics they are covering.  Decide if you want to match, do less or more, or just do different.

 

Your outsourcing strategy

 

Before you can estimate costs, you need to figure out if you’re going to hire internal resources or outsource it to external content developers or agencies. In-house content creation can be cost-effective, but it requires hiring, training, and management and assumes a steady cadence of work. It also requires investing in content creation tools and equipment. Outsourcing content creation, on the other hand, may cost more but it’s flexible, can provide access to expertise you don’t have in-house, and the contractors have their own tools and equipment.

 

Most growing B2Bs do not have an entire content team in-house, which would include a content marketing strategist, SEO, social media manager, copywriter, editor, and graphic designer. If you’re committed to content marketing you should hire a strategist or head of content as soon as you can, and subcontract the rest until you really need to hire full-time.  There are even ‘fractional’ heads of content that can help you out part-time, usually for a retainer fee each month.

 

So, what will it cost?

 

A content strategist or head of content on contract will charge you $2,000-$8,000/month to build and run your content program (depending on the size of your program and whether they do any writing).

 

You’ll outsource the rest, by the piece. Here are some examples of what you can expect to pay a contractor to produce different types of content:

 

  1. Blog Posts.  An SEO-optimized post in the 1,000-word range can cost $600-$1000. More if the content is highly technical or specialized.
  2. Ebooks. These longer-form, highly-designed content pieces fall in the range of 2,500-5,000 words. They can range from $2,500 to $7,000, depending on the length, research required, and design.
  3. Videos. Videos range from simple (video of someone talking) to complex (highly animated).  The cost can range from $1000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the length, production quality, and complexity.
  4. Infographics. These highly designed but text-light pieces can range from $1500 to $5000, depending on the complexity and design.
  5. Case studies.  These aren’t often very long but they require customer interviews and many review cycles. Expect to pay $1,500 – $2,500 for one.
  6. Emails. A highly converting campaign email would cost $250-$500 per email.
  7. Newsletter. These are typically 300-500 words, a cross between a blog post and a LinkedIn post but can be much longer depending on your strategy.  Expect to spend $750 – $2000 on one of these.
  8. Social Media Posts.  The cost of creating social media posts for Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn can range from $50 to $100 per post, and more if you want a carousel.

 

 

In contrast, you can hire an experienced writer for $80,000-$100,000/year. You’ll also need a designer if you are doing content such as ebooks and case studies.

 

What percentage of your budget should it be?

 

According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, the companies they surveyed spend an average of 26% of their total marketing budget on content marketing. However, this figure can vary widely depending on the industry, size of the company, and the goals of the content marketing campaign.

 

For example, B2B companies tend to allocate a larger percentage of their marketing budget (29%) to content marketing than B2C companies. Additionally, small businesses with less than $5 million in revenue tend to allocate a higher percentage of their marketing budget (42%) to content marketing than larger enterprises.

 

Putting it together

 

Let’s do some math for different sized programs, all on a monthly basis. (These are ballpark estimates – I’d have to hear a lot more about what you want to put a finer point on it).

 

Small program:

2 blog posts + social 3x/week + one newsletter all handled by one writer

$3,000 (minimum)

 

 

Medium program

4 blog posts + social 5x/week + a newsletter + 1 lead magnet + some content marketing oversight to coordinate and plan

$7,500 (minimum)

 

 

Large program:

8 blog posts, social 5x/week, a newsletter, 1 lead magnet, 2 short videos, 2 infographics + a lot of content marketing oversight to coordinate and plan

$20,000 (minimum)

 

Adding the costs of content promotion

 

You don’t create great content and then let it sit there. Creating high-quality content is essential, but it’s equally important to plan and budget for promotion. You can promote organically (free) but might also want to put some dollars behind it. Content promotion costs can vary depending on the channels you choose and the reach you want to achieve. Paid advertising on social media platforms, sponsored content, influencer collaborations, and email marketing campaigns are some common avenues for promoting your content. Consider your target audience and the platforms they frequent to make informed decisions about what budget to set aside for promotion.

 

Considering the use of AI when budgeting for content

 

Many writers will (and should) use AI to help with research, brainstorming titles, grammar/style checking, and suggesting other ways to phrase an awkward sentence. AI helps writers do things such as work more quickly, generate ideas and options, differentiate content from competitors, and improve alignment to your target audience. Writers should not be using AI to write the content – only humans can provide thought leadership, humor, empathy, and a deep understanding of your brand and the buyer.

 

Even if they are getting productivity gains from AI, these prices stand. That said, talk to your writer about how they are using AI to make sure you are on the same page. And PLEASE don’t suggest lower prices because they are using AI.  Writers who understand and harness AI are actually worth more (like SEO writers) because they know how to use the technology to drive your business goals.

 

The only way to grow is to invest

 

Setting aside enough budget for the right resources means that you can produce compelling and engaging content that resonates with your target audience and drives leads for your business. If you want to create high-quality blog posts, engaging videos, or targeted social media campaigns, you will need to pay for skilled writers, designers, videographers, and social media experts.

 

No, it doesn’t come cheap. But remember that for every dollar spent on content marketing, you get 3 in return, and that content marketing brings 6x the ROI of other marketing tactics.

 

Connect with me if you want to talk about building a budget for content marketing!

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