Content marketing has the stats to back up the hype. It’s a real, effective strategy to make your brand more visible and reputable—as long as you’re executing your strategy efficiently. There are thousands of variables at play, including your target audience, your potential goals, and how important content marketing is to your industry and competitive landscape. It demands a certain level of expertise to truly be effective, which is why so many people turn to outside authorities (like dopplepop, hint, hint) to help them with their campaigns.
There’s a big hurdle in working with outside experts, though—cost. Some programs cost just a few hundred dollars a month, while others skyrocket in the tens of thousands or more. How are you supposed to know how much to pay to get results?
Run a quick search and you’ll find dozens of different potential answers:
The problem with most of these sources is that they won’t give you a straight answer—there’s a reason for this, as I’ll explain momentarily, but by the end of this guide, I’ll try to cut through the bullshit and give you what you want—an actual figure.
Why It’s Hard to Project a Real Cost
First, it’s important that you understand why projecting a “real” cost is hard. There are four main reasons for this:
- Different needs. Remember how I was talking about how many variables there are to consider in content marketing? That’s not a joke. Every company is going to be in a unique position, with unique goals, challenges, and possibilities before them—not to mention, they’ll have unique budgetary requirements.
- In-house vs. outsourcing. Most brands feel stuck choosing between opting for an in-house content marketing expert who can handle the work on a full-time salary and hiring an external agency to handle the work. Somehow, the full-time worker seems cheaper—though in reality, he/she will be able to do far less than the average agency (and don’t forget about hidden costs like benefits). Even worse, if you split your content marketing responsibilities between multiple people, or opt for an in-house/agency hybrid model, calculating the exact costs of your campaign can be nightmarish, if not impossible.
- Price vs. value. Most agencies that survive longer than a few months are fairly reputable, but you can never be too careful. I may be able to answer the question, “how much value should you invest in a content strategy?”, but just because a service package is being sold at that price doesn’t mean you’ll get that value.
- The amount of money you invest at the beginning of a content campaign shouldn’t necessarily remain consistent. If you want your reach and your content empire to expand, you’ll need to invest more time and money into the process to avoid stagnating.
Some Points of Consideration
Before I go any further into my analysis, I want to bring up three main points for your consideration when trying to budget for a content marketing campaign.
- The bare minimum. There’s not really an upper limit for how much you can spend in a content marketing campaign; investing in dozens of new features, both onsite and offsite (assuming a certain threshold of quality) per week can skyrocket your brand’s popularity—but it will also cost you tons of money. Instead, the average business owner should start by looking at the bare minimum. The bare minimum in content marketing is a bit peculiar; it’s technically possible to invest a trifling amount in your campaign, such as one new article per week, but this would put you on a pace so slow you may never see results—and your small investment will be completely wasted. You’ll want to invest enough that you start seeing a return after only a month or two, so you can start making that money back, and that’s going to require a level of daily activity, roughly equivalent to at least one full-timer’s workload.
- You get what you pay for. I’ve said it before on this blog dozens of times, and other experts are inclined to agree with me; quality matters more than quantity. If you want any hope of your campaign being successful, you need to make sure you’re leveraging high-quality material. High-quality material takes time to create, and time is money. Generally, the more you spend, the better material you’re going to get.
- The long-term payoffs. Also keep in mind that content marketing isn’t an overnight strategy by any stretch of the imagination. It takes months to start seeing a return, and even longer to start ramping up the exponential gains that you’ve been promised by countless marketers past. Try to frame your budget with this long-term perspective in mind.
How Much You Got?
Ask what a product costs at a flea market, or some similarly anarchic trading ground; if you get the response, “how much you got?”, you would have ample reason to be dubious of the seller’s intentions. However, this is a legitimate question to ask when it comes to content marketing, as for many industries, your budget is the major restricting factor in how much you should invest. Small businesses can’t possibly spend what large businesses can, though the more you invest, the faster you’ll see returns—and the bigger those returns will be (again, as a general rule). No matter how much you “should” spend, you have to think about how much you “can” spend first and foremost.
What You Can Reasonably Expect
I promised a no-bullshit approach, so here are some actual numbers.
Earlier, I mentioned you’ll need at least one “full-time employee’s” worth of work to see meaningful results from a content campaign in a reasonable timeframe (at a minimum). This is an estimation, but it’ll work here. For an employee making $40,000 a year (even though the median here is $60,000), that equates to more than $3,500 a month when you factor in peripheral employee expenses. An agency, with access to more varied, more efficient resources, should be able to offer you an even better “minimum” standard and volume of content services the same price.
If you can spend more, you can seek higher quality producers, or a more robust suite of services, or simply a higher volume of content—that’s up to you and your end goals. But you shouldn’t expect to see a meaningful return for any less than a few thousand dollars a month.
If you’re interested in getting started with an agency, or if you’d like to put together a custom plan for your brand, be sure to reach out—we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about the content marketing process, including how much you should pay for a brand like yours.