We are all aware that content marketing is mandatory for any business. If you want that your target audience finds you online, you will have to invest in content and it has to be of high quality. It will be an essential part of your website, your social media channels, e-mail marketing campaign, and more. But as you probably also know, it costs money, as in good things never come for free.
Therefore, you will need to have a budget especially created to allow you to put your ideas into practice in the right way. But, it is understandable if you think that it is a daunting task to decide how much you need to invest and in what. You don’t want to find out in the middle of the process that you don’t have the correct amount or that you spent your budget on things that won't bring you the expected return.
So here is a guide on how to determine and correctly spend your content marketing budget. It will support you through your journey, and give you some crucial tips that will help you to understand what you should prioritise or just discard.
The facts and figures
First of all, you need to understand what the big players in the world are doing in terms of content marketing budgeting, so you can figure out the importance of putting it as a priority.
A study by IBM and CMO Club got feedback from 100 CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) among 100 leading members of the CMO Club and marketing executives from top companies in the world. The guide named “Marketing is a (Buyer) Journey, Not a Destination” brought some light to what these influencers are doing in 2016 regarding content marketing, among other strategies.
According to this study, content creation is responsible for the largest portion of their marketing budget (13.3%), almost two percentage points higher than traditional advertising, which got 11.5% of the total amount, followed by online advertising (11.1%), events (10.9%), website development (10.5%) and public relations (9.6%).
But another study pushed the figures much higher than that. According to the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, companies that spend more on content marketing enjoy better results from it.
Their analysis revealed that the B2B marketers whose content marketing strategies had become more effective allocated 42% of their budget on them while the least effective had allocated only 15%. On average, B2B marketers that are at the top level of content marketing maturity usually spend (46%) of their budget in content marketing.
Start preparing your content marketing plan
Having said that, if you want to know how much you need to spend on your content marketing strategies, you should start by writing a tactical plan down. And yet, it might sound far too easy or you might think that you don’t have the time to put all your ideas on the paper.
But you should consider your content marketing strategy as a holidays travel. You will need to have your journey planned if you want to know how much it is going to cost you. You also need to know what you are expecting from it so that you can check its effectiveness in the end.
Your plan will need to have, and very well-described:
- Your goals: what you want to achieve or why you are investing in content marketing
- Your strategies: how you will achieve your goals
- Your tactics: how each strategy will be implemented
- Your evaluation process: how you will know if you have achieved your goal
While these four points above can be written in a broad way, they will demand of you and your team a lot of research reviews of companies, brainstorming, and decision-making. But as soon as you get it done, everybody will understand the importance of what they are doing and why is necessary to put some money on it.
Make sure that your goals are achievable through content marketing strategies
Another common mistake that people make is to choose goals that have nothing to do with content marketing or that can never be achieved by it.
Yes, content is the king, but the king isn’t an omnipotent god. It has its own limitations and can only get done what is within its power.
So check your goals carefully and try to be reasonable. Of course, you want to save money, and content marketing is one of the cheapest ways to promote a website or a product/service online. But, sometimes, only advertising can bring the results that you want, for example.
This is particularly true when you need fast results, or to make sure that a specific audience actually sees your post. In these cases, buying ads, or paying for a sponsored post might make much more sense than waiting for your content be spread organically.
At this stage, you already have an idea of how big your budget will need to be so to implement what is in your plan. But, if you want to be 100% sure that you got the figures right, you will need to take the things a bit deeper down than it.
Take your tactics to the deepest level of detail
So, if you want to ensure that you won’t forget anything, you will have to go through your tactics one per one, and find out what is necessary to be done in each case.
You will need to do some research and figure out which resources you will need if they also require their own resources to work, and how much it will all cost in details.
For example: let's say that you want to create an e-book so to generate more leads for your website.
To get it done, you will need to allocate money for the following tasks:
- Writing, editing and proofreading the content itself
- Designing the e-book (also paying for visual resources)
- Publishing the e-book (hosting services, etc.)
- Creating a lead magnet for it (writing and designing it)
- Creating a campaign to promote the blog (what actually imply in an entirely new tactic)
- Getting the resources to collect and manage the e-mails you will get
- Getting tools that you will allow you to evaluate the results of your tactic
As you can see, there is a lot to be taken into consideration when trying to find out your content marketing budget.
Don’t forget the indirect costs
Until now, we have talked only about the direct costs, those that affect your content marketing strategy directly. But you should also consider indirect costs, such as electricity and internet bills, gadgets/computers, meeting costs, etc.
They have a relevant impact on your budget and usually pass unnoticed, just to show up as a huge amount of money out of your budget at the end of the year. And this is why so many important projects are just cut off from the next year’s budget.
So make sure that you write down everything (as in absolutely everything) that you will spend to make your tactic comes true. Even bills paid by other budgets should be taken into consideration as you never know when other departments might run out of money due to an unexpected event.
Take evaluation seriously (and be ready to make adjustments)
If you want to make sure that you are spending your content marketing money correctly, you need to be prepared to take evaluation very seriously. Just looking at your average stats on Google Analytics might not be enough.
Another mistake that you can’t afford to make is going for simple maths. You might think that all that you need to do is to figure out the difference between your expenses and the money you invested and that it will tell you if the tactic was worthy or not.
But there are two problems here to consider:
The first one is that things such as engagement cannot be measured that way. You will have to use something more psychologically-based, such as surveys, to determine brand awareness, for example.
The second thing is that you will be ignoring the amount that you save when you invest in content marketing. Compared to paid advertising is proven that it can reach the same goals while making you spend much less in several cases.
So, you will have to analyse case by case, confronting your tactics with your goals. If they are connected to figures (for example, if your goal is to increase your sales by 10%), then all you need to do is to check if it happened or not.
But if your goal was something like “make sure that 90% of our target audience find our new post design attractive”, you will have to conduct a survey to verify it.
To sum up
If you want that to determine and correctly spend your content marketing budget, you will have to create a solid plan, where you will write down your goals, strategies, tactics, and evaluation process. You will need to verify if your goals can really be achieved by content marketing and if you are taking all direct and indirect costs into consideration.
And to do it, you will need to describe and analyse each one of your tactics in detail, so not to forget anything important. Plus, you will need to spend some time figuring out the best and the right way to evaluate your tactics, as it has to be consistent with what your goals require.
If you follow these guidelines, you can be sure that you will be more confident about the way you are dealing with your content marketing budget from now on.
Norman Arvidsson is an independent author based in Atlanta, GA, USA. You can contact him through his Twitter, Facebook, G+ or LinkedIn.