How To Create Your First Content Marketing Budget

January 21, 2015 Brad Shorr

Content Marketing Budget

Content marketing” may be the hottest thing going in marketing these days, but if you want your content to generate sales leads, think about it as content for marketing.

With that in mind, the question to ask before your fiscal year kicks into gear: What should my budget be for content-for-marketing? Content is used for SEO, PPC, email marketing, sales support and social media marketing (the company blog and original social media posts).

So the first budgetary consideration is …

Step 1: Determine Content Types and Frequency

Presumably, you already have an annual SEO, PPC, email marketing and/or social media campaign in place, or at least a fairly clear idea of what you intend to do. Using your campaigns as a guide, list the types of content you will need to support them. The list should look something like this:

Annual Content Production Requirements

  • SEO: 12 offsite articles, 12 new onsite pages
  • PPC: 6 landing pages, 60 AdWords ads
  • Email: 12 newsletters
  • Sales Support: 3 slide presentations, 4 2-page brochure PDFs
  • Social Media: 12 blog posts, 24 original Facebook posts, 1,000 original Tweets

Step 2: Establish a Standard Production Time for Each Content Type

Now that you know how much content you need, figure out how much time is required to produce it. Base standard times on historical data (if you have it) along with input from your writing and marketing teams. Your goal is to create a list looking something like this:

Standard Production Times

  • SEO offsite article: 3 hours
  • SEO new onsite page: 2 hours
  • PPC landing page: 4 hours
  • PPC AdWord ad: .25 hours
  • Email content: 3 hours
  • Sales Support slideshow presentation: 4 hours
  • Sales Support 2-page brochure PDF: 8 hours
  • Social Media blog post: 2 hours
  • Social Media original Facebook post: 0.5 hours
  • Social Media original Tweet: 50 per 1 hour

Please note: These times are arbitrary, and production time may vary for specific pieces of content within a type, depending on the nature of the assignment. That’s OK; for budgetary purposes, you need reliable estimates, not 100% accuracy. 

Because you need to account for all aspects of content production, not just the actual writing time, production time should also include:

  • Research done by the copywriter or other personnel
  • Internal creative meetings
  • Writing
  • Editing

Step 3: Establish a Standard Hourly Cost

At this point, you know how much content you need for each campaign and how much time is required to produce it. The next step is to establish a standard hourly cost for content production.

The calculations for this obviously vary, depending on compensation, whether you are using your internal staff or freelancers, and other factors. For compensation, be sure to include benefits, taxes and projected overtime as well as base salary. Beyond these basic guidelines, check with your accountant!

For this article, let’s assume a standard hourly cost of $50/hour.

Step 4: Use Simple Math to Calculate Your Production Costs

Now that you've defined production amounts, production times and costs, simple math is all you need. Here is what our hypothetical content-for-marketing budget looks like for the 12-month SEO campaign:

SEO: 36 hours for 12 offsite articles + 24 hours for 12 onsite pages x $50 = $3,000

Carrying these calculations through for the other campaigns:

SEO: $3,000

PPC: $1,250

Email: $1,800

Sales Support: $2,200

Social Media: $2,800

Subtotal Total: $11,050

5% Miscellaneous Factor: $550

Total Content Production Costs: $11,600

Note the total content production costs in this example are much lower than the cost of employing a full-time, experienced copywriter. Because of this, you now have two options: use freelancers or increase content production.

Both options have their positives. By using freelancers, you avoid staffing bloat. By increasing content production, you can do more marketing and generate more leads. This is how budgeting improves your ability to plan and better manage your business.

Step 5: Add Management and Distribution Costs

Content isn’t created out of thin air. The content component of every marketing campaign, whether it’s SEO, PPC, email, etc., has a content strategy behind it. Content strategy includes creating buyer personas, developing content themes, creating and managing an editorial calendar, and reviewing results to make continuous improvements.

In addition to strategy, content must be distributed and promoted to attract the views that generate sales leads. Distribution and promotional activities include pitching content to offsite blogs, managing offsite publisher relationships, sharing your content on your social media platforms, and collecting and reporting data.

All of these activities must be accounted for in your content-for-marketing budget. Difficulties arise, however, because every business is structured differently: Different managers may be involved with strategy for various campaigns; blogger outreach may be part of a different budget, etc.

My advice for beginning budgeters: Keep it simple. For example, assume that one manager will spend 25% of his or her time on content marketing management, and two staffers will spend 25% of their time on content distribution and promotion.  

Determine the labor cost for your manager and staffer’s time, and your content-for-marketing budget is ready to go.

The Benefits of Budgeting

Budgeting isn’t the sexiest topic in the world, but a content-for-marketing budget is terrific for managing your overall business for at least the following three reasons.  

First, as already noted, the budget helps you manage staffing costs and/or identify opportunities to expand your marketing efforts to generate sales leads.

Second, establishing standards gives you a baseline from which to measure results and continuously improve. Over time, you may note that blog posts are being written in one hour rather than two, with no sacrifice in quality. This signals productivity gains and a talented writer. Conversely, if blog posts are taking four hours instead of two, you may need to train up the writer, write on less complicated topics, etc.

Third, by tying content production to specific marketing campaigns, you can adjust your content budget based on how well campaigns are working. For instance, if SEO leads are pouring in and PPC leads are a mere trickle, you can shift content production to SEO and away from PPC, rather than just adding more SEO content to the workload. Campaign-specific budgeting helps you avoid the money pit of creating content for the sake of creating content.

Over to You

What advice do you have for first-time content marketing budgeters? What budget-related problems can the Uberflip community help you solve?

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About the Author

Brad Shorr

Brad Shorr is Director of B2B Marketing for Straight North, an Internet marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. He is an experienced content strategist, respected blogger, and SEO copywriter. Connect with him on Twitter @bradshorr.

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