Content marketing does it all. This strategy is more cost-effective than paid ads, longer-lasting than traditional marketing, and targets an active audience. It’s no wonder that some marketers spend their entire marketing budget on content alone. But how much is that?
In 2023, marketing budgets consisted of approximately 9.1% of a company’s annual revenue. However, when it comes to marketing budget allocations for content marketing, there's no set guideline to follow. There are, however, some things to consider.
Why Your Content Budget Should Never Be an Afterthought
Unlike traditional marketing and paid search campaigns, most digital content has a long shelf life. Regularly updated blog articles, white papers, and infographics can contribute to your bottom line years after they were first created. Knowing this, it's always a good idea to create a marketing strategy that revolves around content marketing and starts with your content marketing budget. Doing this will help you get the most out of your marketing dollars overall.
What Do Marketers Include in Their Budget for Content?
What you should include in your content marketing budget depends on your specific needs. Professional content marketers may include everything from writer’s fees to camera and video equipment, depending on the needs of the business, what it has, and how it plans to grow its content team.
For most companies, however, there are some basic things to consider:
- The size of your business and your content team. This will give you some idea of how much content you can produce in-house versus outsourcing.
- Your goals. For the year and each content plan. Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you decide what type of content you’ll need.
- Your available marketing budget. Sometimes the hard numbers come from contracts that are already in place. Knowing what’s already “spent” will help you to figure out what you have to work with.
With this information, you can begin your media planning.
7 Tips To Master Budgeting for Content
While you can set a hard percentage of your marketing budget aside for content production, most businesses, small and large alike, will benefit from having a content marketing budget that is fluid throughout the year — allowing for necessary adjustments caused by changing trends and economic shifts.
To help, here are seven tips to master budgeting for content:
1. Build a Content Strategy That Aligns With Your Business Goals
Before you can begin to figure out your content marketing budget, you need to figure out what your content strategy is.
When it comes to building your content strategy, start by creating SMART marketing goals. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound will allow you to keep your eye on the prize and know when and if you’ve hit your mark.
TIP: To get the most out of your marketing strategy, set SMART marketing goals for each quarter and each marketing campaign.
2. Look at Your Historical Data To Define Budget Forecasts
One of the best resources for defining a content marketing budget is to look at your historical data — including spending and strategy. Take a look at where you allocated funds last year as well as what worked and what didn’t.
As you investigate, take a hard look at how effective your marketing tactics were. It’s worth the time and effort to get as granular as you can so you can make informed decisions. As a bonus, this will help you gather the data you’ll need when asking for budget approval.
3. Snoop On Your Competitors’ Content Types and Posting Frequency
Go ahead. Spy on your competitors. Follow their social media pages. Read their blog content. And download their white papers.
Knowing what type of content your competitors are producing can help you not only find gaps in your content strategy, but it can also help you to figure out what they’re not covering so you can fill that content gap and gain a competitive edge.
4. Define Your Budget for Each Type of Content
Each type of content has different requirements and it’s important to research how much each will cost you to produce, as well as how long they’ll be driving traffic into your sales funnel.
For instance, blog articles are relatively inexpensive, but social media posts are even cheaper. Of course, you own the blog post that lives on your website and it stays up and can keep pulling traffic for as long as you keep it updated. A social media post may capture immediate attention, but its time is fleeting — and since you don’t own the platform, you can’t control how long it will be shown to potential customers.
5. Add Up Operational Costs of Content Creation
As you define what type of content will most help you reach your goals and plan out how much of each type you want to create, take a good look at how much it'll cost you to produce each piece of content.
Creating one video each week to post on YouTube might seem like a good idea, but you have to calculate how much it'll cost you to produce each one. If you have a brand that is spontaneous and purposefully rough around the edges, you might be able to do low-budget videos shot on-site with a digital camera and minimal editing done by a talented intern. But, if your brand is polished and more serious, you’ll want to hire professional videographers, video editors, and scriptwriters (and possibly even rent studio space).
6. Account for Unexpected or Hidden Costs
No matter how well you plan, there will always be unexpected costs.
While you’re working out your master marketing budget, you should also be laying out a contingency plan. While project managers usually add 5%-10% to their budget for contingency, you must evaluate your particular situation — regarding budget, uncertainty, and risk in your marketing plan — and set aside an amount that you believe is appropriate.
7. Track and Adjust Your Budget Spending
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to figure out a budget, set it, and forget it. Your progress, spending, and ROI should be monitored regularly (and closely) to ensure that you not only stay on budget from quarter to quarter but that you also allocate funds in the right places.
For instance, at the beginning of the year it may have been decided that you should invest heavily in content for TikTok. If two months into the year, the platform stops driving traffic, changes its ad fees, or shuts down completely, you'd be wasting money unless you adjust your campaigns.
To get the most out of your precious content marketing funds, check in regularly on your projects and be flexible when things change.
What Are the Benchmarks for Content Costs by Type?
When it comes to what you should spend on content, it would be nice to have a straight answer, like, “Your content marketing budget should be X dollars or X% of your marketing budget, and out of that you should spend this much on this type and this much on that type.”
However, the truth is that how much you allocate for your content marketing depends upon the size of your business, your marketing goals, and how much you have to work with. And there’s no way to get around that.
In addition, each type of content has its own production requirements and associated costs. To give you an idea, short articles and blog posts often cost anywhere from $151 to $500, depending on length. Expect to pay more for editing fees, publication assistance, niche articles, ideation, SEO keywords, and metadata. Ghostwriter costs will reflect the need for advanced writing skills and the fact that they don’t get public credit for their work.
Then, of course, still in the vein of articles, white paper costs can vary based on the content's length, complexity, number of included revisions, and industry.
Figuring Out Your Spend
To say that there is a wide range of costs and fees associated with content creation, based on a number of variables, is putting it mildly. The best way to figure out what your content needs will cost you to produce is to complete a cost analysis and comparison. Start by figuring out the costs of hiring in-house content creators versus outsourcing. And the best way to do that is to talk to the experts and agencies that provide the services you need.
As far as how much you should spend overall, it’s fairly simple math.
Let's say your business makes $5 million in revenue each year, and you want to allocate 9.1% of your revenue to your marketing budget (the average in 2023). If you spend a third of your marketing budget on content, the math would look something like this:
$5 million x .091 = $455,000 (Marketing budget)
$455,000 x .33 = $150,150 (Content budget)
Although the math is simple, how you spend that content budget will depend on your historic and projected return on investment.
How To Evaluate Content ROI To Justify Your Investment
Regardless of your budget, what counts is the ROI. If you don’t know how much you're earning from your content, then you don’t know if your actions are worth the effort — or the cost.
To evaluate content marketing ROI (and hopefully justify your investment), you first need to determine if your idea of success is cost savings or earnings. While increased earnings may be the end goal, individual pieces of content may be geared toward cost savings.
For instance, the primary goal of a search engine-optimized blog article is often to draw traffic to a website while also containing links and calls to action that direct that traffic further down a sales funnel. The article draws traffic and provides cost savings versus ad spend and it’s the sales page — and its content — that’s responsible for converting that traffic into a sale.
Therefore, when you’re considering the ROI of your content you should consider what the goal of each type of content is. It's only then that you’ll know what content is working for you and what isn’t.
To know the financial gain of your content marketing spend, in its entirety, here’s the math:
Return on Investment (by percentage) = (Return - Investment / Investment) x 100
However, the bottom dollar is not the entire picture, and you should track more than your final ROI to make sure your budget is being spent wisely. Make sure you know what your content marketing cost truly is.
What Can You Do if Your Available Budget Is Low?
When you’re on a tight budget, not only is it critical to assess past historical data and analyze the potential ROI of each strategy but you should also take a good look at your content operations to ensure you’re not spending money unnecessarily.
Monitor individual campaign reports to adjust your time and budget as necessary. Take into account how much time it'll take your team to create the high-quality content you need, and weigh that against how much it costs to outsource the same work. Remember, you want to get the highest ROI possible.
To get the most out of a small budget, keep in mind the following:
- Content marketing generates more leads than paid search.
- Digital content costs much less than traditional marketing.
- Depending on your needs and resources, it'll be more cost-effective to outsource content creation than to hire in-house content creators.