How to Budget for Your Content Marketing in 2021

content marketing budgets
content marketing budgets

Budgeting is never a fun process. It can be stressful and chaotic. However, it’s necessary to budget for your content marketing program, so that you’ll know exactly what funds and resources you’ll be working with in the new year. And you don’t have to start from scratch, as we’ll be sharing how to budget for your content marketing in 2021. With these tips and insights, you’ll be on your way to a budget that makes sense for your needs and can help you reach your goals.

To ensure your content marketing strategy is executable in the new year, you should follow these steps to determine what size of budget you’ll need. Here’s a step by step guide to preparing and using a content marketing budget:

Step 1: Identify Your Goals

When compiling your budget needs, it’s best to start with the goals you hope to accomplish with content marketing. By establishing your goals, you’ll be able to determine the types of content you’ll create, the quantity of content, what resources are needed, and what channel costs you may incur.

Source: CMI

For example, if one of your goals is to improve SEO rankings, then you might decide to budget dollars for paid search ads, consulting services from an SEO firm, or specific technology tools that help you manage SEO efforts. If your goal is to increase lead generation from content, then you’ll be planning a lot of gated content, so you’ll need to budget for a landing page creator platform and ad spend for channels like social media.

Step 2: Define Resources

In defining resources, these would include human and technological ones. If you plan to double your content output in the new year, then you’ll need to either add to your internal team or consider outsourcing some aspects of your content marketing. No matter which you choose, it will come at a cost.

Beyond human capital, there’s all the technology you need. There is a wide selection of marketing technology platforms from which to choose. You might not need all the bells and whistles, but you will require some level of technology to eliminate inefficiencies and enable you to automate certain functions as well as track and measure your content’s performance.

Even if you don’t foresee any changes to your current tech setup, that doesn’t mean the price will stay the same. In addition to the base price increasing, you may need to add more users if your team is expanding. Be sure to include this in your 2021 budget.

If you are looking to switch platforms or add new ones, then you’ll need to do the research to see what best fits your needs and meets your fiscal limitations. For example, content personalization is a huge trend in content marketing. It requires robust technology like a CRM platform to pull it off, so if you have a goal of delivering more hyper-personalized content to buyers, figure in this new cost to your budget.

Step 3: Determine Channels That Require Spend

Not all content marketing efforts cost money. While it’s free to have a profile on social media, to optimize this channel requires some investment. Another channel where you may choose to allocate dollars is paid search ads. But how do you know which channels deserve budget? You can by looking at overall trends.

Then you’ll want to determine how those channels performed for you last year. If you ran paid ads on any social media profile, you should be able to determine the success of those campaigns. If you spent $2,500 on LinkedIn ads which generated a healthy amount of leads and revenue, then consider upping that budget in 2021.

For paid search, you may have mixed results. Dig into these to see what keywords are still worth bidding on in 2021. Depending on the competition for those keywords, bids could go up or down. Plus, you’ll want to renew keyword research for any emerging terms that are applicable to your industry.

The most important thing in paid search is to be smart about bidding and focus on where you see results. For example, if you see conversions only on certain days or times, then target those specifically, and don’t waste money on days that aren’t fruitful. You can do the same thing for locations. If certain states have better returns, then funnel your money toward those.

Step 4: Support Thought Leadership and Influencer Marketing

Thought leadership will continue to become even more critical to content marketing. In fact, PAN’s Content Fitness Report also found that 61% of respondents believe it should be a priority.

And while thought leadership should be an organic strategy, that doesn’t mean it won’t require funds. There are certain activities that will require dollars and resources to establish your brand as a thought leader. These may include dollars for trade shows where company subject matter experts (SMEs) lead sessions, partnering with industry publications for sponsored content or fronting the costs for an SME to write a book. Further, one of the most familiar expenses for thought leadership may involve tapping a PR firm to get your brand featured in the media.

Advocacy marketing is another area that should be factored into your spend. Building a Voice of the Customer program or carrying out employee advocacy efforts that integrate with your content strategy will require some budget. The amount of budget necessary will depend on your goals, internal resources, martech infrastructure and several other factors.

Influencer marketing was also a key budget area that aligns with advocacy marketing. According to the Content Fitness Report, 25% of marketers say they’d include budget dollars for this initiative. Your influencer strategy should be closely integrated with your content marketing efforts to make sure you’re maximizing your results. Influencer marketing should also be a high priority because it adds authenticity and authority to the brand when experts stand behind it.

Step 5: Check for Gaps

It’s easy to forget budget items during the planning process. But you don’t want to be halfway through the first quarter and not have money for an essential need. The last step in budgeting is to go through each line item and assess them thoroughly to ensure you haven’t missed anything. It’s better to start out asking for more than to try to push something through later in the game. This includes budgeting for tools and technology.

Source: CMI

Calculate the Costs of Unused Content

First, we need to have a solid understanding of your organization’s current content costs and utilization. Let’s start with calculating costs.

Step 1: Conduct an audit for a sample of the content your organization produces.

Step 2: Apply the average costs in order to gain a sense for the size of the problem. When calculating this, keep in mind to include the costs of freelancers, salaries, technologies, etc.

For this example, let’s say your organization is creating 1200 pieces of content per year with an average cost of $200 each. Therefore, your organization is spending $240,000 on content every year.

Next, we need to understand how much of your organization’s content actually gets used. On average, 60-70% of content goes completely unused; and remember, content that gets created, but never used is 100% waste.

Based on this information, we can take the organizations current production costs and subtract the amount the amount that gets used to find how much money your organization is wasting on unused content. Then for this example, your organization is wasting between $144,00 and $168,000 on unused content each year. A planned content marketing strategy would provide a platform to share that unused content, reuse and repurpose it in different ways, extending its shelf-life and putting it to use.

Borrow Budget From Underperforming Digital Assets

The next place we can look for budget is from the opportunity costs of under-performing digital assets (ie: advertising).

We know customers are tuning out advertising. $1 spent on digital banner ads will under-perform $1 on content marketing in almost any category. Don’t believe it?

  • The average click-through rate of display ads is 0.1% (DoubleClick)
  • Only 8% of internet uses account for 85% of clicks on display ads (and some of them aren’t even humans) (comScore)
  • About 50% of clicks on mobile ads are accidental (GoldSpot Media)

In fact, you’re more likely to be struck by lightening than click a banner ad.

Approach Flushed Teams with a Partnership Opportunity

Advertising campaign landing pages are another traditionally expensive, yet underperforming digital asset to potentially borrow budget from. NewsCred’s Head of Strategy, Michael Brenner, explains how he approached this situation while he was looking for budget for his content initiative during his time as VP of Marketing at SAP.

“There was a team at SAP that had an enormous budget for advertising campaign landing pages. Those pages typically saw a 99.9% bounce rate, and any traffic that went there was paid. I asked to take a small percentage of that budget with the promise of driving a organic traffic to the site. It was a win-win for both of us.”

Approaching other teams with big budgets with the opportunity for partnership rather than a threat to steal is a great way to put your content marketing strategy to action, while also building internal champions within your organization. For Michael, once he was able to deliver the promised organic traffic, his program proved its value and was able to justify funding in its own right.

Over to You

It is important to note that budgets aren’t static. There are internal and external forces impacting it. Just as you must keep refining your content marketing strategy, you’ll need to do the same with the budget to support it. Make room for flexibility in your budgeting, so that when a new trend comes along, or you want to expand your investment in a channel that’s performing, you’ll have the ability to evolve.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.