The short answer is “yes,” it’s doable. The long answer is that it is probably more complex than you realize. It’s not simply a matter of setting a budget amount and then seeing what you can do with that figure. It’s a matter of going through a process, and it doesn’t begin with a figure – it ends with a figure. And the process will be very different for small, mid-sized, and large companies.
Most small businesses have a very small team and operate on a very small and usually tight budget. Typically, their content marketing campaign will include the following:
- Team members are responsible for creating the content. Perhaps one team member is specifically tasked with this, but it is definitely all in-house.
- As many free tools as possible are utilized. These include researching and studying all of the great free content out there that provides strategies and tips for content marketing strategies.
- Blogs like QuickSprout.com are an amazing source of tips and strategies that are easily implemented.
- And finding other free online tools that can be used are exploited for all they’re worth. For example, a company blog can be set up for free using WordPress. Other free tools will help you publish that content in the right places so that it is found, read and shared by the right people.
- Measuring the effectiveness of a content marketing campaign can also be free by using Google Analytics.
- Fee-Based Resources: There will be some things that cost. Some WordPress plugins, for example, are fee-based, but are well worth the price.
A budget for a small business, then, may be quite simple and very low-cost:
- Content creator’s salary: Whether a single person is tasked with this responsibility or all team members share in it, there is a cost in work hours. That should be a budget line item.
- Paid Resources: If new fee-based resources are to be acquired, then the cost must be identified and added to the content marketing budget.
- An additional amount should be added in the event that additional resources may be identified during the year.
Here’s the thing: while you may not think you need to establish a budget at this stage of your business, you are mistaken. As you grow, you will want to be in the habit of having a budget for your content marketing, as it becomes a larger and larger budget item.
By the time a company has reached mid-size, content marketing is usually divided into specific campaigns, each with a budget. Things get a bit more complex at this level. Still by breaking down costs for specific campaigns, a reasonable overall budget can be established. For each campaign, the following must be determined and priced out.
- Start with objectives for the campaign – yes, objectives. What is the goal for the campaign? Is it to re-visit old leads? Is it to begin a new email marketing strategy? Is it to begin a campaign of re-targeting? Is it to improve SEO by increasing number of inbound links?
- Elements of the campaign: The campaign will entail much more than creating a piece of content and getting it published. There may be a single person or team of people tasked with creating the content, but there are other elements too:
- Once the piece is produced, will it need a graphic designer or a pro to produce/edit a video?
- Will a website designer be needed to modify the landing page or add other elements to your website to accommodate discounts, registrations, or downloads?
- How will the results of the campaign be evaluated, and who or what will do that evaluation?
- If the expertise to do all of these things is not in-house, then the costs of contracting out must be added to the budget.
- Will there be paid advertising as a part of this campaign?
Each campaign will have a unique cost, dependent upon the people and resources needed to implement and evaluate it. By separating out these campaigns, however, it will be easy to determine which ones, in the long run, are worth the cost, based upon the traffic and sales they generated. This in turn is a great cost savings, because you will not continue with campaigns that were obvious duds.
The Big Boys
Large retailers have huge content marketing campaigns and very large budgets for these endeavors.
- Consider Amazon, for example. How many times are you re-targeted by emails and advertisements every time you open your social media pages? The same goes for other major retailers.
- If you simply explore several sites to conduct some comparison shopping for a certain item, you will see those items again when you open up your home page, your Facebook page, etc.
- And once you have purchased an item, how many emails do you then receive offering special sales, discounts, and announcements of new products related to what you may have purchased.
Of course all of these things are automated, but the cost of developing and maintaining those automated systems, whether in-house or contracted out is quite large.
Budgets, while large, are no less important than they are for small or mid-sized businesses, and the same process is used to determine a budget and an evaluation of every campaign. If a re-targeting campaign is not at least paying for itself, it will be scrapped and a new one devised.
Here’s Your Takeaway
If you are a small business today, and you plan to grow over the years, it is important that you develop a habit of establishing and tracking a budget for your content marketing. If you don’t develop a process for identifying objectives of any campaign, itemizing the actual costs and then evaluating its effectiveness, then you are just “throwing mud against a wall and hoping that some of it sticks.”