Developing a Content Marketing Budget From Scratch

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Developing a Content Marketing Budget From Scratch

There are many different angles from which you can approach content marketing, but it’s unwise to proceed very far without first developing a budget. A content marketing budget keeps you grounded, provides direction, and ensures a positive return on investment.

Why You Need a Budget

Developing your first content marketing budget can be intimidating – especially when there’s a lot of money involved. But don’t let the dollars and cents throw you into a tailspin. A content marketing budget is a lot like a household budget you’d create for your family. It’s all about tracking the money that’s coming in, calculating what’s going out, and optimizing so that you aren’t spending more than you have.

A content marketing budget is important for a number of reasons. For starters, it gives you a base point. As business strategist Mike Huber points out, “Establishing a budget allows you to do the math on the cost of a lead. This baseline will show how the cost of a lead is reduced over time. It’s a great stat to share with management to reinforce or even expand your budget.”

A budget also helps solidify your strategy and give you the stability to move forward. You don’t have to worry about pinching pennies and calculating costs in the moment – you just stick to the plan and know that the costs are accounted for.

5 Tips for the Perfect Budget

Budgeting isn’t fun or sexy. There are dozens of other ways you could choose to spend your time – each of which would be more exciting and invigorating – but few of them would be as meaningful and impactful as developing a concrete budget to guide your content marketing efforts.

The question is, how do you make sure you’re developing the right budget? While the word right is highly subjective, the following tips will get you moving in a positive direction:

1. Put Together Some Round Numbers

It’s never a smart idea to copy and paste another company’s numbers into your own budget, but it can be helpful to use other budgets as a reference point for where you should be.

Over the years, the common rule of thumb has been to allocate 10 percent of revenues towards marketing – but that figure may be a bit inflated. A recent CMO Survey, conducted by Deloitte, found that the average number for 350 top marketers was 6.9 percent of revenues. Of that amount, 29 to 39 percent is typically reserved for content marketing.

In other words, if you’re bringing in $1 million in annual revenue, the basic rule of thumb says to spend somewhere between $20,000 to $27,000 on content marketing. That may seem high or low to you, but again, this just a round number used for estimation.

2. Set Goals

A good content marketing budget requires goals. What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the best possible outcome? What’s the minimum return you expect? Addressing issues like these on the front end will establish a bit of clarity throughout the budgeting process.

Depending on how familiar you are with managing a content marketing strategy, you may also want to get specific with the types and amount of content you want to publish. For example, you may set annual content product requirements that look like this:

  • 24 onsite blog posts
  • 12 offsite articles
  • 12 monthly email newsletters
  • 6 infographics
  • 6 video features
  • 260 original Facebook posts
  • 730 original Tweets

Not only does this help with scheduling, but it gives you an idea of how much your content creation costs will be and what you can afford to allocate to each content type.

3. Develop a Schedule

You need to have an idea of how much time is required to produce each piece of content in your budget. For example, you know that it takes three hours to develop offsite articles, but just an hour and a half to create an onsite blog post. Little details like this help improve the accuracy of cost projections.

In addition to the actual writing/content creation time, you also need to think about research time, creative meetings, editing, publishing, sharing, etc. Be liberal with your estimates, as it’s always better to overestimate and come in under budget.

This schedule can then be used to come up with an estimated number of hours. Divide this by your content creation budget and you have an idea of what sort of hourly rate you can pay your employees or contractors.

4. Calculate Production Costs and ROI

“In addition to strategy, content must be distributed and promoted to attract the views that generate sales leads,” marketing strategist Brad Shorr notes. “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.”

This is where most budgets tend to lose their focus. Understand that you probably won’t get production costs right for the first couple of years, but track your numbers and you’ll eventually start to understand how much these tasks truly cost.

5. Continually Optimize

Good budgeting is about continual optimization. You can’t develop a budget in late December and then revisit it a year later. You need to pay close attention to your spending in real time so that you can make changes on the fly. This might mean sitting down and having a weekly meeting where you spend 25 minutes evaluating where things stand and making adjustments.

Take Your Time

There’s no rush. While it’s smart to develop a content marketing budget sooner rather than later, you don’t want to rush into something you aren’t prepared for. It’s better to spend a few extra weeks hashing out the right budget than to back yourself into a corner with the wrong one.

As is the case in many other areas of life, patience is a virtue in content marketing. It won’t guarantee results, but it will greatly increase your chances of being successful.

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About the Author

Anna Johansson
Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant from Olympia, WA. A columnist for, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends.
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