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  • Lauren McDowell

Content Marketing Budget: A Guide for Small Businesses

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since co-founding Ambrose McDowell Communications, it’s that there’s not one correct way to run your marketing—which also means there’s no one-size-fits-all content marketing budget.


There are lots of different avenues to reach customers, but before marketing directors make decisions about their options, they want to know one thing: How much is this going to cost?

Here’s an unsatisfying, but true, answer: it depends. And just like household budgets, it all depends on your priorities.


So if you’re reading this and thinking, “OK, but I clicked on this because I want to know what the REAL cost of content marketing services is!”...I promise I’m not being obtuse—it’s just that it’s not helpful to throw out a number that doesn’t truly take your needs into account.


What I can do is answer some common questions around cost that we often get from prospective clients, and some questions worth thinking about.


I have a [nephew/student/freelancer] that posts to my social media accounts for $300 a month. Can you match that?

Short answer: no. Typically, you get what you pay for, and when it comes to social media, for us that means: strategy, a content calendar, posts written in your company’s style/voice meant to help you achieve specific goals (engagement, shares, sales, public relations, etc.). If you have someone posting to your social channels at an affordable cost and you’re happy with the job they’re doing, that’s great. You should hold on to that person for as long as possible (but they’ll probably move on to a more lucrative gig eventually, because good social media writing and management is time consuming and difficult!).

How many hours will it take you to write [this copy for my site/five video scripts/a month’s worth of social media copy]?

As you might imagine, we can’t make exact predictions for a brand new project and client, but we can estimate based on similar projects we’ve done in the past. Generally speaking, the more information and instruction a client gives will lead to quicker turnarounds and fewer revisions on our end. Once you get an estimate, if you’re mulling over the cost, a good question to ask yourself: assuming you or a staff member can do this work at an equal level as a contractor, would the time spent on this work in-house be more valuable working on something else? If the answer is obvious, it’s time to make copywriting and content marketing a priority in the budget.

Should I hire an internal employee or a marketing agency?

This is a question we wish more marketing departments asked. Why? Because you often need marketing staff AND agency help. Both work in tandem to create effective marketing materials and content campaigns. And we actually LOVE collaborating with internal marketing teams (and sometimes prefer it!). However, if you only have the marketing budget for one at the moment, and you need to make a choice, here’s some advice:


If you need someone to run day-to-day accounts and potentially put out fires quickly, you need someone in-house. This person will understand the ins and outs of your company, have the authority to speak on behalf of it, and run things up quickly through proper channels if there’s an issue. It literally pays to have great people in your marketing roles. Needless to say, the cost of this person’s salary will be commensurate with their skills and experience.


Here’s when outside help is a necessity: You need a few hours a week and/or niche expertise on certain projects, or recurring assistance but not quite a full-time position’s worth (40 hours per week). You want to make sure that your current staff—and their work—doesn’t suffer from mental burnout. It’s hard to think outside the box or see things from a customer’s perspective when you’re entrenched in the day-to-day. Having an outside perspective can take a huge load off of your people, add new layers of strategy and creativity, and breathe life into your content to keep it from getting stale. Lastly, you’ve got goals, but aren’t sure how to lead your current team to hit the mark.


So to conclude: how much will content marketing cost, exactly? Shoot us an email at info@ambrosemcdowell.com and let’s talk.

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