I’ve been on scores of calls with marketers who believe in data-driven content marketing. Many have asked me: how do I justify a content marketing budget? There are a few guides (like this or this), but, in hopes that others can find the same success, I want to share the questions I had to answer before my past teams doubled our annual content marketing budget.
How do content marketing objectives fit within marketing objectives?
For us, marketing objectives were leads, leads and more leads. If we built some awareness, that was a bonus. To begin, I had to tie content marketing to leads. I planned small scale lead generation strategies that would not require a huge re-allocation of budget. The success of our small-scale endeavors became proof that content marketing could succeed within our team and for our business objectives.
Does the marketing team have content marketing expertise?
We had a few content marketing champions, but we knew we needed help. We enlisted agencies, contractors, and technology vendors. We hired new employees who had a passion for writing because we had team members who liked photography, graphic design, and videography. Initially, these new employees filled existing job openings, because we wanted more of our team to have content marketing DNA.
Where’s the content marketing budget coming from?
We weren’t getting more money. The money had to come from the existing marketing budget (consider the image below– a marketing budget with no content marketing). We aligned with marketing members who would benefit most from content marketing, who would become content marketing champions. For us, it was the teams on paid search, email, and marketing automation, as they had done all they could to optimize their channels. They felt the next stage was better content to help achieve their lead growth goals.
- Are you out of your mind? What evidence suggests that we should double your content marketing budget?
What worked for us is that we showed some initial success with how content marketing generates leads, back to my first point about content marketing objectives fitting with your marketing objectives. Here are 4 things that we did:
a. We tested the most popular whitepaper on our website as a call to action for paid search and marketing automation campaigns. We got over a 15% increase in leads at the same cost per lead, which helped us exceed our leads goal and sales quota.
b. We promoted webinars more prominently on our website. By increasing our email registrations at a lower than average cost per email registration, we were able to re-deploy some of the email registration budget to pay for prominent webinar speakers. One of them hit it out of the park and increased our average webinar registrations by 10x.
c. In conjunction with the webinar, the prominent speakers produced and distributed relevant content on our blog and social channels.
d. We turned the blog into a more tasteful lead machine. Instead of posting just the most recent blog posts with a generic call to action we featured the most relevant blog posts and varied the call to action. After one quarter, we were able to show how sales accepted leads from blog posts paid for our current editorial director.
We also performed other small success tactics to increase our social metrics and SEO. Once we experienced these initial successes, we were ready to collectively reprioritize our marketing budgets toward a content strategy that doubled the content budget.
Are these early successes scalable?
We developed breakeven scenarios on how many leads we needed to justify increasing the content marketing budget. For example, to hire another full-time content marketer for the blog, we compared the average cost per sales accepted lead (SAL) to how many extra SALs the blog would have to generate. Let’s say, for example, that a salary for a blogger was $50,000 and the average cost / new SAL was $1,000. To justify the budget, the blog would have to generate 50 new SALs ($50,000 / $1,000), or 12.5 SALs per quarter. After our initial success, we thought that this breakeven scenario was achievable. It was an easy decision to fund the new content marketer from the demand generation budget.
How will you measure success?
At the time, we could only measure last touch attribution and report metrics with a channel view. It was simple and crude, and we wanted a content-centric view, but we didn’t have time to build a database and customize reporting. We measured awareness by traffic visits, inquiries by email capture, and sales accepted leads by request for sales meetings. We used these metrics because these were the incumbent marketing metrics.
If you’ve been asking yourself and others about how to get more budget for content marketing, you already understand the value of content and the potential results that could come from a large scale and coordinated effort. There are many paths to secure more budget. How did you do it?
Jason Jue is currently cofounder and chief marketing officer of Triblio, an account based marketing software provider for the web. He was previously chief marketing officer of Vocus, a publically traded PR software provider; VP of marketing of Rackspace; and held positions at Dell as general manager of ecommerce in Asia and executive director of global SMB CRM.