5 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Budget

Posted by Ryan Malone on Apr 13, 2013 7:56:00 AM

According to an Ad Age survey presented by Marketing Charts, content marketing comprises an average of 12% of overall marketing budgets. A full 10% of marketers spend more than 30% on content marketing, and 9% spend 19-30%. This means that approximately one in five marketers with a budget of $100,000 would spend up to or more than $30,000 per year on content marketing. Also worth noting is that 55% of those surveyed indicated that they would be increasing their content marketing budget for 2013.

The results of the survey are below:

content marketing budget

This many marketers can't be wrong about content marketing. If you're not using this important tactic as part of your marketing strategy, you're potentially missing a major opportunity to reach more new customers.

Why is content marketing so popular?

Consumers find products and services in a variety of ways, but one of the most popular is through Internet searching. The more content you have on your website, blog, and social media pages, the more likely it is that a lead will find you. However, when it comes to content marketing, quality is just as important as quantity. Consumers respond best to content that provides value. Whether it is advice or entertainment, quality content that is regularly updated will attract and retain more leads than simple sales pitches. The best content marketing campaigns build trust, educate the consumer, help you develop a loyal community, and increase sales conversions.

Important factors for creating a content marketing budget

There are many different types of content marketing, including:

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • E-books
  • Social media campaigns
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Buyers' guides

The types of content that you should use will depend largely on your target audience, but it's important to use multiple approaches. For example, if you offer professional accounting services, you might create an informative white paper that describes recent tax updates, and a series of blog posts that answer the most common questions about changes to the tax code. On the other hand, if you sell flower arranging kits, a more effective approach might be to write a graphic-rich e-book and create a series of how-to videos.

Either way, the importance of ongoing content updates cannot be understated. After a lead reads your white paper or e-book, you need to create fresh new content that will keep them coming back for more. Factor this into your content marketing budget so you have enough funds to keep it going all year long. Remember, online content provides ongoing benefits beyond the initial attention it receives. A white paper will draw in new leads long after you have seen a return on the investment, and regular blog posts have a cumulative effect of improving search engine rankings.

How do you create a content marketing budget?

If you are introducing content marketing or placing more emphasis on this important component of an effective marketing strategy, you'll need to create a budget. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Decide what percentage of your overall marketing budget will go to content marketing. If you follow the current trend, this will probably be 20-30%.
  2. Decide which types of content marketing you want to do. Remember, it's important to have ongoing content development in addition to the occasional e-book or white paper.
  3. Allocate your resources. Factor in the personnel time and costs (either in-house or outsourced) required for writing, editing, video production, graphics, distribution, and content promotion.
  4. Estimate monthly expenses. Create an annual editorial calendar so you can predict how much you will need each month. For example, if you plan to launch a new product or service in May, you might bolster your content marketing efforts around that time.
  5. Stick to it. A budget is useless if you don't actually use it. Track actual expenses so you can modify the budget as necessary. Don't forget to track successes and failures so you know where to focus your content marketing efforts in the next year.

It's clear that an effective content marketing strategy requires ongoing effort. Unfortunately, not all businesses have the talent or resources to do it on their own. This is why so many small businesses choose to outsource content development to a company that has the expertise and staff to generate quality content. 

How do you use content marketing for your business? What percent of your overall marketing budget is used for content creation and promotion?

About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder and CEO of SmartBug Media, a strategic inbound marketing agency and Hubspot Gold Partner based on Southern California. Go Lakers.  

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Topics: content, social media marketing, business blogging, inbound marketing, content marketing, marketing planning, inbound marketing agency, smartbug media, ryan malone, how to generate leads, buyer persona, content creation

What To Expect When You Are Expecting Results From Inbound Marketing

Posted by Michael Lieberman on Dec 18, 2012 7:45:00 AM

Results from Inbound MarketingIf you’re practicing inbound marketing today and you’re honest—then you have this challenge. The promise of inbound marketing comes along with a set of expectations and those expectations are simple. “I am going to get leads.”

The reality of inbound marketing is our clients will get leads and they will get more leads from their website then they were getting before any of us came along, but helping clients understand when, how many, and what they look like is THE major challenge facing inbound marketing agencies.

Unfortunately, most of our clients don’t look at the situation objectively. For years they haven’t been getting any inbound leads and their website has anemic traffic numbers but two months into the engagement they want to know why they’re not getting 100 leads a month. This comes down to one single issue—expectation setting.

This starts in the sales process where, in order to close business, we have to get our prospects emotionally excited about the promise of leads from inbound marketing. Most of us are responsible, so I know no one is promising 1,000 leads in the second month, but I also know it’s what we DON’T say that starts to set the expectations.

We DON’T show them the relationship between traffic and leads. We DON’T tell them the timeline associated with driving new traffic in today’s world of Get Found. We DON’T have honest and open conversations about their inability to nurture the leads from a sales perspective or close those leads. But perhaps the worst of all—we don’t tell them that to really get significant leads from inbound marketing they have to make MAJOR improvements to almost all of their existing sales and marketing efforts.

Let me be clear. I am not being critical. This isn’t easy. Our line of work, inbound marketing, is exponentially more complicated than anything any of us used to do. If you used to do advertising all you were ever on the hook for was producing and placing the ads. If you used to do website design or website development all you had to do to be successful was deliver the site. If you used to do PR, then a story placement or press release was your deliverable. Times were so much simpler.

But you decided you wanted to be an inbound marketing agency. Now you have to explain how content helps you get found, how landing pages and calls to action are mandatory, how leads need to be nurtured and content has to be delivered in context, how keywords have to be in everything, and that their personas need to be deep and multifaceted, is that enough—or should I keep going?

Sadly enough, most of your prospects and clients have little or no idea of what you are doing, why you are doing it and how it’s going to help them get leads.

They measure you on only one number—leads!

If we are going to do this thing called inbound marketing, we are going to have to do it right, from the beginning. That means reworking our sales process so we spend enough time with prospects to understand their business intimately, not just the processes but the people. Prospects that won't let you look at their website analytics before you create recommendations shouldn’t be prospects. Prospects that won't walk you through their marketing and sales processes or worse don’t have them and don’t want these processes shouldn’t be prospects. Prospects that want you to rush through planning, strategy or foundational improvement work shouldn’t be prospects.

Consider adopting a more transparent program development process. Show the prospect their current baseline numbers even if they are low or embarrassing. Show them the relationship between the level of recommendation and the leads they should expect. Low investment levels translate into slow growth. Want to get more leads? Invest more money in inbound marketing tactics. Show them the pace of growth and the compounding factors that make inbound marketing such a sustainable and efficient approach.

Use pictures, graphs images to tell them a story. Show them the mathematical relationship between their website traffic and leads. Educate them throughout the process. Educate them early and often even after they become clients. Remember, there are a lot of people out there who are telling your clients they need to be doing it the old way. When you’re not around, people are pushing them back into their comfort zone even though you moved them out 30 minute ago.

Perhaps the most important suggestion is that we all be obsessed with the creation of a process that meets the unique challenges facing us as inbound marketers.  What we create today will propel us into the future. Inbound marketing is in its infancy. We are the people who will create this practice and be responsible for changing the way marketing is done. We are the people who will be responsible for getting our clients leads. The sooner we set the right expectations and over deliver, the sooner inbound marketing will become the ONLY way to market your business. 

About the Author: Mike Lieberman is president of Square 2 Marketing. Mike is the co-author of two books, Reality Marketing Revolution and Fire Your Sales Team Today! Mike's agency specializes in the installation of an inbound marketing methodology and the implementation of inbound marketing tactics for entreprenurial oriented businesses across the country. You can follow Mike @Mike2Marketing.


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Topics: Square 2 Marketing, goal setting, marketing planning, how to generate leads

How to Enhance Inbound Marketing Planning With Creative Visualization

Posted by Ryan Malone on Nov 27, 2012 12:50:00 PM

inbound marketing planning visualizationWhat do golf legend Jack Nicklaus, basketball great Michael Jordan and decorated Olympian Michael Phelps all have in common? They have all embraced creative visualization to become better athletes.

In fact, visualization is widely embraced by athletes in nearly every sport. Terry Orlick, a noted sports psychologist and high-performance coach to thousands of Olympic and professional athletes in more than 30 sports, states in his book, In Pursuit of Excellence, that most Olympic athletes and world champions practice at least 15 minutes of visualization daily. 

Don’t mistake visualization for hokey, self-help speak. It is one of the most widely accepted methods in sports psychology and is supported by significant scientific evidence. And it isn’t only applicable to sports--visualization is a practice used by successful people across a broad range of professions.   

We use visualization technique to drive our strategic planning and the planning of inbound campaigns for clients and ourselves. Why? We’re all busy. And many of us get sucked into tactics all too frequently – sacrificing the planning team that can bring our marketing to the next level.

What is Visualization?

Most simply put, visualization is a technique for creating a mental image of a future event. It involves focusing your mind to visualize yourself in a certain situation and succeeding in that particular situation. Through the practice of visualization, we train our brain to believe that attaining a desired goal is possible. For instance, a golfer may visualize the perfect stroke over and over again to mentally train muscle memory.

According to David Yukelson, Ph.D, sports psychologist for Penn State University, “when you vividly imagine yourself getting ready for competition, your central nervous system becomes programmed for success. It's as if the activity you visualized has already happened.”

Apply this to inbound marketing planning and it means visualizing the metrics that will yield a successful campaign – literally seeing those results in Hubspot or whatever analytics tools you use.

How Does Visualization Work?

Research done using brain imagery suggests that visualization works because the neurons in our brains interpret imagery as the equivalent to taking a real-life action. When a person visualizes an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells their neurons to “perform” the movement. So when an athlete imagines him or herself performing their sport to perfection, he or she is physiologically training their mind and thus teaching their muscles to perform exactly how he or she wants them to.

Using Visualization to Become a Better Marketer

In today’s fast-paced business environment, so many marketers are guilty of getting wrapped up in the day-to-day minutia that it becomes difficult to focus on long-term planning and strategy development that will ultimately lead to our success. Visualization techniques could help you achieve your ultimate goals by improving your planning skills.

We’re all short on time but we can easily incorporate visualization into our marketing daily routines. It's something you’ll need to do outside of the office, where you can be alone and get deep into your thoughts. Try doing it on your morning run, in your yoga or spin class, when you take the dog on a walk or even on your daily commute. If you’re in California like we are, some time at the beach for lunch is a great way to isolate your mind and your thinking.

So once you have your alone time, how do you get started?

1. Pick a specific goal: That can be anything from increasing sales by 30% to becoming the leading blogger in your field to improving your lead conversion rate.

2. Choose your mental image: Really visualize your campaigns and their specific outcomes. Imagine writing your strategy; envision the steps you took to achieve this successful marketing campaign. See the words, the content and the metrics that drove your success. Hear the call where you share your success with your team, your boss or clients. Imagine yourself celebrating your success with your colleagues and imagine how it will feel to have reached your goal.

3. Visualize daily: See that image of success you painted in your mind and make that feeling very real.

4. Write it down: When you’re done, write down the key success factors you see and build them into your daily routine. Make them part of your planning.

Once you visualize all of the steps that it took to achieve your success, and the specific outcomes of each of those steps, you have a clear plan for your activities and how to create a successful campaign. Think of each of those steps and work backwards to what has to happen and it will help you develop your marketing goals, strategy and objectives, so that you can create a plan that will help you to become incredibly successful.             

Keep in mind that just visualizing your success isn’t going to get you to your final goal, but what it will do is give you an effective way to begin planning. And planning is something that a lot of us don’t do well. But if we can improve planning skills, we can stop wasting time on the little things and start spending time on the specific actions we know will help us reach success.

What ways could you use creative visualization to improve your marketing planning? Leave your comments below.

About the author: Ryan Malone is the founder of SmartBug Media, a California inbound marketing agency and Silver Hubspot Partner that help companies increase revenue and marketing ROI.

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Topics: blogging for business, business advice, inbound marketing, marketing strategy, marketing planning, internet marketing coach, inbound marketing agency, smartbug media, ryan malone, strategic planning

Why Inbound Marketing Requires A Marketing Strategy Before You Start

Posted by Michael Lieberman on Nov 21, 2012 6:58:00 AM

Inbound Marketing Requires a Marketing StrategyLet's be honest. Using HubSpot and practicing inbound marketing isn't the easy solution. It takes practice, it takes training and it takes hard work. It's alot easier to buy some ads, cross our fingers and hope the phone rings. But we know that's not the right advice for our clients.

There is one step you can take to make inbound marketing a little simpler, a little more organized, and a little more planned out. That one step includes creating a comprehensive marketing strategy before you start implementing any of the inbound marketing tactics.

By thinking out your client's marketing startegy before you start implementing the tactics you help them with some of the heavy lifting.

Here are some of the advantages of a strategy before tactics approach.

When you take the time to help them create the personas for their target market, you can identify all the places the people in their target market hang out; the websites they visit, blogs they read, emails they subscribe to. This makes sourcing content out to these properties much easier and much more efficient when it's time to do this task.

Next, you help them create more effective messaging that emotionally connects with the client's target prospects. Landing pages are great. But if you improve their overall marketing messages, they'll see the impact across all aspects of their business.

You help them differentiate their business. This is usually undervalued but if you don't have anything interesting or remarkable to say...why say anything? Why invest any money in marketing?

You know the “whys” behind your client's business.  Not the “whats” or “hows” associated with their delivery but the emotional back story as to why they are even in business to begin with.  That is what people are buying and you need to be able to help your clients articulate it.

You help them create an editorial calendar for all their content for the life of your retainer— further demonstrating your partnership and long term commitment to their business. Blog titles, email subject lines, "free report" titles, topics for videos, ebooks, webinars, infographics, you name it. Planning these out over time makes deciding which ones to create and when to publish them much easier. We introduce all our clients to the Trio of Offers. No Risk, Low Risk, and Offer to Do Business. These have to be planned out, approved, and implemented over time. For more info on the Trio of Offers, click here.

You help to benchmark marketing performance and track improvements weekly, monthly and quarterly. Setting performance expectations helps you establish you and your team as the authority on inbound marketing. While you might not hit the targets every time, you will know when you need to make a change, select new tactics, or double down on tactics that are outperforming your expectations.

Honestly, the marketing planning part of the engagement isn't the easiest or the fastest work you can do, but if you are interested in long-term, retainer-based, strategic partnerships with your clients, this is work you have to strongly consider as a core offering. 

To learn more about how an inbound marketing strategy helps the implementation of an inbound marketing program, click here to download an e-book titled Strategy Before Tactics--How Marketing Strategy Improves The Performance of Inbound Marketing--An Agency’s Guide. 

About the Author: Mike Lieberman is co-founder and president of Square 2 Marketing, an inbound marketing agency, HubSpot partner and creators of Reality Marketing™ that helps entrepreneurial-oriented business owners change the way they think about marketing.

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Topics: inbound marketing, internet marketing strategy, marketing strategy, marketing planning

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