The size of your content marketing budget dictates a lot of things. It controls the level of performance you can expect. It also influences how scalable your overall content reach can be — bigger budgets have the infrastructure behind them to reach exponentially more people with just some marginal extra spending.

At the same time, money doesn’t grow on trees. Most businesses operate on a very tight budget, and they have little wiggle room when it comes to how much they can allocate to marketing.

Another complicating factor is that many professionals are unfamiliar with the amount of work that should go into content marketing and the overall output they can expect. Setting a content marketing budget therefore requires you to clearly understand your content marketing goals and the types of marketing activities you need to make those goals happen.

To help you get oriented and make a decision that leads to good outcomes, consider the following information. It will tell you what should go into your content marketing budget, what most people are spending on content and a few sample budgets.

What All Should Your Content Marketing Budget Include?

A content marketing budget encompasses a wide range of possible expenses. Some of these expenses overlap with other marketing activities — you won’t need two copies of the same software for social media management and content marketing, for instance.

Other expenses are optional given your budget and the types of activities you want to perform.

Nevertheless, many of these budget items are considered a necessity by most businesses that find content marketing success.

They are, in no particular order of importance:

  • Writing — The costs of paying a writer to write the content for you.
  • Editing — The costs of proofreading the piece and ensuring it fits your editorial guidelines.
  • Labor Hours — Any work you or your employees perform (as opposed to outsourcing) comes out of their overall available hours. Track these employee hours and use the ratio of their salary or wage to account for all costs.
  • Agency/Freelancer Overhead — If you’re paying someone else to write content for you, they will charge on top of the bare content writing costs to cover things like admin, taxes, etc.
  • Content Publishing — Content doesn’t email or upload itself! Tasks related to putting your content online and ensuring it appears as expected take time and therefore money.
  • Content Management and Measurement Tools — Content marketing-related tools like SEO rank trackers aren’t necessary, but they do help you get more out of your budget. They also ensure your money is being well spent.
  • Graphics and Formatting — If you’re creating premium content, then you will likely need to outsource graphic design or dedicate employee hours to the task.
  • Content Promotional Costs — Promoting content ensures that each asset provides as much performance as possible. You don’t have to promote, but you definitely should to earn overall ROI.
  • Strategy, Management, Evaluation — You will either need an agency to manage your content strategy or dedicate employee hours to discussing the topic and coming to conclusions.

What Are the Business Benchmarks for Content Marketing Budgets?

Nearly all businesses are fairly mum on how much they spend on their own content marketing. But, we have a few clues that can help establish some benchmarks.

Firstly, nearly all businesses have at least some sort of funds allocated to content marketing. According to eMarketer, 84% of all businesses will use digital content marketing in 2018, and 87% of B2B (business-to-business) companies will.

An estimated $195.6 billion was spent overall on content marketing across all industries in 2016. One company estimates an annual compound growth rate of 16% for that figure, meaning by 2021 the total spend will be $412.9 billion.

Looking at individual companies, 27% of business to customer (B2C) and 23% of B2B companies spent between 1% – 9% of their total marketing budget on content.

However, the B2B companies considered the most successful at reaching their content goals spent an average of 40% on content marketing, and the most successful B2C companies spent an average of 38%. A quarter of both company types also said that a bigger budget helped them find more success.

Those who have no clue what portion they are spending are in good company, too. Just under a third of both B2B and B2C companies said they were “unsure.”

What About Actual Numbers? Let’s Talk Cash With 3 Example Budgets

Getting oriented about content marketing costs and what most companies spend is all well and good, but you may still feel in the dark about how much to actually spend.

Since every company is different, here are a few simplified, standardized example budgets that can represent companies of different sizes or funding levels:

  • $1,000 per month on content + 20 hours of employee work
  • $5,000 per month on content
  • $15,000 per month on content

Shoestring Self-Starter: 1,000/mo + 20 Employee Hours

This option is for the “solopreneur” or a small business trying to scrape by on a shoestring budget.

  • 15 hours monthly writing your own content
  • 5 hours managing content-related marketing, including social media and email lists
  • $200 for tools, graphic design, and other misc. costs
  • $800 for paid media content promotion — 3/4 paid social, and 1/4 retargeting ads

This budget presumes you have the time and talent to write content yourself. By dedicating a little under four hours per week, you should be able to come up with a weekly blog, some social content, and an occasional newsletter.

Publishing this all yourself and managing the backend logistics should consume around an hour of your time every week.

$200 can be spent on helpful tools, such as SaaS subscriptions for email management tools (e.g. MailChimp), content and community management tools (e.g. Buffer), SEO performance measurement tools (e.g. SEMrush) and graphic design. Original, high-quality graphics can really help your content gain traction, especially on social media.

If you aren’t as concerned about tools or graphics, you can dedicate $100-$150 a month on paying someone for around 8-10 hours of labor to help you edit content, publish it, and schedule all your social posts.

The remainder of your budget can go to promotion. While that may seem like a lot, promoting your content amplifies it to the right audiences, maximizing potential performance. If no one but five dedicated blog readers sees your content, you’ve just spent all your money in vain.

Spunky Small Business: $5,000 per Month

The arrangement for this budget scheme is almost identical to the one above, except you are paying for your content out of pocket rather than through sweat equity.

  • $4,000 dedicated to a freelancer or agency, OR a full-time marketing employee
  • $200 for tools, graphic design, and other misc costs
  • $800 for paid media content promotion — 3/4 paid social, and 1/4 retargeting ads

With the above arrangement, you can onboard an employee or two with a fair amount of content marketing experience. Or, you can hire an agency that helps you strategize your content marketing campaigns while offering value-add services like editing, uploading, monitoring, social media scheduling, email marketing and more.

Some businesses hybridize, hiring an employee that spends a portion of their time handling content produced by a freelancer. The end result is usually that $1000 – $2000 goes to contracting expenses while the remainder can be considered a portion of the marketing employee’s salary.

Again, content promotion is a fairly large portion of this budget. As you create better content pieces, each promotional dollar you spend offers a chance at greater reach and performance.

Just make sure to monitor performance and optimize over time in response to your own data. For instance, look to articles that get the most engagement on social and try to include their traits in future content.

Ambitious Start-Up or Growing Medium Business: $15,000 per Month

Organizations that have $15,000 per month have quite a bit of cash to get off the ground.

  • $4,000 per month in-house content writer and content marketing specialist
  • $8,000 – $10,000 per month on peripheral marketing employees along with agency support, graphic design, and/or video production capabilities
  • $500 per month on content tools as well as graphic design assets and misc. Expenses
  • $1,000 – $2,500 on content promotion — still 3/4 paid social

With this budget, you have the capacity to have your own in-house copywriting talent as well as the marketing administrative oversight to help plan and oversee your own content marketing goals. At the same time, you have the money to pay an outside resource to help you produce more content or handle content-related tasks you aren’t as familiar with, such as paid search (PPC) promotion.

You’ll also likely have room for graphic design and/or video production capabilities, whether that’s outsourced, in-house or a hybrid of the two.

You get more wiggle room in your budget for monthly overhead expenses, allowing you to obtain more sophisticated marketing tools. A good addition with this size of a budget are marketing automation tools or retargeting tools like AdRoll. You can also pay for professional-level design tools, such as a corporate license for the Adobe Creative Suite.

Finally, your content promotion budget expands, allowing you to get more sophisticated beyond paid social. You can look for native ad partnerships, for instance, or create a budget for side campaigns that help promote premium assets like white papers.

Remember You Get What You Pay For

Ultimately, the decision for how much to spend on content is a blank canvas. You should always remember to allot a certain portion to promotion and overhead expenses, but how you decide to allocate responsibilities between outsourced and in-house labor is up to you.

You also have the capacity to create more content and help it go further as your budget grows.

Hopefully, you now have a clearer idea of what your content budget can be, and if not, we’re here to help! Reach out to us via email, comments, or our contact form to get the conversation started.

Jesse Erickson

About the author

🔥.  I have an intense passion for helping businesses improve how they market, sell and fulfill their products and services.    My goal with every business I work with is to build predictable revenue each month so that they can focus on what they do best = serve their customers!