What you will pay for content marketing & how long it will take to work

by Mar 31, 2020

The things your business really wants to know about content marketing

I started writing this with lofty ideas of answering tons of FAQs. All the questions I think businesses would ask. Things like “Why is content marketing so incredibly awesome?” and “Why is content marketing the only way to beat SEO odds?”

But as you know, these are not the top questions, however much I would like to write poetry about them.

Let’s then be perfectly honest – there really are only two questions, right? How much am I going to pay, and how long will it take to work? And of course, that third question you should really be asking if you haven’t already thought about it: how do I know that it’s working?

All three are particularly pertinent at this current moment when we have to think very strategically about where we spend our marketing budgets.

Let’s dive in.

How much am I going to pay for content marketing?

[insert exact amount here] Wouldn’t that just be lovely?

Here is the actual answer: any amount, as long as every Rand is put to the most efficient use possible.

High-quality content marketing is designed to create lasting relationships with your customers and long-term brand capital, and so, any money spent will be worthwhile. It will also increase its ROI over time because it is invested in a content strategy and content assets.

If you invest more money, you’ll see more results because you’ll be reaching more people with more content, consistently.

What will help you find the sweet spot, is to first clarify how much you will spend on marketing in the next 12 months. Ask yourself:

  • Where is my business at? A new business will be hungry for vigorous marketing to jumpstart sales. Been around for a bit? Then nurturing and enriching is more your vibe.
  • What will I spend on my overall marketing? Many businesses have not pinned this down and leave it open to see-how-the-winds-blow-interpretation. Rough estimates? 7-8% of  your revenue, says the US Small Business Administration. This should include both brand building and promotion. For start-ups, this can be as high as 20% of your projected revenue.
  • How will I adjust my budget for the economy? Not all years will have the same marketing budget strategy. And a bad economy can mean belt-tightening or going full throttle to outdo your competitors. Either way, have a plan.

Right. Now mull over these 3 questions and grab a calculator. Have you written down your amount?

What you don’t want to do next is spread that amount over as many channels as possible. You’re welcome to borrow our marketing mantra: do the right things very well. Which things? Here’s three more questions to help you:

  • What do I want to achieve? (Are you still nestling your brand in people’s minds? Do you need to create more trust? Do people already love you and you want to turn leads to sales quicker?)
  • What channels will suit my brand personality, as well as my customers?
  • Which of these will give me the best ROI, perfectly mirroring my business goals?

A deep dive into these issues will lead you to the answer our original question: how much will I pay for content marketing? Remember that a good content strategy supports and informs traditional marketing and also creates the foundation for all your digital marketing. It also remains long after your AdWords or Facebook campaign has sighed its last click. Most importantly, get the right content marketing person or team on board. Only fork out money for a strategy that keeps your audience firmly in sight with exceptional, highly relevant and out-of-the-box content. Anything else will just drown and sink to the bottom of the digital sea.

How long will content marketing take to work?

Content marketing does many things. All of them takes time.

It provides a stream of meaningful content to your chosen audience. One bucket will not fill the bath. And one bucket at a time will leave you with a lukewarm experience. You need a consistent stream with just the right warmth to forge that connection with people that gets you a loyal base and solid conversions.

It removes buying obstacles. Your content will be designed for a customer persona. But your audience are still very diverse with different decision-making styles: some want images, others need to be convinced by statistics and analytics, and yet others are moved by ideas. During your content marketing journey, you will inform, entertain, help, and intrigue them. Much like a new romance budding into a proposal. But that’s a bond for life.

It makes Google like you and sends the right people to you. There’s a reason they call those highly prized top spots on a search ‘organic’. It needs time to grow – fed by input from real people and Google’s rules that are evermore people-centred.  Once you’re visible, it’s much easier to stay there.

So, how long exactly? Joe Pulizzi, writer of Content Inc. and founder of the Content Marketing Institute, affirms that it takes time to build up a loyal audience: on average 12-18 months. Content assets take at least 6 months to pick up SEO momentum. Once the effects start to show, they promise longevity and long-term yields.

But this does not mean your business cannot create online interest immediately. Paid advertising like AdWords and Facebook can get more direct leads and promote your content marketing assets as soon as they are created. However, make sure your messages are aligned; you don’t want to harm your brand for short term gain.

How do I know that my content marketing is working?

How long is a piece of rope?  We can only measure how well content marketing is working, if you’re clear on what you want it to do.

If we want to see how successful “content asset X” is, we can group its metrics into one of four categories:

  1. How many people have read, watched or used it? Your web analytics will paint a solid picture, and you can set it up for an insightful range of conversion types (for example: to see what they clicked on after they read an article)
  2. How many times was it shared? Social media stats keep track of where and when every retweet or smiley face happened.
  3. How many leads did it create? First decide how your business defines a ‘lead’, then set up your conversion funnel or automated platform to track these.
  4. How many sales did my business get? Here you’ll link your leads to your eventual sales: how many sales did it influence, and how many sales did it win?

Now you have the numbers. But do they tie into clearly defined business and content marketing goals? No? Then you’ll celebrate false wins and undervalue content that is doing the legwork for phenomenal sales two years from now.

What were you trying to do with “content asset x”? Were you

  • building (trust, rapport, brand)
  • attracting (customers, partners, industry influencers)
  • educating (what your brand will do for them, compare your product with competitors)
  • learning (feedback on audience pain points, new business ideas), or
  • convincing (people, search engines)?

Finally, remember that every piece of content contributes to ‘soft’ benefits like brand perception and customer goodwill.

And how do we measure this? By seeing which businesses are around in five, ten, a hundred years.


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