How Much Does Content Marketing (Actually) Cost?

content marketing cost 1

There’s no short answer aside from the usual: it depends. 

Let’s face it – the cost of success in content marketing varies. 

But, as a ballpark figure, content marketing costs sit anywhere between $6,000 per month for a startup, to as high as $60,000 per month (and beyond) for an enterprise business

But having said this, it’s essential to be aware that the cost and size of any investment like this aren’t nearly as relevant as the potential return that can be achieved with a campaign that’s properly planned, accurately aligned to the core business, and well executed.

So if your company is currently having a conversation about content marketing strategies, considering the financial commitments necessary, and asking things like whether now could be the right time…

…then you’ve come to the right place.

ScaleMath is a content marketing agency that has over seven years of experience quoting accurate campaign costs and delivering real ROI for our industry-leading clients. 

Of course, you don’t have to go with an agency for your content marketing work.

But whether you do or you don’t – the cost of hiring an agency should be carefully weighed against the overall cost of creating a comparable department within your company.

The fact is, though, the cost of hiring the agency is almost always considerably lower, since they already have a professional, highly experienced team who already work seamlessly together, and are ready to get started immediately.

Do You Want a Blog Post, or Are You Looking to Achieve an Outcome? 

We’re often asked how much we charge for a blog post. 

For such an isolated, one-off task like that, the cost of an agency like ScaleMath is going to seem considerably higher than what could be achieved with someone in-house spending time doing “a bit of writing” on the side.

But that’s not what we get paid to deliver. We get paid to deliver results. 

Yes, those results are linearly related to the high standard of output we’re able to achieve. And they always will be. The distinction between a one-off blog post, and delivered results is crucial, because the act of getting writing done for your website is commoditized – and could be done relatively easily at a low price. 

Yet the act of getting your site ranking #1 isn’t.

Generally, getting a site to rank at #1 takes a team of highly experienced specialists working across 5-6 different roles, all working together to create truly high-quality content, then promoting it to get the results you want.

Even then, it depends on multiple factors often handled by other teams (i.e., is your product actually any good? Otherwise, it’s all worthless anyway).

What Should a Blog Post Cost? 

An individual blog post that delivers some measurable outcome will cost between $1,500 – $5,000 to create. We’re limiting our answer to content that “delivers some outcome” because it’s easy to deliver at least something with your average piece of text written by a freelancer. 

That’s not what we’d consider content marketing. 

A great blog post is written by a subject matter expert… 

…edited by a copyeditor for consistency…

…with visuals added by a designer, and then has a lead designer edit that work. 

After this, a content marketing manager should add a layer of editing for marketing best practices. This is to achieve the optimal distribution outcomes, with baked-in SEO best practices – all based on their long and hard-won experience. (This ensures it aligns with what it aims to rank for, etc.)

With this said, it is certainly more than possible to make content perform with “just” writing. With just words on a page. In fact, affiliate marketers are a great example of how this can be achieved – but that is a completely different ballpark. A different type of content, and a different approach

However, increasingly in all vertical businesses, it requires a world-class designer in order to make the content feel visual (and feel helpful) enough to perform, and be distinguished from the scores of other articles on the topic already out there. 

What Should Videos Cost? 

A single three to five-minute recorded video is comparable in cost to what it takes to write a single, well-researched piece of written content. Of course, the price for video development scales pretty linearly with the standard of production value you are expecting.

You aren’t going to get a Grammarly-style video advertisement for $5,000. And expecting that would be a little bit far-fetched. 

What Should Content With Original Photography Cost? 

Another cost associated with producing content is product photography. Many e-commerce brands developing content will need to include their products, which will require up-to-date, original, and engaging photographs.

We generally recommend hiring photographers to do shoots for content that’s going to be used for an entire quarter, or even a year to come. This way you can minimize the costs associated with producing the content.

You shouldn’t need to produce new images all that frequently. At least, that would be the ideal approach, but this will depend on the type of site that you operate. If you have new products regularly being added to your catalog, perhaps with many previous products no longer being offered, then you are going to incur this cost more frequently.

The cost associated with a photoshoot depends heavily on where you’re based. I recommend running a search: “photographers in [your area]”, and even narrowing it down further to the specific type of photography, e.g., scale, packaging, individual, group, etc.

Once you’ve found a few promising photographers, reach out to around five of them to obtain quotes. Once you find a suitable photographer, try to work with them regularly, to take advantage of any possible discounts available. Work hard to build a good working relationship with them, and help them to develop an understanding of exactly what it is that you want.

What Does Content Outreach Cost? 

Once you have high-quality content that’s in the right position to be promoted, you’ll need to hire people capable of doing effective content outreach (such as promoting a post through Reddit, through other communities on social media, getting it included in newsletters, getting people to link to your post, etc.).

Hiring a content outreach specialist generally costs between $90-110 per hour. This rate is fairly typical for agencies with extensive experience and skills in doing this to the high standard needed to achieve results.

Of course, reducing your content outreach costs will result in significantly worse results. This is a fact I can fully guarantee, and that’s definitely not because we offer content outreach – because we don’t! Link building and digital PR is not a service we publicly offer anymore. 

On average, we see measurable success achieved from spending between 16-20 hours promoting a single blog post. Spending any more time than this generally means that you are exhausting opportunities that likely aren’t a good fit, and would be better saved for the next piece of content that you work on, (or the one after that). 

What Does Content Marketing (as a whole) Cost? 

So, let’s bring this all together. 

When it comes to the creation, design, editing, and strategy for content marketing – good (and especially great) execution is not achievable at a low cost. 

A good content marketing campaign for a medium-sized business with $4M+ annual revenue should be in the $10,000 to $20,000 a month range as a starting point. And this is simply to start competing

Beyond this, when you get into more complicated, higher competition verticals, the budgets need to increase dramatically. Think of the verticals where you are going up against the bigger players with big budgets, such as project management. Going head-to-head against competition such as, Basecamp, Atlassian, etc. you should expect budgets to move well into the $30,000 to $50,000 per month range.

This is because differentiating content from the likes of Atlassian, Monday, Basecamp and Asana isn’t going to be easy for a new player to do (an effect that is exaggerated when your brand is relatively new and not yet that well-known). 

Our Advice On Content Marketing

Content marketing isn’t expensive. Bad content marketing is.

With the cost of content marketing, and what it takes to truly compete, it’s hard to ignore that it’s becoming harder for bootstrapped startups to come to the table – and especially in competitive verticals.

This is why, in conversations with customers, we often have to advise that they hold off on investing in content marketing for the time being because they aren’t at the point where doing so actually makes sense. Ultimately, it is a significant investment to make – and doesn’t pay off in a week.

“Content marketing isn’t expensive.
Bad content marketing is.”

When & Why is Spending This Much Worth it?

After reading all this, you’re likely wondering: 

  1. Why should I spend this? 
  2. When would it make sense to spend this? 

The numbers sound expensive on the surface. And they certainly will be if you aren’t planning properly and, most importantly, aligning it with your company’s vision. If you’re launching a project management tool that, simply put, isn’t great, even if you spend $50k per month with us (not that we’d take you on if your vision isn’t heading in the direction of being the best), you will struggle to see results. And you shouldn’t expect anything else. 

You can’t pay yourself out of that situation. 

Final Thoughts

As a brief overview, this is how we ballpark the investment it will take for a business to compete. The process will involve a combination of: 

  • Exploring and studying your product (as deeply as possible).
  • Getting to know the vertical (as inside out as possible). 
  • Understanding the TAM (Total Addressable Market).
  • Identifying, investigating and examining some of the biggest players you compete with.
  • Identifying the most valuable keywords you want to rank for, and analyzing how competitive it would be to achieve that in the shortest time frame possible. 

Of course, if it were that easy, then everyone would just be dumping $10k per month into marketing to get a quick return on their investment. Marketing isn’t gambling. 

Thinking about getting started but don’t want to hire a team of 6 to 8 marketers to bring your vision to life? Let’s see if we can make it happen. Get in touch with us today.