How Much Should You Pay for Content?
This post originally appeared on our blog in November, 2012. Content marketing (and its costs!) have changed since then. So, we have updated this post to reflect those changes.
Content marketing is seemingly ubiquitous. Just about every company, it seems, is blogging, publishing eBooks and infographics, writing articles and engaging on social media. In order to keep up, you may find that you need to produce more content than your team is able to create internally.
So how much should you pay for quality content creation? Some will say that good blog posts can be found for as little as $50 a piece. Others assert that you get what you pay for and quality articles cost at least $500, $750 or more.
That's a pretty big variance. As a business owner, how much should you pay freelance writers and marketing agencies for content?
Is Your Business Really Benefiting?
To walk you through the math here, the way that businesses can start to examine whether or not they're investing enough in content is to look at the amount of traffic that their blogs drive, look at the number of leads they're generating, look at the conversion rate of leads into customers, and examine what the average life time value of their customers are. If you know those four things - traffic, leads, customers, and value - then you can use analytics software like HubSpot to know whether or not traffic from a certain source is actually driving revenue and whether you should invest more or less.
If your article costs $700, and you get 400 views per article, and you convert 5% of those into leads (20), and 5% of those into customers (1), then your COCA (Cost Of Customer Acquisition) is - not accounting for any sales reps or other pre-sales infrastructure - obviously $700. The 5% visit-to-lead and 5% lead-to-customer rates I used are really optimistic, but they make the math easy as an example. If your conversion rates are lower, your cost of customer acquisition will be proportionately higher.
If you don't have the ability to track this kind of data, then it's tough to know whether or not you're investing too much or too little in your marketing content. Think of it this way: If I said to you "Give me $700 and I'll give you an average customer" and you were happy, then perhaps you should be investing much more in content. If you wouldn't be happy, then perhaps you should invest less. The point is that you've got to know. Otherwise, unsavory freelancers and agencies can charge whatever they want and you'll never know whether or not you could be growing your business faster.
Ask your marketing agency or freelance writer how they measure their success. If they say "comments" or "shares", ask them how those correlate to your business's revenue. Consider it a red flag if they'll say nothing at all. Freelancers and agencies that shy away from this conversation may not have your business objectives in mind when they create your content - and that means it's not likely to be incredibly effective for you.
If, rather than employing a marketing agency or freelancer, you have a marketing team in-house, how are they measuring their success?
Measures of Success
Here are a few simple steps to measure the success of your internal content creation team:
- Organizational Sales Goals: Marketing, after all, is just the beginning of the sales relationship and should be as accountable to the sales organization for their performance as the sales team is to everyone else. Let's use an example here of a company with sales of $100,000/month and a goal to increase it to $112,000/month by the end of the year.
- LTV (Lifetime Value) for the company: Look at the lifetime value of the content for the company. If possible, segment this metric by Buyer Persona. Let's use $1,000 for this example. This means that we need 100 new customers every month in order to maintain our current performance, but we need to grow by one customer every month to hit our growth goals by the end of the year.
- Lead-to-Customer Conversion Rate: If it's 5%, that means that we need to generate 2,000 new leads per month for the sales organization to maintain our current performance, and grow throughout the year to keep pace with our end-of-year goals.
- Visit-to-Lead Conversion Rate: Let's also use 5% for this number, which means that we need to 40,000 visits to maintain current performance, and again, grow that number throughout the year.
All of these numbers are easy to track. They are also recalculated monthly, which means that if a client's lead-to-customer conversion rate goes from 5% to 10%, we can adjust the amount of traffic we need to drive accordingly.
Fill the Pipeline
The goal of our agency is to fill each client's sales pipeline with enough quality traffic and leads to make their sales organization successful. Of course, given the fact that there are four variables here, the formula is very fluid. The client's sales organization may miss quota one month due to holidays, or a change in pricing or a new product may cause the average LTV to go from $1,000 to $2,000.
As this happens, we're firm believers in the "Moneyball" concept that if you're strategic, flexible, and continuously looking for ways to improve, and you're honest, open and clear about the metrics you're tracking, your success will average out to be correct and sound over the course of the year.
It All Comes Down to ROI
If an agency or freelancer charges $700/article for five articles a week, they would be charging $14,000/month just for the content writing services. If you're going to pay someone that much money, they should be able to deliver a reasonable return.
If your marketing agency, freelance contractors, or even in-house marketing team can't - or won't - track and show how much value they're driving for your organization, then perhaps it's time for a change.
Start making your content count! Download our Content Marketing Calendar today to get more organized and strategic with your content marketing efforts and drive more ROI!