Crafting Purpose-focused Food & Lifestyle Brands

Content Marketing Secrets, Part IV: Dollars and Sense

Last week, my blog post Content Marketing Secrets, Part III: Easy As 1-7-30-4-2-1 appeared as a guest post on Joe Pulizzi’s Junta 42 blog, and there was some good feedback provided there. In one comment, Chris Herbert asked how a company should go about budgeting for a custom publishing plan such as this.

I responded to Chris’ question as a comment, and my response became the basis of another post. What follows is my response, with “takeaways” from Joe Pulizzi:

The question about custom publishing budgeting, of course, comes up all the time. Because there are so many variables, I’m going to shift the question from “What to Budget” to “How to Budget.” Here is how we explain custom publishing budget development to clients:

1. Read Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae.

I often recommend this book to existing and new clients because of its key premise: ask not how you can use New Media approaches such as Content Marketing to market your “business as usual” company or organization, but how can you change your company/organization to better utilize New Media approaches.

Joe Pulizzi’s Takeaway: Most large organizations are set up around developing advertising and public relations messages (like we’ve always done it). That model is broke. Once you realize that, you need to look at your marketing/communications/sales departments with a fresh eye.  Ask yourself: “If we tore the structure down and put it back together, how would we be different? What’s best for our customers?” It’s a challenging but important exercise. If you are having a challenging time persuading senior management that this type of exercise is needed, read Get Content Get Customers.

2. Find Your Chief Content Officer

If you follow the advice in Point #1, and you’re focus is Content Marketing, then a conclusion you need to come to is that it will take a new commitment, or realignment, of human resources to content creation or development. If it’s a small business, this may mean the business owner’s commitment; if it’s a large corporation, it’s going to be a realignment of people in the communications departments. Or, it’ll mean creating a relationship with an outside content strategy/development agency.

Joe Pulizzi’s Takeaway: None of this is possible unless someone is given ownership over the brand story. Similar to a social media administrator, where someone is dedicated as the chief listener, developing a content marketing or custom publishing strategy that works needs a champion within the organization (regardless if you outsource custom publishing to a partner or not).

3. Shifting Funds

If you make the human resource commitment, then the next step is to look at what you normally spend or budget for marketing and realize that now you’re going to begin using a significant portion of those funds to invest in content. Notice the use of the term “invest.” This isn’t spending. It’s investment.

Joe Pulizzi’s Takeaway: The best part about custom publishing and content marketing is that you are creating a marketing asset. When you advertise, in say a print magazine, the spend is gone as soon as it’s out the door. When you create compelling content, that content (if it’s good) will be spread through social media, indexed in Google, and you’ll be able to attract customers to that content for months, possible years. This doesn’t even take into consideration the ability to repurpose or reuse that content to develop even more content (see Step 5).

4. Defining the Budget

Next, look at the recommended 1-7-30-4-2-1 schedule and start picking off the low hanging fruit. budget-wise. For example, blogging is a major time commitment, but since it can be done without paying anyone, it’s often the most affordable point of entry. Additional, lower cost approaches are self-generated, in-depth presentations such as White Papers in PDF format, Powerpoints uploaded to Slideshare, etc.

Joe Pulizzi’s Takeaway: Completely agree with Russell on this, but would insist that brands take one step back and figure out what their story is going to be or what it should be. In other words, what are the informational or entertainment needs of your customers and how does that relate to your business?  What area(s) do you want to be the trusted, expert resource for. Figure that out fast.  If you aren’t sure, watch this video or check out this 4 steps content strategy program.

5. Big Content

At the opposite end of the spectrum from blogging, in terms of time and budget, is producing a workshop, a web video series, or an event. However, these are excellent investments because content from them can be “multipurposed” across the whole content plan and publishing frequency range (for my own content marketing efforts, we came out of the starting gate by producing an event, for example. We have videos from the event that we’ll be publishing monthly to our site, and so on).

Joe Pulizzi’s Takeaway: So many custom publishing choices, so little time. Budgeting for them could be as simple as “free” using existing resources (no outside expense) to outsourcing large scale content projects.  I’ve learned that most vendors are afraid to give out budget ranges (and rightfully so) because there are so many different variables that go into a content project (strategy, editorial, copywriting, design, distribution, campaign integration, content repurposing needs, etc.).

The Numbers Please, provided by Joe

That said, here are some numbers that may help if you are looking to outsource. These numbers come directly from averages within the Junta42 system and are custom publishing budget ranges that our clients submit when they look for vendors. Please note that this is for turnkey outsourced projects with content marketing and custom publishing experts and they are ranges only.

  • Blogging – $10,000 – $30,000 per year, depending on expertise needed and frequency.
  • eBook – $7,500 – $20,000 per eBook
  • White Paper – $5,000 – $15,000 per white paper
  • Custom Print Magazine – $40,000 – $500,000 per issue, depending on print run, distribution, content needs, folio size and more.

From a budgetary standpoint, large companies spend about 10-20% of their marketing spend on custom publishing activities. Small companies spend about 50-60% on content initiatives (see this 2008 btob custom publishing study). Average is 29%.

Summary, by Russell

I’ll wrap up with a little story. I lived in New England for many years. I learned that Old New England farmhouses often started out as a single, small house and a separate, detached barn. Over the years, the farmers would add onto the single, small house in phases as the family grew and as income allowed, until, eventually, the house and the barn were connected. They became one unified unit.

When planning your content marketing budget, and striking out to publish or produce content on a 1-7-30-4-2-1 frequency, keep the Old New England farmhouse analogy in mind.

You may start out with a daily or weekly blog (i.e., the little farm house), and a more production intensive project like an annual event or a quarterly high production value video (i.e., the barn).

Over time, as resources and budget allow, your content investment will make all the little in-between connections so that you end up with a content marketing strategy that is a unified whole.


Part V of Content Marketing Secrets