Is Content Marketing Too Expensive? [Content Marketing Podcast 227]
“How much does content marketing cost?” Let’s see if we can shed some light on this issue — and explore why answering it too soon can sabotage even our very best efforts.
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Welcome to Episode 227 of the Content Marketing Podcast!
If you joined us for last week’s podcast, you’ll recall we revisited old friend — print media — and looked at some signs that the tried-and-true printed word on paper just might be making a comeback. (Need to get caught up?)
Today we’re talking money — moolah, cash, dinero — and tackling the question of whether content marketing is “too expensive.”
Give today’s episode a listen to hear:
- MarTech Conference is just one week away — who wants to join me here in Houston next Thursday?
- How to grab your copy of our complimentary e-book “Top 10 Reasons Why Your Social Media Sucks“
- Our latest News Feed segment:
- Facebook is cracking down on low-quality links and misleading ads (learn more here)
- Instagram Stories swats Snapchat on the nose (again!) with new facial lenses (learn more here)
- Content Hit of the Week: “Seven Easy Tactics for Generating Content Marketing Ideas,” by Disha Dinesh on the MarketingProfs blog
- How one prospective client did a complete 180 on their current “provider” when they saw the investment that good content requires
- The question an attendee posed to me at last week’s speaking engagement … and why I refused to answer
- Why “how much is this gonna cost?” is the wrong question to start your content marketing journey
- Why cutting corners and putting out crap content is actually worse for your brand than doing nothing at all
- Tip of the Week: To outsource or not to outsource? That is the question, and here’s what you need to consider to make the right decision.
Please remember that this podcast is about you — your questions, your frustrations, your hopes and dreams for your content marketing program. So please take a moment to send me your feedback, questions, or comments via email, on our Facebook Page, or via Twitter.
Today’s Video Transcript
Content Marketing Podcast 227: Is Content Marketing Too Expensive?
May 18, 2017
This is the Content Marketing Podcast, episode number 227: Is Content Marketing Too Expensive?
Hello, and welcome to the Content Marketing Podcast. This is the show where we help you grow your tribe and your bottom line through insanely good content. I am your host, Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing, and today is May 18, 2017.
Hello, hello, or as we say in Texas, “howdy,” and thank you for joining us for today’s episode of the Content Marketing Podcast. First of all, a reminder to my Houston peeps: Martech Houston is coming up next week! This is going to be a fantastic one-day conference focused on the latest marketing strategies for small and medium-sized businesses. I would love to see you there! Spaces are still available but it’s filling up fast; for more information, visit bit.ly/MARTECHHOUSTON.
Just a reminder: This podcast is available on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Google Play Music, so if you like what you hear, please feel free to click on over and subscribe. I also invite you to download our complimentary e-book, “Top 10 Reasons Why Your Social Media Sucks” Download today to learn the top 10 mistakes that businesses make on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, social networks and learn easy “turnaround tips” for each situation. To snag your free copy, go to contentmarketinggift.com.
Last week we re-visited an old friend — print media — and looked at some signs that the tried-and-true printed word on paper just might be making a comeback. If you happened to miss that episode, feel free to check it out on iTunes or via the RSS feed.
Today we’re talking money — moolah, cash, dinero — and tackling the question of whether content marketing is just too expensive. But first, it’s time to check in with our News Feed for this week’s rundown of news you can use.
A new update from Facebook kicking off today’s new feed. There is a new update to the Facebook algorithm. This is related to their ongoing crackdown on fake news, this is the next level in that initiative. Facebook has implemented an update so that users will see fewer links and ads linking to pages that contain little substantive content or that feature “disruptive, shocking or malicious ads.”
Facebook is hoping that, to quote the blog post announcing this update, that “this update will help reduce the economic incentives of financially-motivated spammers.” As usually is the case with Facebook updates, we don’t know what this is going to look like in practice; these are very general terms. They talk about little substantive content, well, what does that look like, or they talk about “disruptive, shocking or malicious ads.” What are those? What are they really cracking down on? So we have no idea what this is going to look like in practice, but as usually is my advice with regard to these updates, if you are creating quality content, and sharing it on social media, you should have no problems. So I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over this update from Facebook.
Big news out of Instagram, the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between Snapchat and Instagram Stories could be a devastating blow to Snapchat: Instagram has launched its very own version of facial lenses. If you’re not familiar with facial lenses, it’s when you go to Snapchat and you use your selfie cam and then you can impose some lenses, like there is a puppy dog face, there is one where you throw up rainbows, there are different faces that you can put on yourself, and for many Snapchat users that has been the one thing that’s kept them loyal to Snapchat. They love those facial lenses and since Instagram Stories launched last summer, this has been one feature that has kept many Snapchat users from defecting. Well now Instagram Stories has a lens feature of its own, including a few that are remarkably similar to Snapchat’s. I went over there myself the other day to check out these lenses, and yes they have the puppy-dog face, they have a bunny rabbit face, they also have some new stuff, they have hipster glasses that you can impose on faces, they have some interesting ideas.
If you want to take the new feature for a spin, go to your Instagram Stories camera screen and there is a little face icon that you can tap to bring up these filters. What does this mean for the ongoing battle? Between these two giants of ephemeral content, I think it’s significant, because I’ve talked to several Snapchat users who were really only sticking around for the lenses. That was the one thing that kept them on Snapchat that they could not get in Instagram. Of course, a couple of weeks ago Snapchat upped its own game with World Lenses that took the lens concept and instead of applying lenses to the face, they used it on the the rear facing camera, and applied it to your environment so you can actually place virtual objects in your environment so we’ll have to see how this shakes out. I was presenting on Snapchat and Instagram at an AMA event a few weeks ago and I was talking about how back in the day Facebook tried to buy Snapchat, and Snapchat turned them down, so yeah this is what happens when you shun Zuckerberg, he’s like “that’s fine I’ll just go create a clone and put you out of business.” That’s what he did with Myspace and that’s his modus operandi. You now my money is on Instagram, which is of course owned by Facebook, but we shall have to wait and see what happens.
Find out why Joe Pulizzi calls The Content Marketing Coach “a simple yet effective guide to an approach that most businesses get flat out wrong.” Download your free chapter today. Link to http://contentmarketingcoachbook.com/
- Content Hit of the Week:
Our content hit of the week is a post called “Seven Easy Tactics for Generating Content Marketing Ideas,” by Disha Dinesh on the MarketingProfs blog.
It’s funny when I work with a new client, one of the questions they ask is “how are we going to keep coming up with ideas for content?” and I always reassure them — “oh, you’ll be surprised how many topics we’ll be able to come up with, we’ll just work our magic and come up with some great topics for you.” But behind the scenes yeah, sometimes we get stumped, and we’re just at a loss for what to come up with for this content, and we always work it out, which is why I was so happy to come across this post.
Disha gives us seven simple, practical tasks or tactics rather for cranking out new ideas for your content. Very simple, very useful, and a couple of tricks that I did not have on my own radar, so I was able to learn something too.
It’s an excellent read, good to have in your back pocket, for those days when you are staring at the blank screen and I will of course link to it in the blog post for this episode over at resonancecontent.com/podcast. (https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2017/32070/seven-easy-tactics-for-generating-content-marketing-ideas)
That’s it for this week’s update — if you stumble across something you think might be of interest to your fellow content marketers, please tweet it to me at @rachparker so that we can share.
Now it’s time for this week’s spotlight segment: Is Content Marketing Too Expensive?
Do you ever go through a period of like a couple of weeks or a couple of months where the same topics keep circling back in different conversations you have, in different resources you come across, in different people you talk to?
I’ve had that experience and one issue that kept coming back over the last few weeks is money. (singing) “Money, money, money, money, money …” — a little interlude to kick us off here, but it’s come up in interesting ways over the last couple of weeks. I took this as a sign that it’s time to talk about money and budgets.
One thing that came across my radar, or one episode that got me thinking about this, was an interaction I had with a prospective client a few weeks ago, and this was a client who passed on my services for a very interesting reason, and I will get into that here in a few minutes, actually turned that into a blog post, and then last week after a speaking gig one of the attendees grabbed me after the presentation and he said the presentation was very informative and he asked me point-blank “how much does it cost to do content marketing? I mean, ballpark, what are we talking here?” And he was quite insistent on getting an idea of what all this is going to cost. He was very nice about it, wasn’t very pushy or aggressive or anything, he was just very insistent. So, these two episodes really struck me and again I figured this was God’s way of telling me it’s time to tackle the huge issue of “how much is this going to cost?” here on the podcast.
First let me tell you about this interaction with a prospective client. This client had contacted me and she’d said, “We’re working with a blog service right now, we’re not happy with the content, it’s not engaging, people aren’t responding to it, we feel it could be much better, so we’d like to discuss your services.”
No problem! I put together a proposal, we went through it on an online meeting and I walked them through what they’ve got going on, what my recommendations were, and yes, what the investment was attached to that, and I got an email from her a couple of weeks later, that said “after reviewing your proposal we’ve decided to stay with our current provider. They’re only charging us $25 per blog post and we feel we are getting excellent value for the money.” That was a direct quote from her email.
I had looked very closely at the content they are getting from this provider, and if your criteria are everything spelled correctly and no egregious grammar mistakes, then yeah, this fit the bill, but everything else about it was absolutely horrendous. The title was not compelling, the ideas were not presented in a logical manner, there was no sense of personality behind the post. It was about 350 words long and after word 125, I was starting to tune out, because it was just so badly put together. It was riddled with clichés and the ideas weren’t, just weren’t compelling, so this is what they were getting for $25 a post, which, I think they were overcharged quite frankly, but you know, that’s just me.
Any way I was just flabbergasted at this email I got from her saying that, before our conversation started was “Oh, we’re not happy, we’re not getting results, we’re not getting any engagement,” and then after they see what good content costs, they change their tune and say, “Oh we feel like we’re getting excellent value for the money.”
That was the first episode that got me thinking along these lines, but I really want to talk about this question that I got from this person after this speaking gig. As I said he was quite insistent on asking me how much is it going to cost and getting a figure.
Usually when people ask me this question, my response is, if I give you a figure, if I tell you it’s going to cost you this, to do content marketing, — this is not a proposal, this is people just walking up to me and asking me — I usually respond saying, if I give you a figure, what are you going to do with it?
And the usual response is “Well I’ll take it to my boss.”
“Okay, what is she going to do with it?”
“Well, she will tell me if I can have t money or not.”
“And what if she says no?”
“Well, I guess we’re not going to do it.”
You see what happens when you start from a cost standpoint? So there are a couple of problems with this gentleman’s question, again I really appreciate him coming up to me and asking me this and I refused to answer. I said there is no way I can give you a number because it’s like saying how much does it cost me to run a business? Well it depends on the business, depends on the goals, depends on the product and the target, I mean it depends on so many things.
- But the first thing that is wrong with this gentleman’s question is that you are starting from perspective of content as a cost. You’re skipping right over the benefit and what it’s going to do for your brand and you’re jumping right ahead to the cost. It’s almost like they’re saying, “We know we’re going to be throwing money out the window; we just want to know how much? How much is this going to hurt?”
I was thinking about this, so picture a man and a woman on a first date, maybe they met online and they have their first date at Starbucks let’s say. It goes well, they find they have some things in common, they share a few laughs, they’re getting along very well, and then all of a sudden the man leans across the table and says, “Look, this is going well and I think we will be good together I have got to know: how much will it cost me to be in this relationship? Okay how often am I going to have to take you out to dinner and when I do is it going to be Arby’s or is it going to be at a steak house? How often do I have to send you flowers and when I do are the Kroger flowers going to be enough for you, or you want like FTD delivered to your office? How much is it going to cost, what are your expectations for Birthday gifts, okay $100, $500, what is it going to cost me to be in a relationship with you? Again ballpark, I’m just being practical, I’m just trying to figure out what I’m in for here? …”
So after our friend got done squealing in pain over the hot cup of coffee that was just dumped in his lap, it might dawn on him that talking about cost is not a great way to start a relationship. Even if the female had not dumped coffee in his lap and stormed out of his life, just not a good foot to start off on, and from our perspective as content marketers, we don’t do content marketing to spend money; we do it to build relationships with current and prospective customers. And when we start from the perspective of “how much is it going to cost me,” it’s almost like our friend at the coffee shop, it just starts off on a bad note and I find when I work with customers, when they start of on that cost standpoint, they don’t keep it up, they drop out after a while.
There are the ROI groupies, always chasing the ROI and when they don’t see that within six months they say, “well, this doesn’t work, we’re going to go back to our banner ads and our outrageously expensive print ads, because those work, this isn’t working, those work.”
That’s the first problem when you start off looking at content as a cost, then you’re almost setting yourself up for failure.
- The second problem with the question is what is the real question? When someone says, “How much is it going to cost to do content marketing?” what they’re really saying, or what many of them are really saying is, “what’s the absolute cheapest we can do this? What’s the absolute minimum or what’s the least we can spend in order to get our little participation trophy and say ‘yes we are content marketers, we are on the leading edge, we are following the Guru’s advice, we deserve the benefits of a strong content marketing program?'”
- Again not a great place to start from, “what’s the absolute cheapest we can do this?” it would be like our friend at Starbucks saying okay what’s the cheapest, what’s the least I can spend to date you? What’s the bottom, what’s the floor here?
I am not one of those Unicorns or one of those purveyors of fairytales who will tell you that money should be no object. Of course money is an object! Budgets are a reality, funds are not unlimited, and yes, budgets should be allocated wisely. I’m saying that when you start with the cost question, you could end up with something that just doesn’t make sense for your organization or for your audience, and when it doesn’t make sense it’s not going to give you results. So what do we do instead? We can’t ignore this issue of cost, but starting off with it as question number one is setting us up for failure, so how do we get there?
What we need to do is start with the objective — what do we want to achieve? What do we want content marketing to do for us? And I was thinking about athletes. We just had the Olympics in Rio last year, which was wonderful, but think about an athlete who is doing great, winning competitions, and thinking okay, I want to be in the Olympics.
She doesn’t start off with a spreadsheet talking about, or figuring out what it’s going to cost her. She starts off with her goals: “when do I want to compete on the Olympics, how many events, which events?” And then she works back from there, so we need to do the same thing.
You need to start with the objective and with content marketing I think we need both a mission and measurable goals.
The mission is more general: the mission is something like “We want to be the #1 thought leader on [X issue] in the [Y industry].” Now that is valuable to have, it is wonderful, it is important, but it’s not a goal.
The difference between missions and goals is that goals have to be SMART — you may have heard this acronym before. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-focused. So when we think about goals that are going to support this mission we need to think in terms of blog traffic, list size, social followership, mentions from influencers etc.
We want to look at where we want to go and those goals can be looking at one year goals, five year goals, ten year goals, whatever makes sense, but the important thing is we have those Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-focused goals that we are going to want to achieve.
From there, sketch out how you’re going to get there. How are we going to achieve this blog traffic, how are we going to get our list to this level, how are we going to get our social followership to this level? This is where you get into specifics like how often are you going to blog, what kinds of videos are you going to produce, and which social networks are you going to focus on?
Then and only then can you advance to the budgetary phase, than and only then can we put together a cost estimate. That’s when we figure out how we’re going to use internal and external sources, which tools we’re going to need, how much those tools are going to cost, what we’re going to need to spend on promotion, things like promoted posts and maybe some pay-per-click advertising, etc?
So cost comes after the goals and the tactics. Here’s a question that a lot of people ask me, let’s say you come up with — you go through your goals, you go through your tactics, you get your cost estimate, and it’s just way more than your budget can handle. You go and ask for more money, but it’s not forthcoming. What do you do? And we’ll talk about what not to do in a second, but what do you do?
You adjust your goals. You go back to the first step and you say, “Okay, our goal was to be a Lamborghini, but maybe we can aim to be a Mercedes or an Audi, or a good solid Honda.” And there is nothing at all wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with backing up your goals to be more in line with the tactics, that are going to align with the funds you have available.
Now what not to do, is what too many people do is they say, “Well, we’ve got these goals, we’ve got these tactics, how can we do what we want to do, but do it ‘on the cheap?'” So how can we execute these tactics as cheaply as possible? Bad idea, bad idea if you start your content marketing journey cutting corners, you’re just not going to achieve those goals you set for yourself.
If your goal is to generate a certain level of blog traffic, and you determine you need to blog once a week and you start looking for $25 blog posts, you’re just not going to get there. I love an expression that my friend Ariana taught me, she’s from Croatia; she said that we have an expression there “You’re not rich enough to buy cheap.” And that is true with so many things especially when it comes to content marketing. Not only will putting out cut-rate content not help you achieve your goals, but it can actually damage your brand.
As I say in this blog post that I wrote about this prospective client with a $25 blog post. When people go to your blog and they see crap content you’re telling them one or two things. You’re implying either (A) we know you came here for quality content and we don’t know how to give it to you. If that’s the impression you get why would they trust your brand with anything else?
Or (B) You might be telling them, we know you came here from quality content, and we don’t give a shit. We just want to get our participation trophy and call ourselves content marketers and sit back and expect the benefits.
I love something that Joe Pulizzi said last year at Content Marketing World, he said, “Mediocre content will hurt your brand more than doing nothing at all.” I’m going to have that tattooed on my forehead the next time I speak to anybody about content marketing, because it’s true — if you put out crap content that is like having office space where people walk in and the linoleum is peeling off, and there are dead plants in the corner and three of the four light fixtures are out, it’s just bad, it’s bad for your brand, so I can see where he’s coming form, when he says that “mediocre content will hurt you more than just doing nothing.”
And if you think about it from that standpoint, that $25 that you spent on that cheap blog post is being wasted. In fact it’s not only, not doing you any good, it’s actually hurting you.
So if after doing all our due diligence, and coming up with the estimate of the investment required if we find ourselves coming up short, we need to go back and re-assess those goals. Again, absolutely nothing wrong with that, but what we don’t need to do, is try to go cheap, because it is far better to go after a more modest goal and do it well, than to try to shoot for the stars in a ship made of Tinker Toys, which is what many brands are trying to do.
So that is my very opinionated take on the question “Is content marketing too expensive?” If you have any questions or if you want to add to the conversation, or if you have overcome this issue with your boss or someone in the C-suite I would love to hear from you, feel free to tweet me at @rachparker or contact me through the website resonancecontent.com. Now it’s time for our Content Marketing Tip of the Week.
Tip of the Week
To outsource, or not to outsource? That is the question. When you first make the decision to add content marketing to your marketing strategy — or to put together a proposal for your boss, so that you can get some budget to add content marketing to your marketing slate — there’s always the question of whether to do everything internally, or to outsource?
It’s like I have a client in the software field and the question “build or buy?” is something that comes up a lot. Companies figure, okay, we need this application do we build it ourselves or do we buy it from an external provider? And so many people, when they call me about Resonance’s services, one of the first questions they ask is “how does this even work?”
That’s why I have a whole section in my book, The Content Marketing Coach, about outsourcing — how it works, how to decide whether it’s right for you, and if it is right for you, how to choose a partner and how to manage the relationship with your content marketing partner. If you want to learn more about that go to contentmarketingcoachbook.com
But really every team is different, every organization is different, and you’ll have to determine what’s best for you and your team. That being said – keep in mind three things about outsourcing:
- It’s not necessarily “cheaper” to do everything in-house. Think about it: you might have a blogging campaign and what takes someone on your team who — for them writing might not be their strong point — it might take them six hours to put together a blog post. Compare that to what an agency might be able to do who does this all the time. They might be able to put together the same post in two hours. And think about what you’re paying that internal employee to work for five hours versus what you might pay an agency to work for two hours. So really think about the skill sets on our team, think about the bandwidth on your team, if your team is absolutely swamped, it might not be the best choice to keep everything in house, so keep in mind that it is not necessarily cheaper.
- It is not necessarily “better” to do everything in-house. In other words, you are not automatically going to land up with higher quality content if you do it solely with you internal team. Keep in mind that content marketing agencies like Resonance do content all day every day, and they know what makes for a good topic, they know what makes for a click-worthy title. They know how to position, and how to formulate your content, so that is engaging, so that it keeps people interested from beginning to end, so that it attracts better search traffic, and when people find it they want to stick around and read it all the way through. Maybe those skill sets exist within your team, maybe they don’t. So you don’t necessarily wind up with superior quality content if you do it all in house.
- Outsourcing doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” arrangement. It doesn’t have to be a case of “we’re either going to give all our content marketing to this agency or keep it all in-house.” Many of my current clients have full-time content teams, or full time content creators on staff; what’s happened is these folks have more on their plates than they can keep up with, but they don’t have quite enough to justify going and hiring another person. So outsourcing can be a perfect solution for filling those gaps.
When deciding how to set up your content marketing machine, remember that outsourcing offers a number of advantages. It’s not a perfect solution for everybody so, consider what is right for you, for your organization. The key is choosing the right partner and knowing how to work with them so that you set them — and yourself — up for success.
OK, campers, that’s it for me today — I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Content Marketing Podcast. If you like what you’ve heard today, please feel free to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play Music or via our RSS feed. And if you REALLY like what you’ve heard, please leave us a quick review on iTunes.
Also, if you want to learn more about content marketing, you’ll want to grab a copy of my book, The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and Win, it is available in book and Kindle format on Amazon. To learn more about the book and to download a free chapter, visit contentmarketingcoachbook.com. Also we are in graduation season, and if you know someone who is graduating with a degree in marketing, this is a great gift for them. Recent grads love this book because it is real world advice that they just didn’t get as their education. So if you have a grad in your family, or in your life, then think about picking up a copy for them.
As you know, I always like to leave you with a quote, and today’s comes from American poet Emily Dickinson. She once said, “Whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon.” So the question for you my friend is — which “little demons” will you release this week?
Again, this is Rachel Parker with Resonance Content Marketing. Thank you again for listening and we will see you again next week. Take care!
Remember to snag your copy of The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN! — now available on Amazon!
- Find out how to connect and convert with content marketing.
- Learn to cut through the clutter with intelligent content that resonates with your specific target audience.
- Get the secrets for turning followers into customers … and customers into evangelists.
About the Author
A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).
As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and author of the book The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN!
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