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How Much Should You Budget for Inbound Marketing?

By John McTigueOct 14, 2013

inbound-marketing-budgetLet's get down to brass tacks. You have to spend money to make money. You have to invest in digital marketing (at least 2.5 percent of revenues) or your competitors will outperform you. If you don't believe me, check out this post. If you don't build a strong inbound marketing team complete with strategists, content creators, designers, technologists and analysts, how will you generate new revenues? Traditional advertising? Direct mail? Trade shows? How well have those initiatives worked out for you lately? It's time to start planning for the future now. Here are a few key things to think about:

Strategy & Project Management

Going digital isn't enough. You can't just pump out content to the blogoshpere and social networks and expect to get results. It doesn't work that way. You have to find your buyers where they pay attention and provide value to them—something that gets their attention and provokes them to take some form of action, like downloading your content or attending one of your webinars. You need to formulate an effective inbound marketing strategy around:

  • Buyer Personas: The people most likely to be involved in a purchase decision
  • Buyer Journey: The steps buyers most often take to research, evaluate and decide to buy from you
  • Content Mapping: The kinds of content and topics, as well as how and when to deliver that content to stimulate buyers to move forward through the journey
  • Demand Generation: How will you get your content in front of buyers? What channels and approaches are best for reaching them?
  • Conversion: What approaches will you take to optimize lead conversion rates?
  • Lead Scoring & Management: How will you evaluate leads once they have embarked on the buyer journey? When will they be ready for a sales call?
  • Goals and KPIs: What does success look like, and how will you measure progress toward your goals?

Budget implications: Initial strategy sessions ($10-20K), ongoing strategy reviews and project management ($5K/month).

Content

Next to strategy, content is king in inbound marketing. Success is totally dependent on the quality, targeting, relevance and persuasiveness of your content. Once your content strategy is in place, you need a team of talented brand journalists, bloggers, graphic designers and social media people in place to provide that consistent flow of demand generation and lead nurturing content. Without that investment, you will struggle to grow brand awareness, thought leadership and qualified sales leads via inbound marketing. Period.

Budget implications: $5-10K per month for sustained growth, $10-15K per month for aggressive growth.

Demand Generation

This is the "outbound" part of inbound marketing where you are reaching out to people who aren't already in your contact database. Email marketing, PPC, social media advertising and native advertising fall into this category. The "inbound" way to do demand generation is to attract people to download top-funnel eBooks and avoid direct sales promotions. Most companies find they must provide adequate budget for demand generation to overcome the efforts of competitors and generate substantial numbers of new qualified leads.

Budget implications: $2-5K per month for sustained growth, $5-10K+ per month for aggressive growth.

Marketing Technology, Lead Management & Analytics

This part of the budget includes marketing technology software, such as HubSpot and Salesforce.com, as well as experienced personnel to operate marketing automation software, manage and update the website and provide insights and reports. You will probably need at least one full-time marketing technologist focused on marketing automation and CRM and one web designer/developer to keep the website up to speed.

Budget implications: $10-15K per month for best results.

Budget Implications for Different Company Sizes

  • Small Businesses @ $2-10 million in sales should plan to budget $100-150K per year, more if possible. This amounts to 2-5 percent of gross revenues, which is well within the ranges of companies building their growth around digital marketing.
  • Small-to-Mid-Size Companies @ $10-50 million in sales should budget $200-300K per year, which lines up well with the guidelines above for inbound marketing components.
  • Mid-Size Companies @  $50-100 million in sales should budget $300-500K per year, which gives them the scale of marketing personnel and initiatives to match larger product lines and to gain market share.
  • Large Companies @ $100-500 million in sales should budget $1-5M per year, which is a lower percentage of revenue than required by smaller companies, but still provides plenty of budget for aggressive marketing, both inbound and outbound.
  • Enterprises @ $500+ million in salesshould budget $5-20M per year, which is a still lower percentage of revenue than required by smaller companies and may vary considerably based on industry and markets. B2C companies will typically have much higher advertising and marketing budgets due to competitive factors.

Of course, all of these numbers are approximate and will change based on specific industry, regions, markets and corporate plans. Are most companies meeting these guidelines? That's doubtful; however, most surveys indicate digital marketing budgets are on the rise across the entire spectrum of company sizes and industries. As CMOs learn more about the nature and best practices of inbound marketing and content marketing, these budgets are likely to grow even further, since the primary benefit of inbound marketing is its ability to deliver qualified sales leads more efficiently than outbound methods while being 100 percent measurable and accountable.

Can you lower these costs by outsourcing to an inbound marketing agency? Well, there's only one way to find out.

Photo Credit: peasap

PIVOTING YOUR PLAN with Inbound Marketing

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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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