What Does Inbound Marketing Cost?

Modern CEO’s, marketing directors, and business owners know that modern consumers don’t rely solely on marketing to learn about new products or services, because the digital realm has made education and the opportunity to learn a very powerful – and attractive – tool.

This two-way vessel of digital communication, better known as inbound marketing, leverages a desire to learn with interesting and engaging content that provides answers and satisfies that audience desire. Knowledge is power, they say, and inbound marketing

The Value of Inbound Marketing

It’s tough to discuss the cost of anything without first having a firm grasp on the value of the product or service you’re considering – an inbound approach to digital content marketing is no different. Without first establishing the perks of inbound, it’s difficult to realize the full potential of inbound marketing and the true meaning behind a blog post like this one telling you how many Benjamin’s – or Borden’s if you’re from north of the 49th, like us  – you’ll be spending if you aren’t aware of how it can benefit your business or organization.

In terms of digital marketing, the real value lies in ROI – return on investment. So in order to determine the value of inbound marketing we can compare it to its chief rival, and the old school alternative – outbound marketing – a one-way style of marketing that seeks out its customer base – think radio ads, television commercials and invasive pop-up ads – marketing that comes at you from all angles when you’re not looking to be inundated with irrelevant content.

Outbound has traditionally functioned by paying for ad space where marketers can count on a vast number of viewers seeing their campaign. The bigger the number of potential viewers, the better, in their eyes. ON the other hand, inbound functions primarily by putting content in front of targeted viewers who are in search of a similar product or service, thus increasing the potential they’ll investigate further, commit to the product, and become a customer.

The perceived value of inbound here, is realizing that less is more – it’s not the sheer volume of people an inbound approach is interested in, but the beneficial ratio of finding an audience that’s more likely to do business with a brand or business.

Some stats to whet your inbound marketing whistle:

  • 86% of television viewers choose to skip through commercials.
  • 84% of content consumers aged 25-34 exit a website for “irrelevant or intrusive” ads.
  • Inbound leads in 2012 cost an average of $135, while traditional outbound leads cost $346 on average.
  • Businesses spend on average $20,000 less on inbound marketing versus the traditional outbound techniques they’re familiar with.

The true value of inbound marketing, aside from its cost, is realizing that it pays to earn someone’s attention – not to try to buy it. The true value of inbound is the engagement you’ll create between customer and company. Inbound is a learning metric, as much as it is an approach to marketing – plus, 54% more leads come from inbound sources.

You Get What You Pay For

When it comes to discussing the cost of inbound marketing, it’s important to note that an inbound approach is no different from any other service or product. Good help, expertise, measurable metrics, proven success, and up-to-date training and intuition are hard to come by in one great package. This means that, in short, you get what you pay for, as the old saying goes.

The more your company is able to commit to a complete inbound marketing plan, the more features, tools, time, and content will ultimately be produced and used to attract and convert your audience. Like anything, being thrifty and only committing to the bare essentials isn’t going to have the same effects, let alone revolutionize your organization’s conversion metrics. Risk, therefore, is good. Dedication is to be rewarded. Change isn’t always bad – the inbound arena has the chops to back up the claims.

Be wary of firms that claim they can accomplish metric goals and deliver everything month-to-month for a small fee. These one-size-fits-all plans have the potential to simply not fit your company, and some of them neglect to provide a breakdown of where their effort goes each month. Paying for a full-service inbound marketing plan/team that offers SEO, content creation, PPC, and document a tailor made strategy for your business are far more worth their salt.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Content

As part of the annual popular State of Inbound survey, HubSpot’s Joe Chernov says “there is no inbound without content. Content is inbound’s lifeblood.” In a recent HubSpot post, it can be deduced that most marketers believe that content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing – meaning that while content is integral to an inbound approach, the entire initiative should be a “superset,” inclusive of content assets, but not too dependent or limited to them.

Cost vs Company Size

The overall cost of your inbound marketing efforts are going to be dependent on how much more business you intent on generating via use of inbound practices, coupled with the amount of funds you’re able to allocate, with a percentage of your total marketing budget.

A yearly budget for inbound should be categorized by the size of the business and its yearly revenues, as well as its willingness to embrace high and/or low aggression campaigns. Cost related to company size will always fluctuate, but as a general rule:

  • Small businesses with <$2 million annually: $40,000-$75,000 dedicated to inbound
  • Growing businesses with $2-$10 million annually: $75,000-$200,000 toward inbound
  • Mid-size businesses with $10-$50 million in annual revenue: $200,000-$1 million dedicated to inbound
  • Large businesses with >$50 million in annual revenue: $1 million-$2 million toward inbound

In terms of how to secure an inbound plan and individuals capable of harnessing the power of inbound marketing practices, most companies will embrace an inbound marketing agency, like Riverbed Marketing, for example.

Riverbed’s Inbound Marketing Team Leader, Michael Bergen, explains that most clients come to a dedicated firm with a number of problems or pain-points that can be addressed in an all-inclusive inbound package:

  • They have a need to grow traffic and build awareness of a product/service
  • They need to convert existing traffic into sales
  • They have a need to generate awareness of a product or service
  • Their traditional marketing tactics are becoming ineffective, costing them major marketing spend without any ROI.
  • They are in need of getting up-to-date and are still pushing things like newsletter subscriptions, or their paid ads are becoming less effective with the rise of PVRs and adblockers.
  • They have a marketing automation platform, but no one to manage and utilize the tools effectively
  • They struggle to scale their marketing effectively

Dedicated inbound firms can offer inclusive packages, or customized inbound campaigns designed to selectively address a number of ailing aspects of an existing marketing plan. Firms are additionally advantageous to companies because hiring in-house and via freelance outlets can pile up quickly, easily costing more than these ballpark budgetary figures.

So, What Does Inbound Marketing Cost?

Let’s Break It Down

70% of marketers lack a competent, documented inbound strategy – a key aspect of an effective and lucrative inbound approach to marketing – not just for a campaign that’s on the table. A good strategy will therefore include continually assessing, adjusting, evolving, and interpreting data and patterns generated. A good strategy will include developing buyer personas, goals, and tactical plans to help reach those goals – which are never set in stone – and months and months of research and on-site visits to formulate an effective game plan.

Every month, about 2-3 hours should be spent adjusting and analyzing your data, and your inbound marketing strategy, to update, alter, or polish up your approach based on experiential information. Expect to budget for about $2000 for a short term plan, or about $600-900 per month ongoing, while Protocol 80 Inc. goes so far as to say a long-term plan could cost upwards of $20,000 over the course of its lifetime.

Riverbed Marketing offers an ongoing Content Marketing Package valued at $5,000 which includes a documented content strategy – but also includes integral moving parts like a comprehensive content development/publishing calendar and custom content creation – plus prospect/targeting lists, monthly reporting, consulting and approval calls.

Content Creation Drives Keyword Diversity

Like we said, nothing is arguably more important than content when discussing inbound marketing, and the cost of good content is a cost that engaged and dedicated companies don’t mind footing. Generation of custom content like blogs, infographics, whitepapers, eBooks, copywriting, landing pages, CTA’s, and even videos is the ammo that inbound needs to build traffic, and convert an audience into loyal customers.

Why is content creation priced on the upper-end of applicable inbound segments? Because good content is hard to find – consistent and good content is a downright rarity. In fact, companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month, and receive 97% more links to their website than those that don’t.  Content has the power to not only work when you’re not, but can also help develop trust and loyalty from your audience. Blogs in particular are incredible platforms for showcasing your brand’s personality, rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate info online by searchenginepeople.

Blogging costs for reliable and high-quality writers can vary depending on experience and the number of blogs you need per month. Blogs can take anywhere from 1 hour to upwards of 6 for certain topics and the research involved in doing it properly. Again, use of a dedicated inbound marketing firm helps to alleviate the confines of cost, as a dedicated content writer could easily cost for business upwards of $45,000 per year in salary, and freelancers can come with busy and unreliable schedules. Expect to spend about 2,000 per month on quality content creation.

Riverbed Marketing offers a comprehensive content creation package for $3,000, spread out over 24 hours of work time, and includes a content strategy and calendar for publishing. This package also comes complete with an approval and feedback process, as well as consulting and approval calls to help hone the content approach.

Maximize Organic Reach via Search Engine Optimization

Being easy to find and easy to search for isn’t just one of the most important parts to an online business profile, but it’s a critical aspect of inbound marketing that should always be considered an absolute necessity because it enables all of that glorious content to be seen! Expenses for SEO are largely dependent on the bulk of content that you need optimized for keywords and other important ranking criteria.

Everyone and their brother will tell you that they can get you on the first page of Google’s search results, but the key to ranking is accumulated high-quality content and links. SEO costs will vary depending on the amount of content your business has in the bank, or new content that needs to be optimized for SEO ranking performance. A critical stage in the Attract portion of the inbound methodology, SEO services can easily cost anywhere from $1000 to upwards of $3000 per month and can include SEO audits, siteplans, and competitive link analysis.

Paid Search can Fill the Gaps

Not a consistent player in all inbound campaigns or approaches, but pay-per-click campaigns are powerful lead generation tools that are worth their own dedicated professional, being one of the most expensive and costly strategies to tackle. Consider PPC expenses like a saltwater pool – big costs at the beginning, with residual benefits over time.

Many campaigns structure their costs to account for the cost of management by allotting 50% of total ad spend to the manager of PPC operations. Expert management can cost upwards of $1000 per month.

Optimized Lead Nurturing & Email Marketing

Some call it another form of content creation, some lump in email marketing as a lead nurturing practice that optimizes all other content. Following up with your leads helps to nurture and create meaningful, lasting relationships with clientele, so by sending email follow-up’s to all inquiries and communication vessels helps to maintain your leads and guide them down the sales funnel to becoming a customer.

Costs associated with email marketing and lead nurturing all depend on automation, consistency, and personalization. Budget between $700-$1100 per month.

Media is the Key to Brand Growth

72% of all internet users use Facebook, with 70% logging on daily – representing the most engaged users on the web. In the past two years, Facebook content consumption has increased 57%, according to Hubspot Research. These users have to see and interact with your brand in order to build a relationship.

Time and consistency are the two most potent combination of efforts to put into your social media inbound assault. It’s not uncommon to dedicate upwards of 2 hours per day publishing, and curating original content to your businesses’ various social media platforms. It’s this amount of time that causes most companies to outsource their social media use to out-of-house marketing firms. With 2 hours per day for daily customer interaction and social media activity, a 40 hour month can cost anywhere from $700-$2500, while our friends at Quora say industry average can be as high as $4-$7k per month.

Riverbed Marketing features a competitive and unique social media inbound package that includes management of up to 4 social media accounts, a social calendar, posting and social monitoring of 4 posts per week, tracking, optimization, content graphic creation for social sharing, monthly reporting, and engagement with your audience – all for $3000 ongoing.

B2B Inbound Marketing: a Compelling Argument

One of the most enduring pain-points associated with exploring and implementing an inbound marketing strategy and mantra within your organization is convincing a marketing director, CMO, CEO, or upper management to allocate additional funds away from another business requirement to shift your marketing efforts – especially when the individuals responsible for making decisions either know little about inbound marketing, or adhere to the will of the outgoing outbound mentality.

Every inbound marketing firm out there is constantly publishing and promoting blogs, statistics, and whitepapers all geared at proving the monetary value of content/inbound marketing, while they usually fall short when trying to translate new numerical figures to many CEO’s. The key to translating and proving the possible content marketing ROI to your CEO is by finding a new way to communicate – fortunately, that’s the primary function of inbound in the first place.

Evergreen Content Lasts!

With an outbound approach, businesses are forced to pay multiple installments over the years for the same advertising space. Outbound content is leveraged by time, whereas digital content is permanent and is online forever! To put this into perspective, Hubspot reports that 75% of all Hubspot blog views and 90% of all blog leads from OLD posts, proving that archived, and optimized content provides benefit to an organization well after it’s been published.

Even paid-search can’t compete with the power of content. Consider a report from Kapost and Eloqua which found content marketing ROI, per dollar, steamrolls the ROI of paid-search by more than 3X. Approach your CEO by urging them to consider that spending money on results that fade away, run out, or decrease is bad for business in the long run, instead, inbound serves as an investment that has the potential to increase in value over time – content will be largely relevant for years and years – even as platforms change.

Millennials Respond

There are hundreds of millions of people born between 1980 and the early 2000’s known as millennials. They take significant heat for being many things – but one thing they certainly are, is online savvy. Millennials respond better to content that speak directly to them, not at them, unlike traditional outbound marketing techniques. To put it another way: this demographic will control the primary purchasing power in the US in the next 10 years.

As quoted by marketing professor S. Adam Brasel, in a 2013 Boston Globe article: “Not only do [Millennials] not necessarily trust traditional advertising anymore, they don’t even see traditional advertising anymore,” said Boston College.

Your CEO and decision-making management team will certainly respond to the primary purchasing power on earth not even registering their outdated marketing ploys. Producing content that’s captivating, trustworthy, and interesting helps convert millennial traffic into loyal and educated customers who interpret value from a brand that offers expertise.

Two Birds, One Stone

Further to the benefits of content lasting for years –  it serves yet another 2 powerful purposes: it improves search engine rankings and the vast online marketplace and its culture typically responds enthusiastically to brands that offer said content.

Good content that stimulates reads and click-through rates hits the buzzer for search engines to give your brand some authority within your industry. The more often good quality content is read, shared, clicked, and engaged – the more search engines are triggered to readjust their rankings in your company’s favour. Even in 2012, Hubspot’s State of Inbound survey found that organic search leads driven by content featured a 14.6% close-rate, while old school outbound marketing methodologies could only muster a 1.7% close-rate. Tell your CEO that’s over 8X.

Is inbound cheap? No, not meaningful, good quality inbound marketing; but we don’t believe it needs to be cheap, because the proof is in the pudding. Inbound marketing addresses growing concern over transparency and approachability in businesses, and helps to gain the trust and respect of our clientele by offering perspective, education, and opportunity – rather than offering invasive ads to untargeted individuals with no initial interest in your business.

You get what you pay for, and with an inbound approach, the value of open-mindedness, trust, respect, and the chance to learn makes it not only a clear winner, but a moral victory for all of us who choose to embrace its lessons.

Picture of Todd Mumford

Todd Mumford