How Much Money Do You Really Need to Build an Inbound Marketing Strategy?
Inbound marketing has been heralded as one of the most affordable approaches to marketing and advertising, and by some more extreme proponents as the only viable approach to marketing in the modern era. The idea is to draw customers in naturally, not by overwhelming them with advertising, but by merely offering what they’re looking for, when they’re looking for it, in the form of information and/or entertainment.
This approach is naturally cost-efficient because you don’t have to pay for things like ad placement, and many strategies can be learned by practically anyone without special training. But how much money does executing an inbound marketing campaign really cost?
The Nature of Expense
First, it’s important to recognize that most of the costs in an inbound marketing campaign aren’t traditional “expenses.” Unless you’re contracted with an agency, you won’t be paying for tangible goods the way you might with brochures or billboards; instead, most of your expenses will be in the form of how you and your team spend time. And of course, time is money.
Let’s take a look at the three main channels you’ll use in a comprehensive inbound marketing campaign:
· Content marketing. Content marketing is the development of articles, whitepapers, photos, videos, audio, and other mediums to provide assets for incoming traffic to consume. It can increase conversions, and build both brand visibility and customer loyalty. If you develop the content yourself, you’ll only pay in terms of hours spent. Promoting your published content is a highly recommended course of action, however, and that costs time or money too.
· SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a series of tactics designed to improve your website’s ranking and appearance in search engines. It’s partially dependent on the strength of your content marketing campaign. It’s a good idea to work with a professional here, but the intensity and, therefore, cost of your campaign will vary greatly.
· Social media marketing. Social media marketing relies on posting and engagement on social media channels to build and retain an audience. Again, it’s possible to pay for services here or attempt to do the work yourself.
The nice thing about these three strategies is that they end up complementing and improving each other’s effects; for example, content marketing improves your SEO and also provides fuel for your social media efforts. This synergy enhances the value of each individual tactic.
It would be nearly impossible to project a one-size-fits all cost for an inbound marketing strategy. These are just some of the variables that can affect your overall costs:
· Niche. Your target niche will have a major impact on how much you need to spend and how valuable your inbound marketing campaign can actually be. For example, in a relatively new niche, there will be greater demand for information because there hasn’t been much development in that area. In an exciting niche, like science and technology, demand is even greater. But an older, more boring industry might get away with producing less content (and seeing inferior results).
· Competition. You’ll also need to consider the level of competition you’re facing. In many inbound areas, your goal shouldn’t be reaching a certain level of authority so much as getting just a bit more authority than your next-highest competition. For example, in search engines, you don’t need to achieve a domain authority of 100 (the maximum possible score) — you just need to outrank your competitors. The number of competitors you have and their current effort levels will dictate how much effort you need to expend to catch up.
· Priorities. Inbound marketing can afford a number of different goals and priorities; for example, you might focus on getting more traffic to your site, while someone else might focus on earning more conversions from the traffic they’re already getting. Your goals will dictate the course of your overall strategy.
· Pacing. Inbound strategies all depend on growth for results, but how much you spend will dictate your growth rate; spending more will obviously afford you a faster, cleaner path to growth.
To get started with an inbound marketing campaign, just start with the basics and grow from there. Assuming you’re hitting all three major areas of inbound marketing that I covered above, this will entail:
1. fixing any SEO issues with your site,
2. establishing a blogging or content marketing platform, and
3. building and optimizing your social media profiles.
It’s important not to skimp on this work, but it still shouldn’t demand much effort — I would estimate 20 to 40 hours to get started. From there, your ongoing efforts don’t need to be extensive; you can get started with a couple of blog posts per week with accompanying attention to your social media audiences. Depending on the variables I listed above, this could amount to a few thousand dollars a month (working with an agency), or 10–20 hours of work a week.
Of course, you’ll probably need to increase your expenditures if you want your campaign to grow. You’ll need to create more content, escalate your off-site efforts, and step up your game on social media channels. That would probably demand at least one full-time position (probably more, depending on your competition), and/or several thousand dollars a month in agency or freelancer costs. Again, it all boils down to the variables.
The cost of an inbound marketing campaign is an important consideration, but don’t forget about the other side of the equation — the return on your investment (ROI). If you invest your time and money wisely, targeting efficient niches and putting your effort into the right areas, you should see a return far more than your initial front of hours and capital. Be patient, keep an eye on your expenditures, and invest your money smartly and strategically, and you should come out on top.