In this blog, Matthew Creswick, Group Marketing Director at Huble Digital, answers the question: "How much does it cost to be successful with Inbound?". Have a read of the blog to find out the answer!
(This blog was first published in August 2019 and has since been updated to include new information)
The great thing about Inbound Marketing is that unlike traditional marketing, it’s less about the size of your wallet and more about the size of your brain.
What this means is that you don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds to be successful. If you are just starting out, you can start with as little as a website and a blog – for a small cost – and start attracting and converting website visitors.
Of course, what’s defined as “successful Inbound Marketing” is different for every business. For some, success might be acquiring 50 new customers, but for others, it might be securing £500,000 in recurring monthly revenue.
So when it comes to the question of ‘How much does it cost to be successful with Inbound Marketing’, there are a few things which need to be considered:
The size and complexity of your website
Depending on how many pages, plugins and functions you need, your website could cost as little as £20 a month or as much as £1,000 a month to maintain. But, regardless of its size or cost, the most important factor is finding the right content management system (CMS) for it.
Choosing the right CMS is crucial because it lays the foundation for the rest of your activity. If it doesn’t support the integrations you need or does not allow you to easily edit and manage web pages, your website’s ability to grow will be limited. So, if you are using a CMS which requires you to hire a developer to make small tweaks and edits to your website – it’s probably time to rethink your website strategy.
Also, as your business grows you’ll need better tools to support it. With this in mind, you need a technology stack that enables you to add and remove tools as your business grows.
Luckily, there are solutions out there. A good example of a CMS that’s designed to scale with your business is one very close to our hearts - HubSpot. You can customise it to meet your specific needs – so if you only need a CMS, that’s all you’ll pay for. If you need sales, customer service and enterprise-scale marketing tools, they can be easily added to your package. It’s a truly modular system that can be scaled up and down depending on your rate of growth.
And, perhaps most importantly, HubSpot provides enterprise-grade website features at a mid-range price point. This means you can benefit from functionality that’s typically used by large enterprises at a fraction of the price.
We'd also recommend looking into Growth-Driven Design (GDD) if you're building a brand-new website or looking to revise your existing one. Check out the video below for more information.
Are there any other options?
There are, of course, alternatives to HubSpot and depending on what you need you may find them more applicable. For example, if you're looking to build a small website and will use it solely for blogging - WordPress is certainly worth considering. It also has a plethora of plugins that you can take advantage of to make your website function the way you want it to. Just bear in mind that as an open-source platform, it's significantly more complex (at the bespoke and custom end of things) to build a larger website.
WordPress is free to use but you'll have to pay for things like domain hosting and premium support.
If WordPress and HubSpot don't take your fancy and you want an enterprise-grade solution for a large website - then you can use platforms like Adobe Experience Manager.
Adobe Experience Manager is one of the fastest-growing web platforms available today and is used by major corporations worldwide. It's primarily designed for organisations that need to manage content across multiple websites and regions.
In terms of cost, Adobe plays it pretty close to the chest - although a blog by 6dglobal indicates that the cost of Adobe Experience Manager is between $250,000 (£192,081) and $1,000,000 (£768,785.00) and up annually.
These are just a few examples. If you to find the best CMS for your website in 2020, this blog has you covered.
Content creation, amplification and in-house vs outsourcing
Anyone can create content – whether it's blogs, podcasts, or market research reports – but success ultimately comes down to the amount of time and resource you dedicate to it.
Each content asset needs to be planned carefully. Case studies, for example, require you to interview your customers and do a bit of research. Webinars, on the other hand, need some form of online hosting software so that everyone can see and share the slides.
You also need to think about how those assets are going to be designed and promoted. Each asset will need its own template and will have to use your brand's colours and fonts. For more text-heavy assets, i.e. eBooks, whitepapers and market research reports, the layout will need to be carefully considered by a graphic designer. As for promotion, you need to create and develop profiles on the online channels that your audience frequents and create a social media plan.
It’s a lot of work. Many companies have to decide to either outsource content creation, or keep it in-house and hire an internal employee.
(If you decide to keep your content creation in-house, you may want to read this guide on creating a B2B content marketing strategy).
Benefits of hiring an internal content creator:
Budget: You don’t have to extra marketing budget to outsource content creation.
Quality: Subject matter experts can speak directly to the copywriter, ensuring the material is on message. No one knows your buyers better than you. (Find out how to create great content for your website)
Understanding: The copywriter will develop a deep understanding of your brand and product over time and become an expert themselves.
Timing: You can turn content around quicker as reviews can be done internally.
Quantity: There are no restrictions on the quantity of content you want to produce.
Benefits of outsourcing content creation:
Cost effective: You pay a one-off cost. Hiring an employee, on the other hand, has other variable costs: their salary, national insurance (NI) contributions, sick pay, holiday pay, healthcare and so on.
Capacity: Your team can focus on working on other marketing activities
Pay for what you need to succeed: You can hire an agency to create the right volume of content necessary to help you achieve your goals – you aren’t’ restricted by the performance of one employee, but the level is scalable.
Quality: Most external agencies have years of experience in specific industries
For a really flat comparison. the average salary for a content marketing manager is between £30,000-£35,000 a year. Remember, this figure doesn’t include purchasing equipment and software, national insurance contributions, sick pay and so on.
Agencies, on the other hand, tend to charge by piece of content created or project – so their costs will differ depending on what it is you want to do. The average monthly cost for a content marketing agency is typically between £1,500 and £6,000 per month. It can be higher if you require a very specific content marketing strategy or a large volume of content over a short period of time.
Check this blog here to find out more about the hidden costs of outsourcing your B2B content creation.
Creating video content
As with content creation, anyone can start creating videos.
In the past, video was created primarily by brands that could afford it. These brands would spend tens – even hundreds – of thousands on equipment, actors, script writing services and advertising for just one video. Insane. Nowadays, video costs significantly less: you can just use your mobile phone (most have decent cameras) and a clip-on microphone!
If you want to shoot better quality videos you will need to invest in equipment, but much less than you would have previously. With a couple thousand, you can get some really good equipment or even outsource video production to a video marketing agency.
Just by going from using a £300-500 smartphone camera to a £2,000 set up or video marketing package, you can increase the quality of your video astronomically.
Want to develop a video content strategy? Check this blog out.
Benefits of outsourcing video
Quality: Video specialists will have top-tier equipment and experience creating the kind of video you need.
Access a bigger team: Production companies utilise and/or hire anyone they need to work on your video. These crew members will have separate roles (rather than wearing several hats) and be incredibly skilled at their assigned duties.
Efficient post-production: When you produce video in-house, you have to learn it all from scratch (unless you hire a video expert) and editing video will take days. With an experienced video editor, any post-production you need can be added quickly and easily.
Creative input: You might have the content, but the production company will have a better idea of how to shoot your video.
Want to outsource your video? Maybe we can help... have a look at our video below!
Now you can keep video content creation in-house, of course, but there are a few costs and factors you need to be aware of:
You'll need a camera capable of recording video, a microphone, a tripod, stabiliser and decent lights.
This might all sound expensive but we promise you it's not. Thanks to modern technology you no longer need expensive equipment to shoot high-quality videos.
You could just use a current-generation smartphone. Most smartphones are viable alternatives to standalone cameras, particularly those created in the last few years or so. It's now possible to get studio-grade video quality using a handheld mobile device. Of course, if you want to go all-out then a camera is the only real solution - just don't feel like you have to spend thousands!
In terms of buying a camera - you could get something like the Canon EOS 650D (which can be bought for around £250 new) and then a tripod for anywhere between £25-100.
Depending on the quality of the sound recorded by your camera - you may need a standalone microphone. We use a TASCAM handheld recorder along (here's an example but not the exact one we use) with a clip-on microphone (we would recommend buying from a reputable brand like Rode, Sennheiser, Audio Technica or Sony). These clip on microphones can cost anywhere between £50-£500 - but you don't need to spend at the upper end of the scale for good quality.
Next up - lighting! If you've got a lot of natural light coming into your shooting location this is less important, but in dark rooms quality lighting is essential. Here's an example of the sort of lights you should be looking for. Lights, when positioned well, will make complexions smoother and more natural.
Anyone can shoot a video but not everyone can do it well. You can of course teach yourself how to record and edit videos but that requires time and resources you may not have. Also, on top of teaching yourself how to record and edit videos - you have to think about writing the script, setting up the equipment, recording the audio and managing the delivery of the video. You may need three or four people to do all of the above: one to do the recording and editing, one for the script writing, one to listen to the audio and one to set up all of the equipment.
In terms of the cost of the above - you have to think about the software required to edit videos in the first place, as well as the hours it takes for the script to be written and the video to be edited. You also have to bear in mind that if you're doing it in-house, it's likely that those responsible will be splitting their time between their new "job" as a video professional and their actual contracted duties.
As mentioned briefly above, time is another "cost" that you need to consider when it comes to creating video. Unless you hire a videographer for in-house video production, it's going to be a while before you can create a video in a few hours. Expect to spend days editing, reviewing and re-shooting bits of it.
You have to assume that whoever's responsible for creating and editing the video will have significantly less time for their day-to-day activities.
Automating marketing activities
If you are running all of the above marketing activities, creating content at scale, building out your website, generating video content etc - it’s at this point that you need to start thinking about marketing automation tools. Cost is normally the main factor, but you should also look at the features provided.
Using HubSpot as an example again, the Professional Marketing Hub which includes automation – you would be looking to pay at least £655 per month. It also includes the following: smart content, blogging, search engine optimisation (SEO), content strategy, social media, A/B testing, landing pages, calls-to-action (CTAs), video hosting and management, website traffic analytics, campaign reporting, attribution reporting and custom reporting.
Now let’s look at Salesforce. Salesforce’s Growth package – which includes automation – costs £1,000 per month. It includes prospect tracking, lead nurturing and email marketing, lead scoring and grading, return-on-investment (ROI) reporting, real-time alerts, forms and landing pages and standard CRM integration.
If you want to use one of the leading tools and achieve the best results, you’ll be paying upwards of £600 a month. There are plenty of cheaper options, but in our experience, companies that try to implement these solutions tend to see results much later.
OK, so you’ve got your website and your content, now you need to promote it.
Some marketers recommend you spend 20% of your time creating content and the other 80% promoting it. That means that if you spend 3 hours creating a blog, you should spend 12 hours promoting it. It might sound like a lot, but if you create an awesome blog that resonates well, it’s worth spending an hour a week for 12 weeks promoting it across your channels.
But when it comes to promotion, you also think about the cost of scheduling (i.e. time versus return). By using a social media tool which allows you to schedule social posts, you can focus your time and create social for one week, rather than having to remember to post live onto channels at specific times throughout the week.
Second, learn how to use the tools available on the social media platforms you use. These tools will help you understand the performance of posts and identify opportunities to increase reach and engagement - doing more of what works well and less of what doesn’t.
Social media management tools can cost as little as £10 a month (per user and with limitations on posts per month) or as much as £1500 a year).
CoSchedule, for example, costs $1400 (£1152.41) a year, while Hootsuite, a market leader, costs $599 (£493.07) a year. HubSpot's up there with the best of them (Hootsuite, Zoho Social, Sprout Social, Buffer, etc) but the difference is that HubSpot offers more of a 'complete' package. It's not just social media management.
Paid promotional activity
Today’s marketing world is more pay-to-play than ever. So, if you want to compete with the big dogs on competitive keyword terms, you’re going to have to put your money into paid advertisements.
That said, you don’t need to spend a ludicrous amount to achieve success. A bit of carefully targeted pay-per-click (PPC) spend can help raise awareness of your business, increase visibility and generate some quality leads.
Costs will vary depending on the competition for a specific term, so try to focus on terms you can compete on. This approach will ensure you generate qualified leads at a reasonable cost.
It’s hard to provide concrete examples of how much it costs to generate leads as it depends on your target keyword and competition. If it helps, many of our clients have achieved success by just spending a few thousand pounds each month.
Of course, before you dive into PPC, make sure you check out our PPC do's and don'ts!
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
All of the content you create and put on your website (and your web pages) will need to be optimised for search engines if they are to rank well and be shown for relevant search queries.
Of course, SEO isn't an easy practice - Google's algorithm changes every day of the week and there are hundreds of ranking factors (though we can be certain of a few of them). You can hire an SEO specialist or agency to do this on your behalf, but know this - it'll be an ongoing cost and will most likely cost more than any of your other marketing initiatives over the long term.
The main benefit of SEO is that it will lay the foundation for the rest of your activity and continue to drive traffic to your website long after your marketing campaigns finish.
Also, "cheap" SEO will cost your business more in the long run as it'll most likely leverage what we call black and grey hat SEO techniques. These techniques are frowned upon by search engines - i.e. keyword stuffing, duplicate content, link farms and so on. So whilst they may seem useful and beneficial to improve the ranking of your content, once Google's crawlers (or any other search engine's) find that content, it'll be penalised. This can cause lasting damage to your website.
Just how important is keyword optimisation for SEO? Check out this blog to find out!
Choosing a marketing automation platform
As mentioned earlier, our platform of choice is HubSpot and for obvious reasons; HubSpot pioneered the Inbound Marketing strategy and build a platform around it. HubSpot provides all the tools you need to attract, engage, covert and delight potential prospects.
As you begin to grow and look to scale your Inbound Marketing activities, you'll need a platform to support them if you don't have one already.
Of course, you may not want to invest a lot of budget into a new technology - you may have loads of different tools already (although HubSpot has a growing integration library and may support those tools).
Luckily, HubSpot offers a free version of their marketing tool. It comes with everything you need to attract, engage and convert website visitors: lead flows, forms, contact databases, email, ads and a central dashboard for you to see your performance.
If you're interested in finding out more about the free version of HubSpot's marketing tool, click here.
So, the answer is…?
Anyone can run an Inbound Marketing campaign on a shoestring budget, and a lot of its strategies can be done for free: website content, blogging, social media and so on. However, to be successful, you need to be doing all of these things over a long period of time. Think less ‘quick wins’ and more ‘building for tomorrow’.
Remember, Inbound isn’t a short-term strategy, it’s a recipe for long-term success.
So given the costs of campaigns, software and resources - what you really need to take into consideration are:
How much you're willing to spend
What you want to achieve and when
How fast you want to see results
Your overall goals
Some companies spend around £3,000 a month with us. Others spend £15,000 a month on enterprise-level support. What we can say, though, is that we’ve seen them all achieve success with Inbound Marketing.
Think it's time to outsource your marketing activity? Feel free to reach out to us for a free chat here to discuss how we can help you with your goals.