How much should I spend on content marketing?

In business, we love to dream big – it doesn’t matter whether you’re a startup or the big dog on the block. The problem with most business minds is that we’re extremely good at creating products and providing services, but we’re not all that great at figuring out how to tell folks about it. Marketing can be a challenge and that’s where inbound marketing can help.

Whenever I sit down with a business owner or marketing manager and explain the concept of inbound marketing, the reaction is invariably the same. We have do this. Why are we not doing this? The real deal is how do we allocate resources and marketing budgets to do this? We don’t all just have an unlimited stash of cash laying around for such an occasion.

Who are you? Walter White?

Let’s get past the sticker shock

In Atlantic Canada, the typical inbound or content marketing contract can be typically anywhere from $3,000 to over $10,000 per month. Now, after the paramedics get your heart restarted with the jumper cables, pop some Ativan and chew on this: You are not the only one who sees that price tag and craps a proverbial brick. It’s just that you probably have never budgeted for content marketing before. That said, fret not because not only do you get more bang for your buck with inbound marketing, but companies who spend more than 50% of their lead generation budget on inbound marketing report a significantly lower cost-per-lead. (source: HubSpot).

Think about how much you’re spending on other traditional marketing methods like radio or print advertising, or god forbid even the Yellow Pages and it doesn’t take long to realize that, yes, inbound marketing is a measureable investment that makes sense.

How convenient that the Yellow Pages arrived on garbage day!

What should my budget be?

Benjamin Franklin once said “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” So if the key to success is planning, then a marketing budget should be no different. Like I mentioned earlier, most inbound marketing plans start at $3,000 per month but if you go by the averages from the BDC most small businesses average around $31,000 per year for their online marketing budget. When they hit 20+ employees it goes to $64,000+ and with 50 employees over $100,000.00.

Here’s a handy table from Image Works that shows how you stack up against other average budgets.

Revenue Marketing Budget
Less than $5 million 7–8%
$5–10 million 6–7%
$10–100 million 5–6%
$100–300 million 3–5%
More than $300 million 3-4%


It’s important to start thinking of online as more than just a marketing stream for your brick and mortar business. You’re investing in another location for your business. That location needs to be staffed in order to generate revenue. Use this mindset when setting your online marketing budget. The trick is to treat online as both a marketing tactic and also as a location that brings in revenue, which means you can pull from both of those budgets to help resource your online marketing.

Be smart with the budget by using inbound marketing techniques

Companies that spend more than 50% of their lead generation budget on inbound marketing report a significantly lower cost-per-lead. (source: HubSpot)

A lower cost-per-lead is most definitely something that you want to take advantage of. But what are some of the other tactics we can use to make sure that we’re getting the best bang out of the budget? This can include new methods or even some that may already be somewhat in place.

Try your best to answer these questions:

  • Is your site ready for inbound already? Are you making use of landing pages, calls to action, lead tracking, etc?)
  • Have you already started working with social media?
  • Do you have an email marketing list?
  • Do you already have a core following of customers we can use to get the word out?
  • Do you have someone we can use as a content resource who can help your inbound team get to the heart of subjects quickly?
  • Is your in-house marketing/sales staff on board with using online as a marketing and sales resource?
  • Do you use a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) to track your customers?
  • Do you currently do any marketing automation?

Having any of those things in place can save you money, allowing your inbound/content marketing partners to focus on attracting, converting, closing and delighting customers while your team works with us to ensure we reflect your business.

Get help when you need it

We understand that it’s just not feasible for anybody to responsibly throw money at a new endeavor like inbound marketing. If you are a small or medium size business looking to grow like this sometimes it helps to get a helping hand. Here are three Canadian based programs that, depending on your market, can help your business expand.

  • Agri Marketing Program – Supports the agriculture industry by creating and maintaining access to markets and taking advantage of market opportunities.
  • ICTC CareerConnect Program – Wage subsidies to help hire an IT job in your organization. With proper IT support, you can minimize your costs with your inbound team.
  • Industrial Research Program – Innovation and funding services customized to your specific needs.


“A year from now you’ll wish you started today” – Karen Lamb Author

Planning the right budget is an important part of any marketing strategy. We are more than happy to help anyone figure out how to make inbound/content marketing an integral part of your business. I’m more than happy to answer any questions via comments, social media or email.


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