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How Much Should You Budget for Inbound Marketing?

Posted by Alan Vitberg

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Feb 26, 2016 11:04:38 AM

The Death Knell for Branded Pizza Cutters

I want you to notice something right up front.
budget_for_inbound_marketingI didn’t title this blog post “how much does inbound marketing cost” because if I did, I’d be drummed out of the inbound marketing industry and stripped of my inbound marketing epaulets, all recorded for posterity on YouTube.
Inbound marketing is all about return on investment, built on a foundation of quantifiable goals and objectives, and strategies and tactics for solving marketing problems like getting more website traffic, converting website visitors to leads and nurturing leads to sales.
It’s a lot more than just a line item on the firm’s budget and P&L. 

If You Only Talk About Cost then you’ve Already Lost the Inbound Marketing Game.

For the senior management (and sadly, for a lot of marketers) in professionals services, this switch in thinking from budgeting for cost versus budgeting for ROI is extremely hard to do. It bucks tradition and requires a leap of faith that lead acquisition costs is a significantly more important metric for the health and well-being of the company than figuring out the difference in costs between buying Frisbees or squeeze balls to promote the brand.
If the firm’s goal, for example, is a 10% increase to the top line then the marketing budget needs to be structured to help meet this goal. Some – perhaps a great deal – of realizing this goal is going to be achieved though 1:1 marketing (referrals, networking, word of mouth, etc.), and your marketing and business development team needs to be accountable for the rest.
Once you figure out the split in accountability, you can start the process of figuring out how inbound marketing can carry some portion of the weight toward meeting the goals. 

What Needs to be in an Inbound Marketing Budget?

If you been following the drift of this post, then you know that I can’t possibly say something like, “If you’re a $15M CPA firm, then you need to spend $xxxxx on inbound marketing”.
(Insert sounds of drums being beaten slowly ... epaulets being ripped from shoulder boards here).
What I can tell you is that you will need some basic infrastructure that indeed has a cost. I can’t tell you how much of that infrastructure you’ll need however:
(1) Marketing Technology/Software

You can’t do inbound marketing without software. Period. From email programs to marketing automation software, the number of choices is staggering, but the bottom line is that inbound marketing can’t be managed on an excel spreadsheet. It’s important to figure out what marketing technology you need to accomplish your goals or solve your marketing pains, and depending upon those goals, you can expect to pay anywhere from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars per month.
Take a deep breath and think ROI!
(2) Content
From strategic, contextual and resource perspectives, content marketing is perhaps the biggest speed bump for professional services firms. It’s really tough (that’s polite way of saying “it’s nearly impossible!”) to get your subject matter experts contributing on a consistent basis, but here’s the important fact: today, content is the basis for search engine rankings. Again, depending upon your goals, content acquisition costs can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per month.
Take a deep breath and think ROI!
(3) People

Inbound marketing requires in-house staff that’s digitally literate, multi-talented, and comes to the table with a unique skill set that constantly evolves. The list includes skills like content writing, analytical marketing, design, development, social media expertise, business development, and project management. You’re probably looking in the $40 - $60k range for this type of expertise and here’s the bad news (and a huge hint for marketers): people with these skills are hard to find and will require high end salaries.

Take a deep breath and think ROI!
(4) Consultants
OK, so at the sake of being self-serving, it’s my perspective that most firms don’t have the chops to install and run an inbound marketing program. In fact, we’re being called upon with increasing frequency to help firms that made an investment in inbound marketing only to find that it’s a lot harder than it looks. At a minimum, engage a consultant to “onboard” your inbound marketing program and design an inbound marketing plan, and optimally, engage a consultant on a long term basis to help you implement the program, and expect to pay anywhere from a few thousand to well let’s just say, more than a few thousand per month.
Take a deep breath and think ROI!.

It’s Time for Your Marketing Committee to Swim Upstream

When you’re doing your marketing budget this year, my suggestion is to start with a completely blank slate and build it based on a set of marketing strategies and tactics directly related to the firm’s new business and client acquisition goals.
Think about what’s going on in the larger digital marketing world around you, get smart by reading resources, and make a pledge that you’ll go into budget discussion with a “nothing’s holy” approach.
That may mean the demise of branded pizza cutters and thumb drives. It may result in moans and weeping from the chachkie lady (and the marketing staff when they don’t get samples), but it might just move your marketing discussions from the mundane to the strategic.
Take a deep breath and think ROI!

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Topics: lead generation, inbound marketing, CPA Firm Marketing, marketing strategies and tactics, Consulting Firm Marketing, professional services marketing

LeadG2’s Professional Services Team specializes in online marketing for CPA, consulting, recruiting, staffing, and other professional services firms. Contact us here or call Dean Moothart at (407) 913-7091 to talk about how you can get more visibility, leads, and new business for your firm or niche practice.

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