04 January 2023 |

Content Budgeting and Presenting to Executives

By Tracey Wallace

I’m probably a few months late to writing about this, but there’s no better time than the present. Let’s talk about content budgeting, y’all! 

Now, when I was at BigCommerce, my budget for 3 and a half of the 4 and a half years I was there was roughly $0. Partners were my guest authors, I was the main editor, and I rewrote basically everything, anyway. 

I was a one-woman content show. It was rough—and I burned out. Things changed, though, when I learned how to connect the content I was producing to the revenue I was generating for the company. 

Connect your content efforts down to revenue, both content-influenced and content-driven

Suddenly, I had resources to grow my team, got raises, more stock options, etc. It’s amazing how little hacks like that can change your entire career (and life, honestly). 

I’ve written here about how to connect your content efforts back down to revenue. 

You’ll need Google Analytics and your CRM––and potentially even a tool like Segment if you’re going to measure content-influenced revenue (which is revenue generated by folks who viewed your content pages prior to becoming an MQL…suggesting that the content helped get in the funnel, even if they didn’t convert exactly on that content). 

Once you can connect content work to revenue, it’s far easier to make budget requests because now, you can talk through the content ROI. 

Calculate your content ROI

You want to answer the question: For every dollar your team spends, how much will it make for the company? 

Now, this is how a lot of performance marketing teams make their requests for budget.

And because the last decade in marketing has been so growth marketing and performance marketing focused, it won’t hurt you to make your case in a similar way. Executives are already used to this kind of math and reasoning. 

When I was on a growth team, attaining a 3:1 (meaning that for every dollar your team spends, it makes the company $3) was ideal. 

With content, the math gets a bit more complicated than in paid channels. That’s because content marketing is both a strategy organization and a service organization. 

Many content teams work to rank for organic and drive traffic through that channel. This Is the strategy side of content marketing.

But, content is also requested and used by other teams to hit their goals, including performance marketing, lifecycle marketing, partner marketing, social media marketing, even sales. This is the service side of content marketing. 

For instance, it is not uncommon for your team to produce a white paper that is then promoted by the paid media team, or used in partner marketing efforts.

When the final numbers come in, it is those teams who claim the credit for driving the leads and revenue––not content. And that’s dishonest.

Companies like clear lines of attribution, but all of marketing, especially when it comes to content, is far more blurry than make folks comfortable.

So, I don’t like ignoring the service arm of a content organization because it vastly under-values content’s contribution. Without content, many teams, oftentimes even the company as a whole, doesn’t have anything to say, a place to send people, etc. 

Of course, when you take content’s service work into an ROI calculation, the ROI isn’t a content-only win. Several organizations within the company have had an impact on that revenue, diluting the ROI (which is true, too, even with performance marketing, partner marketing, etc. Again, so little in marketing is directly attributable to only one organization). 

Still, for me, I like to default to including content-influenced (content-assisted) revenue because my teams create the content that all the other teams use, and creation costs resources, time or money––often both. 

OK, so you want to get to a 3:1, but depending on your goals for the year, even a 2:1 or 1:1 can be great!

Say 2023 is a big growth year for content, and for growth, you need investment. SEO, for instance, is a great place for heavy investment and taking a lower ROI hit because SEO compounds overtime––making your future ROI greater.

In that case, you might be far more comfortable with a year of a 1:1 ROI knowing that you can more easily attain a 3:1 in 2024 based on this year’s efforts. 

All of this matters for your budget, and how you present it to your executives. So, where do you start?

Make a high-level content strategy for the year

Answer these questions in that deck or document. 

  • What is the vision? 
  • What types of content will you produce?
  • How will you and the team split your time between strategy work and service work? 
  • How will what you produce impact revenue? 
  • What are your goals YoY––how does all of this improve what we’re already doing?
  • If you do the above, what comes next? How will your time allocation change, and what will the new vision be?
    • This step helps explain the stage of content marketing you are in, and what you are building toward. 

My current favorite way to display time allocation is via a content footprint visual. I found it in this Animalz article

Here’s mine for 2023 (things blurred out ‘cause I can’t share my actual strategy with y’all!). In the same deck, I’ve included how the footprint changes for 2024, too.