What Does Inbound Marketing Cost?
The first answer that comes to mind is: “As much, or as little, as you want it to.” Although there’s undoubtedly a correlation between bigger budgets and more leads, the relationship isn’t quite as proportional as it might be with outbound marketing.
If you hire an expert to write a 5,000-word article that becomes the world’s leading resource on yoga mats, then that content could sit at the top of Google’s search results for years, with an ROI orders of magnitude greater than the initial expense.
On the other hand, you could spend the same money to hire dozens of people with poor writing skills whose only knowledge of the subject comes from Wikipedia. In that case, your content will languish on search result pages in the double or triple digits, never to see the light of day.
Inbound marketing is another application of the well-known Pareto principle, also called the “80/20 rule.” Essentially, a majority of results (profit, customers, leads, etc.) will come from a minority of causes (pieces of content).
By taking the time to create content that is accurate, valuable, and well-targeted, you can generate a lot of buzz even with a skimpy marketing budget.
No matter how much money you have to play with, however, you still need to allocate funds for the essential aspects of any inbound campaign: website design, strategic planning, content creation, and specialized marketing software.
Instead of seeking an answer to the question of cost, you should be asking two other questions: what ROI will I see with an inbound campaign, and will it be greater than the same investment for outbound? In most cases, the answer to the second question is certainly yes, with a cost savings that can be as high as 61 percent for lead generation.
Inbound marketing is like an office space, employees, or even a loan. It's an investment in your business’ future.
Adopting it into your organization has its price tag, no doubt, but like any smart investment, it ends up paying for itself in not only ROI, but competitive advantage as well.
From website redesign and landing pages to social media and blogging, inbound marketing is a powerful, full-service approach to helping companies achieve their business goals. But I know, I know; that doesn't answer the question at all.
What does inbound marketing cost?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is as annoying and ambigious as you expect: it depends.
Inbound marketing is a long-term, ongoing practice. Once you kick start your program, many costs will be recurring indefinitely and even those that don't can vary greatly depending on the types of strategies you want to implement and how quickly you want to see results.
But before we get into the nitty gritty, let's take a look at some statistics that show the relative cost and ROI potential of inbound marketing from our article, "35 Stats That Prove the ROI of Inbound Marketing."
How Much Are Businesses Budgeting for Inbound Marketing?
Cost of Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing
Businesses that mainly rely on inbound marketing save more than $14 for every newly acquired customer. (State of inbound marketing)
The cost of 3 out of 4 inbound marketing channels is less than the cost of any outbound marketing channel. (Mashable)
Inbound leads cost 61% less on average than outbound leads. (HubSpot)
- Inbound marketing yields 3 times more leads per dollar than traditional methods. (Kapost)
- Properly executed inbound marketing tactics are 10 times more effective for lead conversion compared to outbound methods. (Gartner)
Inbound Marketing Long-Term ROI
The average cost per lead drops 80% after 5 months of consistent inbound marketing. (Eloqua)
Inbound marketing can result in doubling the average website conversion rate from 6% to 12%. (HubSpot)
Companies that automate their lead nurturing cycle see a 10+% increase in revenue within 6 to 9 months. (Gartner)
On average, brands that publish 15 blog posts per month convert 1,200 new leads per month. (HubSpot)
44% of brands that use marketing automation software see ROI within 6 months, while 75% see ROI after one year. (Groove Digital Marketing)
The data shows that inbound marketing is more cost-effective than outbound marketing, has a better long-term ROI, and businesses overall are steadily increasing their inbound marketing spending.
Years ago, business owners doubted the internet, saying it was only a fad. Then they doubted email marketing, followed by search engine marketing, then social media -- but look at all of them today.
President-elect Donald Trump ran his campaign (and arguably won the election) through Twitter, YouTube sensations are making millions, and blogs are marketing staples.
Inbound marketing methods are proving their effectiveness more and more each year and in turn, showing the costs discussed below.
Breaking Down the Costs of Inbound Marketing
Ok, so, time to stop beating around the bush. Here are the specifics.
Since the costs of inbound marketing can vary so widely, we're going to provide average prices based on the assumption that you want the highest-quality work.
You can very-well go to Fiverr and get someone to write a $10 blog post for you, but it likely won't be the quality content you need to win over readers or rank in search engines -- and the same goes for almost every inbound marketing task.
With that in mind, the estimates here are how much you should expect to pay if you want to see real results. This article also focuses primarily on the costs of inbound marketing labor. The costs of tools and software for inbound marketing are a whole other topic.
In terms of labor costs, we've broken them down into the main areas of:
- Strategy and Planning
- Marketing Software
- Website Design
- Social Media
First off, we need to address the cost of time. Time is priceless and if you don't have the money to hire or outsource your inbound marketing process, you're going to be investing a lot of your own.
You must also take into account the amount of time it takes to start seeing results from inbound marketing.
Realistically, an effective inbound marketing campaign takes a few months to produce substantial traffic and leads, and this relies heavily on getting content indexed by Google. If you're just beginning to build an online presence, this process can take quite a bit of time.
Overall, inbound marketing is not a methodology for those who don't have time to spend.
Strategy and Planning Costs
Successful inbound marketing, like all business endeavors, requires a strategic approach. There's a lot to consider when developing your inbound marketing gameplan, such as:
- Development of buyer personas
- Your value proposition and market positioning
- Your brand identity and messaging
- Your marketing objectives
According to PayScale, an experienced marketing strategy consultant earns an average salary of $72,000. Marketing strategy freelancers on Upwork with a high job success score have rates that range from $50 to $125 per hour.
If your business doesn't already have a solid inbound marketing strategy in place, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 in consulting fees, depending on the experience of the person/agency you work with and how much you want them to plan for you.
Marketing Software Costs
While marketing software isn't mandatory, it does make executing and analyzing inbound marketing significantly easier.
At IMPACT, for example, we use HubSpot for all of our marketing automation. It allows you to control every aspect of your marketing funnel (email, social media, landing pages, forms, blogging, etc.) on one platform and in turn, see how each piece interacts and performs, but there are other similar alternatives available.
For any of them, you can expect to spend as little as $200 per month to a few thousand dollars per month, depending on your plan and how extensive you need the service to be for you.
You can learn more about the costs of HubSpot and the best alternatives in The Ulimate List of HubSpot Pros and Cons.
In addition to marketing automation software, we'd recommend using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM). While the HubSpot CRM is available for free, the industry standard of Salesforce ranges from $25 per user per month to $300 per user per month.
This article by our Chief Strategy Officer, Tom DiScipio can help you understand many of the other software expenses that you should take into consideration, including an email marketing client, social media publishing and monitoring software, landing page creation, and more.
Website Design Costs
Everything you do in inbound marketing is ideally to bring prospects back to your website and convert them to leads and customers, so web design should be an important aspect of your budget.
A poorly-designed or performing website can send prospects running. Even if someone is interested in what you have to offer, poor user experience or glitches in your design can prevent or deter them from doing business with you.
If you already have a modern website with a clean design that's also mobile-friendly, you might only need a few tweaks and some updates to the content, but if not, a website redesign may be needed.
If you have some experience with web design, you can buy a premium theme for around $200 and do the work yourself. You can also crowdsource web design from a service like 99Designs, which offers web design projects that range from $599 to $2,499.
According to PayScale, experienced web designers command an average salary of $56,000. Freelance web designers on Upwork with high success scores typically charge between $25 and $35 per hour.
Otherwise, the costs can easily range from $2,000 to $10,000 for a simple website from an established freelance designer and upwards of $20,000 to $40,000 for a large, fully-customized website done by a reputable agency.
In addition to the design costs, you need to consider website management. You can learn more about the costs of a website redesign and a reliable CMS (content management system) here.
Content Creation Costs
Now, this is the most time-consuming part of the process, but also one of the most important.
Once you've got your inbound strategy in place, you'll need to publish content on a regular basis.
You can very-well create the content yourself, which really everyone should be doing, but more often than not, the time needed for this ends up taking away from other areas of your business.
So, many opt for creating a dedicated in-house team or hiring a contractor/ agency.
Blog posts can cost as low as $15 per post from non-native speaking freelance writers on sites like Upwork to upwards of $150 to $250 per post from well-known copywriters. On average, you can expect to pay $75 to $150 per post for quality content.
Depending on how much content you want to publish, you can expect the cost of high-quality content production to run anywhere from a few hundred dollars a month to several thousand per month for a high output.
According to PayScale, the average experienced copywriter has asalary of $60,000 and experienced web content managers earn $73,000 on average (PayScale).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you want to hire a full-time SEO specialist, you can expect to pay a salary around $43,000 (PayScale). Once your main website is optimized for search engines and you've done your local SEO (if applicable), you may be able to handle on-going keyword optimization on your own, but if you're considering paid search ads, you may want to start with an expert as well.
When working with a reputable inbound marketing agency, they'll make sure that your content and website are fully optimized for no additional cost.
When used effectively, social media is an incredibly powerful promotional tool.
As more social networks pop up and your potential customers spend more of their time on them, the need for social content from your brand increases.
It's a full-time job to create/curate content and engage with followers in a timely manner, which is why most businesses find the need for a social media manager or an inbound marketing agency to handle these tasks for them.
On average, experienced social media managers earn a salary of $62,000 (PayScale). Top-ranked social media managers on Upwork usually charge between $30 and $50 per hour, and established social media managers usually charge $100+ per year.
And let's not forget about paid social ads, This article can help you determine which social networks you should actually be advertising on.
Pay Per Click (PPC) Costs
Speaking of paid advertising, PPC is one of the most critical pieces in any inbound marketing strategy today, especially on Google and Facebook.
While PPC ad management is easy once you get the hang of it, the process can be very technical if you want to maximize your results. Unless you have a lot of experience working with PPC ads, it's usually more cost-effective to hire an expert consultant or an agency to manage your PPC campaigns for you.
PPC management services, such as White Shark Media, charge around $549 to $1,099 per month. Full-time PPC managers get paid an average salary of $50,000 (PayScale).
If your campaigns and corresponding langing pages are optimized correctly, you should see a positive ROI on your PPC investment, making it one of your favorite monthly expenses.
This article wil can help you set up your first Google AdWords campaign.
Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency
Since inbound marketing requires a lot of time, and many businesses don't necessarily want to build their own in-house team, they often turn to marketing agencies to handle the work for them.
An inbound marketing agency offers several advantages:
- Access to experts in different areas of inbound marketing
- Costs less than hiring an in-house inbound marketing team
- You have the ability to hit the ground running and get results quicker than figuring things out yourself
The cost of an agency will vary based on what you're looking to accomplish.
As a company with aggressive goals, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 a month or even more. The more aggressive and headstrong your goals are, the more money you will need to provide to effectively meet and reach those goals.
A great way to determine the success of your inbound marketing campaign is to look at your return on investment. Let's say you're going to pay $20,000 a month for the next twelve months to grow your company's revenue 25% from $4m to $5m. Now you might be thinking, that is a lot of money, is $240,000 actually worth it?
Use the following equation to calculate your return on investment from inbound marketing:
(Gain from Investment - Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment
Using that calculation, your ROI would be ($1,000,000 - 240,000)/ 240,ooo = 316%
As a company with more moderate goals, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 or less a month. You may or may not have the budget to drastically increase the sales of your company but you can begin to develop relationships with potential customers and generate more qualified leads to your site.
A great way to determine the success of your inbound marketing campaign is to look at your return on investment. Let's say you're going to pay $5,000 a month for the next twelve months to grow your company's revenue 25%. Now you might be thinking, is $60,000 actually worth it?
Use the following equation to calculate your return on investment from inbound marketing:
(Gain from Investment - Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment
Using that calculation, your ROI would be ($150,000- 60,000)/ 60,ooo = 150%
Still not sure how much you can expect to spend and gain from inbound marketing?
Use our Inbound Markeing ROI calculator to get a better analysis.