How to advocate for a bigger content marketing budget

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Unique and compelling content has always been a scarce and valuable commodity on the web. Consumers, brands, software companies and even search engines have created a booming industry around creating, organizing, consuming, sharing and measuring content. With the wide adoption of social media and maturity of email, sales and marketing automation platforms, content is more important than ever before.

The cost of creating engaging content is significant and ensuring that content reaches the desired audience can further increase the required investment. This article outlines effective strategies for selling management on a larger content marketing budget in 2021 and beyond.

In a study by Semrush, 46% of consumer brand marketers surveyed indicated their biggest challenge with content marketing programs is securing a proper budget. Despite that fact, the average brand marketer invests up to 40% of its total marketing budget on content. Before we discover how to increase that number for your organization, let’s get a bit more background on the evolving content marketing industry.

Content marketing budgets increase with industry growth

According to Forrester Research, your future customers are between 67% and 90% of the way through their shopping before they reach out to you. Consumers also are more empowered than ever to conduct their own self-directed research, which requires a deeper level of useful yet actionable content.

Despite the challenges marketers face to create engaging content, experts say it works. In fact, 96% of content marketers say content marketing has helped them build credibility and trust with their audience and a colossal 95% of B2B service and product buyers view content as a trustworthy marker when evaluating a business. Amazingly, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing programs while generating 3x the leads.

Seventy-seven percent of B2C marketers and 86% of B2B use content marketing to successfully achieve goals. According to a report from Forrester Research, three out of four of respondents indicated positive bottom-line outcomes, ranging from increased loyalty to reduced marketing and media expenses. Nearly 60% of respondents said they experienced positive top-line business outcomes, including increased revenue and sales.

According to Semrush, content marketing budgets are growing fast:

  • 68% of marketers expect their content marketing budget to increase in 2021
  • 14% of marketers expect to expand their content budget by a large increase of over 25% in 2021
  • Only 3% of marketers expect their content marketing budgets to decrease in the next year
  • The most effective consumer marketers allocated 25% to 30% of their marketing budgets to content marketing
  • The most effective B2B marketers spent 39% of their marketing budgets on content

According to Semrush, in 2020 47% of companies had a content marketing budget of over $10,000 (compared to just 38% in 2019).

As companies come to realize the astronomical benefits of organic content, businesses are expected to shift their budgets to better reflect the importance of content marketing. In fact, 68% of survey respondents expect their content marketing budgets to increase by at least 10% within the next year. These budgets are divided between content creators, tools and distribution of content. According to the Custom Content Council, 5% of content marketing dollars are spent on people. Content creation accounts for 32% of content marketing spending, while distribution accounts for 18%. As demand for content marketing services and tools increases, so does investment. Venture capitalists have already invested more than $1 billion in content marketing technology companies since 2006 and the industry is on track to generate $313 billing in revenue by 2020, based on a PQ Media Global Content Marketing Forecast.

Start with a plan

Before you go to your boss to ask for more funding for your content marketing programs, put together a strategic plan. Identify overall business, sales and marketing objectives that content marketing can effectively support. Incorporate metrics and benchmarks for each objective. Build a strategic plan, including strategic initiatives, supporting tactics and human resource requirements. Identify target audiences, channels and key messaging.

You also need to determine whether you have all the necessary content creation resources available in-house, or if you will need additional budget for freelancers or agencies. Create a budget and timeline and assign owners for key initiatives. Factor in internal, competitive and industry data to justify the budget, which should include both production and syndication of content as well as any advertising budget to promote, boost or otherwise market the new content to your target audience.

Don’t forget to budget for necessary content marketing tools and platforms (i.e. HubSpot or Hootsuite).

A well-designed content marketing program can support a variety of objectives and initiatives. The most common goals for content marketing programs (and associated metrics) include:

  • Increasing customer retention/loyalty (renewals, lifetime customer value)
  • Increasing engagement (time spent on website, increased activity on website)
  • Increasing conversion rates on website (website conversions to leads or sales)

Leverage existing resources first

Many businesses view content marketing as a separate marketing activity that’s not integrated across their organization. Think inside your organization to leverage, improve and extend your existing content and distribution. Collect, modify, optimize and syndicate existing content from your employees. Leverage relationships, resources and budgets from other departments, including sales, customer service and public relations. Look outside the company to strategic partners, vendors and even clients for additional support with your content marketing initiatives.

Going for the gold

If you’ve struggled to secure adequate content marketing budget to fuel your inbound marketing efforts in the past, fear not. There are three effective sales strategies you can use to secure additional content marketing budget for 2021: appealing to logic or ego or simply begging for forgiveness.

  • Appealing to logic: I usually open content marketing budget discussions with research, which we’ve provided in great detail above. Regardless of your industry focus or customer profile, there will be some sort of secondary research available online.
  • Appealing to ego: If management is not swayed by the analytical approach, then the ego approach usually works. Conduct a competitive industry benchmark audit, assessing your competitors’ use of, and efficacy with, content marketing initiatives.
  • Begging for forgiveness: If the foundational research efforts fail to secure the desired resources, one sales strategy remains. Due to the risky nature of this approach, I offer this disclaimer: the Forgiveness Strategy can get you fired.

Armed with the content marketing research and best practices outlined above, you should have much greater success securing the content marketing budgets you need to grow your business today and beyond.

Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media, a measurable marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. He’s also co-founder of SEMpdx and was named AMA Marketer of the Year. For more information, visit