Digital Marketing: It’s Expensive

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Run a search on how much digital marketing costs or how to calculate an annual marketing budget. There are hundreds of results. There are few clear answers. You’ll find plenty of opinion on the pros and cons of hourly vs. project-based pricing. There’s a growing school of thought urging CMOs to think of marketing dollars as an investment and less as being calculable via a marketing budget ratio.

Some of it is helpful. Some of it is not. That’s the nature of the Internet. But here’s what it boils down to:

Digital marketing is expensive.

It’s true, but I’ll clarify. Worthwhile digital marketing is expensive—the kind that comes with care, attention and expertise…and nice returns on the money spent. Let’s be honest: a simple content marketing package can be had for pennies on your marketing dollar. But take the time to run the offering through its paces: does your content marketer know your business, your target audience, your revenue cycle, the most meaningful types of content to create or the best places to curate it? Can they deliver on a deadline? Will the content marketing still be useful, relevant and meaningful in a week, a month, a year? What exactly are you paying for?

The same holds true for most types of digital marketing (paid media, social management, web design and development, etc.). A lot of businesses—small and large—talk a smooth game, but who among them are actually making good on their promises?

Here’s another truism: You get what you pay for.

I like the idea of marketing dollars being more of an investment rather than a diminishing resource. For example—I don’t dabble much in finance, but if I was looking to build a solid portfolio and see some significant returns, you can bet I’ll be looking for knowledge, expertise and insight over the supposed “financial guru” operating out of his hipster loft. Nothing against entrepreneurial drive and the spirit of small business—but forgive me if I don’t want my money to be a test case or a learning curve for the budding financial consultant. Let some other poor schmuck play that part.

The same should hold true of your digital marketing efforts. There are cheap alternatives available. It’s a commoditized market, after all (to a degree). No one seems to like the marketer until they actually need to market something (it’s kind of like lawyering in that way). A good agency understands all this. But a good agency isn’t cheap—and it shouldn’t be. Digital marketing is sophisticated, technical, time- and labor-intensive. But when that agency delivers—it’s money well spent.

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