Skilled content managers often have to step into various roles and wear several different hats. Nurturing a love of writing is essential, but having a critical eye for editing, practicing top-notch interviewing skills, and developing a passion for social media are equally as important. You must also be able to stay organized, goal-oriented, and constantly thinking outside of the box.
Where many content managers sometimes fall short, however, is working with subjects like analytics, numbers, budgets, and measurements. Fortunately, there are tools available to help you track critical, numerical components of content management, like tracking average traffic times, analyzing SEO data, and more.
These 8 steps can help you fine tune your content marketing budget to maximum accuracy. From gathering historical data and developing content calendars, to creating your preliminary budget and tracking your expenditures, this eight-step guide will walk you through everything you need to know about creating a budget, working with numbers, thoroughly mastering your skills as a content manager, and more.
Step 1: Gather historical data
Before you can truly begin to make a budget, you’ll have to sort through the data from years past to determine the type and quantity of your average workload. Gathering historical data is the most reliable way to begin building the foundation of an accurate content budget.
In order to get the valuable information you’ll need to research past data, consider asking yourself what type of content your company has produced in the past. How frequently did you produce this content? You’ll also want to analyze content timelines to see if there is a need for recurring themes, how long the average content piece took to produce, and the average cost. By having access to this information, you’ll be able to gain a better idea of your content needs going forward.
Step 2: Conduct a demand survey
Though it’s helpful to have the historical data that will help you gain an initial idea of what your budget should look like moving forward, it’s also important to remember that no two quarters are exactly the same. Because of this, it is essential that you are properly prepared to anticipate content needs in the coming months.
One way to determine the type of content your team will be expected to produce in the next quarter is to look to your customers. If you can, schedule a time to meet with your usual clients, or conduct a survey to send out to customers.
Consider the following process when developing your survey:
- Determine what type of survey you want to conduct. Will you ask your usual clients to take an online survey, paper survey, mobile or phone survey, or will a face-to-face interview suffice? Remember to keep in mind the resources of your target audience and customers when choosing your preferred method.
- Discuss this survey with your content team and ask them if they have any insight into the information they may want to obtain from the demand survey. As the content manager, you can take this feedback and turn it into questions that will help you gather the information you’ll need to move forward with creating a budget.
- Create the demand survey by asking close-ended questions like multiple choice questions, rating-scale questions, and ranking questions. You should also include questions that allow respondents to offer comments or express opinions.
- Administer the survey to your usual clients and try to also target clients you might potentially work with in the coming quarter (this is a good time to utilize your historical data). The more information you have, the more precise your budget will be.
- Process and analyze results with data, tables, charts, graphs, cross tabulations, and more advanced analysis resources.
Step 3: Develop a content calendar
Having a relevant content calendar is vital if you wish to succeed in delivering fresh, new content to your customers. And though the process can seem overwhelming, it can actually be broken down into three simple steps.
- Calendar organization
For every piece of content, you should track the following information:
- Draft due date
- Publication due date
- Percent complete
- Target audience
- Call to action
- Media type
- Design or art requirements
Having this information will help you determine what additional content you can take on and how current projects will play out over the course of the quarter. This format will also help you identify the objective of every piece of content so that you can better visualize what needs to happen when, and what projects will require specific budget-related details.
- Assigning tasks and holding team members accountable:
Make sure that your system is integrated with your team to keep everyone informed and accountable for the projects they’re assigned. Whether you do this through cloud-based technologies (such as a simple google spreadsheet or dedicated content management software) or a multifunctional database, ensuring that everyone is on the same page will keep things running smoothly and customers happy.
- Connect your alerts to your calendar:
Be sure that you have alerts synced with your calendar to help you and your team stay on track. With to-do list reminders, you’ll be able to arrange for things like emails or notifications to go out prior to important due dates, or to receive alerts if a particular project needs attention.
Step 4: Identify your solutions
As this article highlighted in the opening paragraphs, content managers are essentially jacks of all trades. This means that, along with producing the content, you’re also responsible for promotion, tracking, and budgeting. Thus, when building your budget, you’ll need to identify how much you plan to spend on each content solution. Consider the following marketing strategies you should budget for:
- Content curation: As one of the most vital components of content marketing, ensuring that you set aside enough money to sufficiently select, organize, and produce content is vital. Content curation is important because it ensures you’ll be able to deliver on a wide range of valuable, reliable content that explores different topics, interests, and perspectives relevant to your audience.
- Search engine optimization: Spending money on SEO details is more an ROI matter than anything else. Producing content that will garner substantial web traffic from search engines will not only keep a loyal customer base, but it will also help to attract new clients, too.
- Content, task, and social management: These three critical management spectrums ensure that you and your team deliver quality content in a timely manner and within budgetary means. Utilizing and planning for these solutions will also help you track the scope of your projects so that you can continue to satisfy customers.
Step 5: Create an initial budget outline
Using all of the information you’ve already gathered, it’s time to build an initial budget to work off of. This budget rough-draft should summarize the proposed expenses for each task, as well as the revenues you plan to net from said tasks (although net revenue doesn’t always apply to in-house content managers). You can also make notes on things like customer information, contract information, content type, and more to create a descriptive plan.
Though this step is to create a preliminary budget, keep in mind that the more details you’re able to add about each post, video, or project, the easier it will be to get your quarterly budget approved moving forward.
Step 6: Budget for the unexpected
Even with ample preparation and organization, there will inevitably be hidden costs that you could have never planned for. Whether it be a specific project you didn’t catch when building your content calendar or a specific task you had no idea how to properly budget for, you should always incorporate the possibility of additional costs.
Along with keeping these hidden costs in mind, you should also physically and mentally prepare for how these unexpected projects and tasks could affect your productivity, quality of content, timeliness, etc. By being prepared and expecting the unexpected, you’ll be able to better defend your budget during the approval process and execute continuation when the unexpected occurs.
Step 7: Begin the approval process
As one of the most challenging, tedious aspects of the budget-making process, getting approval takes time and patience. Generally speaking, the approval process is broken down into the following steps:
- Depending on the size of your company, your budget proposal will likely be paired with that of other departments in a consolidated budget plan. Chances are you will have guidelines from top management that help you gauge what your spending limits are and what needs to be included in the budget. Departmental budgets are then consolidated by higher-ups or even finance staff (if applicable) to gain an overview of the company budget as a whole.
- When the finance department reviews your budget, they will analyze your suggested spendings in terms of the expected revenue forecast. They’ll also keep a close eye out for substantial differences in prior budget proposals and what items could possibly be cut to keep costs down.
- The consolidated budget is then sent to top management, who decide if the numbers fall in line with the financial goals outlined for the coming quarter; if projected revenue is lower than anticipated, they will likely make changes to your budget in order to develop additional revenue generators and improve the bottom line.
- Top management discusses these changes or revisions directly with you in order to maintain transparency and understanding throughout the process. In the event management comes to you with major changes to your proposed outline, you should be prepared to defend your budget proposals by using historical data, content calendars, identified solutions, etc.
- After making the necessary changes and working with top management to reach common spending ground, your budget will then be passed and you can begin to execute projects.
Step 8: Track your expenses
By carefully tracking how much you’ve spent on each and every project, you’ll be able to compare and contrast your proposed budget to your actual expenditures. Not only will this help you build a better budget for future quarters, but it will also allow you to highlight the successes and hard work of you and your team. The closer you track your work and your spending, the more accurate and precise you’ll be in the future and the easier building a budget will become.
Getting buy-in to these eight steps from all your team members is no easy task, but when they see the process in action, it will be easy to see the value of tracking a content marketing budget. And when you can show them how it makes their jobs easier, you’ll likely have their complete support.