Monday, 29 February 2016

Inbound Marketing Costs Explained

Inbound marketing is all about attracting potential customers to your website, engaging with them by providing useful and compelling content and hopefully, eventually, converting them into clients or customers. The range of skills and tools that inbound marketing agencies, like Red Evolution, employ include Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, design, content creation (blogs, videos etc), strategic thinking and everything in between. But what does it cost?

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We get under the skin of your business to develop a deep understanding of what you do and who you are. We also try to understand who your ideal customers are, the problems they might have and the kind of content they're looking for. Our sole aim is to deliver qualified, valuable leads to your sales team. But, in our experience inbound marketing costs are not well understood, until now.

Traditional Agency Pricing Model

Design/Web/PR etc agencies traditionally charge an hourly rate. This varies but in the UK rates are in the range of £50 to £120 per hour ($70 to $170). Freelancers who don't have overheads sometimes charge less but agencies need to cover their costs and make a profit. Our day rates explained page goes into a lot more detail.

A simple way to calculate what an inbound retainer might look like is to list the services you're going to buy and multiply it by an hourly rate in the range shown above.  Some agencies adopt different models based on the value of the work but in essence, they are simply marking up an hourly based approach.

An Example Inbound Retainer

Let's say your inbound strategy involves blogging and it's been agreed for the next six months you're going to blog at the rate of three blogs a week. To research, write and create the graphic for each blog post is going to take say, two hours. At three a week for four weeks a month that's 24 hours a month for blogging. If we use an average hourly rate of say £70/hr that's £1680/month.

Let's say your inbound agency is also going to create one ebook a month to offer your website visitors in return for their contact details. Allowing a budget of 30 hours might make sense to research, write and design the ebook, create the landing or lead capture pages and a selection of call to action (or CTA) graphics. That's another £2100/month giving a total of £3780/month.

Finally, let's add on an allowance for SEO work, something for meetings and reporting and some time for reviewing and tweaking to improve the overall campaign performance. 15 hours would seem reasonable for that so that's another £1050/month giving a grand total of £4830/month.

How Long Do I Need to Do This?

Google™ is a merit-based search engine. In theory the sites that sit at the top of the rankings are there, for the most part, because they deserve to be. If you want your site to rank highly it needs to deserve it. In non-competitive niches you might find that after 6 months your website is dominating the search results and bringing in a ton of great leads. In competitive areas of business, such as IT support, when your competition are working hard to retain their rankings, fighting off you and others who are trying to steal their lunch, it can take longer; sometimes a lot longer.

This means that it's hard to figure out how long you need to keep doing inbound before you see a return. Notwithstanding that, for most businesses you need to keep doing it even after you've started getting some traction, although the amount of effort (money) you spend on it might vary.

Is It Really Worth the Investment?

Obviously, we think it is but clearly we have a vested interest because we sell inbound marketing services. Like most things in the on-line world you can measure the potential value by simply running a report on the sites currently dominating the search results in your niche. Take a simple search like "IT support London". The number one site is a company called Prosyn. The traffic they get from Google would cost over £50k/month to buy. Imagine the business they will be generating from that traffic.

Try SEMRush to see what you're missing out on. Type in either a competitors domain name or a search phrase to see who owns those search results and what they're worth.

Inbound Costs Money But Lets You Own The Search Results

On-line or off-line most advertising involves renting space. Billboards, TV ads, banner ads you name it, your company is only there when it's renting the space. Successful inbound marketing owns the space it occupies and requires your competition to be really clever to get above you. It leverages the way Google's merit-based search engine works to effectively lock your competitors out unless they get smarter than you. So when you're considering the cost of inbound marketing, make sure you also consider the cost of not doing it.

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