In today’s world, Inbound Marketing has established itself as a vital element of your brand’s strategy. It costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates approximately three times as many leads.
As has been proven over and over, when you create high-quality content, you also create thought leadership – that is an asset that has a significant long-term ROI.
For example, when Darmesh Shaw and Brian Halligan co-founded HubSpot in 2006, they focused on blogging to generate leads. Fast forward to 2014 and the HubSpot blog is one of the most popular marketing blogs in the world, and it produces over 50,000 leads a month.
To ensure a company achieves meaningful results when their leadership team decides to invest in inbound marketing, one of the very first things they must evaluate is the true cost of building an in-house team of experts.
Who Do We Need on the Team?
Any team is only as good as the people on it. To succeed with inbound marketing, there are three key roles that you are going to need to fill. Image Source
Content Team Lead
For this role, you might see job descriptions like Chief Content Officer, Senior Content Consultant, etc. The primary role of this person is to head up the entire team and take responsibility for overall strategy, budget, goal setting, and communication with the team. This person isn’t going to play much of a role in the actual creating or editing process.
Indeed.com shows that the average salary for a Content Team Lead is between $90,000 to $120,000.
The Managing Editor
Job titles for this role might include Content Coordinator, Editor in Chief, etc. The person that fills this role on your team will play a critical role in quality assurance and will ultimately be the one responsible for ensuring that your content maintain’s your brand’s voice and is relevant to the intended audience.
Aside from having very strong communication skills, you are going to want to ensure that this person is extremely organized (obsessive) because the managing editor is the one responsible for the editorial calendar, assigning jobs to content creators, managing the content production process, and overseeing the myriad of other logistics in involved in a successful inbound marketing campaign.
Indeed.com shows that the average salary for a Content Marketing Manager is between $80,000 to $100,000.
Content comes in a wide variety of forms and job titles in this role might include Writers, Content Producers, Videographers, Graphic Designers, Photographers, etc. These are the people that are going to be tasked with creating the actual content for the editor to review. Many times, companies will outsource this to freelancers who have niche-specific skills like graphic design or video animation.
Indeed.com shows that the average salary for a Writer is between $70,000 to $90,000; Graphic Designers salaries are between $80,000 to $100,000.
Social Media Manager
A scant few years ago, this role didn’t even exist. Thanks to the massive increase in the popularity of social media, those days are long gone, and now talented Social Media Managers are in hot demand. A Social Media Manager is key for managing your content distribution, engaging your audience online, and building relationships with influencers in your market.
Indeed.com shows that the average salary for a Writer is between $60,000 to $80,000.
Team Structure and Workflow
With the team structure above, your workflow might look something like this:
Building the Team
Unless you have a magical device that just creates the ideal person, you are going to need to assemble your team one by one – and make no mistake, there is a cost to this. For each person on your team, you are going to have to invest time to:
- Write a job description
- Place an ad
- Review resumes
- Conduct interviews
- Conduct background checks
- Create employment contracts
When analyzing the cost of building your team, it’s critical that you not forget payroll burden. Payroll burden is the term that is used to refer to all the extra costs associated with paying employees. These costs include:
- Payroll taxes
- Paid vacation
- Sick time
- Facilities (floor space, desk, chair, computer, phone, etc…)
According to Wikipedia, this number can range from 50% to 150% higher than the gross hourly wage. If you would like more details on how to calculate payroll burden, here is a more in depth article on the topic.
Suffice to say, hiring employees to build your team is going to cost at least 50% more than you budget for salaries.
The Total Cost of an In House Dream Team
Now that we have reviewed potential salaries and payroll burden for each of these positions, let’s do some math. Content Team = Team Lead ($90,000) + Managing Editor ($80,000) + Writer ($70,000) + Social Media Manager ($60,000) + Graphic Designer ($80,000) = $380,000 per year
But wait…don’t forget to add payroll burden (50% of $380,000 = $190,000) for a grand total of $570,000 per year.
This Doesn’t Apply to Me
Some of the people that read this post might think that the numbers discussed here just wouldn’t apply to them for one reason or another. To ensure that we are diligent in our analysis, it’s important for us to dig a little deeper into this.
Our Existing (CEO, CMO, Partner, etc.) can take on the role of Content Team Lead
Yes, if they are an intelligent person, they can probably learn what is needed to succeed. But at what cost? Ask yourself a few of the following questions:
- When have you ever been really good at something you are doing for the very first time?
- What will the impact on your results be while you develop your skills?
- Unless you plan to sacrifice sleep or family time, what are you going to give up to create the time for these new responsibilities? What will the short term and long term impact of that be?
- What will happen if 30, 60, or 90 days down the road you realize this is not a role you enjoy? Do you think that you would have been good enough from the start to ensure the maximum results were achieved during this period of time?
We Can Hire Someone to Handle All This
If you are fortunate enough to find someone that talented, you can bet that there is a company much larger than yours who can afford to pay them far more than you can.
IF you could find a person with the skills of a Managing Editor, for example, the fully burdened annual cost of that person would be approximately $120,000 to $140,000.
If you are not already an inbound marketing expert, how are you going to ensure that your first hire is going to be a rock star? If you have ever made a bad hire in the past, you already know that the costs of the wrong hire can be extremely high, both in terms of money spent and time lost. The money can be replaced. The time can’t.
If your competition make gains on you during this time, can you catch back up? If you have investors, how are they going to feel about your falling behind your business plan?
Assuming you have a little luck and don’t make a bad hire, you are going to be relying on one person to handle:
- Inbound strategy development
- Content planning
- Track progress and report to the executive team
- Graphic design
- Social media management
- Marketing automation system management
Given all the work that is required to execute all these activities, you can be sure that something is going to slip. More than likely, it will be the volume of content produced, and if you produce a smaller volume of content, your results will suffer.
Even if they can stay on top of it all, what happens if they decide to leave your company? If that happens and you have just one person handling everything, your entire inbound marketing activities will come to an immediate halt.
Assuming that one person can’t do it all, then you will need two people.
If we add in the fully burdened cost of just one writer, the annual cost will increase by $105,000 for a total annual cost of $225,000. ($120,000 for Managing Editor + $105,000 for Writer) Keep in mind you still won’t have a graphic designer on the team and your CEO is still acting as the Content Team Lead.
We’ll Use Freelancers for Writing and Graphic Design
Freelancers are an option; however, there are issues here that you need to consider:
- Tax liability
Tax Liability: If you are continually using the same person for the same job over and over for a long-term basis, and you get audited, the IRS will very likely see this person as an employee and YOU will be on the hook for the tax bill (as well as any additional fines they levy).
Turnover: Freelancers, by their very nature, are going to come and go. Some will return to regular employment because they couldn’t find enough work. Others will accept job offers from regular clients. Regardless, you are going to deal with turnover, and that means you are going to need someone in charge of dealing with it. There is a cost for that.
Management: If you are going to work with Freelancers, who from your team is going to manage this? Unless they work for you for free, there is going to be a cost to this. When you look at the cost of a writer or designer, are you factoring in the cost of managing that relationship? For example, if you are working with 3 freelance writers, you are going to need a system for:
- Assigning jobs
- Editing & revisions
- Tracking progress & deadlines
- Paying them for work completed
If you don’t have a system in place for this, you are going to need to build one, and then someone from your company is going to have to manage this. There is a cost for that.
Alternatives to Hiring In-House
If the budget outlined above doesn’t sound viable for your company, there are alternatives. Outsourcing your inbound marketing to freelancers or an inbound marketing agency can be much more cost effective than hiring for the positions we have discussed.
Before we dive into the numbers, let’s first investigate some of the pros and cons.
The Pros and Cons of Freelancing Your Content
Freelancing can meet short-term needs fairly well. Below are some of the pros and cons.
- Lose authenticity and consistent brand voice
- You will have to deal with high turnover rates
- They might not have the same level of subject matter expertise as your staff
- Cost benefit (typically cheaper for unit of raw production)
- Capacity management
- No payroll burden
- Can increase or decrease the size of the team easily as needed
As you can see, hiring freelancers to handle your inbound marketing is a budget friendly option and can work well for seasonal businesses in the short term.
However, it’s important to consider the long-term disadvantage.
Using various freelancers to produce content for months or years with an inconsistent brand voice can confuse your audience and negatively impact your brand. Freelancers who work on a per-article basis won’t be concerned with (or even think about) your long-term content goals or the results that your company wants to achieve.
It’s likely that the freelancer you’ll hire isn’t going to be a subject matter expert in your industry, so you could very well end up with content that doesn’t adequately engage your readers because it is only surface level, as opposed to in-depth expert content that pulls from research and real-life examples – which your audience needs to read if you are to be credible.
Outsourcing to freelancers makes sense for: businesses that offer seasonal products and services.
The Pros and Cons of Partnering with an Inbound Marketing Agency
When you partner with an inbound marketing agency (specialist); they will take a load off your employees while avoiding the issues that come with hiring freelancers. See some of the pros and cons below:
- Can be more expensive
- Finding a company that works in conjunction with all of your other marketing efforts
- More involvement on client side
- Not focused on short-term ROI
- Shortened learning curve (an agency is already an expert and has done this before)
- Consistent brand voice
- Gain exposure by tapping into firm’s publication relationships
- Assistance with all aspects of inbound marketing (strategy, production, publishing, distribution, & promotion)
Blogs attract website traffic, and your blog has to do something to encourage the visitor to explore more once they are there. That’s why writing calls to actions and landing pages are critical to turning a blog visitor into a new business lead. A marketing firm will think through that whole process for you so you generate more leads from your website than if you were to go it alone. – Rick Whittington
- Focused on long-term goals (as well as providing you with detailed reporting)
- You will not have to deal with building and managing a team
- You will not be relying on just one person who might decide to leave one day
- You will not have to build systems to manage all the logistics
- You will not have to manage a team of freelancers
- You might save a great deal of money, time, and frustration (remember that bad hire?)
When vetting an inbound agency, make sure that they can demonstrate success with the work they do for themselves. They should have a large body of content, a highly trafficked website, and plenty of leads being generated on an ongoing basis.
Working with an inbound agency also means tapping into a new network of relationships that it has established over time, which can expose your content to audiences that you won’t otherwise have access to.
Working with a content marketing firm makes sense for: a company that is serious about putting a long-term content marketing strategy in place but isn’t ready to hire an entire content team.
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