Content Planning and Budgets: Getting Ready for the Year Ahead



Let’s just get this out of the way: Creating a content plan that is both fully aligned with company goals while also sitting firmly within budgetary limitations is a serious balancing act. It requires a strategic approach that takes into account the financial resources available while ensuring that the content strategy remains tightly focused not only on what is possible but also on what is ideal.

What resources are available? What can you do with those resources? What would you like to be able to do with those resources? How will applying those resources move the needle?

It’s an undeniably complex web of options and constraints, which is why it can be nice to have a little direction when it comes time to put the content plan together.

And would you look at that; here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get your content plan and budgets to where they need to be.

Step 1: Start from the top

Want to ensure that your content plan contributes to your business success? The first thing you need to do is define what “success” even is. Take the big-picture view of the coming year and determine, using reliable historical data and analytics-enhanced forecasting, what goals will help push your content marketing teams to reach new heights without also pushing them into early retirement.

Specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant — the objectives you select will form the foundation of your content plan.

What kind of goals are we talking about? That all depends on what you want your business to accomplish.

For example, do you want to bring in more sign-ups? Would you like to boost recurring revenue? Get more shares? Inspire increased engagement?

There are metrics associated with essentially any goal (or set of goals) you could prioritize, so figure out how you want to define “success” and then run with it.

Step 2: Answer the questions informing your content strategy

Yay! We got some goals! Well, settle down because now it’s time to dig into the depths of your content strategy. Specifically, consider how content plays a role in moving people down the content marketing funnel for your business and how it can contribute to achieving the goals you identified during the previous step.

This means asking questions such as:

  • Are there any newly found knowledge gaps that your content can address?

  • Are there pain points often addressed later in the customer journey that should be covered up front?

  • Are there undersold features of your product or service that deserve more attention?

  • What information do people need to know about how your industry has changed?

  • Are there areas your competition is focusing on that you should also be competing in (but are not)?

This is obviously not an exhaustive index; your industry, market, audience, or any number of other variables may mean that your list of questions includes a few additions not covered here.

What’s important is that you’re taking a close look at your current content situation and making an honest assessment about where it may be falling short.

Step 3: Make a list of upcoming content needs

By this step, you should know where you want to get to and where you are currently. Now, it’s just a matter of figuring out the best way to bridge that gap.

Based on the insights gained in the previous step, create a comprehensive list of the content pieces needed to help you reach your marketing and business goals. Each content piece should have a clear objective in contributing to the overall success of the coming year. To prioritize these content pieces effectively, assign a prioritization score ranging from 1 (low) to 3 (high) for each item on the list.

Just keep this in mind: While it can be tempting to mark everything as high-priority, having a list full of nothing but 3s won’t leave you much room to maneuver. That’s why it’s advisable to maintain a balanced distribution of 1s, 2s, and 3s to ensure flexibility in the face of budget constraints.

Step 4: Calculate costs to produce and promote

Remember those costs we mentioned earlier? Here they come. Content creation and promotion come with a laundry list of expenses (several of which I mentioned earlier in this article; feel free to scroll up), which you will need to calculate before you can finalize any budgets.

I’m a word guy, so don’t expect me to get overly excited about the deeply numbers-heavy world of arithmetic involved in figuring out approximately how much it will cost to optimize your content strategy. What I will tell you is that calculating costs to produce content is different from calculating costs to promote it. Here’s how to do both:

  • Calculating costs to produce
    Determine how much it will cost to create each piece of content on your list. Again, this needs to be a comprehensive assessment, adding up all of the expenses related to research, writing, design, external resources, etc. Ideally, many of the content elements will be within your team’s bandwidth to handle themselves, but others may necessitate outsourcing or contracting specialized talent.

  • Calculating costs to promote
    Content promotion is equally as important as production. Identify the budget required to get each piece out to where you want it on the digital stage. Consider expenses for social media advertising, paid search campaigns, email marketing, and any other promotional activities. The more you can put into publicity, the farther your content will go — provided the quality is on point.

Again, working with a professional marketing service (such as BASE Search Marketing) can go a long way toward making your calculations more accurate. Specific contracts for production and promotion services ensure that the numbers are definite and concrete for when you plug them into your budget.

With few exceptions, the cost should be $0 for things you can handle within the scope of your team’s role/bandwidth; anything else must be priced out based on the outside vendors you’ll use to fulfill.

Once these costs have all been pinned down within a reasonable margin of accuracy, you can finally calculate the total budget required to produce and promote all the content necessary to meet your business objectives for the year. Distribute this budget across Q1 – Q4 to provide clarity on the financial resources you need to achieve your objectives.

Step 5: Move Forward with the Budget

You’re in the home stretch, but don’t get premature. Your budget isn’t complete until you can reconcile your quarterly and yearly costs with the resources that are available. If the projected spend exceeds your budget, focus only on producing and promoting the content pieces with priority levels of 2s and 3s.

This strategic approach allows you to make informed decisions about which content elements are most critical for achieving your business goals within the limitations of the budget.

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