The Actual Cost of Digital Marketing

Jul 13, 2010

Elizabeth Canon

Working as a brand marketer in today’s oversaturated landscape of media is a more difficult job than ever. Determining where and how budget should be allocated is becoming more fragmented with the constantly growing number of platforms. Digital has clearly made its case as a platform to be taken seriously for many reasons, including a lower barrier to entry in terms of price and a greater potential impact in terms of sharing. We know that there are 1.73 billion internet users worldwide, 400 million of which are Facebook users (Royal Pingdom). The numbers don’t lie and they tell us, as marketers, that we need to consider a mix that includes digital and social media. The question becomes, how much?

Working for a digital agency (Squeaky Wheel Media) I am constantly put in the role of budget pragmatist, working with a team to determine the appropriate resources (i.e. costs) for various digital initiatives. In the spirit of sharing, and because these are the questions so many marketers seem to ask, I wanted to pass along some real costs that may help marketers to gage their own budget parameters. I’ll make the disclaimer that, as a boutique agency, we have the ability to be more conservative with budget compared to larger agencies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, freelancers can often fall (well) below these budget parameters. The ranges presented are intended to serve as a guide, rather than gospel.

Brand website: This can range from $100,000 – $300,000 depending on the functionality, design, ecommerce and overall strategy. For example, if you are an established brand looking to launch a redesigned website, and have existing brand assets (images, copy, logos, color palettes, marketing campaigns) you should expect to spend the low end of this range. For a brand looking to completely revamp the main website, procure new imagery and content, tie-in social media elements, offer advanced interactive functionality (i.e. third party incorporations), administrative tools, etc. then expect to be at the higher end of the range.

Microsite: This term can be interpreted differently, since some microsites can be as complex as full-on websites, and others can be as simple as a branded landing page. Generally speaking, a microsite is a supportive site that is an extension of the main brand website. Many brands choose to establish microsites for different campaigns because it allows the brand to take on a voice that may be different than the voice of the main ecommerce site. Microsite initiatives can cost between $30,000 – $80,000 depending on functionality, marketing strategy and design.

Social Media Strategy: Having a team of experts in the digital and social media arenas provide specialized, strategic concepts for your brand’s social media efforts is a good idea, especially if the brand does not have a team of digital marketing experts in house. But what should this cost and how easy is it to start? As a brand I would expect to spend between $15,000 – $25,000 on the strategy. This would provide the brand with several different potential ideas and, ultimately, a finalized concept and plan for implementation (full implementation costs would be separate).

Facebook Page: Now that brands feel compelled to officially participate in Facebook, it’s important for the design elements to meet the same standards as other brand visuals. Establishing a Facebook page with a polished design, FBML coding, perhaps some Flash or JavaScript coding across various tabs should cost the brand between $8 – $20K, depending on availability of existing assets.

Facebook Applications: $15 – $80K, depending on the functionality. Using off the shelf applications (i.e. Buddy Media, Wildfire, etc.) can help to make initiatives like these more affordable, however there can be limitations to design, layout and customization. For example, I had worked on a Facebook application that allowed users to submit a photo and text as an entry to win, followed by a voting period after which winners were announced. Working with a third party application allowed us to be more conservative in terms of budgets (low end of this range), however issues did arise in making the existing technology customized for the client.

While it’s difficult to pin down concrete numbers, as there are so many factors that contribute to the resources required for digital initiatives, the aim is that having a level of transparency will help the collective industry better utilize the digital space to empower brands and users alike.

Photo Credits: Junk Market Style