What Small Publishers Should Charge for Creative Marketing Services

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Chances are you’ve heard about it and probably thought about it too. A growing number of traditional publishers are offering creative marketing services to diversify their revenue model.

And quite frankly, it makes sense.  With so many ad dollars moving to Google and Facebook, what publisher isn’t itching to fill an ad revenue gap?

Small Publishers

The New Non-Agency Model

While some businesses already outsource their marketing needs to agencies and design firms, many businesses don’t - especially small businesses. The reality is that great marketing talent doesn’t come cheap. Even back in 1986, Steve Jobs paid Paul Rand $100,000 to design the NeXT logo (prior to Jobs rejoining Apple). According to Jobs, ”I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you. And you will pay me”. Rumor also has it that Pepsi paid the Arnell Group $1,000,000 for their logo in 2008.

While most agencies probably won’t charge a million dollars per logo, most marketing firms will not prosper from a once-in-a-blue-moon website update or an occasional print ad. As a business model, agencies focus on clients that need constant marketing support.  That’s why most marketing firms charge some form of monthly retainer to ensure consistent cash flow. Even for smaller shops, retainers can range from  $1,000-$5,000 a month - even before hourly rates, media buying commissions, and revenue cuts come into play.

The Small Publisher Advantage

Assuming that marketing work is just another revenue stream alongside advertising, subscriptions, and merchandise, you probably don’t have to charge a retainer to keep your doors open. As a result, there is limited risk when offering a website redesign, brochure, or any other marketing asset as an a la carte extension to an advertising proposal. Your creative team will still be busy after the client project is complete.

Therefore, between this non-retainer advantage, and the fact that small publishers are more likely to compete with freelancers than agencies, winning creative business will essentially come down to price and value. Depending upon your market, local freelancers generally charge anywhere from $50-$200 per hour, and while some skills can be farmed out for less overseas, you will probably be hard-pressed to find a great copywriter in a cheap foreign country.

As a result, value, or what the client gets in return, will always matter more than price. To put it bluntly, top agencies charge $100-350 an hour because they typically produce exceptional work.

Proving Value

While the ROI of a logo and slogan are hard to measure, the results of most digital marketing efforts are quantifiable. From general web traffic and email engagement to content downloads, web inquiries, and purchases, nearly any type of response can be calculated. As long as you have the right tools and data, you can prove that your marketing efforts, such as a whitepaper or blog post, are both effective and powerful.

In fact, for those of you with clients that have an insatiable appetite for ROI evidence, rest assured! Their curiosity (more like angst) can be assuaged with tangible evidence provided by tools like Mirabel’s Marketing Manager (a built-in extension of The Magazine Manager).

That being said, you probably won’t have any difficulty proving that your work is good. Instead, your bigger challenge will probably be estimating a creative project’s scope of work or mitigating out-of-control revisions (note: if this is you, don’t feel bad; agencies struggle with this too).

The Common Profitability Threat

Indeed, make no mistake - inaccurate project management is the nasty enemy of marketing services profit. It could actually be a bigger thorn-in-your-side than the evil Google empire.

That’s why you might appreciate our recent webinar on Survival Tips for Publishers Providing Creative Services. For everyone else out there writing content for your advertising clients, be prepared to marry editorial church and state - for a lot of money of course! For more information, please contact us.

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