How Much Does Digital Marketing Cost? [2019]

how much does marketing cost?

First, I’m not crazy about the concept of the “billable hour”. It’s archaic and the tally to the client can be unpredictable. Clients should not have to pay for agency inefficiencies, and agencies should not have to be restricted by maximum hours to get the job done. Still, both parties need a point of reference to determine value.

Digital Marketing Costs?

Well that depends on the competitive nature of your industry and the expanse of your target market. Pending a host of variables and the aggressiveness of your lead generation plan, Kreative Webworks agency retainers for full service programs (including website development) can range from $1,500 to $5,000 per month. Of course at the higher end, it would include more advanced strategies like email marketing and lead nurturing.

Data from a 2015 Entrepreneur survey of 1,000 agencies and consultants across 16 countries has not been updated for a few years, but I can assure you it is still accurate:

  • Hourly rate: $50–$100/hr.
  • Project-specific pricing: $251–$5,000
  • Monthly retainers have a wider distribution than hourly rates/projects
  • Most common monthly retainer cost ranges: $1,000-$3,000/month

Don’t make me do the math…

Let’s assume the average hourly fee for a legitimate marketing agency, website development company, SEO or Social Media Management firm is about $100 hour in the United States. These fees actually vary widely, but this is a good (and easy) number to work with.

How much work do you think your provider will put in for a $500 website? How many hours per month will your marketing company put in for a $49 marketing plan?  No, I’m not kidding, check out this article about how an otherwise legitimate hosting company will pair you up with an “SEO Geek” who will do all the “hard stuff” to get you top rankings on Google, Yahoo and Bing for a mere $49.

So let’s reverse engineer this and start with what actually needs to be done to set up and maintain a full digital marketing program. I’m going on the assumption that your website sucks, because if it doesn’t, it’s probably outdated or not set up to convert traffic into leads. If you’re in doubt, or just curious, here’s a way to find out for free.  


Authors note: This post has been amended with my personal recommendations at the bottom of this article.


Here’s the short list of what typically goes into a legitimate inbound marketing campaign:

  • Build or enhance your website
  • Keyword Research
  • On-site technical factors
  • Meta-Tag development
  • Website Architecture & load time
  • Content creation (Huge variable)
  • External link earning
  • Citation development
  • Social Media syndication & engagement
  • Paid Search Management (PPC and Display)
  • Ongoing Consultation & Reporting

For Example…

Google has over 200 different criterion of what they consider when determining who ranks where for what. At the end of the day they are rating the quality and quantity of your content…because that’s their deliverable to their customers (people like you and me who are searching for…whatever we are searching for). Frequent, good quality content is what ranks in the search results.

So here comes the math part:

Let’s say (conservatively) it takes about 2-hours to write a single “quality” blog post, format it and create an image to accompany it. Now let’s say the plan is for one blog post each week. That adds up to 8-hours per month (or $800). We haven’t even factored in what comes next in terms of promoting it to generate the activity around it that the search engines are looking for.

Content creation is only one activity out of many and doesn’t even factor in agency overhead like professional software and third party fees that the agency may have to absorb or pass on.

    How Much Should You Invest?

    Well, that depends on the lifetime value of a new customer. Forbes suggests that as a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. Budget is always a consideration, but once the decision has been made, it has to be about ROI. Then the question becomes….who can do the job?

    My Personal Recommendations:

    Start with the Strategy: Beware of any digital agency that doesn’t start with a detailed analysis and a documented strategy. Our Digital Marketing Blueprint is a stand-alone product that comes with a money-back guarantee, and is credited back if you engage with our PartnerPlus marketing program.

    Minimize Surprises: I’m a big proponent of standardized, predictable monthly fees. This will allow you to adhere to your budget, and eliminate surprises and hidden fees. No one likes to be nickled and dimed, and as an agency, we don’t like to generate incremental invoices. Our PartnerPlus program is all-inclusive. If we have to work a little harder one month than another…it all evens out over time.

    Reputation: You wouldn’t hire a contractor to work on your house without checking reviews first? This industry is full of charlatans and pretenders, but there are also many top-notch providers out there with a proven track record of getting results. HINT: do a Google search for – reviews, (company name).

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. 

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