2019 Marketing Pricing Survey

How much does marketing really cost? That is the question I’ve attempted to answer a few times over the years. The first two posts, one in 2015 and the other two years later, were narrative explanations of what you’ll likely pay for various services in different markets and contexts, based solely on my experience from all three angles — the brand, consultant and agency perspectives.

This year, I endeavored to bring more than my opinion to the marketing pricing guide. In April, I launched a survey which asked my audience members to tell me what they spend or charge on marketing, plus information about their company, market size and more.

My hope was a huge database full of answers. Alas, we had 55 respondents to the survey — not exactly enough to claim representative sample, but certainly enough to draw ideas from. You’ll see from the make up of respondents there is a nice cross-section of market sizes, agency and consultancy shapes and resource distribution. While this data may not be enough for directional decisions, it certainly helps add context to my thoughts on what you should pay for marketing.

The 2019 Marketing Pricing Guide Survey Participants

Our respondents include a range of agency and consultant sizes and types, budgets and fees, and market distribution. Nearly 30% of those who responded said a digital marketing agency best describes the type of business they represent. Twenty percent work at integrated marketing agencies and an equal number (20%) called themselves independent consultants. PR firms, boutique agencies and those calling their employer an ad agency made up another 10% of the audience.

Nearly one-third of those surveyed work at small, but not solo businesses (2-20 employees) with 29% solo practitioners and 20% falling into a 21-50 person operation, or small agency. We did get responses from at least two people at mega-enterprise companies (more than 1,000 employees) as well as a nice peppering of those from businesses ranging from 51 to 1,000 employees.

Perhaps the most pleasing demographic read from the survey was the distribution in market size. 17% reported working in a top-10 DMA (mega-market) with 39% in the next 40 biggest markets. Some 15% said they were in challenger markets, or those in markets ranked 51-100 in size. The remaining respondents were evenly divided (14.8% each) in medium and small markets.


Marketing Pricing Survey - Market Size Makeup

How Much Do Brands Spend on Marketing

Because of the solo-preneur-heavy audience, the amount of money brands spend on marketing services is skewed toward the low end. But the results give us a glimpse of the rage of what people spend. 36% of the audience reported an average monthly spend of $1,001 to $5,000 from their clients. Just over 16% said their monthly compensation was $5,001 to 10,000. Nine percent claimed a monthly average revenue of $10,001-$25,000; 14% said theirs was $25,001-$50,000 and 11% reported enterprise level averages of at least $50,001 per month. The percentage that took in less than $1000 per month was just under 11 percent.

Marketing Pricing Guide - Client Monthly Spend

The blended hourly rate of the respondents was revealing as well. In posts past, I have discussed rates from $80-150 per hour for various services and explained the more in-demand or expert-level one gets, the more one charges, even into the several hundred of dollars per hour. Our survey aligned with this thinking. Just more than one quarter of those who responded reported rates of $126-$150 per hour. Some 18% said they charge $51-$75 while 14% were at the $76-$100 per hour bracket. A 13% clip filled in the $101-$125 per hour measure. But 11% of the respondents reported being at the higher price range — $176 hour or more.

Marketing Pricing Guide - Average Blended Rates

As expected, when we asked how much an hourly rate for strategic services was, the numbers shifted upward. Almost two-thirds (63%) charge $126 per hour or more for the “thinking” parts of marketing. That percentage charging that rate or higher drops to 46% when the work is account management oriented. Paid media strategy and planning pushes the percentage charging $126 per hour or more up to 47%. Paid media management and implementation shows a slight drop from that rate, but more (32%) charge on the lower end ($126-$150 per hour) of that pay scale.

Creative direction takes that high-end billing back up to 60% charging at least $126 per hour for the work. Creative execution work brings the number down to 50% with a larger bulk in the lower bracket of $126-$150.

Social media still sits at the bottom of the executional totem pole. Some 62% of the respondents pay less than $126 per hour for social media management and execution. And 44% pay less than $100 per hour. SEO and SEM management isn’t much better. Fifty-four percent of companies pay less than $126 per hour for the work while 38% pay $100 or less per hour.

Web and app development is split on the pay scale, almost 50-50 at the $126 per hour mark. But 60% pay $126 or more for specialty digital services like marketing automation, email marketing, data analysis and the like.

Pricing in Different Markets isn’t as Expected

When you look at the data from the market size filter, the pricing does show a modest level of surprise. Almost across the board, the mega-market (top 10 DMA) respondents charge in the middle of rates with a leaning toward the high end, but large market (DMAs 11-50) actually average on the high end. Small markets, as expected, generally have lower average hourly rates.

How the Marketing Pricing Guide Compares

In past editions, I meandered through a lot of individual differences. Marketing research, what you might pay an agency, secret shopper programs, software costs and the like. Not much of those observations has changed in the two years since my 2017 version of the guide.

Market research is still expensive, compared to many other marketing categories. But it’s the core insights here that can dictate whether or not your brand actually connects with your target audiences. Expect $20,000 and up for a custom research study from a credible research firm. Online surveys that allow you to purchase questions are still in the $3,000-$5,000 range, depending on the size of your sample audience.

Consultants are still going to be within reasonable degree of separation from $100 per hour, cheaper or more expensive, but that might be better than dropping $50,000 or more on an agency to offer up the same or similar recommendations. The Do-ers, as I’ve called them before — community managers, copywriters, graphic designers, etc. -- are the people who make the brand or client campaigns work. They are normally going to run anywhere fro $20-$75 per hour, maybe more if their speciality is on the wrong side of supply and demand.

And then there’s software. I still love the reviews and cataloging of social technology softwares, and more, over at G2 Crowd. I refer to that site often when I’m trying to understand what platforms a client may or may not need.

For a little more depth on the categories I’ve discussed here, be sure to visit:

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