Understanding the True Cost of Content in B2B Organizations

Posted by


There’s a familiar expression used to describe some people. They “know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.” When it customs to B2B marketing and selling content, it appears most organizations don’t know either.

The rhetoric of “data driven decisions” has become a business imperative and key B2B competency. In addition to being a driver of marketing and selling outcomes, content plays a critical role in acquiring data on customers, buyers and other key audiences.

Given the strategic imperative of content in the digital age, and the significant, mostly hidden spend on content, this new reality warrants executive action.

Research from the analyst firm SiriusDecisions (B-to-B Content Creation Costs and Outputs) shows B2B organizations are challenged to identify their true content spend. Even SiriusDecisions was surprised by the results. They discovered total customer content spend was anywhere between 3 and 10 times known spend.  

B2B organizations don't know their cost of content

Framework to Identify Your Cost of Content

In our content work over many years we’ve learned to look for content expenditures in three categories:

B2B cost of content categoriesSanctioned and Known spend are supported by a line item in the financials. But we seldom see this number aggregated and reported as a line item in functional or certainly top business level financials.

Sanctioned and Unknown are sanctioned content expenditures that are not captured. These costs are embedded in events, projects, or are too difficult to identify or calculated. This spend might also be a part of individual jobs, but not captured and reported as “cost of content”. We hear common agreement this number could be at least as large as known spend, possibly much more.

Unsanctioned and Unknown spend is customer facing content that becomes part of the jobs of people who are not officially responsible for content creation. Executives and sales people are good examples. The problem is, this number has significantly escalated over the last five to ten years, as has the sanctioned content spend number.

To add to the direct dollar costs, we find unsanctioned work often involves the wrong person, doing the wrong work, at the wrong time, in the wrong way.

There’s a lot of attention and work now to demonstrate the ROI of content spend. If you can’t accurately capture your cost, and you can’t clearly attribute content impact on business results, content ROI will continue to be a frustrating illusion. (See Reframing Content ROI and the Case for B2B Content)

SiriusDecisions Research Results on B2B Cost of Content

The SiriusDecisions results shown below do not reflect our third category, Unsanctioned and Unknown. It may not include much of the second, Sanctioned but Unknown, due to the “unknown” factor.

Our experience from 20 years working with, and creating content for B2B sales and marketing organizations, suggests this amount can be at least as much, and probably 2-3 times known spend (especially in large enterprise organizations).

SiriusDecisions’ key findings will be summarized here, are evident in the images below, and are explained more deeply by the SiriusDecisions analyst in the two short video segments.

  1. This research is presented for companies in three size categories:
    1. revenue less than $100 mil,
    2. less than $1 billion and
    3. over $1 billion.
  2. Internal content cost represent 80%, 63% and 53% respectively, of the total content activity and cost
  3. Total content cost averages $900K, $10.8 million, and $17.5 million respectively
  4. Of this amount, unproductive spend averages $100k, $2 million, and $2.3 million
  5. On average, across all companies evaluated, 65% of content never gets used


True internal cost of content

Top internal content creators

Most cost of content is hidden

True total cost of content


Price of unproductive content spend

Recommended Actions

SiriusDecisions makes the following recommendations:

SD Action Items600x336


We offer the some additional recommendations:

B2B organizations must formalize a business level content strategy. This strategy must also address the execution elements required to implement that strategy. The content process must shift from random acts of functionally siloed activities, to an integrated, holistic and professionally managed process.

A key part of this strategy work is to define and document primary use case requirements.

Review and prioritize inputs from all functions and their tactical initiatives. Look for synergies, and leverage opportunities. We rarely see this essential activity done.

Audit content to use case requirements. This is what’s missing and what weakens the current content audit process. No one knows what “job you want your content to do.”

Adopt a more leveraged content operation to meet and optimize new digital requirements, mitigate their challenges, especially the requirement to scale without compromise.

Shift content investment decisions, and operations execution, to more centralized responsibility, for more efficient, continuous production.

Design and develop content “on purpose” and for re-use first (not mobile). Adopt an “intelligent content” approach by designing and developing modular, configurable and editable elements, in multiple formats, as a natural work product of this process.

Curate content — internal as well as third party. Maintain Content Source. Organize and apply robust metadata as a “Content Header.”

Package and deploy all elements required for key content constituents in sales, marketing, your sales channel, and others, to tailor and deliver highly relevant assets, through appropriate channels, without significant time and resources.

Deploy as a Content, Communication and Collaboration System to optimize and simplify access to, and use of, content that is appropriate for each situation.


Related Content

Mckinsey – Adopt a Publisher’s Discipline to Curb Costs

Avitage Content Operations Management 


Resolving the number one unconsidered cause of low B2B sales and marketing performance, and revenue growth …
… the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and situation-specific information (content), in context, at scale
Contact: jburns@avitage.com           Phone: 508-397-7059           Copyright © 2021 Avitage Consulting LLC. All rights reserved.