Thought-Leadership Pricing, Part 2: Variables That Influence Cost
In this three-part series, we aim to help financial marketers get a grip on the esoteric market of thought-leadership pricing. In part two, we provide a detailed overview of the different variables that influence pricing.
In part one of our three-part series on thought-leadership and content-marketing pricing, we discussed the different pricing models financial marketers may encounter as they engage with outside financial writers or agencies.
Here, in part two, we will provide financial marketers with an overview of the different variables that influence the price of a project—no matter which pricing model is used.
Pricing Variable No. 1: Length
A piece’s word count or number of pages is a high-level indicator of the amount of work it will take to complete a piece of content. However, it is important to note that length is just one aspect of the amount of work that goes into creating high-quality content.
For shorter, more straightforward and heavily text-based pieces—like a blog post or article—the writer will want to know whether you are imagining a punchier, higher-level 500-word post or a more in-depth article of 1,000 or 1,500 words. Or, with a white paper, are targeting a four- to eight-page paper that focuses on the main takeaways or a 12- to 20-page paper that gives the writer space to go deep in showing your firm’s extensive research. Establishing these parameters at the outset gives both sides a “ballpark” sense of the depth and level of work that will be required to get it done.
The Bottom Line:
Unless you are paying the writer by the word (which we strongly advise against in most circumstances), a project’s length is the first, high-level barometer of what a project entails, but it is far from being the biggest variable that affects price.
Pricing Variable No. 2: Extent of Research
If financial marketers are asking their writer or agency to do a lot of independent research to complete a project—meaning they need to round up and synthesize information that you are not directly providing them—that will add to the cost.
Having to conduct significant independent research is a time-consuming activity regardless of the ultimate length of the content. Writing a piece based off of extensive outlines and research materials that the client provides at the outset is a very different exercise than writing a piece where the client just provides a high-level topic and some brief color commentary.
As we wrote about in part one of this series, a blog post with a target length of 500 words may still require many hours of research if it is on a complex topic even though the deliverable is short. This is one reason why paying by the word is bad for writers and the extent of research, not necessarily length, is a bigger driver of price.
The Bottom Line:
The more information about the topic the client can provide at the outset—in terms of existing internal articles or slide decks, research generated internally or from third parties, or content produced by third parties—the better. Rounding up this information for the writer will reduce the amount of independent research the writer has to do, thus saving the client money.
Pricing Variable No. 3: Number of SME Interviews
For most thought-leadership content, financial marketers will want their writer or agency to interview one or several of their firm’s subject matter experts (SMEs). Each additional SME that financial marketers want interviewed as part of the content input process adds significant work for the writer.
It requires time on the front-end to prepare for each interview; time to conduct the interview itself, including travel if the interviews are conducted in-person; and time after the interview to compile notes from the interview and synthesize the most-important information.
Even if an interview is scheduled for just one hour, the writer will likely spend several more hours on the front- and back-end preparing and reviewing the content of the session. As a result, the number of interviews has a significant influence on the price of a project.
The Bottom Line:
SME interviews are a critical part of a project’s input-collection process. But conducting more interviews isn’t always better, especially if minimizing costs is a priority. Only having the writer interview SMEs who are essential to the project or combining two SMEs into one interview can be helpful in making sure the project stays within budget.
Pricing Variable No. 4: Rounds of Edits
The reviewing and editing phase of a project can add a significant amount of time and cost for a project. This is why it is important for financial marketers and their writers to stipulate an exact number of editing rounds at the project’s outset—and stick to that plan.
Limiting the rounds of edits can be tricky when there are numerous internal stakeholders who need to review the document. In these situations, financial marketers can save on cost by consolidating the reviewers’ comments into one document for the writer, rather than having the writer complete another round of edits for each person’s feedback.
The Bottom Line:
Keep desired rounds of edits with your writer in check at the outset, and design an efficient, streamlined, and consolidated internal editing process so that you don’t unintentionally drive up the project’s costs.
Pricing Variable No. 5: Project Management
Larger, more complex thought-leadership projects require more coordination and communication between parties. If the financial marketer doesn’t have an internal coordinator to serve as project manager and instead asks the writer to manage the entire project, that is going to add to the cost of the project.
Regardless of whether the project management is handled by the financial marketer or by the writer, this isn’t something that can be overlooked or treated as an afterthought. Managing the project efficiently and ensuring that there are clear expectations and timelines for all parties involved is essential for good writing.
The Bottom Line:
For big projects, make sure each side has a designated point person to coordinate all project-management tasks. For smaller projects, financial marketers usually can handle all of these duties internally, which can help control costs.
Pricing Variable No. 6: Design Work
Are you planning to have the writer or agency that you hire deliver a fully branded and designed document as the final deliverable? Or do you have an internal design team, so you just need the vendor to deliver a Word doc?
Having the writer or agency handle the design work will add to the overall cost. But, in most circumstances, it shouldn’t break the bank. Larger, more design intensive and visually-oriented projects, of course, are going to bring a higher price tag.
The Bottom Line:
Most larger financial services firms have an in-house design team and thus will want to handle the design components in-house to save on cost. But that doesn’t mean the writer shouldn’t be involved in the design process. The writer can provide valuable editorial direction to the designers to help them bring the ideas to life visually. Regardless of how involved the financial marketer wants the writer to be in the design process, it is important to agree upon that role at the outset of the project.
Stay tuned for the final blog post in our three-part series on the different ways that financial marketers can control costs and maximize their budgets based on these variables and the different pricing models discussed in part one.
Until then, download our e-book, which includes an expansive overview helping financial marketers better understand the world of thought-leadership and content-marketing pricing.
About the Author Scott Wentworth is the founder and head financial writer at Wentworth Financial Communications. Scott and the team of writers and editors at WFC help professionals across the financial services industry build their brands by creating investment-grade white papers, bylined articles, newsletters, blogs, social media posts, and other forms of content marketing.