There’s a saying, “the fish rots from the head down,” that means if an effort, organization, or state fails, the leadership is the root cause. This also applies to a content marketing effort, but in two ways. There is the leadership of the content marketing effort itself: obviously if that flounders, the whole effort flounders. But there is also the leadership of the entire organization to consider in the success or failure of a content marketing effort. Leadership MUST buy in and believe that the effort and the idea of content marketing will help drive the company’s goals and bring success.
Content marketing isn’t just one tiny budget line item — it’s an overall approach for your marketing where all aspects of the marketing effort are fueled with content. And it works … but everyone has to be on board.
To get it all moving, you’ll have to explain the true value of content marketing — and the associated costs — to your stakeholders. This has to be a serious educational mission on your part. Here’s why:
- It can be challenging (although not impossible) to measure the ROI of content marketing. Every good leader wants to know what they are getting for their money.
- Content marketing is a long game. Results easily take 12 months to really show, sometimes longer. But Content Marketing Institute reports that only 59 percent of B2B marketers say that leadership gives them ample time to show content marketing results.
- Content marketing is no longer just writing a few blog posts. Producing enough content to be effective either means hiring internal staff, outsourcing, or taking employees away from other activities.
So, now that I have sufficiently worried you, here’s how you make your case.
Explain Content Marketing to Your Internal Stakeholders
To mount a new, or refreshed, or enhanced content marketing effort in today’s fragile economy will take more work to justify than it might once have. Here’s what you need to cover.
Start with the basics: What is it?
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing relevant, valuable content to attract and engage a particular target audience. Instead of selling your products and services, you are delivering information that makes your audience more informed before they buy. If you deliver consistent, useful information to your audience, they ultimately reward you with their business and loyalty.
Think about it not as content marketing, but as content-driven marketing: the underlying foundation of your overall marketing effort, not just a budget bucket item. It is a strategic approach applied to all of your marketing — the fundamental force that makes it all possible.
A successful content marketing effort will:
- Develop and engage an audience. Once your target audience realizes you are a fountain of quality, reliable information, they will come to you when they have a need.
- Build trust with your audience. You provide information and education about your product, service, or industry without asking for something in return. Prospects don’t feel sold and are more likely to trust your brand, your advice, and your recommendations.
- Establish your company and SMEs as thought leaders. As you build trust, you become known as a thought leader in your industry. Even people who don’t regularly engage with you start to hear that you are THE source for information in your sector.
- Build brand awareness. Consistent publishing and promotion gets your brand in front of your current and your desired audience on a consistent basis in a way that doesn’t sell.
- Create channels of communication. When you distribute content and attract and engage your audience, you invite that audience to share and comment on your content. When they do that, you get to interact with them and provide valuable information without selling.
- Build domain authority. The more content you have about a particular subject, the more of an “authority” Google believes you are on it. The more domain authority your website has, the easier it will be for you to rank in search for other subjects when you publish.
- Enhance SEO. Google loves high-quality content that is published consistently. The higher the quality and the more consistent it is, the more Google loves you. This builds domain authority and results in higher search rankings for your content.
- Generate leads. Done right, content marketing will generate inbound leads. Keep in mind leads don’t come out of nowhere. They are a result of quality content, regular publishing, content optimization, and smart promotion/distribution through the right channels.
- Improve your sales conversions. The content you create helps your prospects get further into the sales funnel before they talk to you. They are more informed and are ready to have more substantial conversations with you. But if your competition has better content than you do, prospects will talk to them, not you.
How to Prove Content Marketing Works
There is plenty of data to support your case for content marketing.
- Consumers are 131% more likely to buy after reading educational content from a brand.
- Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing and costs up to 62 percent less.
- 72% of companies agreed that their lead quality increased after implementing a content marketing strategy.
Know What Others in Your Industry Do and Spend
Knowing what other, similar companies (meaning your direct competitors) in your industry are doing with their content marketing effort and what they spend on it is important for making your case. What they’re doing and how well they do it gives you an understanding of where you can gain an advantage, whether it’s in the area of tactics, or quality, or both.
First things first, do the free stuff: follow them on social media, sign up for their newsletter, and subscribe to their blog. While competitive budget data may be tough to come by, you can assemble a ballpark idea of what they are spending by doing some monitoring of various areas. There are lots of platforms that can help you with your spying (many, but not all, come with some type of price tag attached).
Ad monitoring tools like Adgooroo and Adbeat let you see the types of ads competitors are running; keyword monitoring tools like iSpionage and KeywordSpy let you see what keywords your competitors are targeting in search and track spending; and social media monitoring tools like Mention and Talkwalker let you keep an eye on what others are saying about the competition.
You’ll still have to do some research into how frequently your competition publishes and what types of content they create to figure out about how much the total budget might be. Obviously, unless you have insider information, you’ll have to base your estimates on how much it would cost you to do all those same things. The big takeaway here is pretty obvious: If your competitor is spending considerably more than you (and are at least doing a decent job with content marketing), they’re getting to your prospects more quickly and effectively. Your potential revenue becomes theirs.
Document Your Content Strategy
A documented content strategy has been shown to be a key indicator of content marketing success. But, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2020 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report, only 41 percent of marketers have a documented strategy. In comparison, 69 percent of the most successful marketers have a documented strategy. Increase your chances of success. Make the strategy and the plan.
Done right, your plan should cover goals, audience personas, competition, messages, themes and topics, content tactics and channels, reporting, and more. And, you need to show how it’s all going to get done.
So be prepared to detail who needs to be on your team and whether that team is in-house, outsourced, or some combination. Today’s marketing is all about specialists, so be sure to spend time explaining why it makes sense to spend budget on an SEO agency or a marketing technology specialist.
An effective strategy and plan isn’t a quick one-pager you knock out with HGTV on in the background. Plan for six weeks of concerted effort. The upside to all that work is that when your stakeholders sign off, you always have a document to point back to when you need to make the case for — or against — a new idea or direction.
Determine What KPIs Will Be Measured
Choose your KPIs based on your company’s overall business goals. And realize that there are a whole host of things you could measure — your challenge is to figure out which ones are meaningful to show progress. Choose aset of KPIs that make sense for your industry and your company’s stage of growth. Remember, these aren’t going to be the same for every industry or even every company within a single industry. Offer advice to your stakeholders on what gets measured from your standpoint, but also solicit from them what they would consider to be a measure of success (even if you think that what they are about is not the important stuff). Be sure to choose lagging (what’s already happened) as well as leading (what might happen in the future) indicators to get a full picture.
The Content Marketing Institute has a set of basic KPIs that are a good starting point. Customize them to your company’s specific goals and your stakeholders’ requests:
- Brand awareness: website traffic, page views, video views, downloads, social chatter, referral links
- Engagement: blog comments, likes/shares/tweets, inbound links
- Lead generation: form completions and downloads, email and blog subscriptions, conversion rate
- Sales: online sales, offline sales, manual reporting and anecdotes
- Customer retention/loyalty: percentage of content consumed by existing customers, retention/renewal rates
- Upsell/cross-sell: sales for new products/services
And remember, content marketing is not for those who seek immediate rewards. You need to make sure your team and leadership know that metrics will not show miracles quickly, but that progress will build over time and could take a year or more.
As you make your case for content marketing, remember, you are educating, not selling (ok, maybe a little selling), to inform your audience (your leadership) of the benefits of your approach. It’s not a small effort, but laying the groundwork, getting buy-in, and building a solid strategy and plan is the only way to move from the back of the content marketing pack to the front.
Need help with the planning portion of your effort? Download our eBook, “Build Your Content Marketing Plan: A 10-Step Guide.”