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Mastering the internal sell of content marketing

Forrester reports that 79 per cent of marketers say their organisations are shifting to branded content. Here is how to get internal buy-in and deliver a content strategy that moves the commercial needle.

Are you one of the 40 per cent of marketers that, according to the Content Marketing Institute, will spend more on content marketing in 2018? If so, you have managed to get enough internal buy‐in to secure budget and we take our hats off to you.

You already know that when investing in content, high quality analysis endures because it delivers long‐term value. Great content helps with organic search, ultimately increasing inbound leads and brand presence. What’s more, an established content ecosystem will not only put you in good stead with Google, but also provides one of the touch points necessary to build a relationship with your audience.

The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that 64 per cent of consumers need to hear a message from a company 3 – 5 times before they will believe it. A long‐term content strategy also promises an impressive ROI. Content marketing ROI is over three times that of paid search, according to a recent survey from marketing platforms Kapost and Eloqua.

So, what if you are in the 60 per cent that hasn’t secured budget to create an effective content programme? The best way to get started is to demonstrate how content initiatives will benefit the wider business.

Start by mapping your stakeholders to understand who you will need to convince. This could involve other departments – such as business development, PR and sales – as well as getting approval from the top, such as the CEO. You will need to map out messaging sensitive to the needs and priorities of each of these segments.

What convinces a sceptic? Usually, it’s facts. Here’s a good one: 58% of prospects disengage with a company because its sales reps are unable to help them solve their business challenges. That means marketing needs to be focused on market knowledge and insight, rather than products and services. That’s what will ultimately help prospects address their challenges.

The level of marketing needed to offer that knowledge and insight is going to necessitate a big commitment – it’s got to be written by experts, curated, designed and then published in a manner that will be taken seriously and garner respect.

But if you can get any internal sceptics to see why prospects are disengaging elsewhere – and how to rise above that – you can help them understand that this kind of content project closes the value gap. It engenders long‐term belief in the influence of your brand – ultimately delivering value over time.

Here are some of the pitfalls to look out for and tips for getting the sign‐off you need for your content marketing initiatives.

Winning the battle of egos

Traditional marketing focuses either on a brand’s identity or its products and services. Content marketing serves a different purpose. Buyers today are expecting more emphasis on learning before they are receptive to a sales conversation. One Demand Gen survey found that 47 per cent of B2B buyers viewed 3 – 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.

But convincing a head of practice she shouldn’t be interviewed for the feature article on innovations or dealing with a CEO who thinks that the publication is “not about us enough” is a not easy, and can become a battle of big egos.

How do you convince senior stakeholders to create content your target audience will want to engage with? It comes down to brand credibility.

Raconteur’s 2017 research into how senior business executives consume content revealed that 42 per cent look for content based on original, primary research or empirical evidence and 50 per cent of executives are likely to read branded content if it is produced in partnership with a recognised expert in their industry or profession.

As credible as your business leaders are, it’s more effective to put forward independent experts, because this shows that your brand is putting knowledge ahead of its sales agenda.

The best way to get past the ‘gates of doom’ is to flip the argument on its head and ask the naysayers how they’d feel reading a publication from a company that’s C‐suite is quoted throughout every article. Would they find it salesy? So would everyone else.

Measuring content marketing ROI

Proving the ROI of your content initiative is an effective way of securing buy‐in. However, reaching a definition of what actually proves a return on investment is not as straightforward as it may seem. This is hardly surprising, given that the number of metrics and the ability to quantify marketing activity has exploded in the last few years.

Measuring the success of a content piece by vanity metrics such as likes and clicks can be misleading. Even downloads can be a questionable indicator a content piece’s strength, as they risk aiming too low in the marketing funnel and reaching prospects who are too junior to influence real decision‐making.

Without agreement on what determines your content initiative’s success it can be difficult to get it off the ground, and disappointing results can see it be cut short.

Here are the questions you need to consider:

  • Who do you want to reach?
  • How will you be distributing it to get it in front of your audience?
  • What will count as engagement?
  • How will you measure this engagement over time?

It’s important to agree on what success looks like with your stakeholders early on and outline how your strategy will help you achieve it.

Securing the right resource for content marketing

Doing content marketing well is difficult and requires careful planning and strategy  62 per cent of companies were outsourcing their content marketing in 2016 and the numbers are increasing.

But some executives still insist that content is something that can be handled internally: marketing can project manage and design, PR can write the copy, practice heads can do the interviews and we’ll just pay for printing. This can be the death of a content marketing programme. Too many cooks in the kitchen leads to salesy editorial and standardised commissioning and production generally fails to move the commercial needle.

How do you avoid compromising the quality of the project? Prepare which resource you will need for each stage of the content programme and how much it will cost. Then, outline what you expect the outcome to be to make sure that the resource you need is signed off before you get started.

The path to content marketing success

Assign roles and responsibilities

The average business decision today includes 5.4 internal stakeholders. Identifying and reaching out to them early on is crucial. If decision makers are bought in at the start, they’ll help the project succeed and prove its ROI when it’s complete.

Give everyone responsibilities and make sure you manage their expectations when it comes to the process (like sticking to the project brief once it’s set).

Agree on what makes good content

Opinions can run wild when it comes to deciding on what makes a content piece ‘good’ or which areas to focus on.

Structure the conversation by first establishing what you want to achieve, considering who you need to influence and looking at examples which get the job done. Discussing what you like and don’t like is a useful exercise to set guidelines that you can all agree to and will make the sign‐off process easier.

Get the ball rolling

Even if you don’t have absolutely everyone on side or a £1 million budget, get the ball rolling. It’s better to get proof of concept and early success than not to have anything to show but a lot of draft proposals. Turn ‘luck comes to those in motion’ into a serious business motive. If you build up steam, others will follow and get on board the juggernaut.

Stick to your guns

Be ready for everything to go wrong when colleagues change their minds, the ego comes out again or opinions run thick and fast as drafts come back.

It’s important to retain sight of the end goal (delivering value to your audience) and to stick to your guns in terms of what was agreed when everyone was first in the room and bought into the core principles. Revert back to the ‘why’ of the theory behind the project – and remind your colleagues what they’d respond to.

In summary:

  • Get your stakeholders on board by demonstrating how your content initiative will add value to the business
  • Define what constitutes content marketing ROI and why
  • Agree on the resource required up front to ensure the project can deliver on its objectives

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