Twenty-three years of agency experience have taught me that content marketing is a long game. It’s the answer to a problem and the actualization of an opportunity — and it takes time and investment to get it right.
That can mean that if you’re the content visionary of your company, it’s not always the easiest thing to sell to your higher-ups, when the umbrella of marketing is all-encompassing and complex, and it seems like there are easier or faster avenues to pursue. But if you believe in content, you know that it can make a real difference for your business — you just need to be able to convince your boss.
As director of client services at D Custom, I work with clients every day to make strategic use of their marketing resources. We are almost always on the same page; however, they have a lot of stakeholders to convince internally before they can start achieving their goals.
Here are what I consider the four key steps to successfully selling up why content marketing is important, to help you get your stakeholders on board your content train.
Step 1: Set the scene.
The digital transformation has upended the purchase process. Today, an inbound strategy is necessary.
Why do we believe content marketing is so important? Let me put it this way. Forty years ago, if you wanted to buy a car, you usually went to a dealership or a car lot not knowing much. Maybe you liked a brand you saw in an ad, but that’s about it. You knew you’d rely on the salesperson to show you your options. If you want to buy a car today, you won’t go to the lot or talk to the salesperson; you’ll do your research online. By the time you get to the dealership (if you even go to a dealership), you’ll already know what you want, from brand to model to color to interior. You’ll also know the average market price, what you want to pay for it, how you want to finance it, and with what bank. In short, you’re armed with all the information you need.
This is happening in almost every industry. Consumers and businesses are having the sales pitch conversation by themselves and doing their own research; in DemandGen Report’s 2019 Content Preferences Survey Report, 73% of B2B buyers reported consuming between three and seven pieces of content before speaking with a salesperson.
That’s where content comes in. You need to provide your customers with the answers that make purchasing from you an easy decision.
Bring to the table: A convincing anecdote or example (you can use mine) that puts things into perspective. Stats that show how much of the sales process happens without sales can’t hurt either.
Step 2: Raise the stakes.
Content reaches your audience where and when they’re looking for you. They’ll either find you, or your competitor.
Content tells your story. For complex products and services that require consideration, such as cars or software, telling that story to pinpointed audiences at the right time and place is essential. When your audience needs intricate detail about what they are purchasing, the story content tells is the key to reaching them where they are in the purchase process.
While outbound tactics can sometimes fall on deaf eyes and ears if the audience is not receptive at that time and place, content backed by the right amplification strategy delivers your message to audiences when they’re most receptive and most likely to act on it — when they’re interested in solving a problem or taking advantage of an opportunity.
Bring to the table: Competitor content and case studies. According to HubSpot’s 2020 State of Marketing Report, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing. If your audience isn’t reading your content, then they’re reading your competitors’. Show how your competitors are doing it and the value it’s brought them. Using content research platforms such as BuzzSumo can help you understand what trending topics your target audience is searching for and what content is performing well for your competitors.
Step 3: Mock it up.
Content marketing is a lasting strategy that builds value and trust. Demonstrate how.
Great content tells your audience that you understand them. It’s an ongoing conversation about their needs and how you can meet them. Content marketing isn’t speed-dating — it’s courting, to use the old dad term (because I am one). You’re creating the foundation for a great relationship.
Because content marketing is a robust, comprehensive strategy — not a magic bullet — it doesn’t work overnight; it needs to be done today, tomorrow, throughout the year, and beyond. That means it builds value over time and fosters trust among your audiences and affinity for your brand. It’s the solution to a common long-term goal shared between you and them.
Bring to the table: An example of what this could look like for your company. What’s your recommended scope, strategy, and timeline? What goals will it accomplish? The more specific you can be, the better. An agency partner can help you there.
Step 4: Introduce a plan of action.
Content marketing is measurable. Show how you’ll measure your efforts and prove performance.
Content is measurable. It’s easy to set key performance indicators, benchmarks, and objectives and to measure both engagement metrics (how many people come to your website and how often) and conversion metrics (form fills, calls, and emails that lead to people becoming customers). This means you’ll be able to clearly see how and why content is worth the investment.
Make the decision to invest easy by mapping out how you’ll track your success and when you’ll be able to prove it was all worth it. There are plenty of free or low-cost marketing reporting tools to help track your progress once you define your goals.
Bring to the table: Your objectives, benchmarks, and measurement plan.
Today’s customer is in charge more than ever. When you’re selling up content marketing, you’re really pitching an effective way to reach your company’s prospects and to ensure your brand’s viability in an ever-changing marketplace. Long-form content that tells a story is a product in itself that will bring your business lasting value. It’s a long-term strategy that’s always being tested and optimized. That’s why it works.
If you’re looking for an agency who can create great content and help you prove value to your company, contact us.