June 22, 2017
You know what an effective content marketing strategy can do for your organization.
You know that it costs 62 percent less than traditional advertising and yet generates about three times as many leads.
You’ve heard all the statistics and you’ve seen how other organizations are leveraging content marketing to demolish their sales goals.
You know it works. Sadly, however, none of that matters.
Because, for some reason, the executives you work for aren’t convinced. They tell you that content marketing is, “too hard to define,” or that “it’s a sunk investment because we can’t prove ROI.”
Are they right?
How Virgin Media Got the Higher Ups to Commit
Gill Worby, the head of digital marketing at Virgin Media, faced a similar dilemma when she was trying to convince executives to invest in content marketing.
Worby recognized that it was becoming more and more difficult to grab people’s attention through traditional advertising and digital marketing.
Content provided a solution. As she mentions, “Previously we always thought about what we wanted to talk about and now we talk about what our audience wants us to say.”
That’s the beauty of content. It raises brand awareness, earns trust and cultivates leads by being about what the audience wants it to be about.
Done right, content marketing helps you unlock a bevy of advantages that no other marketing method can.
But how did Worby overcome the challenges associated with convincing executives to make an investment?
Let’s find out.
1. Went After Complete Buy-In
One thing that you need to understand about content marketing right off the bat is that it can’t be a toe-in-the-water experience.
If you’re going to implement it, you need to commit to content marketing wholeheartedly.
And while that means it may be even more difficult to convince the higher ups to invest, the long-term effectiveness of your efforts depends on it.
Take a look at this comparison chart put together by the teams at the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs:
As you can see, 91 percent of businesses that rated their efforts as most successful said their organization is extremely/very committed to content marketing.
Another glaring statistic is that 85 percent of businesses that rated their efforts as most successful said that they always/frequently deliver content consistently.
These things aren’t a coincidence.
It’s not worth convincing executives to ‘try’ content marketing. If you’re going to do it right, you need to get them to buy-in completely.
2. Mapped Out an Approach That Would Make Sense to Executives
The marketing team at Virgin Media knew that getting executives to agree to content marketing meant, first and foremost, convincing them of the business value that it would provide.
They also understood that making sense to executives meant putting it in terms of dollars gained.
To convince them, Worby’s team utilized a framework that involved three stages. They included:
- Educate. In this stage, they worked diligently to inform executives and other people throughout the organization about the business goals that content marketing could help them reach.
- Evaluate. This stage involved generating a plan for how they could track relevant KPIs and metrics in order to communicate the success of their content marketing efforts (through ROI).
- Execute. The last stage meant outlining the processes, people, and teams that they would work with in order to execute their content marketing strategy.
Let’s break down each stage and help you gain a better understanding of how they can be implemented in your own situation.
Stage 1. Educate
The hope would be that educating executives would be as simple as pointing them to the litany of statistics about the effectiveness of content marketing.
I mean, shouldn’t this infographic do the trick?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. To educate and convince, your focus needs to be on what content marketing can do to create results.
Worby laid out four reasons that content could contribute to results. They were:
- Content is lasting and permanent
- Content serves two masters; your audience and the search engine
- Content gains trust; trust gains customers
- Content speaks to skeptical millennials (and customers in general) better than advertising
The education stage is successful when you’re able to show the higher ups how a positive shift in consumer behaviour can have an impact on the bottom line of the business.
Everyone knows what the goals of the organization are. You just need to prove that content marketing can contribute to completing them.
Stage 2. Evaluate
The evaluation stage is where you’ll start to speak the language of the executives you’re trying to convince.
They want to know what type of ROI your new strategy can provide.
Tracking the ROI of content marketing is a complex task. But it’s necessary if you want to make a convincing argument for your efforts.
Content marketing guru Neil Patel tracks content effectiveness using four metrics. They include:
- Consumption metrics. Measuring the amount of people that are consuming your content, the channels they’re using, and how often they’re consuming it.
- Sharing metrics. Measures what content is being shared, who’s sharing it, how they’re sharing it, and how often it’s happening.
- Lead metrics. Measures how the content is supporting demand generation and lead nurturing.
- Sales metrics. Measures how the content is influencing the advancement of leads through the sales funnel and, ultimately, how it’s driving revenue.
Once you’re able to communicate how you’re going to track results, you’ll also want to identify for them how you’re going to maximize ROI from the content that you’ll be producing.
Stage 3 – Execute
This stage needs to answer the question of how you’re going to execute your content marketing strategy.
What processes are you going to use? Who is going to do the work?
What in-house teams are you going to be collaborating with? Do you plan on utilizing contractors or agencies to help create the content?
These are all questions that you’re going to need to answer.
How you execute will obviously depend on the resources you have at your disposal.
For example, HubSpot recommends that a marketing team of nine could execute their strategy by divvying up responsibilities like this:
This execution strategy involves two employees focused on blogging, one focused on premium/long-form content, one on SEO, and one on design.
Their job would be to commit to content marketing activities that grow the top of your sales funnel.
The other four would be dedicated to converting and closing the leads that they bring in.
Every situation is unique, and you’ll have to get creative if you don’t have access to a large team of marketers that can contribute.
The important thing here is that you have a ready made plan in place to show the executives how you’re going to follow through with your content marketing strategy.
3. Clearly Differentiated Between Advertising and Content
Worby realized early on that, for many reasons, it was important that they were able to clearly differentiate between advertising and content.
They had a simple model for doing this.
Advertising was defined as anything that was led by the brand. This included anything that was implemented for the purpose of showcasing the brand.
Content, on the other hand, was defined as anything that was led by the audience. This included anything that was meant to demonstrate the brand.
By doing this, Worby’s team simplified the process of identifying which pieces of content could be measured as part of the content marketing ROI.
It also created a common language that the entire organization could use to differentiate between the two.
Tying it All Together
As you’re already aware, it takes a lot of work to get the executives in your organization to buy-in to content marketing.
But, as Gill Worby has proven, it can be accomplished.
Utilize the process that Worby and her team have laid out for you.
Commit to going after complete buy-in by everyone in your organization. Educate, evaluate, and execute.
Create a clear understanding about the difference between advertising and content.
Do these things, show the execs that content marketing isn’t “too hard to define,” and implement a content marketing strategy that can transform your organization’s relationship with consumers.
It will be well worth the ride.
Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.