Chapter 7: Getting executives engaged in content marketing

Executives are understandably hesitant to commit to any strategy that has a dollar amount attached to it, places added responsibility on their shoulders, or if they feel it may drain resources from other profit generating activities. Here's how you get them the side of your content marketing program.

Securing executive buy-in for content marketing can be a challenge. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common scenario faced by marketers and communicators alike: convincing your executives that in order to compete and grow, the company must adopt a content marketing strategy. It’s a no brainer for you, but too radical of an idea for the C-suite. They call themselves “risk averse;” you call them “out of touch.”  Once the name-calling is over, though, you and I know that well-performing content marketing strategies are built on successful executive support Tweet this! and participation.

I have been there and it’s not my favorite place to be.  Even working with some of the world’s most “sophisticated” global brands and speaking with many C-level executives about investing in content, I consistently hear the same concerns – money and time (in that order).  However, addressing the concerns is not at all as complicated as it seems.  If you follow my simple guidelines, your killer B2B content marketing plan will not only get the green light, your executives will be fighting over who gets to participate first. (Well, maybe not fight, but you get the idea!)

Executive Battle One – Why Do I Have to Invest in Content Marketing?

A fair question with LOTS of answers. According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth, the average person digests at least 10 pieces of online information before making a purchasing decision. By creating high-quality content, your company can establish itself as a credible, trustworthy guide in the consumer purchasing process.  If  you need more proof, and the Google sign of approval is not enough to convince the executives, it’s time to pitch to their values and top priorities. Consider using any of these supporting facts:

  • 50% of consumer time online is spent engaging with custom content. (HubSpot)
  • Interesting content is one of the top three reasons people follow brands on social media (ContentPlus)
  • 60% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site (ContentPlus)
  • 60% of consumers say they feel better about a company after reading custom content, and more than half are more likely to buy from a company that provides custom media (Custom Content Council)
  • 82% of prospects say that content tailored to their industry is more valuable (Marketo)
  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to get information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Exact Target)
  • Website conversion rate is nearly 6 times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs 0.5%). (Kapost)
  • Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. (DemandGen Report)
  • Customers who receive email newsletters spend 82% more when they buy from the company. (iContact)

I’ve handpicked these facts to highlight a common executive priority – more conversion, more sales. Using compelling stats like these will support your explanation of how a vibrant content strategy can help the executives help the business.

The wind up, then the pitch:

Tell a story. Walk your executives through some of possible purchasing experiences of a potential customer for your company. Point out the current gaps in consumer enlightenment and engagement for your brand. Explain how your proposed content marketing strategy can fill these gaps; thereby increasing brand equity and ultimately conversion.

Executive Battle Two – Why do I have to Post, Tweet, Share or Like?

Your content marketing plan needs a soul Tweet this! , it needs life, and no, your marketing team alone cannot provide its lifeblood.

The harsh reality is that participating in content marketing requires a lot of heavy lifting on social channels. Therefore, it becomes not a question of whether your executives will need to be active on social; they will.  Rather, it’s a question of if they have the time to do so: they don’t.

This is a real problem and it’s one you have to overcome in your content marketing.  I recommend shifting the conversation from how hard it is to how your plan will facilitate ease of use and thought leadership.

How are you going to do that?

  1. Showcase what your competitors are doing with content marketing from a brand and an executive level.  Notice that competitor X is putting out videos, but also their CEO/CMO/COO/CFO is active on Linkedin, Twitter or blogging? Use that point to illustrate why it is important for your executives to be involved.
  2. Explain to your reluctant executives that their presence/social activity can fill the gaps in industry conversation; presenting the same information, only better (you are better, right?).
  3. From a utility perspective, make sure you highlight that your plan will provide them with suggested copy for posting, and you will include links to the appropriate content.
  4. Mention that amplification will come from internal and external resources.

The wind up, then the pitch:

Here’s where you’ll appeal to their egos. When an executive invests in a content marketing strategy, they are essentially investing in their personal brand. Explain that by attaching their name to an insightful piece of content can help earn a reputation as an industry thought leader. Being a recognized industry thought leader* can lead to speaking engagements, columns, awards, and even book deals.  Perception matters. If that doesn’t get them excited, nothing will!

Thought leadership vs. content marketing  

Thought leadership is not content marketing. Tweet this! Thought leadership is one’s authoritative, unique, informed perspective supported by your role in a particular industry. Thought leadership sits perfectly at the intersection of trust, value and content Tweet this! . If you’re not a thought leader, your content will be sort of “meh.” If you are finding executives aren’t interested in the content they expect to see on social media, for example, try to find out if the hesitation is more about the platform (social, for example), the path (the physical actions to get there), or the pithiness of what you’re going to say (the actual thought leadership). Making sure you’re not “dumbing down” your company’s message can make a big difference in helping executives get behind a bigger vision.

Executives are understandably hesitant to commit to any strategy that has a dollar amount attached to it, places added responsibility on their shoulders, or if they feel it may drain resources from other profit generating activities.  As you make your case, don’t get frustrated. Look at it from their point of view. When you already know the  the points of resistance, and can address them directly, you’re pretty well equipped to successfully pitch the C-suite.

Remember, arming yourself with stats, case studies and real world examples is only going to make your case stronger.  And there’s an added benefit for you: pitching to the C-suite will help you grow into a more effective content marketer while helping your company grow into a more competitive, sophisticated brand.

My last bit of advice If you’re still facing resistance after your winning pitch: Jump in, start small, and show some early results. Their support will follow.

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