Content Marketing: How To Sell Executives On The Idea & Cost

how to sell content marketing to executives

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the process of publishing content that helps to engage or entertain a prospect and then move them into the sales funnel. Content marketing isn’t necessarily new, however, over the last few years it has become more popular with all types of online marketers mostly because of the engagement it creates and the ROI that it generates for businesses of all sizes.

Kapost and Eloqua recently put together and published a study on the cost and ROI of content marketing in which they share some very eye opening statistics that should catch the attention of all types of marketers, online and offline. Content marketing, when executed over a long period of time (36+ months) yields three times as many leads, dollar for dollar, when compared to paid search. The reasoning for this is because once you have built your own audience and community, you don’t have to pay for it anymore and your ROI goes through the roof (as seen in the image below).

content marketing benefits

The problem for most businesses is, that content marketing is super expensive and it is really hard to justify the expense today for a return in three years. In the study mentioned above, it is estimated that in order to run a full fledged content marketing operation (in-house) that you are looking at a $12,000 expense per month for mid sized businesses and a $33,000 expense per month for large businesses. Depending on the scope of work, you can dramatically cut those costs by probably 40-50% by hiring an agency to help you with your content marketing efforts, however, it’s still a pretty penny to engage in this form of marketing.

From those who have chosen to engage in content marketing, there is no dispute that it was money well spent, however, since this form of marketing does require a pretty heavy “up-front” investment, it is often times very difficult to get buy-in from upper management/executive team or whomever the decision makers are. Because of this, I’ve pulled together some of the best in the industry to share with us what they feel should be key talking points when pitching an executive and trying to secure budget for such a strategy. There are some amazing ideas and concepts being shared here, so take good notes!

Ash Buckles – SEO.com

ash bucklesDeciding where to publish your content is a key element in any content strategy. If you publish it on your site, you own the content and control its uptime and visibility. If you publish on a partner site, social media, profile, etc. you risk changes to the platform, downtime; and sometimes, assigning ownership of your content to the site owner.

You should balance the publishing of content in areas where you have control while promoting it through channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any other distribution channel.

Generating and curating quality content is more valuable to users and therefore the search engines crawl, index, and rank your content that others find useful. A company blog is a great place to publish on a regular basis.

Since Google’s Panda algorithm started rolling in 2011, Google has been promoting pages that are crawlable, unique, and credible. A few of these updates specifically targeted pages with too many ads above-the-fold and templated page architecture. This is reason enough to invest in content creation and curation that goes beyond the content you can read on hundreds of other pages on the web.

Putting together a dashboard of metrics for executives is critical in getting approval for a new content creation campaign.

This gives them a few things:

  1. Perspective on the purpose of your campaign
  2. Visibility to your progress
  3. Ability to choose a new direction if necessary

User conversion is another great reason to consider a content strategy. In an effort to convert more visitors into your funnel, a focused effort on content turns more of your visitors into leads/sales.

Micro-conversions include converting readers into blog or newsletter subscribers & social media friends. Collecting user information is a great way to convert transient readers into fans.

You can focus on driving more traffic to your site or converting more visitors. Or both. Whatever you decide, content is the source of both attraction and conversion when it’s well defined and well promoted.

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Toby Murdock – Kapost

toby murdockTraditionally, marketing campaigns are about renting someone else’s audience: the marketer goes to media (who has the audience) and pays to have their message displayed to that audience. Content marketing turns this on its head. Now, you get to own your own audience and over time, owning versus renting is much more cost-effective. In fact, a recent eBook on the ROI of Content Marketing finds that Content Marketing is more than 3 times more effective than the most productive traditional channel (SEM).

This is a sea change for marketing. Marketers who do not develop content marketing programs now will soon find that they cannot compete in acquiring customers.

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Arnie Kuenn – Vertical Measures

arnie kuennTo me there are two very important content marketing factors you should address when making your pitch to management. First, traditional media is much like renting. When your campaign is over, it’s over. However, the content you create and distribute on the web might be out there for people to discover for many years to come. Second, content marketing can be done at much lower cash cost and with much lower risk on a campaign-by-campaign basis. So it’s easier to test and focus on your target market.

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Neil Patel – KISS Metrics

neil patelFrom my point of view when you are making a pitch to an executive the most important thing you should address is ROI. If you want X dollars from a company, you better be able to show them how you are going to make them Y dollars as well as how long it is going to take before you make them the Y dollars.

And when you tell them how much you are going to make them, don’t just show them a number, but break down every little aspect so they can get a good understanding of what you are exactly doing and how that will make them more money.

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Andrew Melchior – Dream Systems Media

andrew melchiorIn my opinion, the biggest value that needs to be conveyed during a content marketing pitch is the long-term benefit the client will gain through increased traffic flow and SERP improvements due to successful campaigns.  If content marketing campaigns are properly and regularly executed the client will be able to see a clear ROI within weeks and their content marketing pieces can then become true assets for them that can be used in a variety of ways over the lifetime of their business, not simply as a one-time link bait tactic.

The other element that should not be missed during a pitch is the additional gain the client gets from coupling successful content marketing campaigns with their focused SEO, PPC, and other marketing channels.  You can get a lot more out of those dedicated budgets by coupling successful content marketing campaigns with those efforts.

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Robert Rose – Big Blue Moose

robert roseFrom my point of view it’s about making a business case – not in promising some kind of magic ROI.  Content marketing is inherently an innovative new process for most organizations – and so by definition is new.   That said, the key is to build a case for WHY this new process may help solve a business goal. It might be SEO improvement, more leads, better leads, a more efficient funnel, or simply a decrease of customer service costs.

A content-driven strategy can be applied to a lot of different types of marketing goals – but it’s not without some risk and, certainly, fine-tuning over time. Ultimately, I find one of the best ways is to identify a particularly “ripe” part of the funnel to approach first. It might be your biggest pain point — or one that is new — but identify some tactic (let’s say building leads through pay-per-click) and then applying a content marketing process on top of it to see if we can improve those results. If you can, then use that savings to try another tactic – and then another. Slowly build an economic model that makes a content-driven strategy make sense.

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Garrett French – Citation Labs

garrett frenchContent (all media, from written to video to tools) is the final frontier and the only way forward. It’s how I’ve built my business and I’ve always believed that it can work for others. Turning content marketing into a service has been a sticking point for me though at my current size (a handful of contractors), primarily in the area of extracting expertise at scale, on schedule and then promoting it effectively. Your writers and promoters have to “go native” too and speak the language, otherwise you’ll flop. That said, I think selling ginormous, multi-year content marketing contracts upwards requires connecting the content up to existing business objectives and looking at “audience growth” (subscribers + followers, etc) as THE primary contributor to these objectives.

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Jeremy Dearringer – Slingshot SEO

jeremy derringerI find that content marketing achieves amazing returns when an entire company is bought into its importance and participate in its success.  The process of achieving organizational buy in for content marketing starts at the top.  From my perspective, the single most important factor to discuss when pitching content marketing to executives is that content marketing is the foundation of most forms of internet marketing.  Without a content marketing focus, all marketing channels will suffer and achieve lower returns.

The highest ROI internet marketing channels, including SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, and most forms of paid advertising, all market great content that answers customer questions, solves their problems, entertains, and leads them down the sales funnel.  Our experience has shown that when an organization really understands and grasps the importance of content marketing, all internet marketing channels have significant boosts in performance.  For example, a recent study of over 1,000 marketing professionals has shown that content marketing is the single most effective form of SEO.  It’s the same story for most channels.  As we like to say, content leads.

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Lori Gilson – PRMarketing.com

lori gilsonContent marketing is key to building trust, credibility, and authority online. The best writing involves strategy and individual style.

Every website requires its own content marketing strategy. This will drive traffic to your site and keep visitors on your site longer. Every written word needs to benefit the reader and be entertaining.

We have found the best results have been obtained by researching where your customers are online. What websites do they frequent? What news sources and blogs do they respect? Once you have this information, build a relationship with those sites, and gain permission to post articles that are interesting and valuable. Then, make sure your site has strong, engaging content that is relevant to the articles linking
to you on the news and blog sites.

We have seen websites receive large spikes of traffic, new leads and revenue through content marketing, especially when you find the delicate balance of providing value and a call to action.

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Monique Pouget – Thunder SEO

monique pougetEvery day, consumers are bombarded with branded ads and messages that are interrupting their web experience. Instead of focusing on promotion, brands need to invest in publishing to earn the audience they’re pursuing. When you produce extraordinary content that compels people to share, the result is an engaged community, which leads to more traffic, mentions, links and conversions. But content marketing isn’t easy and it isn’t a short-term campaign; it requires an investment in time and resources. Smart marketers understand the value of gaining a consumer’s trust and interest before asking them to buy.

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Chris Tynski – BlueGlass

chris tynskiIn order to get executive buy in on content marketing, they first need to have a clear understanding of their goals, and their goals need to align with what content marketing is actually good at doing. Content marketing is great for many things including link building, thought leadership positioning, increasing brand loyalty, increasing social engagement, and lots more, but it isn’t typically a tactic that results in direct conversions or sales. When you can get an executive to understand that they can build brand loyalty, increase their rankings, and increase traffic and social engagement all by creating something cool and fun that their audience or customers will love, it is generally a pretty easy sell.

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Kate Morris – Distilled

kate morrisThe most important thing in your pitch for content marketing to executives is the value of developing content for your site. This is easier said than done, but the key is to get a test approved. Start small. With one client we picked on an area of the site and developed 150 word blurbs for each major category page (maybe 20 pages). We then tracked the results in ranking changes (something execs refuse to stop looking at) and presented the results to top brass and other business departments. The results of having the case study paired with education helped fuel over $35,000 in content creation budget.

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I hope that this has helped and has given you some ideas and talking points when presenting such a campaign to a decision maker. I wanted to give a big thanks to everyone who participated in this post. I know you’re busy and your participation is greatly appreciated by all. If you have any other tips or recommendations, we would love to hear them in the comments section.

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9 Comments

  1. Gregg N says

    Ash,
    Thank you for such a fantastic post. Content marketing is a crucial part of today’s marketing efforts, as stated by Monique, I agree that when curated, custom content added to your website blog or other blogs such as tumblr, etc. will let your audience begin a more engaged conversation with you.

    These efforts, when done well and correctly can dramatically affect your efforts to attract audience, conversions/leads, and ultimately let the audience get a sense for who you are and what you represent within your company. Thank you Monique and all of the other fantastic people for their comments and to Ash for supplying some truly critical information in today’s ever-changing marketing industry.

    • Ash Buckles says

      Thanks for the comment, Gregg. Our own Greg Shuey compiled this post today but I was happy to participate. I find it reassuring that the written word (along with design, research, etc.) is still welcomed.

  2. Editor MarketingZone.com says

    eBooks, reports or white papers put behind a “lead wall” where someone must share their name and at least their email address is the best way to generate leads. Content can be written for people at different stages of the purchase cycle from “just learning” to “comparing vendors” to “comparing prices”. The best content marketing functions like a great talk at a conference where at the end of the talk someone in the audience turns to their colleague and says, “We should talk to them” or “We should hire them to do this for us.”

    Like with a great speaker, your content marketing needs to educate + entertain.

    How-to guide on Content Marketing on MarketingZone can be found here:
    http://www.marketingzone.com/2999-content-marketing-how-guide-small-business

    Editor MarketingZone.com, the online resource center for small business on marketing

  3. Internetiturundus says

    Goos post! Content marketing will definitely beat paid search over long time. I agree with Kapost and Eloqua report 90%, 10% I don’t agree because of the cost for Content Marketing. You can make it much more cost-effective than 12000$ per month.

  4. says

    Selling content marketing is tough. Its all about demonstrating the value through your analytics tools. I recently read that over 50% of online businesses have received a lead through blogging, so it does work.

  5. jacksonsmith says

    nice share man ! i agreed agreed but
    From my side when you are making a pitch to an executive the most important thing you should address. If you want a huge amount of salary from a company, you better be able to show them how you are going to make them And when you tell them how much you are going to make them, don’t just show them a number, but break down every little aspect so they can get understand what you are exactly trying to do And they will definitely trust you and also on your work

  6. Matt Coffy says

    This is the real deal. I can not tell you how many of these conversations on this subject I have had with clients in the last 2 months. Excellent share thanks!

  7. Brett Beck says

    Strong advocate for content marketing. It’s great to get the voice and personality of your company out there for the customer to be able to connect with. Paid ads such as PPC try too hard. They’re too sales-focused and don’t go beyond that.

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