By Jodi Harris published May 25, 2012

How To Explain Content Marketing To The C-Suite

Chances are the CEO, CMO, and other executives in your organization know at least a little something about how to deliver a message to customers — that’s why they make the big bucks, right?

But the marketing game is always evolving, and now that content marketing has emerged as one of the most vital components of any marketing plan, what they know about our discipline may not have kept up with the times.

Part of the content marketer’s job is to champion the value that content has on the bottom line of any business, and explain its benefits in a clear, compelling way in order to get the sign-off and budget necessary to move projects through the execution.

If you’ve ever found this to be a challenge, you’re not alone. The content experts who work with the CMI Consultants program have all been there. Here, they share a few tips to help you make the case to the C-suite — so your business can start reaping the rewards of deeper audience engagement.

The first thing you need to think about is how to tie the impact of content marketing to business priorities. The C-suite doesn’t care about clicks and opens, they care about increasing revenue and decreasing costs. Content marketing has plenty of research and use case examples available. Search them out and build a business case for it within your organization.Why not create a persona-driven content strategy to convince your executive team? Find out specifically what they care about that content marketing can address and create a series of emails to convince them.It also doesn’t hurt to include examples of content marketing done by competitors to make your case. What if all the engagement from this new eBook could be ours? Look how we’ve slipped in the search results because our competitor keeps publishing fresh content…Get the VP of Sales on your side and have him/her go to bat for you. Work together to forecast what the impact could be to revenue if salespeople are able to increase close rate by X% due to having more highly qualified leads.

Ardath Albee (@ardath421)

Near-universal internet access has created an era of self-serve information. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research shows that consumers digest more than 10 pieces of online information before making a purchase decision (up from just five a year ago). Companies must provide comprehensive content assets that inform, educate, persuade, and retain customers.While resource-intensive, content marketing is fortunately quite efficient, as every piece of content creates an information annuity that continues to generate visibility and persuasion indefinitely. This is in stark contrast to advertising, whose benefits fade quickly if the media buy stops.- Jay Baer (@jaybaer)

I explain to them that there no longer is another option. Every customer of theirs is now online, and if they do a web search for the company’s product or service they need to find them immediately or they might lose them. The only way to insure that this happens is with content that is appropriate for them. They have to have a strategy to make sure that all departments are talking to each other and that what they are creating is the right sort of content.The truth is that some C-suite members don’t want to hear this. They want to keep doing things the way they have been doing them for years. I always let those sort of people in on a little secret — that they are dinosaurs, and when they realize they don’t have much longer to call me back, we’ll work on making sure they survive.- C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman)

When explaining content marketing to the C-suite, I typically like to paint a broader picture to start. I ask them to imagine that they could keynote the best event in their industry with all of their best clients and prospects in the audience, with the opportunity to deliver their best message. Would they want to do that? Then I explain that a content marketing program, when properly executed, gives you this opportunity every day of the year, without having to hop on a plane, stay overnight out of town, or even put on their best suit. Best of all, the content that you create now can have staying power, continuing to drive opportunities for you years after you initially create it. Once we have heads nodding on the emotional side, it’s time to break down the investment, cost-per-lead, typical close rate, cross-sell opportunities, and the other financials in the big spreadsheet to win the hearts and minds of the C-suite.- Will Davis (@willdavis)

Content marketing is simply using your company’s expertise and creativity to attract an audience to you. Once they’re interested, we have a chance to help them buy our products.- Jason Falls (@JasonFalls)

In an increasingly commodified marketplace, what sets brands apart in the consumer’s mind is purpose and an interesting point of view communicated in an honest and human way. A content strategy puts your audience at the heart of everything you do and sets parameters and rules for your people to communicate with customers in a way that’s consistent in scope and tone. Content marketing has the ability to focus your proposition (and save you money on disparate, one-off campaigns that never really get tied back into your long-term marketing goals). It also, all of the sudden gives you stuff to tweet about, post on your Facebook page, pin, and Instagram. Your brand is incredibly interesting. Content marketing lets you find those stories and share them with your customers in a way they care about… and recall at the moment of truth.Additionally, content marketing is a way for brands to duplicate the success of a good media company, where communication is always tied back to a mandate the audience has bought into, the stories are fresh and better than the competition’s, and not everything is always vanilla and safe. These stories keep people paying attention and show that there are people behind the messages. When done right, weaving your brand’s story consistently into ongoing, fresh conversations with your audience can become the connective tissue of all your marketing by giving you a direct line into what your customers want. Are you finally going to splash out for that paid media campaign? Don’t dare do it without mining your content marketing team for insights… and content!- Tom Gierasimczuk (@gierasimczuk)

Today’s marketing environment has made a fundamental shift away from the traditional 4 Ps: Where we used to focus on promotion for what we deliver, successful companies have made the transition to education, and content marketing serves as the foundation for this. The best way to attract and retain customers is to educate them about the industry in general, where it’s headed, pain points and solutions that address them, and how company offerings fit into this mix. This is the path for companies to shift away from the price-sensitive selling and become trusted advisors and strategic partners.What executive wouldn’t want to sit in that seat?- Carla Johnson (@CarlaJohnson)

I believe it’s about making a business case — not in promising some kind of immediate ROI. Content marketing is inherently an innovative new process for most organizations – and so by definition is new. So, the key is to build a case for WHY an innovative new process may help solve a business goal. It might be more leads, a more efficient funnel, or simply a decrease of customer service costs; but whatever the goal, the case should be made that a content-driven strategy will help to achieve it (but 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.- Robert Rose (@Robert_Rose)

This may sound odd or unbelievable to some, but my greatest success has stemmed from explaining to CEOs how Google actually works, how search works, and how we, as humans, search for content in the first place. Once someone understands these principles, a light bulb will often come on, and then magic happens. Everything in this world is information- and content-based. If organizational leaders see this vision, content marketing just makes sense.- Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion)

I’m convinced that before content marketing strategy and tactics can get C-suite buy-in, they have to be first convinced of the value of content (both created and curated) as a wise investment. Naturally, that means convincing them of what the return on those investments will be. I generally begin by explaining that any other flavor of marketing tactic they may be currently using, whether it be social media, or email, or inbound, word-of-mouth, and so on, isn’t worth a plug nickel without good content. I then deliver my Content is Gold analogy, drawing the following comparisons to characteristics of gold:

  • Content is an INVESTMENT that not only holds value, but increases in value over time.
  • Content is highly CONDUCTIVE, in that it’s the medium through which awareness is moved (think of “share” and “like” buttons, retweets and embeds, for instance).
  • Content is very MALLEABLE. For example, a series of blog posts becomes the basis for a video, and so on.
  • Content is CURRENCY, in that it can be used as a basis of exchange (such as my participation in this crowdsourced CMI post in exchange for access to an audience).
  • Content provides STATUS & INFLUENCE to the holder, in that whoever has the best content wins.
  • Content RUNS IN VEINS throughout an organization, and those veins can be mined and tapped for resources, and for ideas.
  • Content is a brand’s BLING in the way it “accessorizes” a brand’s core products or services.

Russell Sparkman (@fusionspark)

Content Marketing is nothing new. What’s new is the way your customers interact with your organization. They are more savvy now and they have high expectations. The consumer of old would sit back and listen to what you had to say. The consumer of 2012 fully understands that they manage your brand; they don’t just sit there and do what they are told. They are aware of the market and your competitors. With content marketing you can create compelling, educational, and inspiring content that engages the consumer to create a relationship. This is how you gain and retain customers in today’s rapidly changing market.- Michael Weiss (@mikepweiss)

Not sure your executives are on-board with your content marketing program? CMI’s guide to Mastering the Buy-in Conversation on Content Marketing will give you everything you need to make a compelling case. 

Like most things in the marketing world, good communication seems to be the surest path to success. Do you have additional ideas for communicating the value of content marketing with executives, your colleagues, and your other marketing peers? Tell us how you do it in the comments below.

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is the Director of Editorial Content & Curation at Content Marketing Institute. As an experienced content management consultant, Jodi focuses on helping businesses analyze their content needs and resources; build infrastructure and operations; and create and distribute relevant, engaging brand messages across multiple media channels and platforms. Jodi has developed and managed print and digital content projects for marketing, entertainment, automotive, health care, and biotech publishers, as well as for entertainment industry and media brands. Follow Jodi on Twitter at @Joderama.

Other posts by Jodi Harris

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  • Aryeh Kunstler

    Great post Jodi!
    So many of the C-Suites simply don’t get it when it comes to content. This is a great guide to help content writers break it down to them.

  • DavidGermano

    Great perspectives, Jodi!  I think the C-suite is starting to get it.  I echo a lot of the points above, and would say that the case that needs to be made now is around the investment.  You can liken this to a start-up, but the C-suite understands that this is what is required for innovation and growth in the media world we now live in.  It can come down to how strong an investment case you can make.

  • Jessica McKeown

    Great post, Jodi! I would love to see a follow up post on the content strategy and marketing research and case studies you mentioned. It would be nice for everyone to chime in with the sites and sources they like to use. Cheers, Jessica

  • Vibram Five Fingers

    Great compilation of the articles. Thanks for putting this together.

  • Reynder

    Great post! The biggest problem I encounter is the ROI time and measuring attribution. I believe content marketing should be en structural continious process. A lot of  marketeers or CEO’s want an ROI within a view months.

    • Dan Bischoff

       Return on Investment is the wrong measurement here, anyway. They need to understand the right expectation on the right metrics. Personally, I think the most valuable “ROI” metric is the Return On Subscribers. If anyone wants to take that “ROS” line, be sure to reference me … :)

  • T Gillmann

    I definitely agree with Jodi about the Sales being the best sponsor of content marketing – at least when it comes to B2B. Providing them with insights, fresh ideas, multiple exemples, conversation openers, diagrams, we quickly become their new best friends. The difficulty may be to convince the marketeers themselves of this necessity of sell-in – assuming the sales force will be their first target…

    Demonstration of ROI is still key to convince. New clients, better clients’ experience, economy of marketing budgets: the cycle of short-terms results, mid-terms achievements and long-lasting assets has to be explained, specially the idea of profits cumulating along the effort.

  • press release distribution

    Great post about content marketing. I my opinion, It
    significantly enables businesses to more flexibly and effectively inform their
    customers while eliminating the gap between them.