B2B buyers are, on average, 57% of the way through the decision-making process before they speak with a salesperson, according to research by CEB. Content marketers have a huge opportunity to help guide prospects in the first half of their journey and ensure that their company is on the short list for the first conversation with sales.B2B buyers are 57% through the decision-making process before they ever speak to a salesperson via @CEB_News Click To Tweet
Yet, despite that opportunity, lack of executive buy-in for content marketing is consistently one of the top five challenges cited by B2B marketers. Without buy-in from executives and other key stakeholders, you can find it challenging to:
- Secure a budget and other resources
- Gain support for new initiatives, particularly those that may be considered risky
- Recruit executives and thought leaders within your company to contribute content
- Ensure that company influencers will share and promote the content
Here are four ways to overcome some of these challenges and secure executive buy-in for a content marketing initiative.
1. Understand and articulate the ‘why’
To lead a successful content marketing program, you need stakeholders and executives to understand exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing. This “why” needs to tie directly to business objectives and you need to present it in a language that resonates with your executives.
If you aren’t having regular conversations with key stakeholders, that’s your first step. Uncover the pain points in each area of your organization and figure out the ways in which content marketing can help. Sales, services, product management, finance, and support services likely all can benefit from content marketing efforts.
Don’t assume that you understand these teams’ challenges without talking to them. For example, you assume that the sales team needs more leads, so you orient your content marketing program around lead generation. In reality, the sales team needs to accelerate deals in the pipeline, and to do that, they need more case studies. Or perhaps the services team needs to retain more customers. Do you understand why customers are churning? What type of content do you need to offer customers to prevent them from leaving?
In essence, craft your message to executives the same way you would craft a piece of content – by understanding your audience and their needs. Make the story about them.
2. Demonstrate the ‘how’
If you present content marketing as the knight in shining armor that will help solve all the business’ challenges, then you need to demonstrate how content marketing can work for your brand. The easiest way to do this is to provide a high-level overview of your strategy.
You’ll definitely need a documented content marketing strategy to explain the how. Don’t be intimidated by the need to create the strategy. Keep it simple:
- Explain how you identify and target potential buyers.
- Show how you engage that audience and build trust (this is where your actual content pieces come into play).
- Demonstrate that you not only convert this audience into sales leads, but that you also nurture them through the funnel.
You may have heard the phrase “Content is king.” This is absolutely false. Revenue is, in fact, king, and content serves the need to create revenue. If you can tie revenue to your content using your average deal size and lead-conversion rate, it will paint a clear picture of how content marketing is contributing to the business goals.
Simplify Your Content Marketing Strategy with a One-Page Plan
3. Explain the ‘what’
The “what-we-are-doing” piece is where many marketers start, and they end up struggling to gain executive buy-in. They start here because it’s easy to show a list of tactics and activities without connecting them to overarching business goals.
Instead of telling your executives that you plan to do four webinars, two white papers, 12 blog posts and one e-book this quarter, list the key objectives and/or pain points that you identified and map the tactics to them.
Every single piece of content that you develop should easily roll up to a corporate objective. If it doesn’t, or you’re struggling to make a connection, then you should strongly consider removing it from your plan. Don’t do content marketing for the sake of doing content marketing. Make sure everything has a purpose, and that it can be accurately measured.
4. Support your story with data
The content marketing story that you tell internally needs proof points. In business, numbers speak louder than words, so use data to set benchmarks and report on progress.
Be careful in selecting the metrics and data that you share with executives. They likely do not care about email open rates, number of Twitter followers, or number of website hits. Those numbers are meaningless without context.
Take the data to the next level and tie it to sales opportunity value and/or compare it to competitor data. For example, what share of the voice on the Internet does your brand have versus that of your competitors or what is your sentiment analysis when it comes to social media and other online conversations in comparison to your competitors.
In short, gaining executive buy-in is a critical early step for any successful content marketing program. Talk about content marketing in a way that your executives and stakeholders understand and embrace, and it will be much easier to secure funding and resources. You’ll be well on your way to wooing buyers during the first 57% of the decision-making process and all the way through the funnel.
Want to arm yourself with more advice to prepare for your battle for content marketing buy-in? CMI’s guide to mastering the buy-in conversation gives you everything you need to make a compelling case.
Cover image by mconnors, MorgueFile, via pixabay.com