By Aaron Agius published December 21, 2020 Est Read Time: 6 min

Stop These Reporting Mistakes and Win Budget Support for Content Marketing

Getting a sufficient budget to deliver your content marketing strategy can be a vicious cycle.

You set goals for your content marketing. Executives prioritize funding other areas of the business. You don’t have enough resources to execute a strategy that will hit your goals. Executives are disappointed in this failure to bring results and are left with the inevitable impression that content marketing doesn’t work for the business.

Sound familiar? It’s time to break the cycle and get your execs to sit up and notice what content marketing can do for the business when it has funding support.

1. Fail to set SMART goals and KPIs

Though obvious, in my experience it is such a common pitfall that it’s worth repeating.

Every content marketing strategy has some goal, from generating awareness to boosting revenue. Yet, these goals are not always written down appropriately. Content marketers often don’t make the goals SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

You may worry that setting and failing to hit a goal is worse than not identifying a goal at all. But how else are executives going to track your success and decide that content marketing is worth continued funding?

Executives need to know #ContentMarketing's goals and results to decide if it's worth continued funding, says @iamaaronagius via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What are your key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring awareness? How much should the content contribute to a revenue boost? In what time frame? Whatever your goals, the key is to make them measurable.

Once you detail your SMART goals and clearly define the KPIs, present them to your company’s executive team to get their buy-in. They’re more likely to invest when they have a tangible way to see whether content marketing was a success or didn’t quite hit the mark.

2. Don’t align marketing reporting with business’s road map

To get time-starved executives to take notice, you must ensure that your content marketing goal reporting intersects with their priorities, which usually revolve around the bottom line.

Yet too many marketers assume their work is generating revenue rather than proving it with data-driven findings.

In HubSpot’s 2020 Not Another State of Marketing Report, 91% of marketers say they are somewhat or very confident their programs influence revenue. But only just over three-fourths report how their work does that.

That’s a mistake if you want to garner C-suite support. These executives want proof. Whether you’re fortunate enough to have data that directly links your content marketing tactics to ROI or must undertake a significant analysis, you need to begin reporting meetings with this headline in mind: How Has Content Marketing Affected the Balance Sheet?

Every report to executives should answer this headline: How Has Content Marketing Affected the Balance Sheet? says @iamaaronagius via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

3. Deliver numbers only

Leadership won’t necessarily have the time or expertise to delve into each content marketing initiative’s minutiae with you. You must show them the bigger picture.

Don’t just present the result of one time-limited activity – contextualize it. How did it fit into your overall content marketing efforts for the year? How does that compare to last year’s performance? Are there anomalies in the data? Why?

Putting context around the data also works in your favor when the numbers don’t look great. It helps you explain why the less-than-expected results don’t indicate the content marketing activity was a flop.

For example, a retail brand compares its gifting blog’s first-quarter performance to the previous year’s fourth quarter. At first glance, the numbers indicate the blog significantly underperformed. By adding the context about the impact of the traditional shopping peak season on fourth-quarter results, executives can better recognize that the hit in visitors wasn’t that bad.

If the explanatory context isn’t obvious, drill down into the context by looking at assisted conversions. Say this retail brand conducted a paid social campaign to bring shoppers to the site, but the visitors didn’t convert. Analyzing assisted conversions could explain that the social referral traffic visit is merely the first step in their buying experience. A large percentage eventually return to the website to purchase the products advertised to them on social media.

4. Lack transparency

Allocating funding is a huge decision for leadership as it affects your company’s path in the coming months and years. They need to trust you and your content marketing strategy before they hand over the dollars.

You should never attempt to hide negative figures or bad results in your reports. Obfuscating the truth only makes those holding the purse strings less likely to trust you with the budget you need.

Never hide negative figures or bad results in your #ContentMarketing reports to executives. They are less likely to trust you with the budget you need, says @iamaaronagius via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Instead, do the work to find out exactly why this happened. Explain to leadership how you will adjust your approach to ensure that you don’t fall into the same trap again.

5. Report inconsistently

Your content marketing likely will see peaks and troughs in traffic and conversions. Performing random data pulls or only reporting your successes will not give the leadership the information they need to make the right decision for the business.

While it can be tempting to schedule a meeting with the executives the moment you see a set of outstanding results, resist the urge. It’s vital to be consistent with your reporting – both in format and timing.

Document (and share) your reporting process, including strict timelines. It could look like this:

  • Set SMART goals (month one)
  • Ideate campaign (month one)
  • Set KPIs (month one)
  • Set up tracking for KPIs (month one)
  • Implement initiative (months two, three, four)
  • Gather data (month five)
  • Analyze data and identify trends (month five)
  • Document findings and recommendations for adapting the next campaign (month five)
  • Report to leadership (month five)

6. Ignore the power of storytelling

As content marketers, we know that storytelling is a powerful tool for engaging any audience – so use it for your executives.

While they may struggle to properly engage with a spreadsheet packed with context-free figures or a document full of marketing jargon, they have a natural interest in understanding customer behavior.

Thanks to significant advances in technology, data surrounding search query information, basket size, and click-through activity can help you create powerful stories about your customers’ behaviors.

Turn your reporting meeting into an engaging storytelling session. Narrate stories around each primary customer type, explaining how they behave and engage with your brand. Use visuals and even videos to really help leadership see and buy in to the stories.

Then, you can follow up by email with the details – the spreadsheets and documents – supporting the points you made in the presented stories, thereby ensuring that the transparency box is ticked too.

Not only can storytelling tactics gain their full attention during the presentation, but they are also more likely to convince any content marketing skeptics to support your funding requests.

If you can stop making these seven mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to convince leadership to break the vicious content marketing cycle.

Making the case for content marketing is an ongoing effort. To get more help in creating and selling effective content marketing programs, subscribe to CMI’s free weekday newsletter.

 Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Aaron Agius

Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online.

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