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14 Experts Share How to Get Support for Content Marketing

Great ideas can lead to successful content marketing.

But from what I hear from many of my peers, getting management support for their great ideas can be tough.

That’s why I ask the same question of every guest at the end of their interview for Fractl’s podcast: What are the biggest mistakes people make when pitching for content marketing buy-in?

As you read on, you’ll see that most of their answers fit under a single theme. (See if you can figure which one before you read the end.)

Set the right expectations

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, says the biggest mistake people make when pitching their content strategies is not setting the right expectations.

And, he says, that doesn’t just mean expectations about how long it will take to see results or how the work will be done. You must explain what you expect will happen as a result of your effort.

To get support, explain what you expect to happen as a result of your #contentmarketing, says @JoePulizzi via @cmicontent. Share on X

Joe explains that to get buy-in for a content marketing program, for example, the goal of the content is to create better customers and not to exclusively sell more product. With that overall goal, your email newsletter’s goal would be to build a relationship with your audience. Explain why that’s valuable to decision-makers up front and there won’t be confusion later when it comes time to measure the value.

Provide the perspective of the customer/audience

I love this tip from Jacqueline Urick, director of SEO/SEM and UX at Sears Home Services. When pitching an idea to executives that elicits subjective feedback (e.g., “I don’t like that video.”), she says to provide a gentle reminder that the content wasn’t created to target them. The content was created for your brand’s target audience.

If you can show the proof that your target audience likes the type of content you’re proposing, you’ll be able to show why personal opinions in the room may not be as relevant to what your audience wants.

Understand the priorities of the person being pitched

Just as executives should be reminded about who your audience is, you also should consider the audience you’re pitching. Multiple people mentioned that this is where people fumble the most. They pitch their idea based on what they think is important not what the decision-makers think is important.

“Everyone is going to have their own agenda and their own goals and their own vision of success … You need to think about what each person in the room wants,” says Daniel Codella, data evangelist at Sigma Computing.

Craft your pitch by thinking about what each person in the room wants, says @mrcodella via @cmicontent. Share on X

How can you get in that mindset?

Tamsen Webster, marketer message strategist and founder of The Red Thread®, says to start by understanding the key questions leadership has about your idea. You can discover them through a combination of asking what their objectives are and observing what their priorities have been.

Finally, don’t appear frustrated or upset if your ideas don’t get buy-in, advises Gaetano DiNardi, head of demand generation at Nextiva. It might just take a little more explanation over time to solidify the tie between your idea and the decision-makers’ interests (i.e., company financials).

Message carefully

Tamsen says the way you approach the messaging matters immensely. Even when you’re speaking to someone who’s not as familiar as you, talk like a fellow traveler, not like you’re a mentor or guide. The latter might inadvertently lead to you sounding condescending and that can be problematic.

As Tamsen puts it, whenever you communicate assume that person is smart, capable, and good – or at least that they want to be seen that way. If you make them feel stupid or having failed in some way, they are less likely to receive your message.

Don’t make someone feel stupid or having failed when you pitch them an idea, says @tamadear via @cmicontent. #buyin Share on X

On a similar note, thought leadership consultant Lee Price, who helps companies communicate their big ideas, says you should always work in partnership with your thought leaders. Don’t merely ask them to complete tasks to help create your content. Remember, your goal is to help them shine. Consider that in whatever you’re pitching.

Brand your idea internally

Matthew Howells-Barby, senior director of acquisition at HubSpot, has a great idea: Brand your ideas or concepts within your own company. For example, he created the “Content Playbook” that covers the search-and-site strategy HubSpot uses.

“There’s nothing that helps an idea get around an organization better than repetition,” he says. Having a branded name for an idea can help facilitate that repetition.

Matthew says marketers should remember that you are not pitching an idea, you are pitching a story. Each story needs to cater to the listener whether it’s someone on your team, a vice president of product, or the marketing director. Tell the story around how your idea will have a positive impact on their goals.

Marketers should remember they are not pitching an idea, they're pitching a story, says @matthewbarby via @cmicontent. Share on X

Keep your pitch short and sweet

Ruth Burr Reedy, vice president of strategy at UpBuild, recommends getting right to the point about why what you’re proposing matters to the stakeholders. Your pitch should include:

  • An executive summary
  • A handful of bullet points with the details
  • An explanation of what will be measured and why
  • How the idea will be executed

Customize the pitch by adding sufficient detail to show how it fits with what the decision-maker cares about.

Nell Lanman, head of marketing at SquareFoot, says being too detailed can lead to confusion. Information can get lost in the shuffle. She advises narrowing the scope to what you’re suggesting, why you’re suggesting it, why it has/hasn’t worked in the past, and the next steps.

“More is not always better,” Nell says.

Support your pitch with data

It’s not enough to propose an idea based on a hunch. Leadership isn’t interested in what you think will work, but more what is likely to work.

Both Mark Schaefer and Brooke Sellas, who co-host The Marketing Companion podcast, say having data to back up your proposal can go a long way.

Having data to back up your proposal can go a long way, says @BrookeSellas & @markwschaefer via @cmicontent. #buyin Share on X

Going for a tactic you heard about once in a webinar or article isn’t enough, Mark says. Instead, consider how the strategy will impact your business. Following trends just puts you in line with everyone else. Instead, tune into your market. Find out what your customers are asking for and understand where they get their information. This data will be more helpful in determining the most valuable content you can create.

Brooke suggests that using tools like artificial intelligence and social listening can help you learn what kind of content will be successful. Then, you can go confidently into a meeting saying you have a data-backed proposal rather than one based on instinct.

Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media, says competitor data can serve you well in these buy-in meetings. Your leadership can end up essentially getting FOMO (fear of missing out) when they see competitors are ranking for terms they’re not ranking for or have a massive email list your brand doesn’t have.

Speak to the greater strategy

Don’t pitch an idea that falls into the trap of being a “random act of content,” says marketing strategist, speaker, and writer Kerry O’Shea Gorgone.

Don’t pitch an idea that falls into the trap of being a “random act of content”, says @KerryGorgone via @cmicontent. #buyin Share on X

First, even if that one piece of content performs incredibly well, if it doesn’t tie into anything else you’re doing it won’t have an impact on the business.

Second, a random act of content idea likely has no connection to your greater strategy. You will have a tougher time getting buy-in – for good reason.

Communicate with love, not fear

Marketing legend Chris Brogan provided an “eye rolls incoming” warning for his tip, but it is poignant and crucial to remember.

At the bottom of all emotions are two primary ones: fear and love. According to Chris, the biggest mistake marketers make over and over is creating and communicating out of fear rather than out of love.

The biggest mistake marketers make is creating and communicating out of fear rather than out of love, says @chrisbrogan via @cmicontent. #buyin Share on X

How do you communicate out of love? Demonstrate you have their best interests at heart, that you want the company to prosper.

Chris’ advice makes sense and, really, it is the overall theme for all the advice. When you show you know your audience members (i.e., decision-makers) and pitch ideas to address their needs, set realistic goals, connect content marketing to the overall business goals, and deliver it in a way they’ll appreciate, you definitely are doing it from a place of love, not fear. And your decision-makers most likely will appreciate that.

Want to grow your confidence in developing, pitching, and executing great content marketing ideas? Enroll in Content Marketing University. The new 2020 curriculum includes six courses from CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor Robert Rose and 50-plus hours of ancillary content focused on deeper-dive topics from top industry leaders.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute