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Get Buy-In From Executives With These 6 Common-Sense Reasons


You’ve made a solid business case for your new content marketing effort. You’ve collected the best statistics, trends, and examples to secure executive buy-in. You’re good to go.

But then, when it comes to strategy and execution, you’re getting pushback on any content that isn’t strictly focused on promoting products and services. It’s like everything you said about valuable, relevant, audience-centric content was forgotten, and the decision-makers really just want thinly veiled advertising materials.

This kind of sales-focused mindset is one of the most common pitfalls preventing successful content marketing programs. It feels like an endless cycle of two steps forward and one step back when a program is approved but executives don’t understand how something that doesn’t directly drive sales is of any value.

What else can you say when you’ve already offered all the data and research available?

Try an appeal to common sense. Sometimes, all it takes to understand effective content marketing is to put it in relatable terms. While numbers and case studies are crucial for validation, experience tells us that often a simpler approach, using analogies and metaphors drawn from everyday life, is likely to be more effective in gaining buy-in and breathing room to create content that works.

To gain #contentmarketing buy-in, use analogies & metaphors drawn from everyday life says @leeprocida Click To Tweet

Here are six such common-sense reasons why content should go beyond products and services.

1. Because you want a second date

Dating is a classic analogy to explain effective marketing. When you’re dating, you’re marketing yourself, and we all have some experience seeing what techniques work and which approaches are downright embarrassing.

Here’s how David Beebe, vice president of global creative + content marketing at Marriott International, explained it to The Washington Post: “It’s kind of like being on a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there’s not going to be a second date.”

Now, it is true that you’ll still have one-night stands. If someone’s desperate enough or just has low standards, it almost doesn’t matter what you say. But take your mother’s advice — going home with any old thing isn’t how you build a valuable, long-term connection. Word gets around, and your brand gets tarnished.

If you want people to really form a favorable opinion of your brand, consider their interests, and indulge those interests through your content. You’ll find that they keep coming back for more.

2. Because it’s a natural part of the sales conversation

Many executives question how an article, video, infographic, or any other piece of content contributes to sales if it’s not solely pushing a product or service. But even effective salespeople don’t solely push a product or service!

Consider this example from a piece of content marketing itself. In 1908, a niche oil-and-chemicals company named Houghton International launched a magazine for its sales agents named The Houghton Line. The company president was also editor of the magazine, and in the debut issue this is how he described his editorial philosophy: “All the talk is not going to be relative to our goods or details of their sale, any more than all the talk of a personal call would be so.”

Isn’t that a clear and compelling rationale for why content marketing shouldn’t just focus on selling? He’s absolutely right — no savvy, effective salesperson only talks business. People who do are boring, impersonal, and unlikable.

#Contentmarketing shouldn’t just focus on selling says @leeprocida. Click To Tweet

Meanwhile, people who make good small talk, share personal information, and tell entertaining stories are more friendly, trustworthy, and charismatic. Do you want to be a bore or a charismatic brand?

3. Because it helps you win the fight

Typical outbound promotion is about pushing people to take an action. Content, conversely, is about pulling people in. It’s a new dynamic, and in many cases pulling offers more leverage than pushing.

Outbound promotion pushes people to take an action. #Content pulls people in says @leeprocida. Click To Tweet

Consider the martial arts. Annette Simmons, in her great book The Story Factor, compares storytelling to aikido, a martial art in which you use your opponents’ momentum against them. You actually pull an attacker toward you, destabilizing the person, and then moving the individual in the direction you want that person to go (typically the ground).

Simmons makes the analogy to content: “The physics of story may run counter to your instincts when faced with a situation where you want to influence so much that every fiber of your being tells you to ‘do something!’ If you push, you activate resistance. The pull strategy of story taps into the momentum living in your listeners rather than providing momentum for them.”

Too many marketers want to box their consumers into submission. And sure, you might win sometimes. But you’ll find that you won’t spend nearly as much energy or money by pulling rather than pushing.

4. Because it’s an investment that keeps on giving

Everyone’s heard the old personal-finance line, “Don’t work for your money; make your money work for you.” That’s smart advice if it leads you to investing in funds that grow in time using the power of compound interest. See Prudential’s brilliant, record-breaking branded video series for evidence of that.

Interest is powerful in content marketing, too. If people are interested in your content, more and more people will find it and share it, continuously generating returns over time. If it’s something that’s not interesting to your audience, few people will seek it or share it, limiting its ROI.

CMI’s Joe Pulizzi has made that point exactly: “You can increase the bottom line while, at the same time, help your customers live better lives or get better jobs. Content marketing is the only kind of marketing that provides ongoing value, whether you purchase the product or not.”

#Contentmarketing is the only kind of marketing that provides ongoing value says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

That’s only true, though, if you hit both those goals — making money and making people happy. Product-centric content might create short-term returns, but it’s audience-centric content that truly builds brand equity.

Audience-centric #content truly builds brand equity says @leeprocida. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet
38+ Examples of Brands Doing Great Content

5. Because that’s what friends do

We’ve all had friends we’ve fallen out of touch with over the years. You might have been best friends with someone years ago but now you never talk to them. Instead you have a new set of friends you talk to every weekend. Maybe you had a falling out, maybe you no longer have anything in common, or maybe you both just stopped communicating for no particular reason.

In business terms, customer relationships can change for all the same reasons, like a bad service experience or a change in lifestyle. Similarly, if your company is only out there promoting its products and services, and not what your audience is really interested in, you’ll only get tuned out. Audience-centric content marketing is a way to make sure you keep communication channels open; that way you’re still in touch when they consider a purchase decision.

At a recent Contently event, Mark Walker, head of content marketing at Eventbrite UK, explained this comparison: “Marketing is like a friendship. There are lots of pivotal moments in a friendship, like parties, but you don’t get invited if you’re not part of the regular conversation.”

6. Because that’s what you would want

We often get so myopic thinking about “the consumer” that we forget who the consumer really is — your friends, your family, and yourself. Would you share a sales deck with your friends, a promotional brochure with your wife or husband, or read some other advertising collateral in your spare time? Of course not. Why do we think other people will?

The idea that marketing should be interesting and entertaining for the intended audience isn’t a new one. David Ogilvy said the same thing about advertising decades ago: “Never run an advertisement you wouldn’t want your family to see. Tell the truth but make truth fascinating. You know, you can’t bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.”

How do you create content that isn’t boring, and is something you’d ultimately want your own family to see? Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, offers this brilliant perspective: “When we create something, we think, ‘Will our customers thank us for this?’ I think it’s important for all of us to be thinking about whatever marketing we’re creating, is it really useful to our customers? Will they thank us for it? I think if you think of things through that lens, it just clarifies what you’re doing in such a simple, elegant way.”

When creating #content, ask yourself, “Will our customers thank us for this?” says @marketingprofs. Click To Tweet

Would you thank a company for writing something that shamelessly promotes itself, or tries to trick you into buying something, or that doesn’t seem to care about your needs and concerns?

Probably not. And there’s nothing more common in terms of common sense than understanding what you, yourself, would want.

Next time you feel like you’re being pressured to sell out your content, forget the stats, facts, and charts, and try a little common sense.

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Cover image by Ryan McGuire-Bells Design, Gratisography, via