E-Marketing Strategy: 3 Tips for Winning Buy-In for Your Content Marketing Strategy
I hate marketing. And, I'm not always the brightest bulb in the marquee.
These are things I'm happy to admit. In fact, I admit both a bit too freely. Case in point: Last year, after selling my Internet marketing firm, Catalyst Webworks, and publishing my eighth book, #Tweetsmart, I interviewed for a digital marketing position with a national company. I sat at the table with the company's director of marketing. I cheerfully spouted off about all the things I spout off about in this column: branding, valuable content, community building, discovery marketing, and so on. During my rambling I watched as the director's face fell from agreeable to annoyed. After just a few minutes—about the time I gleefully said, "It sounds funny, but I hate marketing"—the director said, "I don't have any more questions. Thanks for coming in." He stood, shook my hand, and walked out. Stupidly, I was surprised. I removed my boot from my mouth, and walked out as well. Also, if you can believe it, I didn't get the job.
Despite all my years in marketing, I committed a fatal mistake: I assumed executive buy-in where there was none.
The director across the table from me was a traditional digital marketer. His stock and trade was purchased email lists, banner ad campaigns, pop-ups and SEO—all the stuff I railed against in the interview. I had inadvertently—and with a goofy smile on my face—insulted him.
Companies across the globe are full of executives who believe in the traditional model of digital marketing and may need a little convincing to recognize that times are changing. You may also find that these executives are a bit jittery because their once tried-and-true tactics are becoming less effective. The well of consumer patience for constant interruption is exhausted.
Executive buy-in is vital to the success of any content marketing campaign. Without a patient and trusting executive on your side—one who understands the long-term value of an enthusiastic community—your budgets will disappear before you've had the chance to prove your methods are working. In fact, according to the B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends from the good people at Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 12 percent of content marketers cite executive buy-in as the biggest challenge they face.
So, to pay tribute to my foot-in-mouth-syndrome, and to help you learn from my mistake—and there are so many—I offer you these three data-packed tips to winning executive buy-in.
1. Don't Assume Anything! Build Your Case Carefully.
I stepped in it. You don't have to. In your meetings, start building your case slowly, and with money in mind. Cite your experience, your research and your numbers calmly. Be open to advice. You don't know everything the execs are up against. They have a tough job and their own bosses to answer to. If they are going to sign your checks, they'll need a better reason from you than "cuz spending time on Twitter is way more fun."
If you're not far enough along in your content marketing efforts to have your own numbers, charts, spreadsheets and evidence, cite trustworthy data. Here's some:
● Eloqua's comprehensive ebook called The ROI of Content Marketing reports that in mid-sized businesses, content marketing costs 31 percent less than paid search. And, in large businesses, content marketing costs 41 percent less than paid search.
● The 2012 Buyersphere Report, from Base One and B2B Marketing, reports that 87 percent of shoppers look for advice online before choosing an item. Only 21 percent of those shoppers are turning to social media. The majority are hunting for content (articles, videos, how-to, etc.) through search engines.
● Of the 1,092 marketers interviewed for The Content Marketing Institute's 2012 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, 60 percent of them stated they intend to increase content marketing spending in the coming year.
2. Tread Lightly. If Criticizing a Strategy, Back Up Your Critique.
I haven't seen an advertisement in two years—not on the web, not on TV, not on my mobile devices. I assume that many of you out there are like me. But, as I've learned, my assumption could be wrong. Either way, your argument against traditional interruption marketing must be stronger than "cuz I block everything and other people do too" and it must be delivered more gently. An executive who has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into an ad campaign won't like hearing that little punks like you—and me—block them.
Here are some facts to use:
● The most popular extension for Google's Chrome browser is AdBlock, with more than 10,000,000 users. (Google stopped counting at 10 million.) AdBlock blocks pop-ups, removes advertisements from web pages, and cuts ads out of videos.
● The most popular add-on for Mozilla's Firefox is Adblock Plus with—at the time I'm writing this—15,190,398 users. This add-on blocks web ads and removes an advertiser's ability to track the user.
● Netflix, the ad-free video streaming service, passed 30,000,000 users this year and continues to grow steadily—despite this year's PR debacle.
● NPR, the publicly supported, ad-free radio network, reached a record-breaking 34.3 million weekly listeners in 2011.
The undeniable surge in popularity of all these ad-free services and ad-blocking devices will give the ad-pitch people in your organization pause. People are happy to pay food money to avoid advertisements. Have the whiskey nearby.
If ads are blocked, traditional digital marketers usually turn to SEO. But, as I explained a few articles back, SEO is dead. Google's Panda update, their Penguin update, and the launch of (and moderate success with) Google+ all make clear that the days of link-building, keyword stuffing, cloaking and other attempts at search engine manipulation are over. Dead. In the ground. Stop dumping money in the hole. Google has ushered in the age of intelligent search where it can determine whether or not readers actually like content. Invest in content.
3. Make Assurances That The World Will Be OK.
Once you've broken down for your executive what's not working and why, provide them with the solution—valuable content, brand-building, meeting customers, establishing trust. It's "slow marketing" as Kat Meyer of O'Reilly Media calls It. All of these new tactics, luckily, are now easier than ever with the flood of digital tools at our disposal—content management systems, social media, incredibly powerful data tracking and analysis tools, etc. This paradigm shift represents a huge opportunity to create lasting and loyal customers. Isn't that worth more than purchased traffic spikes?
Digital and social media has torn down the ivory towers and leveled the playing field. Customers and companies now stand beside one another. The high-priests of marketing and executives of all stripes will need to come down and get grubby with the rest of us. And, once they do, they'll learn it's not so bad. BB
J.S. McDougall cofounded and recently sold Catalyst Webworks, a web design and marketing firm specializing in the book publishing industry. He is the author of eight books about conducting business online, including #tweetsmart, Start Your Own Blogging Business and Content Marketing. He is currently a content strategy consultant and living with his wife in Massachusetts.