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Content Marketing and Reluctant Executives: How to Get Buy-In... and Participation!

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You've hammered out all the details of your content marketing strategy. The T's are crossed and the I's dotted. You're certain the results are going to be spectacular and you'll be able to prove it with undeniable metrics. It's all set and you're ready to rock... except for one thing: You need approval from the executive team.

Not only that, but you also need them to both bankroll the campaign and commit time to lend their voices to it.

Uh-oh. It just got real: Convincing executives to give up time and money eclipses "daunting"; it's often petrifying.

Whether they are fuzzy teddy bears or utter dictators, however, those executives operate under the same prime directive: Make money for the company. And so, once you take a moment to see the world from their eyes, you can win them over by properly aligning your troops to employ the following seven tactics, on two battlefields.

Battlefield One: 'Why Should I Invest in Content Marketing?'


They may ask it explicitly or dance around it, but "why should I invest?" is the No. 1 question on every executive's mind when faced with any new program. For content marketers, the following three steps will help get across the true value in your proposal that will get senior leadership on board.

1. Lay out the facts

Content marketing works, but you have to support that claim with real numbers. Luckily, there are plenty of them out there. Do research and find the numbers that are going to speak to your team, but some of the more compelling are statistics such as these:

80% of business decision-makers prefer to get information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Exact Target)

Website conversion rate is nearly six times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs. 0.5%). (Kapost)

Customers who receive email newsletters spend 82% more when they buy from the company. (iContact)

2. Lead a journey

This is an eye-opening exercise: Walk the executive team through a typical customer journey as it exists today. Put your executives directly in the figurative shoes of current consumers and illustrate how customers are engaging with your company and brands, what touchpoints they experience, and how they navigate the funnel. Point out current gaps in consumer enlightenment and engagement so the execs can easily see a short path to improvement.

3. Sell a vision

Harness your inner Martin Luther King Jr. and paint a vivid picture of what could be—if your campaign is executed. Explain how the customer journey would improve once your content marketing strategy fills in all the gaps you pointed out. Provide a compelling narrative, selling your dream of perfect engagement with your company's brand and how each executive can have a starring role in making it a reality.

Battlefield Two: 'Why Do I Have to Post, Tweet, Share, or Like?'

Social media use among your executive team probably varies between casual and "never touched it." If any of them are expert users, consider yourself extremely lucky.

Chances are, they are going to have to be convinced of the importance of embracing this channel. Doing so will likely require a multifaceted strategy that includes placating fears, feeding egos, and raising concerns around falling behind the curve.

  • Competitive analysis. Showcase what your competitors are up to at an executive level. Even if your team isn't active on social media, it's likely the competition is. Analyzing what is happening in the competitive marketplace will help make the case to executives that if they aren't active on social channels, they are becoming less visible and potentially losing relevance.
  • Perspectives on the conversation. Talk through some of the industry conversations current on social media. Your executives probably have perspectives on all of them; but, if they aren't expressing them, do their perspectives matter? Even if they agree with information that is already out there, why shouldn't they be the ones who are providing it and aligning themselves with winning insights?
  • Offering help. Coming up with things to say on a regular schedule is intimidating, even to industry veterans. Reassure the team by highlighting that you will provide suggested copy and links to appropriate content. Be careful not to promise engaging on their behalf, however, as each executive must maintain ownership over his/her own personal brand at all times. However, let them know that you will feed them information and not leave them high and dry in the social media ecosystem.
  • Explaining amplification. Most executives understand that they set the tone for corporate culture and thought leadership, and that is apparent on social media. Amplification of their shared messages will come from internal and external stakeholders alike. Demystify how the amplifications process works so they understand how powerful what they say can be and that it will be echoed by many others.

* * *

The merits of content marketing are well known to marketers, and obtaining executive buy-in is largely dependent on framing what you already know.

Precisely what will resonate with an executive team will vary depending on industry, personality, risk tolerance, workload, etc.; however, the success of every senior leader is directly tied to the success of the company itself, and content marketing can play an important role in the success of the company.

If the team is still hesitant after you've made your pitch, try to convince them to start small. Once the early results of your efforts start to roll in, you'll be well positioned to make the case for a full content marketing rollout.


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Natalie Black is a relationship manager at Write2Market, where she uses her decade of experience in global content marketing strategy to help innovative high-growth companies fill their pipelines with qualified leads.

LinkedIn: Natalie Black

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Comments

  • by John Walker Wed Nov 18, 2015 via web

    Great article and hits a topic that most Content Marketers have experienced at least once in their career (but probably multiple times). One comment on social engagement with senior executives - you should also ensure that what they're saying on-line reflects the position and personality of the brand. I've seen a few executives that need careful filtering before hitting that Send button!

  • by Randy Wed Nov 25, 2015 via iphone

    Use their business words. Social engagement is networking. Why leaders should be social: http://goo.gl/GX6ds7

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