You’re the VP of marketing. You’re on your way to the top floor for a meeting with the executive team. You’ve got 20 minutes to sell them on the idea that, in order to compete and grow, the company must adopt a content marketing strategy.
As the elevator ascends, you contemplate your pitch. These executives pride themselves on being “risk-aware,” which is a euphemism for “completely stuck in their ways.” What you’re going to ask of them — to not only support the new strategy, but to actively participate in it — is sure to raise some eyebrows.
You open the door to the executive meeting room, greet the audience, and begin your pitch.
Will the C-suite listen to you — or will your ideas be shut down?
Being unprepared is the only way you’ll find yourself frustrated and defeated, so understanding the initial barriers you’ll need to break down during the meeting is essential to actually being heard. I’ve spoken with many C-level executives about investing in content, and I consistently hear the same concerns. Broadly, those are:
- You can’t prove digital content’s ROI: The bottom line is the C-suite’s ultimate concern. If the company has never had a content strategy before, there’s no historical indication that adopting one now will boost margins. And if it can’t do that, it’s a waste of resources.
- Leave marketing to the marketing team: You’re asking the executives to take part in content creation, even if it’s just in lending their names and brands to the conversation. They’ve never had to do this in the past. They’ll view anything that could increase their workload as a direct threat.
- Content marketing is a passing fad: Sure, the C-suite has heard of content marketing. They’ve also heard of QR codes, MySpace, and twerking. Popularity doesn’t translate to lasting value. Traditional marketing is a safer avenue.
- This isn’t going to solve the real issues our brand faces: So content can generate click-throughs. Who cares? That won’t stop the board of directors from breathing down management’s collective neck.
The Heart of the Argument
It’s useful to map typical objections so you don’t get caught off-guard. This is only part of the equation, though.
In order to sell the concept, you need an argument that not only counters objections, but actually gets the C-suite excited about content marketing.
Here are a few tips to make that happen:
1. Pitch to executive values.
Root your pitch deep in the values of your audience. Understand where they’re coming from: What are their top priorities? What do they care about most? What problems in the organization are they trying to solve as leaders?
Once you’ve answered these questions, use content marketing to connect the dots. Explain how a vibrant digital strategy can help the executive team achieve their goals for the company and themselves. For me, the opportunity to discuss our unique culture (dodgeball events and championship belts for awesome employees) is exciting. Brainstorm a few topics that would really engage your leadership team.
2. Shine a light on the consumer purchasing landscape.
The evidence in favor of content marketing is compelling. According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth, the average person digests at least 10 pieces of online information before making a purchasing decision. By creating high-quality content, your company can establish itself as a credible, trustworthy guide in the consumer purchasing process.
In your pitch, tell a story. Walk your audience through the purchasing experience of a potential customer. Point out the current gaps in consumer engagement. Explain how content marketing can fill these gaps, thereby increasing brand equity and loyalty.
3. Recruit advocates.
Because digital content is aimed at building long-term customer relationships, it’s easy to overlook the internal impact it can have on propelling a company forward. However, the benefits are widespread. Great content marketing improves sales, PR, SEO, and customer service, and it attracts top talent.
Rally people from various departments around your pitch. Call on them to be advocates of content marketing. Uniting a diverse group of voices makes your argument more persuasive.
4. Tell it like it is.
No executive can bear to hear that she’s losing ground to a competitor. But if her company won’t invest in a content marketing strategy, that’s exactly what will happen.
Use this as a pressure point. Showcase how other companies are already utilizing content to carve out competitive advantages, and point to the gains they’ve made by doing so. Communicate how starting now can prevent the company from falling behind; show how your company can earn a first-mover advantage.
5. Appeal to the ego.
When an executive invests in a content marketing strategy, she’s investing in her personal brand. Attaching her name to an insightful article can help earn her a reputation as an industry thought leader. This, in turn, can lead to speaking engagements, columns, and even book deals. Plus, having your brand associated with a C-suite full of thought leaders can do wonders for your image.
An Uphill Journey
Content marketing is an easy sell: That’s why the digital landscape is brimming with vacuous corporate blogs that offer nothing of value.
Good content marketing, on the other hand, is a different story. Executives are hesitant to commit to any strategy that places added responsibility on their shoulders. As you make your case, don’t get frustrated. Observe the points of resistance, and address them directly. If you were in your leaders’ shoes, how would you react?
Pitching to the C-suite will not just help you grow into a more effective content marketer: It will also help your company grow into a more competitive brand.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that assists individuals and brands in growing their influence through thought leadership and content marketing programs. Influence & Co., one of the leading providers of high quality expert content to the world’s top publications, is the creator of Contributor Weekly. Connect with John on Twitter or Google+.
Originally published on May 20, 2015 11:06 AM