How To Ask Your CMO For A Content Marketing Budget

How To Ask Your CMO For A Content Marketing Budget

by Kylie Ora Lobell

7 minute read

Chief marketing officers are becoming increasingly important to business’ every day functions. In a report called, “Stepping up to the Challenge: CMO Insights from the Global C-Suite Study,” by IBM, it was revealed that CMOs are now the second most trusted C-suite executives when it comes to influencing CEOs, right behind the CFOs. If you’re a marketer though, your CMO is likely who you need to convince when it comes to finding a content marketing budget.

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According to the IBM study, CMOs are primarily focusing on is how to take a plethora of collected customer data and use it to generate more sales. To do this, they plan to use a variety of tools including content marketing. The study showed that as of 2013, 81% of the 524 CMOs interviewed intended to utilize content management digital technologies within three to five years. This was an eight percent increase from the 2011 survey.

Unfortunately, many CMOs, 37% to be exact, are still “traditionalists.” They’re challenged by new technology and data collection, rarely utilize analytics, and barely interact with customers on social networks.

Thirty percent are “digital pacesetters,” meaning that they can handle social and mobile traffic coming from a variety of devices, but they have embraced analytics.

Mitch Wainer, co-founder and CMO at DigitalOcean, is one of those digital pacesetters who believes that most CMOs are forward-thinking. “More than ever, CMOs are realizing the value of content and content marketing,” he says. “It’s where we invest the majority of our time and resources. Our content marketing team is our largest team on marketing.”

As a content strategist or director of content, you know how important content marketing is to your company’s marketing initiatives. But how do you convince a CMO that doesn’t agree with you or doesn’t see the value in spending money on content?

Here is some advice from Wainer and two branded content editors on convincing your CMO to give you a content marketing budget or boost your current one.

1. Figure out your costs.

Your CMO gave you a budget at the beginning of the year or quarter. Has it been enough for you? Have you been able to make money for the company through this budget? If not, what will it take (strategically and financially) to start generating revenue? Stacie Grissom, editor-in-chief of the BarkPost for BarkBox, says that in her budget, “We include distribution, a budget for in-office writers and outside contributors, and a budget for content creation. If we see a lot of success with one specific initiative or campaign, we ask for additional money for that specific project.”

2. Put together a plan.

According to Wainer, creating the budget is a collaborative process, so you’ll have to work on it hand-in-hand with your CMO. He says the budget “may be an outline. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out. Highlight the type of content that you’re looking to create and then come up with a strong hypothesis. What is the expected return?” 

Jeff Koyen, editor-in-chief at Casper’s Van Winkle’s, says he determines what content he’s going to budget for on a weekly basis by predicting what he thinks will be a hit among his audience. “I have X amount of dollars to spend on freelance content. I ask myself, ‘If I spend a couple thousand on a big long feature, is it going to generate the eyeballs it should?’ On a different week, I may say, ‘The holidays are coming, so why don’t we throw our budget at a bunch of lists and lighter fare?’”

3. Come equipped with metrics of success.

You have to prove that if you’re granted this money, you’ll generate more revenue and brand awareness for the company. “You want to leverage as much data and insights as possible from previous content programs,” says Wainer. “For example, you can outline a specific article and the level of impact it had on the business including [increased] website and unique visitors. What did that turn into in terms of conversions and revenue? That’s very impressive if you can tie it back to revenue. Having a solid attribution tracking system in place makes a lot of sense.” (No attribution tracking? Here’s a great article from our lead generation team about how to do just that).

Koyen says, however, that ROI is often difficult to prove. “The question of ROI is the best one. It’s the biggest topic of conversation among brand publishers. How do I tell my bosses I’m delivering value? Editorial is very hard to convert to sales. It’s new territory and I’m waiting for someone to solve this problem.”

A checklist: How to approach your CMO for a budget

Let’s recap a bit. Here are some specific tools and strategies to calculate your proposed budget.

Determine your costs

To decide upon how much money you’ll need simply to produce content, you’ll have to look at current costs. This may include:

  • How much you pay in-house/freelance writers
  • Paid content distribution costs
  • Hosting fees for your blog
  • Fees for your designers, photographers, and videographers
  • Money spent on content creation and distribution tools

Once you map out your costs, you can determine what areas you’ll need more money for, and which ones aren’t worth it. You could pay freelancers more money for high-quality content, or decrease your photography budget and use Flickr’s Creative Commons instead. It’s up to you to figure out your priorities for your budget.

Establish your hypotheses

As Wainer says, if you want to increase your budget, you’ll have to show your CMO what your plans will do for the business. You might say, “If I write a 3,000 word white paper on X topic, it’ll lead to our B2B customers converting to leads.” Or, if your team doesn’t have the tools in place to link content to revenue and ROI, say, “I’m going to pay a writer $200 to write an article that will produce more website traffic for our company, leading customers to purchase from our e-store.” Of course, you have to backup your hypotheses with metrics from former campaigns.

It’s easier to estimate how much budget you will need if you know what types of content you’re creating. When fleshing out your 2016 and Q1 strategy, think about cadence. How much content, and which content types, do you need to get through each week, month, and quarter? Are you going to employ a “big rock” content strategy, and pay a freelancer $1000 for one large research project and then internally break that piece into 10 blog posts? Whatever your content strategy, knowing how much content you need will help you decide how much budget to ask for.

Track your success

If you want to be prepared to answer your CMO’s tough questions regarding return on investment for your content, use the following tools.

  • Convertro, which gives you insight on exactly what kind of content and advertising is influencing your customers to make purchases.
  • Segment, a program that collects your customers’ data and forwards it to your analytics and marketing automation platforms.
  • Google Analytics, which Grissom says she uses at BarkBox to see where she receives referral traffic. You can use GA to know what type of content is popular on certain platforms.
  • If you’re a NewsCred customer, our Audience Insights tools help you identify influencers sharing your content and which content has performed consistently across channels.

By showing your CMO that content marketing is an important part of your marketing plan, you’ll be able to secure a budget and be geared up for success. “Budgets are just guardrails, and they are not set in stone,” says Wainer. “If you invest in an initiative or a program or some content strategy, you want to build a strong case and present that to your CMO to increase it. Ninety-nine percent of the time you’ll receive a yes.”


Kylie Ora Lobell is a NewsCred Contributor