Content marketing programs can be at risk before the first article has even been published.
This is due to an often overlooked fact: The conversations that have the biggest impact on long-term content marketing success do not happen in editorial meetings. Instead, they occur in the boardroom. C-suite level discussions determine whether you have sufficient buy-in from the business, alignment with other teams, and realistic performance expectations.
There are three key ways to involve your C-suite and set up your content marketing program for long-term success. Handled effectively, they will not only negate internal risks but also establish the right culture and mentality for a winning program.
1. Get Executive Buy-In and Support
Launching a content marketing program is exciting. But sometimes, marketers are so eager to get their programs up and running, that seeking cross-team alignment and full executive support is an afterthought. This can soon prove detrimental.
Delivering high-quality, relevant, and consistent content to your desired audience takes significant resources, technology, and people, in the form of content strategists, writers, editors, web developers, and legal teams. Each department involved in your content marketing must be fully aligned on your content marketing goals, KPIs, and their roles in helping to achieve them. Gaining executive-level commitment and support is crucial to ensuring adequate prioritization, securing the attention of key stakeholders, and eliminating roadblocks. A recent Content Marketing Institute study reflects this: 24 percent of marketers cite the lack of executive buy-in as a major content marketing challenge.
Start here: Involve your C-Suite and executive teams early.
Often, executives and C-level stakeholders are brought into the planning process late, usually as the final sign-off. This doesn’t give you time to build a valid business case for a robust content marketing program (as opposed to a “test”). Having these discussions late in the process will make it more difficult to request the additional resources or budget that could be the difference between success and failure. On the other hand, the executive team will appreciate being looped in early, have a better appreciation of a new and innovative approach, and will feel more invested.
Before you approach your executives, build a business case for content marketing that focuses on meaningful outcomes. Include statistics to reflect the effectiveness and ROI of effective content marketing. Where possible, use industry-specific use cases. Nothing motivates executives like the fear of lagging behind competitors, so showing examples of what your competitors are doing is a surefire way to get their attention.
2. Mitigate Short-term Mentalities within the Business
“Short-termism” is an expression that’s becoming more common in the business world. It refers to when departments are focused on short-term wins at the expense of long-term brand building and business growth. Short-termism has been fuelled by the digital age and the instant gratification that comes with impressions, clicks, and likes.
Smart marketers understand that short-term wins do not adequately service long-term business needs. But CMOs are under enormous pressure to deliver immediate, measurable results. This is evident by the fact that on average, CMOs have the shortest tenure of the C-suite, at just 4.1 years.
This puts content marketing in a precarious position. Over time, content marketing outperforms other strategies in driving trust, brand preference, and, ultimately, business growth; content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads, according to Demandmetric.
However, when evaluated in a short-term timeframe, content marketing is going to lose out to bottom-of-funnel tactics that can be turned on like a tap: paid search, retargeting, social ads.
Start here: Establish long-term goals that the content marketing program will deliver over time: brand equity, customer acquisition, revenue growth.
As a content marketer, you need to avoid getting evaluated against short-term, quick win channels, and establish a longer-term mentality with your stakeholders. If your goals align with your company’s overall marketing and business goals, they will resonate with the C-suite and buy some time.
To negate short-termism and set yourself up for long-term success, it’s also crucial to determine smaller, shorter-term goals and milestones that reassure the C-suite that you are on the path to achieving the longer-term outcomes. For example, you may commit to establishing a consistent, engaged audience of 10,000 unique monthly visitors six months after launch. At 12 months, your goal may be to have built a pool of 10,000 email subscribers or 1,000 whitepaper downloads.
Minimizing the risk of short-term thinking within your organization is also heavily reliant on what we established in the first section of this article: getting buy-in from C-suite executives. To reiterate, the more invested the C-suite and executive team are in your program, the less likely they will be to pull the plug before you’ve had a chance to deliver meaningful business results.
3. Engage Sales Leadership
We’ve established how important it is to get the buy-in and support from your C-suite and executive team. In addition, there are other departments within the business that are critical to long-term content marketing success. One of the most important is sales. If you can win the support of sales leadership, it will be easier to demonstrate the positive impact content marketing has via leads generated and revenue influenced. Aligning with sales will not only elevate content marketing’s visibility, but also put you in a better position to evolve and expand content marketing over time.
Start here: Get sales to use (and be excited about) content.
It goes without saying that the easiest way to get a sales team excited is by providing it with a steady stream of quality, qualified leads that result in closed deals. Your content marketing program should already be aiming to do this. But the other half of that equation (and a less well-known means to getting sales buy-in) is arming the sales team with the right content, materials, and insights to nurture and close those leads.
According to recent LinkedIn research, 92 percent of B2B buyers will engage with a sales professional if that professional is a known industry thought leader. This illustrates what good sales leaders already know – that it is critical for the team to gain trust and build relationships with prospects by demonstrating industry knowledge and insights. The challenge is that, in reality, sales professionals are time-poor and the majority of their time is spent prospecting, cold calling, preparing for meetings, and creating proposals. Having to trawl through troves of existing content to find a piece that is relevant to a specific client is time-consuming. This means that sales teams often neglect leveraging content to build meaningful relationships with prospects.
This represents a massive and often missed opportunity for content marketing to demonstrate value and get the support of the sales leadership: arming them with content and insights to nurture and close their biggest deals.
The best way to do this is to create a cadence where content marketing feeds the sales team quality content that is relevant to prospects at different stages of the sales cycle. Ideally, this is an automated process, integrated with a CRM platform, where the sales team is getting alerts and recommendations on what content to share, with which client, and at what time. Even without an automated process, simply having an ongoing system where you feed sales with relevant, shareable content will make an impact.
For this approach to be effective, it’s important to align with the sales lead, demonstrate the value, and define and agree on shared milestones and goals in this area: improving sales touchpoints, accelerating the sales cycle, and increasing average sale value.
Adam Carroll is NewsCred’s Regional Director of Sales, West.
Originally published on Feb 16, 2018 11:00 AM, updated Feb 21, 2018