Content marketing is not always an easy sell, especially if the C-suite or organization as a whole hasn’t utilized content much in the past. However, in order to succeed at content marketing, you need the support of the key stakeholders in your organization — not only for budgetary buy-in reasons, but also to help fuel your content and amplify it.
That’s why at NewsCred’s ThinkContent New York 2018, there were a lot of marketers eager to hear two leaders share how to make it happen.
On stage for “Selling the C-Suite on the Power of Content Marketing” were Karen Eisenbach, CMO, Retirement, Voya, and Doug Straton, Chief Digital Commerce Officer at the Hershey Company. Both marketing veterans were candid about past challenges in making the case for content marketing, but by being relentless and illustrating the benefits to the organization, they’ve been able to achieve buy-in.
Here are some of the top strategies they shared:
1. Become a content evangelist.
“The biggest thing is education,” says Straton. At the Hershey Company, there was support for what Straton’s team was doing in broader digital, but giving the C-suite a few bullet points about their content plans was a big help. “The biggest megaphone is going to be Michelle Buck [Hershey’s CEO], so it’s my job to educate her with ‘here’s how we’re going to approach it, here’s what the plan is going to be the next year or two,’ and then summarize it for her succinctly,” says Straton. “Fifty percent of my job is evangelization.”
Tip: Break down your content strategy in simple terms — where it lives, how you’ll distribute it, and how it supports business goals — and consistently share this strategy when you meet with other members of the organization.
2. Listen to other teams’ stories.
Communication is critical when you’re planning a brand storytelling journey. Eisenbach recalls a situation last fall when getting the sales teams aligned was “no small feat.” It required pulling the sales leaders into the room and listening to them tell their stories. “When you do that, what you find is those kernels of commonality, and also you’re able to sharpen the message,” she says. From there, they tested the story with partners, received feedback, and ultimately got the buy in of the sales team.
By inviting them into the process, Eisenbach says she was able to get real clarity around what their salespeople are selling everyday. “Now our content that supports them and can make them look smart, sell smart, and be smart,” she says.
Tip: Treat sales as your partner and find out how you can craft content to support their goals. As a bonus, you might discover fascinating industry trends or customer stories worth highlighting.
3. Give everyone a stake in the game.
The Hershey Company created a 5Cs content framework: consumer, connections to consumers, content, the conversion piece, and community. “We’re drilling that into my team and also across all the different functions,” says Straton. As he explained to them, even the compliance team creates customer-facing content. “That was an ‘a-ha’ moment for them because they don’t think of themselves as being up against the consumer in that way,” he recalls.
Tip: By going function by function and telling each team player what their role is, people will start to rally around what you’re doing because they’ll understand why it matters to them.
4. Tie content marketing to business outcomes.
It’s about aligning content to business outcomes and then making the most of every piece, says Eisenbach. “We did a lot of Groundhog Day where we’d do custom work for each client and it was all the same. Sharing things increases capacity,” she says. As an example, Voya saved a lot of money and time when they collaborated with their custom newsletter clients to get everyone to agree to a template and a clear editorial process that defined what the shared content should be. With this strategy, each customer got one unique article (versus having an entirely unique newsletter). “That saved a lot of resources,” she says.
As soon as you can say the content program has led a full spectrum organizational transformation and it can save money and allow you to go faster, then you can get real momentum, Straton adds.
Tip: Figure out how to get more from your content. What processes can you rework or is there content you can repurpose to save on resources? How can you allocate savings of time and money into tools that can make your content even better?
5. Change the perfection mindset.
One of the biggest roadblocks to growing your content marketing program is getting in your own way because you’re trying to demonstrate big value, says Eisenbach. “Sometimes you have a dashboard and think it has to be perfect, but what I’ve learned is just start. Get feedback, and talk about it, and add to it.”
Straton has also seen marketers get fixated on data being perfect. “It’s OK to say it’s not going to be perfect, but you can modify and adapt and optimize as you go along. You can’t be afraid to tell the c-suite that some of the data is a bit wobbly. It’s a mindset change,” says Straton.
Tip: If you wait for the perfect design or flawless metrics to launch your content, you’ll be stuck in the waiting room. Throw your hat in the ring so you can test, learn, and develop as you go. That way, you can begin to demonstrate the value of content and keep growing.
So how can you convince your c-suite to give you what you need to forge forward with your content strategy? Here’s Straton’s top takeaway: “Content is king but data is its queen. You need to prove what content works and why, how much of it you need, and where you’re going to deploy it,” he says. Once you can do that, leadership will give you the green light and become your biggest cheerleaders.
Dawn Papandrea is a NewsCred Contributor.