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How to get C-suite buy-in on that content marketing program

Big wigs. Masters of the universe. Whatever you call them, here's how to get buy-in.

Big wigs. Decision-makers. The board. Masters of the universe. Call them what you will but if you’re a marketer looking to get in on content marketing, chances are you’ll need C-suite buy-in, writes James Chalmers.

Time is money so let’s get right to it. Here are the best ways to earn approval from those in control of the purse strings.

Speak their language

Just as any good piece of content marketing is tailored to its specific audience, your pitch to the C-suite must reflect their specific traits and needs. Try to float a content marketing proposal on a raft of words like ‘audience engagement’ and ‘social media uplift’ and you’ll likely end up sunk.

Instead, focus on data and results. The decision-makers want to know about the return on investment and the bottom line. That means you’ll need to have done your research and have plausible figures ready to go.

Any content marketing initiative worth its salt should of course be tied to a company’s business objectives but when it comes to getting C-suite buy-in this link should be more than explicit – it should be the foundation of your argument.

You might be confident that your plan will triple visitors to the company website. But so what? Unless increased web traffic is a stated part of the business plan, it is not going to excite your decision-makers. But is it going to boost sales leads by five percent? Now you’ll have their attention.

Use relevant case studies

Your C-suite has no doubt consumed plenty of content marketing but with the general public’s familiarity with the term still a long way from universal, case studies are an invaluable tool in helping you make sure everyone is on the same page in the shortest amount of time, which is of course something this particular audience is notoriously short on.

Well chosen examples will allow you a precious shortcut around explaining what content marketing actually is, letting you skip straight to the important stuff – why content marketing is right for your organisation.

To overcome any scepticism, your best bet is digging up case studies relevant to your industry. But if possible, don’t stop there. Suitably high-profile content marketing examples have often had their successes enumerated in marketing trade publications, giving insight into how effective the campaigns were, in terms of impact and return-on-investment.

This is precisely the sort of hard data you want in your presentation.

And don’t shy away from using examples from competitors either; fear of being left behind can be a powerful motivator, particularly if the competition is getting results.

Get some inside help

As a general rule, C-suite executives put a lot of trust in colleagues and peers who have proved themselves. That means you can boost your chances of getting the answer you want by enlisting someone to champion your efforts.

Seek out people further up the organisational totem pole and endeavour to get them enthused about the potential of what you’re proposing. Think of it like marketing itself; the more excitement you can generate before your product launch, the greater the opportunity to get the results you want. If you can get others, particularly those with influence, excited about your proposal and in your corner, your task should become substantially lighter.

Start small

You may see potential for a glossy print magazine, a bespoke app, a standalone website and a Youtube video series starring Benedict Cumberbatch but that is going to make the bar for sign-off a hell of a lot higher. Like any good decision-maker, your average chief executive is going to want evidence before they commit any significant resources to a new venture. Your best bet for success, then, is to start with something small and low-risk.

For instance, your firm might have an upcoming seminar that you can deploy a small content marketing strategy to help sell. It might only take a day or two to interview some of the key speakers, pull together a few short pieces and push them out to an audience. But if that bit of effort gets some extra bums on seats, demonstrating the value content marketing can deliver your firm gets a hell of a lot easier.

Get the data

When you run your small content marketing experiment, it’s vital to make sure you measure the results and, specifically, how they align with the business objectives. Ideally, your content marketing should run in parallel with your traditional marketing efforts but just make sure the results are measured separately.

Being able to demonstrate with cold hard statistics the effect of a small content marketing investment is what will buy you licence to think bigger and bolder (and maybe get Mr Cumberbatch on the phone).

Companies have taken to content marketing at wildly different rates. At it for many years, some have developed a level of sophistication that can be intimidating when starting from scratch. But when we interviewed the Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Rose, he had this advice on the subject of using small beginnings to institute big change:

Build a little centre of excellence within your own space and then go and find someone within the company who shares your passion. Start to build a network of like-minded colleagues, create small projects together, share editorial calendars and conduct weekly meetings where the primary goal is to voice content ideas. These things, particularly if they gain traction, inevitably attract a greater following for a couple of reasons: one, it’s fun and two, it’s more interesting than marketing generally is. Find someone to champion your efforts: a VP perhaps, who can say, ‘this thing you’re doing over here is pretty neat. Let’s go figure out how to bring it to life.’ Before you know it, this movement you’ve created is part of your job and you’re leading it. It’s like building an electrical grid: one house, one street, one neighbourhood, one city and one country at a time.

Five (bite-sized) key takeaways

  • Tell the decision-makers what they need to hear – how content marketing can help them achieve their business objectives.
  • Help them get their heads around it by giving them relevant case studies.
  • Find some champions to back your cause.
  • Remember that from little things big things grow.
  • Measure your successes, so you can show them off.
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