The way marketing has always been done will not produce the results B2B marketers need to grow their businesses today. You know it, you've heard it — haven't we all? The question that remains is often about how to get executive buy-in and support to shift dollars?
Many channels and methods that have historically good performance may be slowing, but executives presented with new and unproven channels (for your company) can be hard to convince. Unless presented with proof and validation, perception can be that of more spins on fluff rather than a sound strategy that will lead to future business success.
Here are several reasons and ideas to help you convince your company to convert to content marketing strategies:
Historical performance is no longer a barometer for future success.
Buyer preferences are changing faster than ever. Perhaps it's not so much that their preferences are changing, but that they can now avoid having to interact with any content they consider sub-par. Channels are exploding and access to them has never been easier.
This doesn't mean you should rush out and incorporate all of them into your marketing mix, but it does mean that you need to listen and test the waters to find out where your buyers are spending time, what topics they're interested in and how you can achieve better results than "the way you've always done it" is producing.
One benefit from historical performance is to use those benchmarks to show declining or stagnant returns. Then do some listening and show your executives what's getting response in digital arenas that's relevant to your target markets. The point is to prove that those who could be your buyers are there and engaging with competitors because your company isn't present. Lost revenue opportunities can be very persuasive.
Controllling the conversation in a digital age is a pipe dream.
An argument often made by corporate executives is that they need to maintain control over their message and brand positioning. Although this is silly given that what others say about your company is your brand positioning, you can guide the conversation and reinforce it through participation and contagious content distribution that buyers will actually seek out, share and use.
If you don't play, you can't win — it's that simple. Refusing to participate where your buyers are by providing information they are interested in is the equivalent of choosing to be invisible. In today's age of transparency, choosing to keep your toys under lock and key in your own sandbox is self-defeating.
To sway opinion, choose some examples of companies that have taken the lead to provide innovative thinking and ideas that their audiences are embracing. Heck, there are plenty of case studies out there today with impressive results. Show your execs the money and you're more likely to gain support for content marketing initiatives.
One example is Kelly Outsourcing & Consulting Group as covered in BtoB Magazine's latest edition. Kelly OCG is spending 60% of it's B2B marketing budget on content marketing. That's a pretty impressive investment. I know Todd Wheatland, their VP of Marketing. He's a very astute marketer who gets it. Also in the issue is the CMO Closeup of Russ Fujioka from Dell, discussing how the company is using custom content.
By showing the success of other companies like yours, executives will become champions for your content marketing initiatives. One of my clients has a mandate from the C-level this year to turn marketing into a demand generation engine. To date they have always been a sales-driven organization. The need for change is a reality. There are plenty of proof points you can use to show that adopting a content marketing strategy is a sound business initiative, not more fluff.
Differentiate with interactivity for competitive advantage.
Let's face it, copycats are everywhere. Anything that is published digitally can be used as a model for other content development. What will set you apart is the way your company participates in interactive dialogues with your markets and how you apply innovative ideas to their business problems.
But the real payoff that results is permission. Interactivity will build opt-in and permission for you to continue conversations with an audience who is willing to and even anticipates receiving more valuable information from your company.
The biggest marketing challenge today is being found and then keeping that attention. The way your company chooses to interact with your prospects and customers is the biggest differentiator left.
Many B2B companies are still buying lists. What you need is opt-ins; people who have given you permission to communicate with them. Pit an opt-in list against a purchased list with the same content and emails and measure the interactivity that results. The opt-in list should blow the purchased list out of the water.
The thing is — you can't build an opt-in list without a content marketing strategy. No relevant, thought-provoking content, no reason to opt in, right? By proving that batch and blast lacks effectiveness, you'll likely gain approval to pilot a content strategy. Pick a project focus that can provide some quick wins and expand from there.
Finally, the best time to change your marketing strategy is before the existing one becomes defunct. To keep the momentum moving in your pipeline, you have to also apply momentum to the evolution of your marketing framework. Starting from scratch is painfully difficult.
Shifting while in motion is a much easier transition. Remember that you don't have to cast all traditional marketing to the curb. Some of it just needs a few tweaks to work well as a component in your content marketing programs. In fact, you may have a program that's successful, such as a webinar series. Take that program that serves as a stand-alone event today and incorporate a content strategy with it to improve conversions. Use that as your proof case.
What's helped you gain buy-in for content marketing at your company?