Content marketing for beginners: how to sell it to your boss
A content marketing strategy is a bit like a golf swing. So many things need to go right in order for the whole thing to work.
But one element that is sure to send your content marketing plans slicing off into the rough is a lack of management buy-in.
Getting the c-level execs in your business to back you is essential. Without that, your content marketing dreams will never become a reality.
But what do you do if your boss isn’t sold on content marketing? Or worse still, what if he or she is openly hostile to it?
Well, you can start by reading this blog post.
We’ll help you with common questions you might have to field about content marketing. We’ll give you a list of our favourite content marketing tools. And we’ll share our tips for making a business case for content marketing.
PART ONE: CONTENT MARKETING QUESTIONS AND OBJECTIONS
We’ve been successfully pitching and selling content marketing since 2011. So we’re used to handling objections and answering questions. If you’re pitching content marketing to your boss for the first time, here are some things that are likely to come up:
What is content marketing?
We know what you’re thinking. This beginners’ guide is beginning right at the beginning.
But this is a legitimate question for someone who doesn’t spend all their time working in marketing. Your boss will have heard of content marketing, but they might want you to help define it.
Here is our definition:
Content marketing uses editorial, design and video to attract, inform and engage a target audience. Rather than just pushing products or special offers, content marketing works by offering high-quality, targeted material that is first and foremost helpful and useful. The aim is to use that content to prompt some useful, measurable action on the part of your users.
What is included in content marketing?
Content marketing is a broad discipline.
For example, we’re a content marketing agency. And we have 30+ content marketing products. They span from creative work, such as writing blogs, designing infographics and making videos, through to strategy, planning and amplification.
Every content marketing strategy is unique in some way. But successful content marketing will always include the following:
- Planning & Analysis: defining your audience, deciding what value you can offer them and what actions you want them to take. Understanding your data and accurately tracking performance.
- Content Creation: finding the resource and skill to execute on your ideas with relevant, high quality editorial, design and video.
- Amplification: a plan and budget for getting your best content seen by your target audience.
How do you get started with content marketing?
Last year, we wrote a blog post with 18 actionable tips for getting started with content marketing.
In that post we shared our ideas across audience development, strategy, SEO, blogging, social media and email.
And while it’s a meaty post, a central point we were trying to make there was that content marketing didn’t need to be scary.
Just because rival brands have established, sophisticated and well-funded strategies, doesn’t mean you can’t compete.
One of the great things about content marketing is that it can underpin your entire digital marketing strategy. Or you can run very focussed, small-scale content marketing campaigns with specific goals and limited timeframes.
Starting small is often a good way to get buy-in. Especially if your boss is skeptical.
For example, you could run a campaign around a particular content asset, such as a webinar or a big motion graphic. Or you could target an offline event, and create a content-driven marketing campaign around that.
The lessons you learn and results you get from a small campaign can be leveraged to get more budget and do something bigger and better next time.
Small campaigns can also make content marketing easier to explain. If our definition sounded a little abstract, then describing a real campaign – or an idea for one – might work a little better. This is especially true if your boss is a real content marketing beginner.
PART TWO: CONTENT MARKETING TOOLS
Some marketing decision makers like to understand the nuts and bolts. When they can see how you plan to do what you’re proposing, they start to feel more confident about it. That means they’re more likely to green light your budget.
So, for those detail-oriented folk, here are some of our favourite content marketing tools and how to use them:
There are plenty of good project management apps out there. Most, like Trello, have some kind of freemium model.
We’ve had a particularly good experience with Trello.
First, informally, as a go-to for our staff to organise their own tasks. And to help them share that information with people they’re collaborating with.
And second, to run our production system.
We used Trello’s API to create an Agile-based process for assigning and tracking client work. For us, dragging and dropping tickets, tagging colleagues and setting due dates was all a big improvement on spreadsheets.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Spreadsheets are still pretty important. We all love Trello but we couldn’t run our business without Google Sheets.
A good example is the content calendar we run for this blog.
We still find Google Sheets is the best format for organising and assigning posts. And for ensuring that the content we’re creating here supports our other marketing activities.
If you want some more help with your own content calendar, check out this recent post on the topic.
We have a custom-built CMS for creating and delivering content to our clients. But we still use the collaborative functions on Google Docs.
When we’re working on strategy documents for our own marketing or for clients, Google Docs is often the easiest way to get input and feedback. The comments function allows us canvas opinion, answer questions and identify topics that need to be taken offline.
If you have a new writer to train or multiple editors on a piece of content, Google Docs is a useful format for highlighting style suggestions, edits and other changes.
Canva and Promo
If you’re just getting started with content marketing you might not have access to professional designers or animators.
These two sites might be the answer. They can help savvy marketers create their own graphics and video content. Adding those elements to your content marketing are really essential these days if you want to keep up with the competition.
Moz Link Explorer
We’ll talk more about how content marketing supports SEO in Part Three.
But the Moz Link Explorer is our favourite tool for analysing a site’s links and finding new link building opportunities.
We also use the Moz Toolbar for Chrome, which is a great way to do a basic SEO quality check on new content.
If you plug in your keyword and URL, it will tell you how you can optimise your content for search engines. There is a strong correlation between a Moz score of 95 or over and good rankings.
Google’s Keyword Planner
Access reliable data on volume and competition for keywords. While it is primarily aimed at Google Ads campaigns, it provides useful insights for organic search as well.
You can use the Keyword Planner to check if the keywords you want to target are worth the effort. As well as the monthly volume, you can see seasonal trends.
And you can also use it to get new keyword ideas. If SEO is part of your content marketing strategy, Google’s Keyword Planner will be a vital tool.
If you’re just getting started with content marketing and have a limited budget, it will also help that it’s free.
If you’re not able to sell a full service marketing automation platform to your boss, start with MailChimp.
MailChimp is like pay-as-you-go email marketing.
You can grow and segment your lists, create brand-consistent templates and set-up drip campaigns.
MailChimp also integrates with everything from your accounting software to your CRM.
PART THREE: SELLING CONTENT MARKETING TO YOUR BOSS
Okay, so you’ve fielded the common questions and handled some of the objections. And you’ve got some handy, (mostly) free tools to get your content marketing started. Now it’s time to sell it to your boss.
IDEA #1: Get at your customers early (and before your competitors)
Content marketing is often pigeonholed as a top-of-funnel activity.
The truth is that content marketing can drive useful actions at every stage of the funnel.
But let’s start with the top.
Content marketing is primarily about creating something useful, relevant and engaging for your audience.
It can be about selling (more on that later). But it can’t just be about selling.
This campaign for LYNX, the men’s deodorant owned by Unilever, is an excellent example of that.
Unilever knows that the battle against its competitors begins long before men get anywhere near the cosmetics aisle at their local supermarket.
It needs LYNX to connect with its potential customers when they’re not thinking about deodorant. Once it has that connection, Unilever can learn more about them, serve up better-targeted ad content and start to build brand affinity and loyalty.
If it gets that right, men don’t go to the shop to buy deodorant. They go to the shop to buy LYNX.
By targeting popular questions that men search for online, Unilever and LYNX are providing useful, valuable and relevant content.
This gets them access to their audience much earlier on in the customer lifecycle. According to a Google case study on the campaign the results were pretty impressive. Unilever achieved 1.3 billion media impressions in two weeks and a total of 2.5 million YouTube video views.
If you can find the questions your audience is Googling you might be able to provide the answers like Unilever did.
The value you offer by doing that gets your brand in front of the right people sooner.
Most online journeys still start with a non-brand searches.
This early stage research might be the only chance you have to get at your potential customers. Because long-before they ever speak to anyone on a sales team, most users have picked a brand from their own research.
Creating and promoting your content can make sure your brand is in the mix from the outset.
IDEA #2: Support your sales team with trust-building social proof
Winning advocates in sales is a great way to get your content marketing budget signed off.
If your boss is a content marketing beginner, chances are they’ll listen when sales are singing your praises.
So how can content marketing help your sales team close more deals?
Well, it can provide a steady stream of warm and increasingly well-qualified leads for them to hoover up.
But how about right now? Where are the quick wins?
Our recommendation here is to find out what content assets your friends in sales have been asking for.
Typically, this would be case studies or nicely-presented testimonials that they can send to prospects to provide the social proof that’s so important at the bottom of the sales funnel.
Or it could be a video demo or webinar explaining a tricky but important product feature.
Small wins like this can open up conversations with the boss about more sophisticated content marketing activities – and bigger budgets.
IDEA #3: Segmenting your audience and finding new audiences
We said earlier in this post that content marketing can support every stage of the sales funnel.
In our experience, the marketing funnel is a really useful tool for stress-testing your content marketing strategy. It’s often an easy way to find gaps and new opportunities.
Do you have a goal for each stage? Do those goals have content and a promotional strategy to support them?
But one of the dangers of a classic marketing funnel is it encourages you to think about the customer journey as linear. First A, then B and C, then purchase.
Worse still, you think of your users as a homogeneous blob, all following the same route from first interaction to becoming a happy customer.
The reality of course is that customer journeys are increasingly complex. With multiple interactions, segways and about-turns.
This complexity brings opportunity.
Search is woven through the modern customer journey.
At the start of the process they Google questions they need answers to or problems they need solved. As they find potential solutions, they search for reviews and product demos. And as they close on a decision they look for some of that social proof we mentioned in the previous example.
An SEO strategy supported by responsive content creation gives your brand more chances to get discovered.
But content marketing isn’t just about discovery.
You can also use content marketing to segment your audience. A really simple way to do that and show value you to your boss is with tangible mid-funnel goals.
This could be a gated webinar, product guide or ebook for users who are ready to see more from your brand.
Gating this type of content makes it really easy to separate out the users who have engaged with it. You can then run remarketing ads or email drips to nurture some of them along and push them closer to making a decision.
This sort of tangible progress is an excellent way to convince a decision maker to find more budget for you.