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How to advocate for a bigger content marketing budget

How to advocate for a bigger content marketing budget Kent Lewis

Unique and compelling content has always been a scarce and valuable commodity on the web. Consumers, brands, software companies, and even search engines have created a booming industry around creating, organizing, consuming, sharing, and measuring content. With the wide adoption of social media and maturity of email, sales, and marketing automation platforms, content is more important than ever before.

The cost of creating engaging content is significant, and ensuring that content reaches the desired audience can further increase the required investment. This article outlines effective strategies for selling management on a larger content marketing budget.

In a recent study by Content Marketing Institute, 46 percent of consumer brand marketers surveyed indicated their biggest challenge with content marketing programs is securing proper budget. Despite that fact, the average brand marketer invests 25 percent of its total marketing budget on content. Before we discover how to increase that number for your organization, let's get a bit more background on the evolving content marketing industry.

Content marketing budgets increase with industry growth

According to Forrester Research, your future customers are between 67 and 90 percent of the way through their shopping before they reach out to you. Consumers are also more empowered than ever to conduct their own self-directed research, which requires a deeper level of useful yet actionable content. In recent months, brands have started losing visibility with organic content posted to social media due to algorithm changes designed to generate more profit, while ad blockers are reducing impressions for display advertising across publisher websites. As a result, custom branded content has become a priority for marketers.

Despite the challenges marketers face to create engaging content, experts say it works. Seventy-seven percent of B2C marketers and 86 percent of B2B use content marketing to help achieve goals. According to a new report from Forrester Research, three-quarters of respondents indicated positive bottom-line outcomes, ranging from increased loyalty to reduced marketing and media expenses. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they experienced positive top-line business outcomes including increased revenue and sales.

According to Content Marketing Institute, content marketing budgets are growing fast:

  • Fifty-nine percent of marketers said they increased spending on content marketing in 2015.

  • Twenty-five percent of marketers increased their content marketing budget by 30 percent or more compared to 2014.

  • Nearly half increased content marketing spend by at least 20 percent.

  • The most effective consumer marketers allocated 29 percent of their marketing budgets to content marketing.

  • The most effective B2B marketers spent 39 percent of their marketing budgets on content.

According to Custom Content Council, the average per company content marketing budget is more than $1.8 million annually. Fifty-two percent of content marketing dollars are spent on people. Content creation accounts for 32 percent of content marketing spending, while distribution accounts for 18 percent. As demand for content marketing services and tools increases, so does investment. Venture capitalists have already invested more than $1 billion in content marketing technology companies since 2006, and the industry is on track to generate $313 billion in revenue by 2020, based on a PQ Media Global Content Marketing Forecast.

Start with a plan

Before you go to your boss to ask for more funding for your content marketing programs, put together a strategic plan. Identify overall business, sales, and marketing objectives that content marketing can effectively support. Incorporate metrics and benchmarks for each objective. Build a strategic plan including strategic initiatives, supporting tactics, and human resource requirements. Identify target audiences, channels, and key messaging. You need to determine whether you have all the necessary content creation resources available in-house or if you will need additional budget for freelancers or agencies. Create a budget and timeline, and assign owners for key initiatives. Factor in internal, competitive, and industry data to justify the budget, which should include both production and syndication of content as well as any advertising budget to promote, boost, or otherwise market the new content to your target audience. Don't forget to budget for necessary content marketing tools and platforms (e.g., HubSpot, Linkvana, or Hootsuite).

A well-designed content marketing program can support a variety of objectives and initiatives. The most common goals for content marketing programs (and associated metrics) include:

  • Increasing customer retention/loyalty (renewals, lifetime customer value)

  • Increasing engagement (time spent on website, increased activity on website)

  • Increasing conversion rates on website (website conversions to leads or sales)

Leverage existing resources first

Many businesses view content marketing as a separate marketing activity that's not integrated across the organization. Think inside your organization to leverage, improve, and extend your existing content and distribution. Collect, modify, optimize, and syndicate existing content from your employees. Leverage relationships, resources, and budgets from other departments including sales, customer service, and public relations. Look outside the company to strategic partners, vendors, and even clients for additional support with your content marketing initiatives.

Going for the gold

If you've struggled to secure adequate content marketing budget to fuel your inbound marketing efforts in the past, fear not. There are three effective sales strategies you can use to secure additional content marketing budget for the future: appeal to logic, appeal to ego, or simply beg for forgiveness.

Appealing to logic
I usually open content marketing budget discussions with research, which we've provided in great detail above. Regardless of your industry focus or customer profile, there will be some sort of secondary research available online. Digital market research organizations like Content Marketing Institute, eMarketer, and MarketingSherpa regularly share insights via regular research studies and reports. Your industry trade association should also have some level of market research. If you're an active member of your association, and it lacks relevant industry research, request that it conduct a study or survey of membership regarding budgeting for content marketing. If the data you uncover is insufficient or not compelling, consider conducting your own primary research: Host a focus group of your customers, partners, and peers, or create and share an online survey (SurveyMonkey offers limited functionality for free) and distribute the results widely. You may be surprised at the findings.

Appealing to ego
If management is not swayed by the analytical approach, then the ego approach usually works. Conduct a competitive industry benchmark audit, assessing your competitors' use of, and efficacy with, content marketing initiatives. You can't lose with competitive benchmarking. Either your competition is killing you online, or they're not. Either way, you need to maintain a leadership position or play catch-up. I haven't met a CEO who is comfortable with getting beat by the competitors, especially when developing, implementing, and managing content marketing campaigns can be relatively affordable and quick to launch.

Begging for forgiveness
If the foundational research efforts fail to secure the desired resources, one sales strategy remains. Due to the risky nature of this approach, I offer this disclaimer: The forgiveness strategy can get you fired. Boiled down, the forgiveness strategy is simple: Run a limited test using existing budget and/or resources (usually shave a few percentage points from the traditional marketing budget or tap your team for help creating content for your campaigns). For those of you with unresponsive management, consider sending an email or memo in advance, outlining your plans "unless otherwise directed" in order to offer additional protection. Once the test is complete, analyze the results. If the data is compelling, share it with management, all while "begging forgiveness" for running the test without formal approval. If the numbers are there, it should be easy to gain approval for any additional budget. If the numbers are not there, re-evaluate and reformulate a future test program when budgets allow. Hopefully, you won't get to this point, as the logic or ego approach will have been successful.

Armed with the content marketing research and best practices outlined above, you should have much greater success securing the content marketing budget you need to grow your business today and beyond. For more information, check out the useful resource links below.

Additional resources

Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Notepad with words content marketing concept and glasses" image via iStock.

With a background in integrated marketing, Lewis left a public relations agency in 1996 to start his career in search engine marketing. Since then, he’s helped grow businesses by connecting his clients with their constituents via the...

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