By Joe Griffin. This story first appeared on the Content Marketing Institute

The essence of content marketing is creating valuable content to pull and convert customers toward a product or service. You’re informing, entertaining, and educating through engaging and optimized web content, eBooks, white papers, infographics, video, and blog posts so that they recognize, like, and trust your brand enough to do business with you.

You already know this, but do your organization’s CMOs, CFOs, and CEOs get it? They may hear whispers that “content is king,” but are not yet sold on the idea of investing in a full-scale content marketing initiative. In fact, “AdAge” recently reported that marketers are spending an average of 12 percent of their budgets on content marketing, while traditional advertising still commands the bulk of the share.

As an in-house marketing professional, it’s your job to convince and convert your top leadership to buy into a content marketing plan for your business. But where do you start?

Here’s a blueprint for getting the nod of executive approval for content marketing at your organization, which will span understanding its value, how to communicate its value, and how to provide meaningful analytics to support your case. As I said, it’s your job to do the selling, and in order to seal the deal you need to be convincing.

Here’s how you start:

Understand content marketing’s value

First, you must understand the true benefit of content marketing before you present your case to your company’s executives. Here is a summary of the key points you should bring up in your initial discussions:

  • Visibility: People are turning to websites as the primary source of finding information. More than 11 billion searches per month occur on Google alone as of December 2012. With a strong content marketing effort, organizations can capitalize on the (now) largest advertising medium in the world.
  • Share of voice: Consumers widely consider a search engine’s top result to be the most relevant and authoritative page on the web. Optimized and quality content marketing can help you reach those top results and gain a larger share of voice among your competition online.
  • Customer interaction: When people discover a brand in an inbound manner, that website becomes an interactive journey — not a force-fed message. People no longer like to be sold to — they like to be communicated with. Content strategy supports this.
  • Branding and reputation nurturing: Big brands receive hundreds of thousands of “branded” organic search referrals each month. When someone searches for “Apple,” they are introduced to a portfolio of proprietary headlines and links created by that company. Those headlines and links impact a searcher’s perception, and thus controlling that message by implementing a sound content marketing strategy has demonstrable value.
  • It’s a lower cost per lead: Unlike display advertising, print and television advertising, PPC, PPI, or even social media advertising, there are no recurring costs inherent in content marketing (other than the cost of in-house content marketer salaries or freelance writers, or SEO outsourcing). In fact, HubSpot reports, “Inbound (content marketing) consistently delivers a cost per lead dramatically lower than outbound. Respondents who spend more than 50% of their lead generation budget on inbound marketing channels report a significantly lower cost per sales lead than those who spend 50% or more of their budgets on outbound marketing channels.
  • Higher-quality leads: In the same eBook, HubSpot sampled more than 150 businesses and found that inbound (content marketing) channel leads are eight times more likely to convert than outbound leads.

Strategically communicate content marketing’s value to key stakeholders

To get full buy-in within your organization, you’ll likely have to sell your technology, marketing, and finance departments on the idea of content marketing, as well as executives at the VP level and those in the C-level suite. This means you will have to knock each one of these groups’ socks off with your presentation, which you will certainly do if you spend time developing a concrete plan, conducting relevant research, presenting convincing data, and quantifying your ask.

The presentation format:

  • State your intention: Follow the inverted pyramid approach and front-load your intention. Don’t wait until the end to state your presentation aims and goals.
  • State the current situation: Cover where your current marketing mix lies and where the opportunities may lie to incorporate content marketing.
  • Define content marketing and its value: You have a great idea, but why is it good for your audience? That’s what your executives will want to know, so be sure to answer this question — and any others you feel are likely to pop up.
  • Bridge the gap: Don’t just tell — prove your points through data analysis and case studies.
  • Define your action plan: Executives are begging for solutions and a well-thought-through plan of action. Create a 90-, 180-, and 365-day plan of attack for your content marketing efforts.
  • Make the ask: Tell your audience what you want them to do, and make it easy for them to take action right away.

Presentation pointers:

American Express – Open Forum said it best: “No matter how great an idea you may have, if you can’t present a convincing case, you can’t sell it.” There is a safe way to demand respect and be heard: Be clear, friendly, and confident. Know what you are asking for, and be prepared for rapid-fired questions from your company’s executives.

Presentation design:

A frequently overlooked element to your overall presentation impact is your deck design. Simplicity and clarity are two essential elements of any presentation. American Express – Open Forum notes:

“Most slides have far too much junk on them — lists of bullet points too small to read, distracting designs and images that may be pretty (or not) and are often unrelated. Put one picture and one line of text on a slide. No more. Our brains can only absorb so much at once, and if a viewer is too busy trying to sort out the mess on the screen, all you’ll communicate is confusion. The picture helps create a mental image and the words define it. Research shows that people remember about 10 percent of what you tell them, 65 percent if you add a picture.”

Famed social media and Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki suggests following the “10/20/30 rule:” When giving a presentation, you should stick to 10 slides in 20 minutes with 30-point font. “Following the rule forces you to refine your pitch,” he says. The icing on the cake of a good pitch for content marketing is the design. Don’t overlook it, and get help from your in-house designers, if possible.

Test drive and report

Target’s CMO Jeff Jones was recently quoted in AdAge when describing the company’s content marketing efforts: “We understand the basic things… But we don’t have a single metric yet, and we don’t have history to know its predictive nature.” In the interview, he went on to say, “It’s easy to talk about buzzwords but hard to operationalize what this really means. We’re in the early days of a long journey.

Is this a problem? You bet. But, proper reporting for a content marketing campaign is possible, and may even be easier than you would expect. Executives are all about the quick-and-dirty report, so if a particular marketing strategy upticks their sales, they’ll buy in with little argument. This works for content marketing, as well. In your pitch, ask for a trial period of six months to a year to test out a content marketing program — chances are the executives will be more comfortable with this than they would be with making an all-or-nothing, long-term commitment to a program they may be unfamiliar with. Then, be sure to follow up near the end of the trial period to report on your results, using the following tools and analytics to demonstrate success:

  • Immediate gains: Mashable suggests that there are short-term proxies that can monitor how well your content is resonating across the social sphere. Some key metrics include Facebook “likes,” retweets on Twitter, LinkedIn shares, reblogs, the number of followers you have on your social sites, and the number of social mentions your content has received.
  • Baseline everything: A huge indicator of content marketing success is in your search engine rankings. Develop baseline reports, and a regular executive summary for decision makers. Using a service like SearchMetricsSpyFu, or SEMRush can help you determine where you are currently proficient; AuthorityLabsSEOmoz, Rank Tracker, and Advanced Web Ranking are options to help you track keyword rankings; and you can use Google Keyword Tool to find the most relevant keywords for your business and goals.
  • Back-links: The number of inbound links to your domain is another indicator of content marketing success. Tools like Open Site ExplorerMajestic SEO, and Link Diagnosis are all available online (for free) to track the number of back-links to your website.
  • Leads/sales: Track the number of website visitors you receive month-over-month and week-over-week using Google Analytics. To help your executives digest the data you present to them more easily, create one sheet that summarizes upticks in monthly traffic and sales that your content helps bring in through your website.

report with Google Analytics

Here are a few more content marketing measurement resources you can turn to for more details on content marketing analytics:

Through effective planning, a winning pitch, and proper measurement, you’ll be on your way to making the case that “content is king” at your organization.

Author: Joe Griffin

Joe Griffin is the Co-founder and CEO at iAcquire, a digital marketing firm. Prior to founding iAcquire, Joe co-founded another search marketing firm which was acquired by, and before that he spent three years with iCrossing where he led business development and later their paid search division. Joe writes at and the iAcquire blog, tweets at @joegriffin and lives onGoogle+.