If that’s the response you got from your boss when you tried to pitch them on content marketing, I’ve got some uncomfortable news for you:

It’s probably your fault.

Harsh? Maybe.

But no matter how old (or old-fashioned), how senior, how stuck-in-their-ways a leader might be, unless they’re allergic to making money (which is a rare but real condition), no leader will actively deny funding for an initiative that will net more leads, improve sales and create greater customer loyalty.

That is… unless you didn’t sell it to them that way.

And that’s the problem: Content marketing can be a tough sell.

Getting Buy-In From Your Boss for Content Marketing

If you’ve been pushing for your boss to invest in content marketing and they still haven’t seen the light, don’t give up hope just yet. I’ve got four steps you can walk through to improve your approach, bolster your request and (hopefully) get your business on the path to content marketing success.

1. Reframe your proposal

If your previous pitch to your boss amounted to more or less, “We should create some stuff” without a clear and obvious “…and here’s why,” that’s the first thing you need to address.

While many people will tell you to go out and pull statistics on the state of the industry or content marketing’s success, the problem is that these things are still external validators, not internal ones. And while they’re perfectly valid forms of proof (and we’ll talk about them later), you need to begin by internally validating your idea.

A “No” comes because you haven’t shown management how investing in content marketing makes their life, their business and their outcomes better.

Before you can impress your boss with some big numbers from the great big world of content, you need to walk a few miles (or stressful, back-and-forth paces) in their shoes:

  • What metrics is their performance being measured against?
  • What existing problems or obstacles are they facing?
  • What limitations are they dealing with (time, budget, expertise)?
  • What goals have they already laid out for the future?

It helps to sit down, write these questions out and answer them so that you can get into the head space of a decision maker.

Content marketing is a much easier sell when you can tie it into things your boss already cares about and demonstrate how content actually solves the issues they’re facing instead of being pitched as yet another thing to fund or worry about.

Another key consideration here: What language does your boss use daily, and what might be foreign to them? They may not be familiar with terminology like “conversions”, and they may think that a “blog” is something that 13-year-olds write their daydreams into. They may know plenty about “share of voice” and very little about “rankings.”

If you’re going to sell an idea, sell it using their own terms.

2. Do the research

You know content marketing is a good idea. But can you explain why? Do you have a strategy and numbers to back up the approach you want your company to take, or are you just copycatting and hoping for the best?

Yes, you need to do something, but “We need to be doing something!” is not nearly as compelling a pitch as,

“We need to be doing something. Here’s exactly what that something is, and a host of specific, well-researched reasons to show why it will work for our market.”

Your research is your “Why” — the critical piece of your pitch that helps leadership see that you’ve put some thought into what you’re trying to get them to do instead of being reactionary or impulsive. It’s the reasoning that will help rational thinkers commit.

Do some audience research. Are you certain that the content marketing approach you’re proposing will work for your audience? Prove it. Show your boss that you’ve considered how your specific approach considers:

  • Who they are – This sounds obvious, but for example, if your target market is CFOs, who are they (demographically) and what do they care about? What limitations and stresses do they have? Whom do they answer to, and what are their goals? If you can show that your content is tailored to an audience, that’s a very important first step.
  • Content consumption habits – Do they read long pieces or watch videos? Are they time-starved and looking for summaries, or in research-mode and looking for in-depth details? Do they go looking for information (making SEO valuable) or are they already inundated with info (making personality/differentiation key?)
  • Buying cycles – How long is the window in which customers can make a purchase? How long will you need to nurture them before they reach that point? Can that be best achieved with a blog, an e-mail list, or both? Know how your customers buy so that you can show how content will influences those stages.
  • Information gaps – What information do your customers already have, and what do they go looking for? What information do they find hardest to find, and how can you make their lives easier?

Do a competitor audit. If you can prove that your competition is finding success with content marketing and reaching the same audience you’re trying to reach, then this is one piece of external validation that can be extremely valuable. Take careful stock of your competitors’ strategy — sign up for their email list, read their blog posts, check out their resources and look at what they’re doing to drive business. Or show what they aren’t doing that you could move in and take the lead on.

Management and leadership roles are often responsible for the overall success of the business, so any opportunity to beat out specific competitors will be attractive to them.

Show some case studies. If you can, pull some case studies together from your own industry (or industries like it), especially if those studies delve into process and share the specifics of how the strategy was executed. Seeing how someone else paved the way and executed can be useful for easing management into it — though it’s no replacement for having a plan of your own.

Research required resources. This one’s important. Before you recommend an idea, have a clear picture of how much it will take to actually accomplish. Plot out budgets, personnel and options (like outsourcing vs. in-house) and come armed with a list of scenarios and options for execution. It’s easy to make blind recommendations but harder to make recommendations that have already considered the company’s limitations and constraints.

3. Create Tangibles

This one is missed by so many, but it really ought to be a no-brainer. Tangible documents are proof of a mental process; they show that you’ve actually thought this pitch through.

Don’t walk into a meeting unless you’re carrying a strategy document that outlines:

  • The specific approach to content marketing you’re suggesting
  • A summary of the goals and objectives you’re going to achieve through content marketing (ideally tied back to the boss’s personal goals and objectives)
  • An outline of the company branding, voice and tone and a demonstration of how the content would fit within it
  • A clear and concise audience profile
  • A short overview of the competitor audit you’ve conducted
  • A proposed process for implementation
  • Short and sweet talking points showing why the idea makes monetary sense for the business
  • A budget estimate as well as an outline of where that funding could come from

Spare no important details, and make it as easy as possible for your boss to simply say “Sure, let’s do it!”

Don’t leave it up to them to think or work out the process; bring a launch-ready proposal. Try to keep this to just 3-4 pages tops, and don’t read it word-for-word in the meeting. Simply bring it along, put it down on the desk and use it as a launching point for discussion with some talking points.

4. Pitch simple and sure

New marketing ventures are intimidating, especially if you pitch the whole hog all at once. Pitching something like a blog means that your business will have to go whole-hog with commitment, building out an asset that constantly needs to be sustained. Likewise, pitching a $10,000 interactive resource is a pretty big ask from a person who’s more likely to want to dip their toes into the water and test the results.

While content can’t really be a short-term commitment that’s abandoned, intimidating pitches, whether in scope or budget, may scare off a manager even if the logic is sound.

Whenever possible, pitch a small project. This will let you refine your processes, secure a smaller budget and measure the impact of your efforts as a means of earning even more budget down the line. Small projects also fail more quietly; if things don’t go perfectly, they’re not spectacular failures that will drive your business away from content marketing forever.

Ease in. Pitch a single resource – but make sure you secure the funding needed to adequately promote it.

Above all, pitch content marketing as a long-term process, something that builds and grows with time. Pitch content as a resource that keeps on giving, not a one-and-done pass/fail experiment. Whatever you build should be something your audience would need and benefit from regardless of whether or not it’s an enormous success.

Smarter pitch = success

If you’ve been loosey-goosey on your content marketing pitch or you’ve failed to show that you’ve really thought things through, don’t be surprised when you get that “No.” Instead, carefully plan your attack, research required numbers and figure out the things that matter to your boss.

Demonstrate how content is a problem-solver and a value-builder, and you’ll be on track to earn that coveted “Yes.”