Growing up in Spain in the 1970s, there was only one TV channel, sponsored by the government—two for those of us lucky enough to live in populated areas where it was possible to tune the VHF using an adapter.
At school, we would ask our friends if they had watched the movie the night before, as there was only one option. And it was universally tragic for us when that one option was restricted to an older audience. We loved those old cowboy and detective stories (most of which were American, as even back then, global marketing was a part of our lives), and it broke our hearts to go to bed without our daily dose of adventure.
At that time, ads were not a nuisance. In fact, for us, they were part of the story—and we used the slogans like catchy refrains in our real-life reenactments. One of the most popular was a donut commercial, in which a little boy was on his way to school when, suddenly, he slapped his forehead with his hand: “Oops, I forgot my donut!” The next day he was walking while happily eating his snack, only to realize: “Oops, I forgot my backpack!” If you were talking about a character that forgot something, you just slapped your forehead and the others completed the sentence: “¡Anda, la cartera!” Ads were as much fun as the shows they surrounded.
Nowadays, with the seemingly endless supply of books, shows, music, and other entertainment delivered via the Internet, plus on-demand and pay-per-view TV, ads have become noise.
Taste, needs, and technology evolve over the years. The only thing that remains in place, come hell or high water, are stories. People-centered marketing relies on the ability to glean the stories behind the brand and generate engagement, giving the audience only what they want: a comprehensive experience without any hassle.
But the question is: why is a no-brainer business idea like content marketing still a hard idea to sell? Has it not proven itself as an effective, no-nonsense marketing tactic, or is it just that bad habits die hard? I asked a panel of experienced international marketing experts. Here’s what they told me.
In your experience, how can business leaders persuade others within their organizations to adopt content marketing? How can they prove it works?
Barry Feldman: Content Marketing Consultant and Founder of FeldmanCreative—Sacramento, California
Getting buy-in from business leaders begins with a meeting of minds on the company’s marketing objectives. Demonstrate you understand them and deliver evidence of how content marketing achieves them. There are probably one or more competitors eating your lunch across search and social and winning more traffic and brand affinity. Make sure the leaders are aware of this—and uncomfortable with it.
Also, you might try a simple personal appeal: ask the person you’re seeking approval from how s/he makes buying decisions regarding something that’s important to her or him. It’s hard to imagine a situation in which content’s not part of the picture.
Kelly Hungerford: Content, Communication, and Community-Building Strategist at Communityworks—Geneva, Switzerland
Don’t have stakeholder buy-in yet?
Start a small pilot project on the side to prove people-focused content can work. I usually bypass marketing and work with customer care to produce a few posts based on search strings, then place them on the help desk and watch how they rank the next 30 days.
Often customer-care knowledge bases focus on service or product functionality, but the people actually performing searches are typing sentences or keywords for a bigger problem they are having. This is especially true for companies that serve industries and provide multiple solutions.
You’ll find that helpful content will rank fairly well in search—and that those articles tend to be shared more often than “how to” posts. This increases traffic to the support database, pushing your posts higher up the rank.
I like to present these as mini business cases internally. They usually pay off in setting the foundation for rethinking content strategy.
José Antonio Muñoz: Digital Marketing Leader for Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Israel at IBM—Madrid, Spain.
I believe that the question [of how to get stakeholder buy-in] would actually be how to leverage content in the overall marketing strategy. When I am asked what kind of campaign I can create with a given budget, I always give the same answer: don’t tell me how much money you have; instead, tell me what you want to promote, what content we have, and what we could create.
The resources are endless. For example, when people say that content is king in social media, I like to add that video or multimedia content is emperor. And then if you manage to make a partner, a client, or an influencer talk about you, engagement improves dramatically.
But it’s still necessary to consistently meet marketing objectives and familiarize stakeholders with the [content marketing] process—involving them in it directly, if possible. Then you’ll be much closer to having your content work as a fundamental part of your marketing strategy.
At present, our blogging activity is centered around the project IBM Think. In Spain we launched it not long ago, and we’re currently fine-tuning the last details. We hope it’s going to be a showcase for the kind of work we do and the way in which we can provide valuable content—from success stories to expert opinions—to our audience.
Baking Your Brand’s Donut
In the words of Patricia Travaline, Skyword’s CMO, “Story is the most persuasive form of communication, and we’re now in a position where we can apply story to business. That concept is incredibly powerful.” But before your brand can come together to start telling a story that people love, you need organizational buy-in to ensure that everyone rallies around (and believes in) your mission. The first thing to do is work backward: synchronize your strategy with the company’s marketing objectives and prove that content marketers are on same page as everybody else—rather than trying to convince everyone that they need to change their minds.
Then, experts seem to agree, it’s time to bring in hard data. If starting a brand-new project for the purposes of testing is not an option, maybe a small side test will do the trick. Do whatever it takes to generate results you can show your stakeholders.
Offering helpful content is the key to powerful, transformative results. People often use the expression “customer-centered content,” but for marketers to show what that actually looks like, they need to reach a point where their audiences start asking for more—more answers and more stories.
And last but not least, it’s important to confront the colleagues we need to persuade with their own experience. What do they want to find when they are watching their shows or using their tablet: good stories—or bragging and promising?
As the strident voice pushing products and services toward the consumer is losing appeal, brands turn toward personalized, useful content to revamp their global marketing strategies.
Customer-centered marketing is all about giving everybody what they want, whether that’s adventures for the grown-up kids of the 70s, emotions for the not-so-grown-up, thrill-seeking Millennials, or growth hack stories for businesses. By following these experts’ suggestions and using a little creative thinking, any seasoned marketer can make content an easy sell.
About the Author
BiographyMore Content by Carlos García-Arista