How To Make The Business Case For Hiring A Content Marketing Agency 

In my career as a marketing professional, I can’t tell you how many times a board member has told me to pull together a business case for a new marketing initiative or employee. It’s generally a brush off, but if you want to get a content marketing agency such as GrowTraffic onboard, you’re going to have to get good at them.

For a start, I hate this business case phrase, in relation to marketing, for several reasons:

  • It’s often a brush off, normally by someone from finance such as the finance director or CFO, in the hope that the idea will go away.
  • It’s generally assumed that marketers lack the commercial abilities to make such a case.
  • It assumes the professional in question hasn’t already thought it through before testing the waters with the board.
  • It suggests that deciding to do one type of marketing over another is a purely logical and rational decision.

OK. Rant over. After years away from the senior management team of someone else’s business, I don’t have to get quite so upset about having to make the business case for bringing a content marketing agency on board, except, I do.

Whilst we started out as an SEO consultancy, and we often think of ourselves as an SEO agency, there is such a huge crossover with what we do with other content agencies that I’m more than happy in calling us a content marketing agency that focuses on SEO. And when marketers – and often business owners – approach us, they generally need help to feel confident what they’re hiring us for is going to deliver something. In the same way I used to build a business case for hiring an agency when I was in ahead of marketing role, I have to build the case for our potential customers, either to give them confidence or help them build confidence with their board or senior management team.

In 2020 you’ve got several advantages and disadvantages. When I first started making the case for content marketing it wasn’t even called content marketing. Nowadays ever executive worth their salt knows what content marketing is all about and most of them understand that there is some inherent value in it. However, most executives – and quite a few marketers – have little understanding of how to make the case for its value.

As a marketer, it’s your job to make the case for content marketing. That means you’re going to need to be able to demonstrate its benefits in a clear and concise manner in order to take your board from interest through to signing off the probably not inconsiderable budget you’re going to need to get anywhere with content.

One of the big disadvantages you’re going to have with explaining content marketing is many executives will have already had some experience in signing off content marketing and they may have some negative preconceptions. Bear this in mind. Content marketing is only ever as successful as the strategy and targeting of the content. If you don’t get that right you won’t get anywhere and seeing as though we’ve spent the last ten years or so in marketing working out how to make content really work as a marketing tactic, you can almost guarantee that many of the execs you come across will have been burnt at some point or another by a poor implementation.

Even when content marketing has been done well, it still takes time to take off. It has some short term benefits – including benefits for SEO – but no one should ever be under the illusion that content marketing is a low hanging fruit, quick-win marketing approach. It’s going to take time and cost money. The benefits will be medium to long term. And I’m talking in terms of years for most businesses to get the real benefits from using a content marketing approach. Most board members, or at least the careerist board members, in most businesses won’t have time to let content marketing percolate and work. Naturally, these guys and gals will consider content to be a failure.

Impact of content marketing on traffic growth over time:

Example of content marketing traffic growth over 18 months
Example of traffic growth through content marketing over two years
Impact of content marketing traffic growth over two years in a niche market
Content marketing impact on traffic growth over three years

I’m bringing this up because it’s something you’re going to have to consider when you’re discussing content with them and you may have to figure out their past experiences with content marketing before you create the business case and create the pitch for it.

There are many different kinds of benefits to content marketing. A lot of what content marketing does is based on the soft side of marketing. It guides people, it educates people, it engages them. It’s difficult to talk about this type of content marketing from an ROI perspective. Only a small amount of content marketing actually does the salesy side of marketing.

Of course, if you are focused on creating content further down the funnel you are going to get better ROI results but you can’t just create content in the lower part of the funnel. It just won’t work if that’s all you focus on.

What you also need to do is start to figure out what traffic you’re going to get from different types of content in the different parts of the funnel and work out what the conversion rates of those different types of content will be. You’ll also need to work out what % of awareness, consideration and decision you’ll need. From there you should be able to put some projections about what the content will do for you. You can tweak these figures to make things work. It’s going to look something like this:

  • 30% of content is awareness, generating 50% of the traffic resulting in 1% of conversions
  • 50% of content is consideration, generating 30% of the traffic resulting in around 19% of conversions
  • 20% of content is decision, generating 20% of traffic, resulting in around 80% of conversions

I’ve made these figures up, but they’re not a million miles off what you need to be thinking about. I’ve intentionally said you should be creating less awareness orientated content that consideration content. It’s far too easy to create awareness phase content and this content will generate you loads of traffic, but don’t fall into the trap of just going after big numbers because in a year or so you’ll be found out.

Concentrate on consideration, this is what will drive traffic towards the decision phase content – which you’ll naturally have a lot less of.

Is Your Competition Carrying Out Content Marketing?

If your competition are carrying out content marketing it may be easier for you to justify bringing a content marketing agency in to help you out. Your board and MD/CEO are likely to want to act competitively in regards to what your competitors are doing.

Think about what your competitors are doing in two ways. Ask yourself what are the market leaders doing in your sector. Perhaps you should be doing the same. In addition, understand which of your competitors your board is most interested and work out how to outperform them from a content marketing perspective, then create a case for how the content marketing agency will help you in that objective.

The benefit of out-marketing a competitor from a marketers point of view is the business case for content marketing and bringing in a content marketing agency doesn’t have to be so strong. Ultimately you are going to try to take away the share of voice your competitor has by increasing the share of voice you have. That’s a legitimate case though and one many (lucky) marketers can get away with.

Comparing Content Marketing To Other Marketing Tactics

If you have to make a business case for content marketing you’re likely going to have to compare it to the benefits and weaknesses of other marketing tactics. I don’t want to go through a full comparison here, we’ll leave that for another blog, but needless to say, each tactic has its ups and downs, pros and cons.

For the most part, content marketing isn’t a direct response tactic in the same way other marketing tactics are and I would always suggest that a business carrying out content marketing should also be carrying out direct response activity such as PPC and other forms of advertising.

Speak Directly To Your Executive Board

So I’ve already spoken about the experiences your board members may have had with content marketing and playing to their desires to beat the competition, but you can also play to their egos if you want to get this across the line. A really simple way to do this is to turn your execs into your personas.

I used to work with a PR agency which was particularly good at this. Whenever they struggled with PR they started arranging and creating interviews with the executives of the company. These have very little values from a marketing and PR perspective on the whole, but they have huge value in the relationship between the agency and the organisation. They also pulled another trick on me, they were in a meeting presenting the results to myself and my marketing director at the time, and in one of the slides, they’d mocked him up as a persona. It did the trick, going into the meeting he was ready to get rid of them for underperformance and by the end of the meeting we’d signed up for another 12 months.

Understand That Making The Case For A Content Marketing Agency Isn’t Just About The Numbers

When thinking about a business case, you can fall into the trap of thinking it’s all about sales. It’s a good foundation, but it’s much more than that. You need to educate about what content marketing is and what its benefits are and overcome any preconceptions.

When bringing an agency into the mix you need to be demonstrating the additional value they’ll bring. The expertise they have and the value they’ve provided to their customers in the past. A content marketing agency should be able to help you make this case and you may want to get them in the room with you.

And, where necessary, play to the ego and ambition of your execs.

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est. 2009

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