According to the Content Marketing Institute, there is a quantifiable connection between how much marketing budget goes toward content marketing and a campaign’s success. The most effective marketers allot 42 percent on average, while the least effective allot just 15 percent per year.
But, as a global marketing leader, you likely know all too well how hard it is to convince country managers that content is crucial to your global strategy—especially when they can’t wrap their heads around content’s potential ROI. To justify increasing your budgetary spend on content, you need to have a test case that proves content efficacy as soon as possible. And when you’re trying to grow a global marketing program at the same time as you’re trying to advocate for content, accomplishing that can feel impossible.
If you’re a global marketer trying to make a case for content, maybe it’s time to think back to the famous words of John F. Kennedy, and ask not what your country managers can do for your content strategy, but what it can do for them. By considering your content through two lenses—how it can help your country managers, and how it can best be packaged to serve your audience’s needs—you can deliver powerful content that justifies an increased budgetary investment.
Here’s how two content marketing experts are doing just that.
Pam Didner is a marketing consultant, speaker, author of Global Content Marketing, and a recognized thought leader on the subject of global content marketing. When I asked her what arguments she’d offer country managers in favor of content in a global marketing strategy, she was adamant:
It’s not about arguments, per se. It’s more about benefits. It’s about “What’s in it for country teams?” For them to buy into the global content efforts, the corporate team needs to articulate how the global content plan can help the local teams. For example: will the country teams get a global content kit? What is in it? How can the kit help them for quick go-to-market? Can they translate and localize easily? When you work with the local team, the corporate team needs to understand that its role is to serve and make the local teams’ job easy. Once you start with that mind-set, everything will flow naturally. Help them to help you!
Kelly Hungerford is the social brand strategist at CommunityWorks and VP of Women in Digital Switzerland. She’s based in Geneva. Both she and Didner are like-minded marketers and have collaborated on various occasions, like the workshop “How to Reach Business Goals with Content and Social Media” in Geneva last October.
Have you ever approached a country manager about content, only to have them ask, “What’s in it for us?” Hungerford came up with a great answer: content may work as an “inside sales agent,” helping increase visibility and keep the relationship between brand and customer warm until the next time the sales team can pass by.
“The best part [of this approach],” she told me, “is that a project like this can move into the marketing channel portfolio. Marketing and sales are working together to identify the right type of content moving forward.”
She then explained exactly how she’s putting this theory into practice.
From a budgeting perspective, there are always skeptics when it comes to the value of content: will it be the right content to drive action? Will it be “quality” enough to drive engagement? Moreover, how can we be sure anyone is seeing it? Well, according to Hungerford, “if we can’t prove content is reaching our customers, why should we invest in it?”
As you likely know, it’s much more difficult to prove ROI on social media (in terms of its direct impact on relationships and conversion) than it is to prove the one-to-one value of a direct approach like email. “One of our longer-terms initiatives for a current client is to prove the value of content in the sales process,” Hungerford explains. “Because the ROI on social media can be more difficult to prove, we needed a tactic that would help us keep brand and product top of mind and help keep the relationship warm until the next time the sales rep can pass by.”
In addition to the difficulty of proving social ROI, Hungerford’s team also had to navigate the nuances of the European market. “In Europe, there are still industries where business is done via sales reps, paper orders, and yes, dare I say, fax machines,” she explains. But after some creative thinking, she, along with her team, found another way to maintain relationships through content: email marketing.
“In the case where business owners are also decision makers, for example, family-run pharmacies (which are still very popular in Europe), the relationship between the decision maker/pharmacist and the sales rep is direct,” Hungerford says. “So, where digital maturity may be low for a segment in an industry, social selling might not be the right choice for reaching customers. But email is a golden opportunity.”
Today, Hungerford is in the process of running a pilot project with a new brand where she’s testing her inside sales agent theory. She explains that her team began the pilot project in regions where the sales force isn’t able to make visits as often. Over a three-month period, they saw an 11 percent increase in orders based on product emails that had been sent, as well as an increase in requests to have the sales rep visit the customer.
“In more than 50 percent of the cases where a sales reps visited the customer,” Hungerford says, “these emails were mentioned in conversation (because they were a new channel to reach the customer), and the customer expressed gratitude for being kept abreast of relevant product information. The results exceeded customer expectations (and our sales team’s expectations!), and the only costs associated with the pilot were agency costs to develop graphics and layout the mailer.” That’s where the opportunity lies for content marketing—even if we’re not exactly talking about state-of-the-art digital technology.
So, you see, it’s not a matter of numbers versus creative thinking; it’s not about one side being more intuitive than the other. It’s about what content can do for sales and for your country (managers). And, moreover, it’s about knowing your audience well enough to decide which content (and content delivery methods) will best show that your brand understands their needs and wants to build a relationship with them at their specific pace. Let your content act as an inside sales agent that meets your audience where they are and shows them where and how to find you. You’ll build the kinds of authentic relationships that multiply tenfold.