How to Secure Budget for your Content Strategy
“Any good marketer can come up with a great content idea for their niche, the difficult part is selling the idea to your company and getting the budget. “
This was the challenge laid down via the comments of a post I wrote back in June for SEOmoz highlighting companies in “boring” niches creating great content. It’s something I’ve been meaning to write for ages – as it’s something I know many face whether their in-house or agency-side.
The way in which you pitch likely depends on whoever you’re pitching to – if you can get a meeting with them, then great – however this might not always be possible. If you’re relying on your documentation to do the talking then keeping it short and sweet is best; backed up with a comprehensive appendix which can be cross-referenced.
Whatever format your pitch takes I’d recommend you include the following sections:
Section 1 – Show me the Money
Make sure this is the very first thing that they’ll read (or indeed hear if you’re pitching face-to-face). Those who hold the purse strings will doubtlessly receive countless requests. Why should they choose to invest their money in your project rather than someone else’s? This is not the time to start talking about content that people will love and want to share; this is the time to play hard ball. Here are some examples:
Content to improve Organic Search Visibility
a) Our site’s been hit by Panda. To recover revenue from search traffic (worth £XX,XXX per year) we need to create unique content on our product pages.
b) We’re missing out on £XX,XXX per year via organic search via X,XXX keywords because we don’t currently have pages on the site targeting these terms.
c) Post Penguin our competitors are outranking us because their domains have links from sites such as x, y, and z. Currently there’s no content on our site that these sites would link to. In order to recover revenue from search traffic (worth £XX,XXX per year) we need to create content to attract these high value links.
Of course forecasting potential uplift in traffic and revenue is tough. It’s easier if you’ve already been penalised as you can see what you used to have and pitch based on that. If not, you’ll need to make some assumptions based on traffic and current conversion rates.
Content to improve Conversion Rate
a) Our conversion rate is 0.50%. Improving the conversion rate from 0.50% to 0.60% will generate an additional £XXX,XXX per year.
Conversion rate optimisation is fairly easy to sell in. Again here a forecasted improvement in conversion rate will equal a cash sum.
Content to increase engagement via Social Media
a) We’ve seen that customers who engage with us via social media spend £XXX more per year than those who do not. We plan to create content to increase the number of socially engaged customers from X to Y which will equate to an additional £XX,XXX per year.
In all of the examples above I’ve made a single forecast – however you might like to hedge a little and forecast low; medium and high to demonstrate the potential return. Whilst you should of course submit your forecasts and your assumptions as part of your pitch, do so in the appendix of your main document.
Section 2 – The Pitch; Associated Costs & ‘Soft’ Benefits
Now you’ve explained the monetary benefit of creating this content you can break down what you want to create and what it will cost. Be sure to include costs for writers, designers, agencies etc; plus internal costs for staff resource.
Again, depending on what you’re pitching for this initial pitch might just be for a single one-off project which you can use to assess the actual impact; and then re-pitch later for further budget to roll out your idea.
If at all possible don’t go into this alone – if your project touches other departments ensure you’ve communicated fully with everyone and that they too are keen to implement your strategy.
This will likely mean that you’re already working in additional ‘softer’ benefits to creating this content. For example, if you’re creating content to build high value links who else might benefit? Will your PR department also be able to use the content for press coverage? Will your marketing team also be able to use this content for email newsletters etc? Will your social media team also be able to use this content to drive engagement? Will this content help your Customer Services team reduce the time to resolution? Can your sales team use this content in their pitches? I could go on all day, but hopefully you get the idea.
These ‘soft’ benefits may be harder to place a monetary value on – however if you can that’s great as it will help go towards building your business case.
Section 3 – Address Misconceptions
In this section you’re justifying why you need to spend this money.
I think it’s important to highlight the challenges which we’re facing here. There are lots of misconceptions about marketing (particularly online) – as this image nicely sums up:
Cute, huh? Sadly completely untrue. Marketing isn’t ‘free'; content isn’t ‘free'; neither is social media or anything else worthwhile. It’s typically cheaper than some other forms of media such as TV advertising; but it’s certainly not free.
It’s not even cheap.
In order for the content you’re creating to benefit your site it needs to be “truly impressive” in most instances – there are exceptions of course, “good” content could probably get you out of a Panda penalty (for now anyway) – it really depends on what you’re pitching. Regardless, make sure you’ve acknowledged and addressed these misconceptions; and any other misconceptions which you know are pervasive.
Section 4 – Overcome Objections
Here’s where you need to do a reverse forecast. What is likely to happen if you don’t do this project?
Will rankings drop? Will you fail to recover from your penalty? How much will that cost? Revenue will drop by £XX,XXX year on year.
These sorts of examples make for a fantastically persuasive case. If we don’t do this we’ll lose money – and no one wants to lose money, right?
If the decision is taken not to do a conversion rate optimisation or social media project then arguably things might just stay the same (although you might be able to make a case that social media engagement will drop thereby leading to decreased revenue as above). However, given that most companies are looking for growth, revenue remaining static is unlikely to be appealing.
Section 5 – Timings, Reporting etc
Round off your pitch with timings for the project and how you’ll be reporting on progress. Ensure you’re managing expectations from the outset – content projects are typically slow-starting – e.g.:
- The content will need to be created and promoted if you’re doing link building and ranking improvements aren’t instantaneous.
- Coming back from penalties takes time.
- Increasing engagement via social media might not yield instant financial returns.
- If you’re doing conversion rate optimisation you’ll need to undertake a research phase to understand what’s preventing customers from converting before any testing can begin.
Make sure you’ve built in reasonable time scales both to create your content, and to see the benefits.
And so dear readers, over to you – what do you think? Did I miss anything? Also, if you’ve got any experiences or tips you’d like to share I’d love to hear them.