The secret sauce of content marketing success has little to do with content marketing

It’s kind of like jumbo shrimp or efficient government – a contradiction in terms.

But the reality is, the secret sauce of running an effective content marketing program isn’t about content marketing at all but about getting senior executive buy-in – without that, it’s very difficult to achieve any lasting success, and stakeholders will soon lose their taste for the investment.

Executive buy-in occurs when the c-suite – CEO, President, CFO, CMO, etc – are all dipping into the same sauce (so to speak) and 1. understand the benefits that content marketing can achieve, 2. appreciate the sometimes-extended time it takes to get initial results, and 3. trusts the leader running the program. In other words, the c-suite is committed to investing the time and resources into a program and willing to give the it enough time to succeed and prove itself.

Without this executive buy-in, you may experience one or more of the following:

  • a desire by the c-suite for broad consensus regarding the content itself that inhibits timely production and distribution and, in some cases, the ability to create true thought leadership (can you really be a thought leader through consensus, which is often just the middle ground or “average” of different perspectives?)
  • a need for hands-on involvement in the editorial development by people whose time would be better spent elsewhere (is the CFOs time really best spent editing a whitepaper if the relevant subject matter experts have been consulted?),
  • resistance from others within the organization whose expertise is required to develop content (the aforementioned subject matter experts),
  • ultimately, the premature shut-down of the program before results have been generated.

With executive level buy-in, many (if not all) of the above challenges will either be avoided completely or can be relatively easily managed, meaning that you never get to the last bullet (literally and figuratively).

So, how do you ensure you have this buy-in? You can do a few things:

  • do some deep probing at the start of the initiative with key stakeholders to assess their level of understanding and commitment to the program,
  • “socialize” (i.e., talk with lots of people, formally and informally, about) the benefits of content marketing and the problems it solves¬†throughout the organization, especially at senior levels
  • try to establish, and get agreement from key stakeholders on, concrete goals, budget, and timelines of the program,
  • keep key stakeholders in the loop on progress to show momentum, even if its progress in development of the strategy, and
  • set some relatively easy goals, either internal or external, to earn some quick wins, again showing progress and momentum.

If buy-in is effectively achieved, then stakeholders throughout the organization will treat your program like my favourite sauce, Frank’s Red Hot – they’ll want to put that sh*t on everything!