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Your number one challenge as a B2B marketer today: evangelising the new dynamics of content marketing to the folks who grew up on old-style marketing.

There are two kinds of B2B marketers. Those who have noticed that B2B marketing has changed dramatically in the last few years and those who haven't.

The problem for those of us who have noticed: most of us are reporting to people who haven't.

Think about it: the most senior B2B marketers are generally over 40 years old. Maybe over 50. So the vast majority of their careers were spent in old-school, crop-spraying mode. And they were good at it,  or they wouldn't have got all those promotions.

For those of us who are turned on by the New B2B Marketing (content marketing plus revenue performance management plus analytics) this internal barrier has become our single most important challenge.

I don't mean that rhetorically. I mean it literally: your single most important challenge is taking your bosses (and other stakeholders) with you on the road to data-driven content marketing.

If you fail at this, it's no use being great at all the tricky, tactical things. Your marketing will never hit the market.

But 99% of the new B2B zealots we've met tend to ignore this barrier and just start running full speed ahead with their new strategies. At some point, they present their exciting new plans to the Dinosaurs and get body-slammed back to square one.

I can relate.

As a B2B marketing agency, we fall into the trap, too. Our direct client contact is a convert but their bosses don't really now what they're up to. And it's our job to help correct that.

Part of the problem is that we all prefer doing actual work to explaining what we're doing. The explaining part feels like a needless waste of time. We resent it and see it as an obstacle to doing our job.

But, in truth, it's not an obstacle. It IS our job.

And today, it's more important than ever.

So here are…

Eight tips for selling content marketing to your dinosaurs

1. Sell the need for change

Nobody likes to change the way they do things. To sell in content marketing you have to show that the way you're doing things now is failing.

You can use general industry data for this, but the best data is your own: show your bosses:

  • How your email/direct mail/ advertising response rates are falling.
  • How your PPC or SEO efforts are flat-lining.
  • How your cost per lead is rising.

If you can, show them the implications: how these trends will make a bigger and bigger impact on revenues (and/or costs).

2. Show what works

Show them examples of revenue-driven content marketing by any of the best practitioners (the marketing automation vendors tend to be really good at it, not surprisingly).

Don't just show them a sexy eBook, show as much of the campaign as you can. And show whatever results you can find -– ROI data if they've published case studies or things like social shares or Google rank if that's all you can see.

If you're getting out-ranked on key search terms, chances are the companies out-ranking you are using content marketing to do it. Show the dinosaurs.

3. Start small: run one experiment

No one will want to shift the whole budget without some first-hand experience so don't try to win the whole budget, just do one thing well.

Start with a single piece of content, promote it well and...

4. Harness your data

You need to compare the traffic generated by your content marketing with normal traffic. And show how the engagement and conversions are much better for the content-driven traffic (if this isn't true, you published the wrong content).

5. Set targets

Show how you intend to generate revenue by using content to fill the top of the funnel and to move people along, stage by stage. Show how, at a given conversion rate for each stage, investment X will deliver return Y. (Where Y is greater than X!).

Agree some specific metrics that you'll be tracking.

6. Report regularly

Share top line data for the metrics you've agreed regularly.

Keep it simple and explain the changes, why did stuff work, why did other stuff fail,  and what are you going to do about it? One page. Monthly at a minimum.

7. Manage expectations

If your dinosaurs are like most marketers, they should start to get quite excited by the new things you're recommending. That's fantastic  But you do need to be clear that content marketing is a long-term play with lots and lots of learning along the way.

You may also need to bring the sales department along with you and show them the difference between a properly nurtured, sales-ready lead and the junk they've been wasting their time on to date. 

You need to earn their trust so they don't leap on every person who visits a web page or downloads an eBook. You also need them to recycle leads back to you that turned out to not be ready to buy yet.

8. Prepare for your new job

You're either about to get a great promotion (hey, you deserve it) or the dinosaurs will tear you to bits -- in which case you'll find a much better job where they understand this stuff.

Funnel 2012, Econsultancy's one-day B2B marketing event, takes place at the Emirates Stadium, London on November 13.

Doug Kessler

Published 11 September, 2012 by Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler is a founder and Creative Director of B2B marketing agency Velocity and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

19 more posts from this author

Comments (19)

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David Quaid

I can think of some more. Firstly, the largest driver of traffic and the biggest interconnector on the web is Google. If your website is meant to be a main marketing driver, how will people find you if you dont talk about the things you do?

Good content marketing and SEO can drive more traffic than Social Marketing - mainly because nearly 35% of US Internet Population won't use Facebook or twitter!

almost 4 years ago

James Carson

James Carson, Founder at Made From MediaSmall Business Multi-user

Might seem like light hearted banter, but isn't this a little ageist? Just because someone's older, doesn't mean they don't get content.

almost 4 years ago

Robert Easson

Robert Easson, PRODUCT MANAGER at Phaidon Press Ltd

Nice post. Do you think the problem selling content marketing to "dinosaurs" is in the term itself? It doesn't really mean that much to someone who is focussed on the business KPI’s.

However if you said, we are going to change our marketing tactics and the result of that is going to be better more effective targeting, increased inbound leads, lower CPL, better brand positioning and increased ROI.

If you put it like that the "dinosaurs" might be more inclined to listen and probably won't mind how you go about it?

As long as you can demonstrate the results

almost 4 years ago

Tomás de Teresa

Tomás de Teresa, SEO Consultant at DETERESA.com

Dinosaurs are hard to convince, but you can use what they already know.

For example, you can set a pre-sell stage in which you explain the success of content marketing in the past.

This is the case of John Deere and the customer magazine The Furrow (launched in 1895). Or the Michelin Guides (1900).

Content marketing is the same, only the medium has changed.

almost 4 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for the comments.
For the record, I'm 51.
Not all old folks are dinosaurs and not all dinosaurs are old folks!

almost 4 years ago

Toni Anicic

Toni Anicic, E-commerce Consultant at Inchoo d.o.o.

I was lucky to start with a start-up company and build it into what it is today (mostly thank to content marketing strategy) without having to report to any dinosaurs. I guess I'm gonna be a dinosaur soon :)

almost 4 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

"content marketing is a long-term play with lots and lots of learning along the way."

That's the hardest lesson for many to learn. We all want immediate results and get so focused on the short term that we aren't willing to buckle down for the long haul. With content marketing, it's all about the long haul.

almost 4 years ago

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Jake Smith

The biggest obstacle for these dinosaurs is obviously the time it takes for return on their investment, similar to the initial response to social media marketing. However if you are able to pitch the benefits well and get the backing you need, in a couple of months you will be able to present tangible results if your content strategy is effective.

almost 4 years ago

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Mark Burgess

Today, even change is changing. Unless you keep pace with it, you can become a dinosaur. Or, you can continue to learn, grow, experiment and lead and watch dinosaurs around you struggle to adapt.

Mark Burgess
President
Blue Focus Marketing, a social branding consultancy.

almost 4 years ago

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Nick Hilditch, Town Clerk at Hythe Town Council

So no-one over 40 understands eh? An interesting and ageist segmentation you present. I wonder what other 'isms' you discriminate against with your broad sweeping assumptions. Sex? Race? Disability?

Do you have any evidence that those of us over 40 degenerate into dinosaurs?

I hope for the sake of your future business that you don't usually insult your target audience in such an overtly offensive way!

almost 4 years ago

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Ricardo Molina, Director at BrightBull B2B Marketing

I agree with Nick. You are in it for the long run and a lot of learnings along the way.

One of the biggest learnings for me is to be prepared with clear and straight figures on the impact to the bottom line.

When the dinosaur gets itchy feet at some point through the process, you will need those figures to demonstrate the value and the £££ at the end of it.

And... be sure to have picked the right marketing system that integrates with your CRM, it will provide you with the ammunition you need.

It is a very bumpy road, but an enjoyable one ;-)

almost 4 years ago

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Guy Cross, Founder at Freelance Consultant

As a former dinosaur (and well over 40) you've got me thinking thinking back to who originally converted me and if palaeontology and managing fossils was their hobby?

Incredulously, I am aware of sales dinosaurs that totally failed to act or even accept individual response client engagement data from content marketing. A tough lesson to learn at the end of campaigning, when you are looking for ROI results.

Thanks for a chuckling article Doug.

almost 4 years ago

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Jonathan Winch

There are some good points in your post, Doug, but I can't help thinking that you are still emphasizing the sort of parameters that don't really turn top management on. Talking about Google search results, email campaign numbers etc. is still too digitally focused. At the risk of sounding boastful, my agency manages to inspire and convince CEOs to release delta budgets (unplanned spending reserves) and put marketing at or close to the top of their agendas. And we do it without talking so much about the mechanics of it all - or, for that matter, measurable ROI! We have a particular 30-minute story we tell every time, and strangely, it seems to work even better for top management than for marketing directors. So these days, we only talk to top management because we know that the marketing director cannot release the big budgets it takes to turn B2B marketing approaches around. I'm happy to share this approach and storyline in detail with any other agency - or marketing management hoping to get top management's attention. So if anyone's interested, just ask!

almost 4 years ago

Matthew Phelan

Matthew Phelan, Director and Co-Founder at 4Ps Marketing

Hi Doug,

Interesting post and I like the fact this has started a debate. I understand where you are coming from but I do reject the concept that “the vast majority of their careers were spent in old-school, crop-spraying mode”.

I would like to propose that it is actually the language that younger marketers use to communicate with more experienced marketing professionals is the area that needs to improve. I work with many marketers on a daily basis that are in the 50+ age group and they have been doing content marketing for decades they just don’t call it that.

I think it is the younger marketers (I am in that group) that need to improve the way they communicate about what content marketing actually is.

Thanks for starting the debate.

Matt
4Ps Marketing

almost 4 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Great debate.

I knew the age reference might ruffle a feather or two. For the record, I'm 51 and spent the vast majority of my career in old-school, crop-spraying mode (even though I was doing a form of content marketing too -- just not the new dynamic that combines content, marketing automation, analytics and social.

When this new stuff started to come together, I felt like it was Phase II of my career -- and I love it.

I do agree it's incumbent on the people who 'get it' to communicate clearly with those who aren't there yet -- hence this post.

Thanks again for the really strong feedback.

almost 4 years ago

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rhonda hurwitz

Doug, this was an awesome read. Loved your way of explaining things!

almost 4 years ago

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David Geore

Doug... there's a number of useful tips! Thanks for your contribution.

I especially like "Set Targets" and "Sell the Need for Change."

My specific challenge (upcoming) is to try to demonstrate that "outsourcing" can improve ROI. I provide private security services and am finding it difficult to get good data on which I can base a comparison. Do you, or any of your readers have any suggestions?

"Thanks," again!

Dave

almost 4 years ago

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Alexandra Swann, Director at Swann Connect

Whilst I have 20+ expereince my ekills weren't up to scratch. So I did an MSc and learnt read and practiced all I could.
Now I consider myself to me at a huge advangage to all those young 'experts', because only time can build expereince, anyone can learn digi skills : )

over 3 years ago

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Monty Carl Fuller

I have friends that are working for the education industry, and are
fortunate to have much content on hand. They started out with going to
an exhibition, conference or any events to promote the degree program
they were handling. However, they realized that they could only do so
much. Then, they realized that being in education, they decided to
capitalize on the content that they had on hand. They used their
faculty’s research papers, made some attractive web graphics and
banners to promote it in their social media channels. Because of that
strategy, their brand awareness and target market engagement
increased.

over 3 years ago

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