Need to persuade senior managers to invest more in content? Try these tips from our ebook on building the business case for content 

Senior managers often stand in the way of content marketing success. At least that’s what our survey of digital professionals revealed.

While we might all agree that content can be a fantastic revenue-generating, brand-differentiating owned asset, we don’t necessarily agree on the levels of investment and skills required to achieve this.

In fact, getting board level buy-in was the biggest pain point cited in our content strategy training courses for econsultancy this year

If that sounds familiar, our short ebook 40 ways to build the business case for content was written with you in mind.

Flick through it in 5 minutes for inspiration or try these taster tips.

1. Make sure they see the real cost of content

Most senior managers simply want to know one thing: how does content make or save us money? They want a proven return on investment (ROI). It’s a frequent misconception that content doesn’t cost much to produce, so start by being transparent and realistic about the cost of getting content created.

Calculating the ‘I’ of your ROI can be difficult with content. If you’ve outsourced an infographic, it’s easy to see what the agency charged you. But are you capturing the cost of your own hours spent briefing, giving feedback and project managing?

This calculation gets trickier still with something like an internally sourced blog. Time spent on idea generation, research, writing, editing, getting approval – possibly from compliance – publishing via the CMS and monitoring and responding to comments all needs to be assigned a monetary value.

However, once calculated, this number can add great credibility to your business case, as it gives managers something concrete to work with.

2. Show what your content is capable of

‘Measuring the effectiveness of content’ was voted the most difficult aspect of content production in our 2013 State of digital copywriting survey

Results showed a market stuck with the same old metrics: page views, unique visits, conversions, open rates, social shares and clickthroughs.

Since then, we have seen ever more creative ways of assigning value to content. Cross-referencing content consumption with valuable customer behaviours over time, for example. Or understanding how dwell times correlate to targeted sharing and sign-ups.

So, in your battle to show how content affects the bottom line, start by beefing up your content scoring and assessment activities.

3. Demonstrate money-saving opportunities

Don’t forget that returns in the form of cost savings to your company are as valid as any other.

For example, we’ve seen a recent rise in customer service copy projects designed to cut costs by persuading people to self-help online.

Improving help content so it’s faster to find and easier to understand can have quantifiable benefits in reduced helpline use and email queries. A recent Sticky project saw us knock 30 seconds off the average helpline call time – an annual five-figure cost saving globally.

A Harvard Business School survey also shows that if you lower the effort a customer has to make to get help, the more likely they are to increase their spend with you

Find out where your content can cut costs and make a case for it.

4. Audit your own content

Use your content inventory to build up insights about your existing content that might shock people into change. Then circulate these to the most influential people internally.

For example, who are your company’s most valuable customers? Or most desirable audience? And what percentage of your current content is mapped to their specific information needs?

Often we inadvertently end up creating content for ourselves or for political purposes, leaving our intended audience short-changed. Auditing your content against user personas is a great way to show where you have potentially profitable gaps to fill.

5. Exploit their competitive streak

Do a bit of research and you’ll start to see what the typical open rates and inbound leads are in your industry and how you stack up against them. Dig out those scary statistics that’ll get your voice heard. For example, according to HubSpot, b2b and b2c companies with 101-200 pages of content generate 2.5x more leads than those with 50 or fewer. And companies that blog 15+ times a month get 5x more traffic than companies that don’t blog.

6. Streamline sign-off

Lots of us struggle with complex internal approval processes. Our 2013 State of digital copywriting survey paints a picture of companies doing content by committee, where work gets passed around and around until a go-live version can be agreed. This often dilutes content quality and affects the speed of production.

There are many logical arguments for streamlining your production process and introducing editorial hierarchy and governance. But often the most compelling argument is to show how – as stakeholder numbers and rounds of revision are reduced – people get their time back. And that means increased productivity for the company. Ker-ching!

7. Scare them with stats they’ll care about

For example, 2 in 5 jobseekers say their perception of a company is negatively impacted if their site is not mobile optimised, and 62% will check you out on social media to get a sense of company culture and reputation.

Pose a tough question to your board: are your current content assets likely to impress potential employees? What’s the potential economic loss if they don’t?

8. Go evergreen

A significant content cost that often gets overlooked is maintenance: how much it costs you in auditing, time and energy to keep your content current, correct, compliant and, frankly, just not looking embarrassingly out of date.

Clever editors know how to structure and create content for minimum maintenance. Evergreen content is timeless, always helpful and can be linked to time and again. Show the C-suite how ensuring upfront that 80%+ of your content is evergreen will impact the bottom line.

9. What’s the cost of doing nothing?

Here’s a metric that’s often overlooked. Doing nothing won’t always cost you nothing. Can you demonstrate how a lack of intelligent content presence on the web, social media and in mobile-friendly formats will increasingly benefit your competitors?

Building a strong set of content assets that can be picked up by search engines, building your social profile and recruiting followers takes time. It’s a long game. Explain how much harder it is to catch up if you’re a late entrant to content marketing.