April 25, 2017

Content Marketing Buy-In: Nothing Happens Every Time

Why do people really buy anything, including content marketing?



People who are overweight very often do not stop overeating, and most do not exercise. Is it because someone hasn’t told them the “ROI” of not overeating and doing some sit ups? 

People will not make a change because of anything you tell them. People make a change because they believe it is in their best interest to do so.

Why did I write this article?

I wrote this article for three reasons:

  1. I saw similar articles from Marcus Sheridan and Jay Baer that I felt didn’t address the real challenges you will face in trying to get buy-in for anything, let alone content marketing. More importantly, I am seeing these types of articles more and more, and from a wide range of sources.
  2. Because I know the risks inherent in presenting creative ideas, and want you to know as well.
  3. To show you how to get buy-in by understanding peoples beliefs, and getting the commitment you need to succeed.

Expectations: Nobody Bats 1000

content marketing buy in not every timeMarcus Sheridan wrote an article, “The 10 Commandments of Getting Content Marketing Buy-In Every Time”. 

Generally speaking, it is a good article. 

The risk inherent in articles like this, is in setting the wrong expectations. Nobody knows how to get buy-in every single time, no matter who they are, and how they do what they do. 

Batting 1000 in “sales” is a near impossibility. 

If you are in a postion where the majority of the people you talk to already believe a change is needed, you will likely experience a higher percentage of success. A more realistic expectation for you is to know that you may do everything right, and still not get content marketing as part of your boss’s plan.


To improve your odds of success, you need to get a handle on whether your boss believes a change is needed. Then you need to ascertain why they believe a change is needed. 

At the root of this discussion is the exploration of a problem/cause model.

A problem is anything getting in the way of your boss’s ability to reach a goal, or arrive at a destination. A cause is anything that results in the problem. 

An example might be that you cannot grow organically as a result of lack of sales territory coverage. Possible causes could be an inadequate number of sales people, or, that too many of your sales people are not trained properly. 

If you cannot have this type of discussion with your boss, anything you say about content marketing, or any other solution will fall on deaf ears.

Why People Buy: It’s Not About Outcomes

Jay Baer wrote and article, “6 Questions Your Boss Should Ask Before Approving Your Content Marketing”. Jay presents 6 questions that your boss should be asking before they sign off on your content marketing.

First, as a mindset going it, It is dangerous to think of content marketing as “yours”. This is and should be considered a company wide initiative that is tied to the problems getting in the way of trying to get something done.

Second, connecting to business outcomes seems like a logical way to get buy-in. Some people call this ROI. It can be a dangerous play given that many people do not make decisions based on logic. 

Belief in Change

tumblr_m32xyiMCd61r3jsrko1_500People don’t make changes because they want outcomes. They makes changes because they believe there is a problem with not striving for a goal, or, a problem getting in the way of achieving it.

When I was selling large systems for companies like Peoplesoft and Oracle, one of the first questions I would ask was, “What happens if you do nothing?”

This is a very important question to ask your boss as well. The answer will tell you if your boss is happy with the status quo, or if they believe a change is needed. This question alone will set the course for you to navigate is it relates to getting buy-in for your work.

As an example, let’s say that your boss wants to double sales. First, you have to understand if your boss believes sales can be doubled without making a change.

Then you have to identify what your boss views as the things needed to change. You have to understand if your boss believes something like the volume of leads in the sales funnel is the actual problem stopping your boss from doubling sales.   

Second, if you find out that your boss believes that the volume of leads in the funnel is the problem getting in the way of doubling revenue, you have to list out the possible causes of the lead shortfall. A problem like this could be a lead management problem, a lead development problem or a problem with the entire business development model. Your goal is to find out what your boss believes is the cause.

Then you need to understand what your boss believes are the causes of the problems. Absent an understanding of these beliefs, you are making a huge gamble that a logical case for content marketing will be received well.

Risk of Being the Creative Innovator (Different Than the Others)

It is becoming somewhat of a thing with me, to reference this study. Three college professors, Jennifer Mueller, Shimul Melwani and Jack Goncalo, conducted a study and published the results in “The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas.”

content marketing could get your firedIt was a fairly comprehensive study meant to better understand why people seem to shy away from creative ideas. I will let you read the entire study, but will highlight two things from the study that you need to understand before you proceed.

  1. People generally, and mostly subconsciously, do not favor creativity. Creativity brings with it risk and uncertainty. People do not like risk and uncertainty. In some cases, if you are the creative type or the innovator, you will likely be pushing people away from you, or worse, losing your job, and not even know why.
  2. If you do decide to proceed with trying to get content marketing buy-in, your best bet will be to eliminate as much perceived risk as possible.

Please do not make the mistake of dismissing this study. Even when people tell you they want you to be creative, they still don’t. You risk making even the most open minded boss very uncomfortable if you choose to ignore this.

So, How Do You Get Buy-In?

That is the ultimate question. The truth is, there is no one answer. Much depends on the people you are surrounded by, and the situation your organization finds itself in.

Generally speaking, there are a few things you can count on:

1 Problem/Cause – People change when they believe they have to. The belief typically stems from the recognition of a problem. How they change largely depends on what they belive the causes are. Your mission is to work with your boss to identify problems, examine their causes and together map out a game plan to solve the problems. 

2 What and Why, before How –  Your boss should not be asking you a set of 6 questions regarding the alignment of content marketing to preconceived business outcomes. Your boss should be interacting with you around what needs to change, first. Then, as you define the WHAT needs to change as well as the WHY it needs to change, you can start focusing on HOW you can help make the change.
content marketing buy in is the bosses choice3 Boss Makes the Decision –  We all know who the real “king” is. We also know that it doesn’t matter. All you are after is making sure that you can help your boss get results. 
The last thing you want to do is persuade your boss, or sell your boss, on content marketing. Your much better off helping your boss make the right decision, so that content marketing because your boos’s choice. This is very important for two reasons.
Start by asking your boss questions like these:
  • Do you want to change?
  • If so why?
  • How will you know a change is a success?
  • Who else needs to know about this change?
  • How will they determine the change was a success?

Gato_enervado_pola_presencia_dun_can4 Eliminate Perceived Risk – Even the most creative bosses will respond very poorly to a threat stemming from the perception of risk and uncertainty. Your goal should be to ensure you eliminate as much perceived risk as possible.

This is just not easy to do, but it should be something you strive to do. Doing a problem cause analysis, studying the what, why and how and helping your boss make the choice will go a long way in mitigating perceived risk.

The main takeaway here is to ensure that you fully understand your boss’s agenda, and align your solution to that agenda. 

5 Don’t Make this About Content Marketing – Marcus makes a great point in his first commandment when he says take away content marketing. Actually, take away ALL lingo. 

Focus on problems and solutions. Make this a strategic conversation, not a tactical discussion. A great to get this done is to focus on how your customers buy what you sell. Make it about the customers preference, and not about what you think or label things as.


Content marketing requires a tremendous amount of time, energy and commitment to work. You need to get the right kind of buy-in, by approaching this internal sales process properly.

If the initiative is “yours” and not “ours”, you will ultimately fail. You need the commitment from your boss, and team to make this a win/win for you all.

Focus on making sure that:

  • Your boss see the need for change
  • Your boss believes that content is how to make the change
  • You proceed by mitigating perceived risk
  • Ask the right kinds of questions to build the consensus you need to succeed.

Good Luck!

Additional Resources

High Probability Selling – A Sales Book that will help you work internally to “promote” change.

An Executive Summary for 6 Competencies for Enterprise Content Strategy

Content Strategy and Execution

How do Decisions Get Made?



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