How to Get a Bigger Content Budget in 2015

By Celine Roque January 21st, 2015

This article was written by Celine Roque and Natalie Burg.

If there’s a universal New Year’s resolution for marketers, it seems to be securing a bigger budget for content. Contently’s recent survey of 600 marketers showed that with more resources, marketers believe that they can deliver two to five times more brand lift or ROI.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. Research from the Content Marketing Institute suggests the most effective marketers are the ones with the most resources. The most effective B2C marketers allocate 29 percent of their marketing budget on content, while the least effective allocate only 17 percent. In B2B, the difference is more drastic, with the most effective marketers allocating 37 percent of marketing budgets compared to only 16 percent for the least effective marketers.

While it’s clear getting a budget increase could make marketers more effective, how exactly should they ask for it?

It’s not about the money, it’s about the interests

We tend to think of budgeting decisions as rational and data-driven, but according to a survey from Teradata and Econsultancy, this might not be the case. For a lot of companies, budgeting decisions are significantly driven by instinct.

This means that rather than focusing the discussion on just the numbers, it’s best to uncover and address the deeper interests of whomever is making the big-picture financial decisions—whether a C-suite executive, a client, or the members of the various departments you have to work with.

“The most common mistakes I see have to do with starting the negotiation over a budget from the conclusion about the budget number they want, rather than from the underlying interests that budget request is trying to meet,” says Danny Ertel, founding partner of management consulting firm Vantage Partners.

Ertel suggests demonstrating why your recommended solutions do a better job of meeting the company’s marketing goals compared to other options. By showing your decision-making process this way, you’re proving you considered alternatives and aren’t just throwing money at a problem based on intuition.

“This doesn’t have to take very long or go into tremendous technical detail,” Ertel says. “But if you start by explaining why this budget is the right answer, rather than how much you want, you are more likely to have a conversation about the priorities or about the means for achieving them than about whether the number is too high.“

Get buy-in through smaller projects

Once you’ve identified the interests of your CFO or clients, it’s easy to get tempted into “going big” when trying to secure more resources or funding.

But asking for a huge budget increase can be difficult, especially since there’s a disconnect between how marketers perceive the importance of marketing versus how finance directors perceive it. Research from Econsultancy shows that while 84 percent of marketers believe marketing needs to grow for a business to grow, only 47 percent of finance directors agree.

Given this difference in perspective, marketers need to get better at proving the value of their work. “Marketers convince members of the C-suite to back content marketing by demonstrating results,” says Rebecca Lieb, digital advertising and media analyst for the Altimeter Group. “For many, the goal is not to shoot too high, at least not initially.”

Lieb recommends pitching small pilot programs to increase leads or creating content that will ultimately cut customer service costs. Showing successful results from these projects can demonstrate to your stakeholders that when given enough resources to scale, these small projects can deliver big results.

Measure Outcomes, Not Activities

If there’s one thing that can help make a stronger case for a budget increase, it’s proof of ROI. However, figuring out how to do this is arguably the toughest task for today’s content marketers.

“The biggest challenge is when agencies fail to demonstrate how the money already being spent is helping to impact the client’s bottom line,” says Paul Roetzer, CEO of digital marketing agency PR 20/20 and author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint. “It’s hard to request budget increases when you struggle to show the value of existing services.”

This struggle is familiar to a majority of marketers. November’s Content Marketing Institute surveys declares only 23 percent of B2C marketers and only 21 percent of B2B marketers are successful at tracking the ROI of their content.

“Historically, marketing agencies have gotten away with reporting relatively meaningless metrics such as impressions, advertising equivalency, and PR value, or relying strictly on qualitative results,” Roetzer says.

Now, however, given the number of analytics tools available, marketers are being held to higher ROI standards.

“Marketing dashboards that report activities rather than outcomes are a big part of the disconnect between marketers, agencies, and the C-suite,” Roetzer adds. “Marketing technology has made it easier and more affordable to measure everything, but marketers have largely dropped the ball when it comes to monitoring, reporting, and improving performance.”

To improve on these deficiencies in the coming year, Roetzer suggests marketers demonstrate how every dollar is spent and ensure every campaign has a primary key performance indicator.

Be transparent

While running tests and gathering outside data often help make the case for new, innovative projects, expanding upon existing programs depends upon demonstrating what worked (yup, with more data), as well as what did not.

“You have to demonstrate past success,” says Maksymiw. “But be transparent if something didn’t work as well. We don’t sugarcoat.”

It may be tempting to cast every past investment as a good one to instill more faith in future budget allocations, but transparency will guarantee longer-term faith in content. Maksymiw, for example, tried a competitive intelligence tool this year that simply didn’t work well for the business.

“Yes, we spent a fair amount of money on the tool, but I was up front with that,” she says. “Owning up to mistakes is important to build that trust.”

The long game: foster a culture of content

Though getting more funding for content can help marketers reach their goals, this is just the first step toward more effective content practices. The long game is actually to get coworkers thinking about content until it’s a part of your company’s culture.

Last December, the Altimeter Group released a report on what it means for an organization to have a culture of content. From the report: “A culture of content exists when the importance of content is evangelized enterprise-wide, content is shared and made accessible, creation and creativity are encouraged, and content flows up and downstream, as well as across various divisions.”

According to Rebecca Lieb, who also co-authored the report, having this content culture will have a considerable impact on budget discussions. “This will vary from organization to organization,” she says, “but overall, content marketing can be radically more effective than advertising at a fraction of the cost.”

For Lieb and the Altimeter Group, content is the “atomic particle of all marketing,” meaning a single piece of content can be used, remade, and reused across many different media channels and platforms. For example, a longform article might have several pullout quotations that can be used for tweets, repurposed for relevant customer support emails, and republished in an email newsletter.

“Content is the raw material of social media and of advertising creative ,” Lieb says. “And when the source is the organization for content, there will be greater consistency in voice, tone, look, and feel across channels.”

When this culture of content starts to make its way across your entire organization, this breaks down silos and gives messaging in different departments more consistency, which in turn, could help you secure a bigger content budget since other employees will understand the value of content marketing.

Tell a good story

Consider the budget ask to be your most important piece of content all year. Yes, the metrics and goals and tools are important, just like the grammar and fact-checking and reporting is crucial to the content you create. But their impact will entirely depend on the narrative in which you place them. According to Jay Acunzo, director of platform for NextView Ventures, that narrative should include what the problem is, what others have done to try and solve it, and why your solution is best.

“I’m telling that story,” he says, “a simple, three-step story. Lacing that with data, benchmarks, tests that you ran, all of that is just supplemental to the core story.”

Make it a good one.


The best way to prove you deserve bigger budgets in the future is to take a nuanced approach that incorporates all of the factors listed above. There’s no standard approach that will work for everyone. Some companies will want more data, others will want you to persuade them with compelling stories.

And if you need a little extra motivation for asking for a little more this year, content marketing costs less than traditional marketing while generating three times as many leads. Website conversion rates are also nearly six times higher for content marketing adopters than those who don’t use it at all. Those are numbers you should be able to take to the bank.

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