Dodging every type of content marketing objection can get...tiring.
In this episode, you’ll learn how to respond to the following objections:
- Why don’t we just keep building leads the same way we have been?
- Why should I put money into something that’ll take months to see results?
- Is the ROI there? Is it worth the budget?
- I (personally) don’t like [some aspect] of this.
- I don’t want us to reveal our company strategies. Won’t that be bad for business?
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Amanda: I'm very excited about the conversation we're going to have today, not only because of the topic, which is the most common objections to content marketing, that I feel like all of us have either heard a couple of if not all of them by now. But the guest is here to talk about that topic with me, and that is Andy Crestodina, the co-founder and strategic director of the award-winning web design company, Orbit Media Studios. Welcome to the show, Andy.
Andy: Thank you for having me, I'm really excited about this. I love the topic and I'm a big fan of your brand.
Amanda: Well, thank you, we're a big fan too. It's like, you know, I saw you speak at, I can't even remember which conference it was that I saw you at, because I went to like four at the same time last year, were you at the MarketingProfs one?
Andy: I was.
Amanda: I think it was that one then, yeah. Because I'm in DC so, I was actually volunteering at that one. So, you know, obviously you speak at a lot of these, and you're so great about sharing your knowledge on a lot of these topics. So, I think this will be really valuable for people because like I said, at least personally, I've heard a lot of these. And when I've been to these conferences, people tell me constantly that they run into barriers that they have to face to get approval for things. So, we can just jump right in and talk about how you would respond to some of this type of push back. Does that sound good?
Andy: Sounds great. And actually, it's perfect that you mentioned MarketingProfs, because at that event, I grabbed a quote that I think Ann Handley herself said, it was something like, "Getting stakeholder buy-in isn't a big fat obstacle to your job, it is your job." So, yeah, just part about addressing internal objections, we're going to use some of our marketing skills to get the executives to buy-in to our content program because we know it's the right thing to do, let's get them on board.
Amanda: Yeah, I liked when we talked about this originally, you said it was basically, we have to think of it that way, that we are marketing to the people that we're speaking to. And it's not a lot of the, I don't hear that rhetoric a lot that you're thinking of it that way, it seems like an extra part of your job. But you're right, it is, you have to think that, "This is my audience, how am I going to reach them?".
Andy: That's right, it's your job; persuasion, you have to persuade them, we need to.
Amanda: Right. So, one of the things that you had mentioned that you have heard or have heard of other people dealing with is, when leadership says, "Why don't we just keep getting the leads the same way that we have been? Why do we need to throw in another strategy or get content mixed up into this?", what is your reasoning behind that? So, what kind of response would you give to that kind of a push back?
Andy: It's a common objection. It's like, "Our pipeline gives us what we need, this is how we go to market, we've always done it this way.", it's basically an argument to the status quo. And I think we need to be grateful to the things that got us where we are, and to acknowledge that, when you hear that objection, you know, "We get our leads by cold calling.". "Great, let's keep doing that. But I've got another way, there's a supplement to that source of leads, I'm going to create another pipeline that just adds to the top of the funnel, it's called content and it does not take away from anything else we're doing, it will create some durable advantages that are all in addition to what we're doing.". So, the way to address this objection is not to really just object to the current status quo, but it's to try to explain how this is all going to be more, this is a plus one, this is an addition to. So, yeah, I think that's one too, where you just have to kind of like, agree and redirect. You know, it's common persuasion tactic. So, yeah, "Love it. We love our current source of leads, but let's build another channel, another source, another way to get leads that will add to the total."
Amanda: Right. I can imagine it's scary for people to think that you're proposing, "Let's just stop everything we're doing that's working and this other, pivot over here instead." So, yeah, meet them where they are, and say and give them the concept of it could be better, dangle that, but the whole point is you're trying to expand it.
Andy: Well, you know, we can do that, too. We can definitely explain how content actually supports the sales' funnel. "Oh, yeah, we're going to keep getting leads the way we've always gotten them. And by the way, when those leads have an objection, I'm going to be creating high value content that addresses their objection that our entire sales team can lean on and share and send." You know, but when you bring up some of the ABM type benefits, the account based marketing benefits of content, and you explain how we're going to be producing things that will give ammunition and firepower to the sales team, we're going to warm-- we're going to use content to warm up cold leads, we're going to use content to improve the sales closing rate, we're going to use content to differentiate ourselves to add data evidence, original research, you know, to answer tough questions, and that that will make all sales more effective, even if you don't believe in any of the normal content channels.
Amanda: I love that, incorporating sales definitely makes it a little easier for people to visualize how-- even if they don't understand the marketing side, they can get behind the fact that you're going in help them get more money in the sales side.
Andy: We love sales, too.
Amanda: So, say they're amenable to that idea, "Okay, we'll do some content and supplement what we're already doing. But we want those results now. We don't want them later, why should I put money into something that's going to take months to see the results for?".
Andy: The fast versus slow argument is a totally valid argument, in favor of advertising and against content marketing because advertising is fast, "We don't have time to build up our rankings, we're just going to buy the top position.", okay, that's definitely true. That's fast. But the argument for content and the argument against or the opposed, you know, the other perspective on content versus advertising is that content is durable, and advertising is temporary. So, sure, we'll invest you know, we're going to keep investing in ads, or, "We need results now. I want results now, too. We can't really wait three quarters or have, you know, six months to see results.", but keep in mind that every investment in advertising disappears the minute you stop, right? The visibility created from advertising disappears, the minute you stop paying for that ad. Interruptive marketing is when you're buying the attention of someone who's trying to do something else, that's what an ad is. But content, like we already said, it's helpful, it can be useful in conversation, it will live on the site forever, it can be discovered months, years later. So, yeah, we can also acknowledge that point if they say, "You know, we need results quick.", but it's the difference between buying something and investing in something. So, content is definitely an investment, ads, fast, but temporary, content, slow, but durable.
Amanda: And I don't know if you've done the same thing, but what you were mentioning earlier about tying it to sales, I found that even if the main objective of what you're trying to do would take some time, that giving them those little short-term benefits, like, "Okay, this might not pay off entirely for several months, but you'll have it for the sales process, and we're going to support that team as soon as this is done being made.", and using those things to leverage like, "Okay, well, it still is going to give us value, maybe not in the primary way, but we can still get value from it sooner rather than later."
Andy: Yeah, that's an excellent point. And you can even go, and I'll be extreme about it, I think you can get value from content even before it's published. Because if you're working on an article, you can actually reach out to prospects and ask them for a contributor quote, which might just the act of creating content brought you closer to your sale, you can reach out to people that you would like to have in your pipeline, you can reach out to companies that don't even know about you yet, and ask them if they wouldn't mind being interviewed for your new webinar series. You will get networking benefits and potential sales pipeline benefits from that content, even before it goes live; that's called Zero Waste Marketing. It doesn't matter, you can have no visibility at all, might just be complete crickets, goose egg for certain social and email, doesn't matter, you use content to start conversations, and in that way, yeah, it's every bit as fast as advertising and insanely, you know, micro targeted. So, good point, Amanda. Yeah, you can, if it's an ABM play, it's not slow, it's now.
Amanda: Are there any other ways that you recommend or like, in these conversations saying how you'll repackage something you're going to create like, okay, we're talking about sales and accounts. But is there anything else you'll use to kind of say, "This isn't just a one and done thing where we publish it once and that's the end, it'll continue to get value," aside from what you were mentioning how people can find it through search or over elsewhere promoting it for years, but are there any other ways you repackage it or say that it'll provide more value?
Andy: Yeah, sometimes the people who control budgets or the C suite or some executive, doesn't really understand the difference between a format of content, like text or video or audio or live webinar, and the promotion channel for that content, search or social or email. So, when you explain how a single piece of content, but say, you know, you and I are having a conversation right now, we're recording it, can be repurposed and re promoted in many other ways, then they start to understand the way that these efforts can all be magnified. So, let's say we're going to ask, I don't know, five questions on this conversation. If in every one of your conversations, you make one of those questions common.
Amanda: Like, when I did that?
Andy: Perfect, right. So, you're all over it. I can't teach you anything because you're a total pro. But in the end, you got to round up where 25 people all answer one question, right? Think of everything on a matrix, there's topics, there's formats, right? And just like, follow that row and column over until you see a cell that's empty. And then, yeah, repurpose. This could be a video, this could be a long form post, this could be transcription, this could be a list, this could be, you know, we could write this up and pitch it to someone else as a by-line article, like a guest post, it could be used for straight digital PR, this could be used as part of a YouTube strategy. There's, so, the idea of like, "Oh, we should have a blog.", I get it, why there's objections to that. But don't think of it as one format, think of it as a content program, don't think of it as one piece, think of it as a series. So, yeah, I think that-- it's an excellent point to indicate the value of something, to think in sales. You know, you have to explain all the different values of that thing so, the person can really see the big picture.
Amanda: Absolutely. So, if we get this far, and then they say, "But, what about the budgets? What kind of money is this going to cost? Is it worth-- is the ROI there? Can we put this budget somewhere else where we already know it's working?", how do you respond to those types of-- the money objections, which are fair, they're always going to be fair. That's what everybody has in their minds, it's a business.
Andy: Yeah, I think that there are a lot of executives that are kind of prepared for their rebuttal when you say, you know, "Content doesn't cost money, it just takes time.", because they understand HR costs, and they know what you cost, and they know what your package, you know, salary and taxes and benefits and all those things really cost. By the way, if you're a member of a team, anywhere forever in your career, don't ever assume that your salary is what you cost your company, you can add 30% to that because the total cost of everything that each full-time employee adds to a team is quite high. So, yeah, it is the expenditure of time, and the out of pocket costs are real, unlike advertising, content has much lower out of pocket cost. But to say we are going to, you know, we understand that these things are a major investment, and I do use that word, someone talks about cost, talk about value, someone talks about spend, talk about investment. So, we're going to use, you know, we're going to be tracking this investment, we understand this, and I don't want anyone to write a blank check; I want you to hold me accountable. So, there, you start to talk about the long-term plan. You talk about long-term results, you talk about visibility, and right away, you can start to look at what everyone else, what your competitors are doing.
If you can trigger FOMO in the executive, you have a much better chance of getting your budget approved. So, you start talking about value, the durability of the visible content, "Hey, let's check out our competitor. What are they doing? Oh, they've got a serious content program. Wait, they're ranking for these 25 awesome phrases? Wow. They've got two STEs, according to LinkedIn dedicated to their content program. Hmm. Look at the size of their email list and their followers, you know, oh, wow, they've had an active podcast with.". So, as soon as you start to, you know, you have to help them, if someone just talks about budget, then they're really talking about the I in ROI, you need to bring it back to R, the R and the I so, that they can see the ROI in a more, I mean, anyone who's just talking about cost without seeing benefits is not making a good decision. And if you can show someone with, especially if you've got like the basic SEO tools, that they're being outranked for valuable phrases, they might freak out and get out a checkbook right away, because it's scary to them, right? It's like, "Oh, wow, there's a battlefield and we're not even on it. Wow, we're losing, we're not even playing the game.", you know, show them the scoreboard so they can see really what sport is being played. Any visit, any metrics that you can find visibility for, right? You know, and there are great tools for this. So, without going into like MarTech, you know, options here to do competitive analysis, I think that just showing them that your brand is not winning will go a long way.
Amanda: This is slightly off topic, but it made me think of something where, the reverse has happened to me too, where at past companies I've had my boss be like, "I just saw this thing on the news, or I just saw this other company do this one thing, and now we have to do it like today.". So, it becomes, instead of me trying to get buy-in for what I think is, you know, based on what other research that I've done, or my team has done, it becomes now we have to be the ones to push back and say, "This is not what we're supposed to be investing in or spending our money on.", how do you deal with that sort of a switch?
Andy: That is an equally important question. That's when you need to raise objections because and there are different personality types. It's helpful if you do some behavioral profiling on your boss, you know what their predispositions are. So, basically like, this is what it sounds like in the modern world, right? You're in a conference room and someone says, "Stop everything. What are we doing on TikTok?".
Amanda: It almost always social too, I feel like, some social channel, nine times out of ten.
Andy: It's because social metrics are so visible, that people see a scoreboard and they feel FOMO as soon as they see that, like, "Oh, I just saw somebody who had this big audience and like, you know, this thing got tons of shares, or this company, our competitors, are getting engagement on this post.". Yeah, but social space have been gamified by the platform's by making those metrics so visible that it's about the availability heuristic, people overvalue information that they can easily access, it's a cognitive bias that we all must overcome. So, in the meeting you're in, when someone says, "Hey, what are we doing on Snapchat? We should be snapping people too.", like, whatever, pick your flavor of the month. Your job is to make the conversation more strategic, bring it back to the goal, I hope you're being strategic already at this point, by the way, you know, you should have had goals long before these objections came up, but bring it back to the goal and bring it back to the audience. So, the question of like, "Should we be on TikTok?", is when you talk about your audience and their use case, meet them where they are, how are we going to find them from there? You don't start with a platform, you don't start with a channel, you don't start with a format, you would never do that; that's a ridiculous idea. You need to start with a goal, and then connect the dots from your current- from your audience, wherever they are now to that goal. So, they will build respect when you say, "Oh, by the way, I'm looking for budget for this series of videos we're going to produce.", and also at the same time saying no to these 11 other things that we don't feel would be good ROI. That person is going to immediately understand that you're making rational decisions and that you're not chasing shiny objects, squirrel! Yeah, so, that's helpful, when they hear you say no to things or when they hear that you're skeptical and defensive of their budget, that's going to build credibility and make them more likely to say yes to the one thing you know that you really should be doing.
Amanda: Yeah, that-- I can think of a particular instance where I was in this situation early in my career, and I was nervous to say, like, "That's not what we should really be doing.", and I pushed back a little bit, not as much as I should have, you know, looking back on it. And I think you're right, you gain that respect, this is the same thing with client and vendor relationships. It's like, they're not going to trust you unless you're honest with them on what you think is the right thing to do. If you're just kind of saying yes to everything, why did they hire you?
Andy: Totally, the longer I do this, the more I feel strongly about this statement, "The best marketers don't have ideas, they have hypotheses.". An idea is just a thought of an action, right? Hypothesis is part of a scientific method with an outcome in mind, right? It's the beginning of a test. So, if you say, "Yeah, I think we should budget to create an active YouTube platform with a series of videos on these topics targeting this audience in collaboration with these influencers and repurposed in these four areas, because the likely outcome from that will be greater brand visibility, durable connection to these audience, account based marketing support, repurposeable mobile social assets, and, you know, greater website traffic engaged, whatever.", you know, suggest it as a hypothesis, and then quickly indicate the metrics you plan to use to evaluate the results. You can't really argue with that, like, "I'm thinking of testing this idea I have, it's actually a hypothesis. Here's what-- the outcomes I think we can achieve.". Wow, that is definitely, you know, that is the definition of strategic thinking, and the person who says that to me, I'm immediately listening to them because they're not-- they don't have foregone conclusions, they're a bit of a skeptic of themselves. I love people who think that way, and I strive to do that in all my conversations. Really, smart marketers use the word hypothesis all the time.
Amanda: Yeah, that makes total sense, rather than things being a foregone conclusion at the get go, and then if they don't work out, doesn't look right for you. So, what if the push back you're getting is a little more subjective, it's, "I don't really like this idea. I think we should do something else.". And that's, maybe that-- sometimes that's as hard as it gets. It's just, you know, "I don't love this, I think we can do something else.", or there's something about it that doesn't sit well with them.
Andy: Yeah, or, "I don't like it when you know, when I see stuff, I like it when...", that first person pronoun, you got to look out for that. So, this is super common, I was on a call yesterday, where we were using analytics to improve the navigation for a big traffic publication, the name's the navigation, all the labels were, mostly made sense, except the few that were very strange, and when you ask the question, Well, do 100% of our visitors know what that word means?", the answer was no. Okay, why do we use that word in our navigation labels? "Well, there's a team of people here who feel very strongly about building the name of the...", blah, blah, blah, like, it didn't make sense, and the marketers on the call weren't really defending the idea but they were telling me that it was like that for political reasons. Because those people, it's like that green writing tip, you're supposed to kill your darlings, you know that writing it? Yeah, if you're attached to something, then you know, you have to be very careful again, of your own biases. But when it's the other person, and to see it's your boss or it's an executive, then it's called the hippo, the highest paid person's opinion. So, if you're in a meeting with a hippo, then you need to make sure to bring more than just your own opinion, opinion versus opinion, the highest paid person's opinion wins, opinion versus data, the data will win. So, when someone expresses their personal preference, I like to try to come back with some quantitative data to challenge that. It'd be satisfying to say, "Well, I'm sorry, but that's an anecdote. You're a data set of one and your opinion is not valid because you're not the target audience.", but I can't really say that to my boss, or my client, it's tough. So, we got to be sensitive and acknowledge like, "Oh, yeah, I feel that same way. I also just like pop up boxes. But there's 65 studies here that show that pop ups are effective at lists growth.", or whatever your point is, you know?
So, in a more-- the best way would probably be to build a culture, I have this sort of fantasy of putting a whistle and a bell, did I ever tell you this? On every conference room table, I want to put a whistle and a bell, and if somebody gives an idea based on their opinion, everyone reaches for it and blows the whistle. If somebody makes a recommendation based on data, we reach for and ring the bell. Like, I think it should be that, we should be that cautionary about anyone, in any meeting, anytime, the rest of your career who says, "I like it when blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.", inspiration is great, there's plenty of room for inspiration in life and in marketing and in business. But acknowledge that it's, you know, where these things are coming from, and that some things, if it's just personal preference, that it's higher risk of being a lower impact, you know, marketing action.
Amanda: So, it sounds like it's a matter of taking those instincts or those sparks of inspiration and then making the hypothesis for yourself before even pitching it, how can I prove that this instinct on having is based on something rather than my own preferences? And then going and looking, doing the research yourself if you have to, it's not out there, before you feel confident enough to go and suggest it to other people.
Andy: There's a hierarchy of data quality, the lowest quality of data is personal opinion. The next level up from that is, best practices, which are good if you've got nothing else, use best practices. Above best practices, there's an even better source of data, which is first party historic data, your own analytics. And even higher than that, the best source of data is an AV test, of your audience, in context, current data, not you know, it's now, it's not historical but, an AV test, you know, you're seeing something now. So, yeah, those are the four levels of quality of data, in my view. I used to often start meetings by telling people, "I should express no opinions during this meeting, if I do, call me out.", I say that all the time.
Amanda: Wow. Yeah, I think we'd all be better suited if-- to have it like, baked into just conversations, like you're saying, I think that's a culture change for a lot of people.
Andy: For sure.
Amanda: Yeah. So, one of the last objections I think we're a little end on here is, you're creating the content, you have ideas for the content now and the push back you're getting is, "Wait, I don't want us to reveal all of our company's secrets, all of our strategies.". I mean, company secrets is not really what I'm getting at but like, our strategies, right? "I don't want people to know how we do what we do. Isn't that going to be bad for business?".
Andy: I hear this one. Let's not count-- don't give away too much. Actually, giving away too much is the entire game like that's the whole job. There are times that I've created content that I thought was so transparent and have such high value that I had that feeling myself, we're actually worried like, "Wow, should I show people everything about how I do this?", and then I flip back the instinct and publish those things and get wildly higher performance than typical content. That's exactly the anxiety you should have before you publish, because it's so good. So, but, when it's the other person, right? The executive says, "Hey, look, let's not give away our secrets.", I think the simplest way to address that objection is to say, "Listen, if we publish this, then, you know, Andy, if we publish this, and Amanda can see it and she'll know, our best-- the best way we do things. Like, okay, so let's say we don't publish it, then someone else is going to go publish it, and they'll get all the fortune and glory. It's not- there are no secrets anymore, whatever that thing is that you're trying to withhold from the internet, go search for it and you'll see 650,000 search results in Google of people who are already giving away all the information that you plan to hoard.". I went to a team member once and said, "Don't we have that quality control checklist?", we've launched, like more than 1000 websites. "Don't have a big quality control checklist that we use before we launch sites?", "Oh, yeah. It's our pre-launch checklist.", "Could you please give that to me? I want to just-- I might put that one online.". When they gave it to me, I cleaned it up, I published it. It's a checklist of 55 points, things to do before you launch. I know that my competitors have referenced it in meetings; I've been told this. The cost to me? Zero. The benefit to me? It had more than 100,000 views, it ranks number two for website launch checklist, it's attracted 200 links from other websites. Had I not published that, I would have 200 fewer links, I would have 100,000 fewer views, and I would have missed the chance to get all that visibility, for a very low cost, right? It took me just maybe four hours to publish that piece, three years ago, and the stuff in there is very good, but there's lots of other similar content. So, yeah, we're long past the era of keeping secrets; the Internet destroyed that era a long, long time ago.
Amanda: Yeah, this one hits home for me because as you know, I market Fractl, and we do this type of work where we say what we do, and our philosophy has always been what we do for our clients is how we market our own agency, but it's hard sometimes to get that information about processes or what our philosophy is, and to just put it out; it's scary. But I like what you said about how if you are scared, it probably means it's some of the best of your publishing. Because.
Andy: Well, you've got my attention by being so transparent. I think who, was it you? Someone was interviewed by Dan Shure on the Wire?
Yes, Kerry Jones. She was like, I was on the marketing team back then, but she was my boss, and she was fantastic. Yeah, that was a great interview.
Andy: That's a legendary piece of content, that got a ton of word of mouth that people still talk about, and I think when Dan shared that he was like, "You guys, you got to hear this one.". Dan's done like 200 interviews, right? He's like an amazing SEO with a huge network but the way that he shared that, he's like, "Wow, Fractl just told us everything. This is it. This is how to combine research with outreach and PR and SEO.". It's like, yeah, I listened in, and that created better reputation and visibility for your brand with me. I've been a fan ever since.
Amanda: Yeah. And that's-- I mean, that's what keeps us doing it is, it works, we see it work.
Andy: The content marketer has one job, it's to get all their best advice and insights and ideas out of their brains, and onto the internet. It's a giant test of generosity, the company that is the best at getting all the good stuff out of their brains and onto the internet, wins a huge prize of word of mouth, loyalty, referral traffic, links, rankings, relevance, subscribers, followers, shares, likes, comments, all the good things, everything that you want, all the trust, every goal is met by that one thing, to win this test of generosity. And there's thousands, maybe millions of us who do this, the minute we learn something good, we rush to tell everyone, it's so beautiful. This is great, I just love this world, like people just want to collaborate and share and teach each other, what other business is like this? And we do so, it is a generosity test, and we need to win that to stay visible. I would hold nothing back ever, this conversation, any conversation, I know very well that my competitors come to my events, they sit in the front row; I've made friends with them. Eventually, I just started a happy hour where we all get together, and everyone discloses everything, it's awesome.
Amanda: That's amazing.
Andy: It's fun.
Amanda: So, to go back to what we were talking about a bit ago, which was that I ask the same question at the end of every show. It is now time for that question, which is, what do you think is the biggest mistake that people make when they're pitching for their content marketing strategy?
Andy: I think it's to-- the failure to bring data in some cases, just like your competitors rankings, it might be the size of similar content programs or to bring the anticipated budget or the results, and also to bring humility and skepticism. If you go to a meeting with data, you've set yourself up to counter the opinion-based objections. And if you go to a meeting with humility and skepticism and call every one of your ideas of just their true hypothesis, then you've sort of disarmed a lot of the potential push back, by making it just a real discussion, like, "I'm not sure either. But I can tell you that the people that have gone down this path are getting massive returns. I think if we do these things, for this duration, with this commitment, these resources, these virtues, this level of activity, that we can win for this audience in both the sales funnel, or the marketing funnel and the sales funnel.", as we said. So, I think that's it. I think it's data and humility.
Amanda: I can imagine how even just that messaging, like you said, would go a long way in a room of executives. One last thing I'm going to ask you, I promise, just one, is knowing the objective of the show is to help content marketers prove their ROI and communicate that ROI, do you have suggestions for who should be future guests?
Andy: Wow, you've got some really great opportunities out there. I mean, if Dan, we mentioned Dan Shure.
Amanda: Yeah, that's a great idea.
Andy: He's involved in SEO. Yeah. He's like, he sells his services, he's a consultant, may have a little team. So, he's someone who is probably dealing with objections a lot. In a way, he's got such a mature content program that he could tell you how he got there but that's an excellent great success example because he has so much credibility for having done this. Yeah, I could recommend Dan.
Amanda: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the show, Andy.
Andy: My pleasure, anytime, happy to help anyone, in any way.