How to Sell Content Marketing Services

You’re a content marketing specialist. There are a variety of services that may fit under that umbrella, but you know there's a market for helping businesses create better online content, promote it more strategically, and reach more people. 

No doubt, you’re a pro at marketing content. The question is: are you good at marketing your services? What is your sales process to attract clients? Is it a bit haphazard and unpredictable? Do you have a process at all? 

The good news is that there is a way to successfully sell your content marketing services. First, you must know what your potential client needs. Second, set your pricing according to the business problem your prospective client is facing. Third, develop a sales process that allows your prospective client to make the decision quickly and confidently. 

This video and the article below will give you a streamlined baseline for how to think about selling your services more effectively. Let’s get started.

How Do I Sell My Content Marketing Services?

Let's start at the beginning: What is the most effective sales strategy for content marketing services? How should you be thinking? 

I think there are two important points here:

  1. The first is to remember that the person that buys your content marketing services is a person. That person may be of any age, gender, and social status, but at the end of the day, it is a person trying to make a buying decision. Any information you offer is designed to help this person make that decision as quickly and as effectively as possible.
  2. The second point is to remember that your best client has some sort of content already. There's some level of marketing that they’re doing, and they're trying to optimize it. 

Your best clients may actually be in the content business themselves, or they may not be. You may find your best client: 

  • in the content business, like the Wall Street Journal, making money  every day on the thousands of articles they store on their site. 
  • in the e-commerce field, like Nike, selling thousands of SKUs every single day. 
  • in the software industry, offering different kinds of apps and downloads and software tools. 
  • running a membership site, with the majority of their offering and interaction with clients behind a paywall. 

Your best client may operate in one of these models or some hybrid of these models. The point is that your best client already has an existing web presence, and they want you to help them better optimize, to get even more value from their content.

What Marketing Clients are Looking For 

What do these clients need? What might they be looking to buy? Let's put them in three categories here.

  1. Beginner. The beginning client already has an existing client base and a web presence, but their content may not be aligned with current marketing strategies. They may use the phrase, “We want to put ourselves out there.” They're trying to use their web presence to push beyond their normal community, their normal physical location, their established organic opportunities.So for them, content means expanded reach. The beginning client knows that they don't market their content the way they need to, and they're willing to make the initial investment to do so. It becomes your job to quantify what that core investment needs to be and what they can expect from that initial investment of time, energy, and money.
  2. Intermediate. The intermediate person has most likely made the initial investment, but it was an imperfect investment. They have content, they have marketing, and their system more or less works. They want to shift to the “more” end. They probably have some things that aren’t working well and need to be improved. There is probably some version of a break/fix that needs to happen in their world.Someone needs to look at the content, look at the marketing strategy, and fix what’s breaking so it happens more effectively and becomes more dependable. Do you know what I mean? The intermediate person more or less is looking for a break/fix solution.
  3. Advanced. The advanced client is looking for volume and/or speed. They already have a blog on their site, they have landing pages, they send regular emails. Those things work and the client knows they work, but now they want it to bring greater and faster results. They have metrics in place to measure those things, and they’re using terms like ROI (return on investment) or ROAS (return on ad spend). 

They're comfortable spending money, and they know they may have to make a significant investment, but there's a way that they measure the investment when it comes back. And so you've got to be willing to look at their situation, see what has the most opportunity for return on it, make the improvement, and measure the return.

A Classic Mistake to Avoid

There's a really important point that I have to call out here. It's a classic mistake that we often make when we sell digital-marketing-related services. 

The mistake that we make as experts is that we see the opportunity—if a company would just do this, if a client would just do that—and so we begin to “evangelize” things to clients. The trouble is that the person you’re selling to hasn't already understood for themselves that an opportunity is present. 

It's important to sell to the sold, not to the stubborn. What you want to be able to do is sell to people who are already doing digital marketing. 

If you're selling to stubborn people, that means you have to convince them that having professionally created content and utilizing a professional to market that content is a good idea. And if you have to convince them, that's heavy lifting on your part, and if you have to convince them, then they don't pay the premium for it.

You want people who are already sold on the idea that digital marketing is a good idea, that content investments are profitable investments, and that if they invest with you, they can see a compounded return on their effort. You want to sell the people who are already sold. Be careful of becoming an “evangelist” and selling to people who are stubborn. 

What Should I Charge for Content Marketing Services?

There are various ways to price your services, but the basic framing of hourly work, project-based work, and retainer-based work is always sound and will always be appropriate. Some content marketers like to offer packaged services as well. You can choose whichever method works best for your clientele and the particular marketing services you offer.

Let's look at hourly pricing first. Going rates will vary depending what you are doing. We can see here that SEO specialists are earning $100 to $150 an hour, while the hourly rate for content creators and video marketers ranges from less than $20 up to $100 per hour. 

For flat-fee or retainer-based pricing, let’s focus on SEO marketing. What is the average cost of the monthly retainer? You can see that the average SEO campaign runs between $2,500 and $5,000 per month but could be as high as $50,000 per month. That's quite a spread. You can sell for more than that if you choose. You can sell for less than that if you choose. But you get an idea of where the sweet spot is for the pricing of SEO services. If you think about it in terms of a month, it'll typically be between $2,500 and $5,000 per month.

Now let's talk about why that price range might exist. If you want to charge more for your services, make the prices go up, what do you have to do? 

  • Scope: You’ve got to be willing to take on more scope. These could be simpler projects, just done on a larger scale. So instead of managing 10 content pieces, maybe you are managing 100. Instead of writing one blog post a week, you’re writing five. Instead of  incorporating 30 SEO keywords per web page, you’re placing 100 of them. Larger scope allows you to drive the price up. 
  • Complexity: If you want to drive the price up, you’ve got to take on more complexity. Maybe you're managing fewer pieces of content, but that content is more interactive. You’re using fewer keywords, but the topic is more complicated. You’re shooting shorter videos, but they’re specialized one-offs.  Those sorts of things make your work more complex, and that allows you to turn the price of your services up.
  • Opportunity: Another element that allows you to charge more for your prices is opportunity. That could be a matter of revenue, or it can be a matter of cost. So if there's an opportunity in the marketplace that your client is aware of and your content marketing skills can help them acquire that opportunity well, that brings revenue to them. That's worth more to them.

    If they know that not having professionals create and market their content will cost them money, if there's some sort of marketplace consequence, they're aware of that cost. Your saving them from that cost, again, allows you to turn the price up. Essentially, you are charging for the value of your work. 

So if you want to charge more for your services, be at the high end of the band, these are the kinds of things you need to consider.

Now, what kinds of things drive the price down? If you’re charging less, why might that be the case? 

  • Existing content: If your client has existing content—if they already have web content, if they already have advertising content that you can build on—the project is easier to execute. There's just no need for a premium to be paid if they've already paid the premium in the form of existing content.
  • Existing organization: Another thing that can drive the price down is if your client has an existing organization. I'm talking about people. If they already have people in place to create the content and just need marketing, or if they have marketing staff and just need the content, then they may not be buying everything you offer. Those things help keep the price down and a bit more manageable. 

As you think about working with clients and finding a price point that makes sense, all of these options need to be considered, because at the end of the day you're trying to solve the problem facing your client. If your client has challenges that drive the price up, so be it. If your client has assets that keeps the price more moderate, so be it. What's most important is that your pricing reflects the scenario your client is experiencing.

How Do I Create a Content Proposal? 

If you're looking for a step-by-step process to sell your content marketing services, what might that look like? Well, it begins with identifying the right people. From there you make contact, that contact leads to a conversation, and that conversation becomes a closed sale. This is pretty much how the process works. 

Now the mistake we make is we normally have the wrong mindset as we move through these steps. Let's look at how you should be thinking as you take each step.

  1. Identification: When you identify people in the marketplace whom you may be able to serve, what you're looking for are problems you can solve. These are cases in which a business has an existing web presence, and you can tell by looking at their web content and marketing pieces that some things could be improved. So there's something about their scenario that reflects a problem to you. 
  2. Contact: So when you reach out to make contact, you're offering to have a conversation. So if they need better content, if they need more strategic marketing, you ask, “Hey, would you like to talk about it?” That's all you're trying to get done. You're not trying to sell during this contact. You're just trying to see if it makes sense to have a conversation.
  3. Conversation: When you talk to that person, you are confirming that the content and marketing issues you see are actually a problem for them. If you're correct and the issues exist, you can move forward. If you're correct and the issue exists, then you can move forward. If not, then you should try to understand what's really going on so you can propose the next course of action. This conversation is about confirming, not forcing their hand to move forward as a client. 
  4. Sale: When they decide to become a client, when they decide to close, then the work begins immediately. You don't introduce any other bureaucracy; just get started solving the problem that you found in the first place.

Now, timeout for a brief sanity check here. I know that what you're looking at here looks really, really simple. We under-appreciate how simple and how elegant the sales process can be. 

The number one mistake that we make is trying to force people down this chain of events. We're so focused on making our sale, hitting our numbers, getting that closed deal, that we don't leave enough space for the person on the other side to move down this process with us. So yes, this process can be quite simple, but it's really important to navigate it in a professional way so that both parties can be comfortable with the decision that's made in the end.

How Do I Pitch Content Marketing?  

So if you're excited, you're focused and you want to start this process right now, what do you do? I recommend that you begin with tried, true, and proven approaches. 

  • Go with friends and family. There are people in your network who know who you are and respect what you do, and it makes sense for you to reach out to friends and family first to get your initial point of momentum.
  • Use social media. There are people who follow you, who have connected with you, who are in your online networks, and it just makes sense to leverage those networks first to build on your initial momentum. 
  • Use freelance networks. There are various networks that are designed to put people in front of you who are ready to make the buying decision. You can bid on that work and get your initial opportunities from platforms like Upwork and others.

Are there nuances? Yes. Are there complexities? There certainly can be. But whatever process you choose to go forward with, what’s important is the essential insight that you're using your process to help this person make a buying decision. The easier you make the decision for this person, the faster they can say, “Yes,” and work can begin. 

What Should My Content Marketing Business Model Look Like?

I’ve met some people that are really passionate about content marketing. I’m assuming that’s you. But there’s a big difference between your level of passion and your potential client’s level of passion. There is so much information available about content marketing, yet at the same time, your clients may understand very little about it. 

How do we close that gap? How are you supposed to sell a premium service to a client who doesn’t understand the service? Let’s talk about that.

No Client Wants “Content Marketing”

Let’s be honest about this: clients do not want content marketing; they want what they believe content marketing can get them. Your job is to translate that, to show them that content marketing can, in fact, get them what they want in terms of business growth. Let’s try to connect those dots with a few examples.

Service Option: Creating Content for Clients

Here’s a classic deliverable for content marketing: writing blog content. But before you go out and start writing content for clients, let’s be sure on what the process is for delivering the highest level content possible. 

You want to display your services as an order of steps. Show your client the flight path to get them to the end result that they actually want. Acknowledge where they are. Acknowledge the major milestones. Show them the end result. 

  • Establish a measurable outcome. The end result that they’re after has to have some measurable objective metrics. In other words, once you get through the process, you and the client know where you’re going to end up, and you’re both okay with that. It could be a number of content pieces, or it could be some level of traffic, or likes, or shares, or other engagement. The client can measure however they choose, it’s their company. As you work the process, you all need to know what you’re working toward.

Now, let’s work backwards. 

  • Establish your process. You’ve got the measurable content; you understand that part of the process. Going backwards, you can’t measure anything if it hasn’t been scheduled and published. It’s got to be available somewhere.

    Going back further, you can’t publish it if it’s not drafted and approved, and you can’t draft and approve anything until you build the actual ideas. Your job, inside your company, is to give your client an efficient method for finding the very best ideas. Not just spitballing things on a wall, but helping them find the right ideas for their business.

    You’ve got to have a process for creating content and getting it approved quickly and efficiently. You need your own process for how to schedule and publish. Show them an editorial calendar and help them chart out how to get that content scheduled in the right way.

    Now you and the client can sit together and measure those objective measurements. Without this sense of process, then the client doesn’t know what’s happening when. And if you don’t have yourself organized enough, you can’t move them through the stages, and that’s frustrating for everybody.

Service Option: Promoting Content for Clients

Another example: Let’s say that your client is after reach. I mean, they just want 10 times or 100 times their current reach. They want their content in even more places. How might you bring that to life? 

  • Establish a measurable outcome. Again, you first need to have some objective measurements here. How are we going to measure reach? There are many ways of doing that. How are you and the client going to measure reach?

    Now you can work backwards.

  • Establish your process. You’ve got to distribute that content in certain places. What is that process? How do you get that content actually out to the right places?

    Is it already published? Is it pre-published content—are you creating new content to be published? Or is it being revised and repurposed from existing content? What is the process of actually making the content available to be distributed?

    Prior to that, we’ve got to gather the right content. Again, is this content that you’re making, is it content that they’re making, or is it coming from somewhere else—hard drives. other people, etc.? Should it be pulled into Google Drive or Dropbox? How are we gathering the actual content? Show your client the process that gets them the 10-times or 100-times reach.

Make sure that you are organized internally to deliver on each of these stages so your client can appreciate you as the professional that you are. If you structure this well, then you’ll see the difference between being an average consultant and being recognized as an extraordinary content marketing company.

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