Sarah Lessire

Former Director of Content, Community, Events, and Marketing Programs at Gloat

The Art of Allocating a Content Marketing Budget with Sarah Lessire

One of the challenges you face as a marketer is allocating your content marketing budget. There are several factors to consider, such as your overall marketing budget, your target audience, and the type of content you want to create. By creating a detailed and well-thought-out content marketing budget, you can ensure that your content marketing efforts are successful and generate a positive return on investment.

In a conversation with Anirudh Singla, Founder & CEO of Pepper Content, Sarah Lessire, Former Director of Content, Community, Events, and Marketing Programs at Gloat, shares insight into the process of content marketing budget allocation.

Here are some excerpts. 

1. What got you into content marketing, and how's this journey been for you? 

The cruel lack of strategy and awareness brought me to content marketing. I started as a writer and was hired by different B2B and B2C companies to write ad hoc pieces. I pride myself on understanding where content fits into a larger puzzle and marketing strategy. I began studying strategy and getting gigs as a strategist until I joined the B2B world because this is where I felt the real meat was. It wasn't a conscious decision. I was just in love with writing and convincing through writing. 

2. How have you seen content marketing evolve as a function across organizations?  

In companies that are not large enterprises, the content marketing team is also the copy resource team. Content touches a bit of each function. What ends up happening is that the content marketing team writes for everything, such as demand generation efforts, event efforts, SDR (sales development representatives) enablement, etc. 

I think content is the backbone of demand generation. It's the right leg of branding and an important player in handing over leads from marketing to sales. This is because you must ensure that the prospects' journey is a consistent narrative or story and doesn't suddenly change. We're at a point where we need to advocate for the capacity for content not just to be an output of a brand but to be a source of business insights.

3. How do you structure your content teams?

At the end of the day, it comes to your connection and relationship with the people writing on your team, whether external contractors or full-time writers. In the case of innovative companies that have a very niche, such as a technical field or a field where the language is being dictated and created as you go, it can be helpful to have somebody in-house who understands the field, product, persona, and how you talk about it and link it all together. 

That being said, I worked with incredible third-party contractors and freelancers and made them a part of the team. They would join our weekly meetings and weren't treated like robots without feelings. At the end of the day, I don't think that one is better than the other. It all depends on the type of processes you put in place and the relationships and culture you create for your team.

4. How big is the team at Gloat, and how is it composed – a mix of freelance agencies or an in-house squad? 

I'm lucky that there are a few people on the team. There are two full-time writers who are extremely proficient and exceptional. We also have a lot of people in the company who are thought leaders in the space and have a creative orientation to marketing.

We don't use freelancers for writing. As we grow, I am sure we'll get there because it's always easier from a budget perspective to approve freelancers than to approve full-time roles. 

5. How do you compare the content marketing budget to the total marketing budget?

The harder part of getting budget marketing initiatives is that we don't know if it's working right away. There's a leap of faith and a lot of selling off what you have. It can help if you position yourself as a tool that will help you or a person.  

Always remember that content is bigger than content marketing because content is everywhere. Talk to people in terms of what they'll see at a business level from the budget and not just how great their content will become. Going to a CMO with total visits on your website or a vanity metric will not fly if it's all about top-of-funnel acceleration. It's important to know who you're asking money from and talk to them in a language they understand.  

In the past few years, the content marketing sphere has seen tools being created to aid the content process. Some of the tools are wonderful but expensive. A discussion is required, and education needs to be imparted internally to express how the landscape is changing and how some of these tools are helping other companies and competitors deliver superior experiences. It's important to initiate conversation around the industry and the types of capabilities being launched yearly to enhance the content experience. 

6. What's your take on the generative AI space in content marketing?  

I don't like the idea of automating content creation. AI can do many things, such as producing a pure copy, accelerating processes, and helping you recycle content. I'm all about that, but when it comes to content creation, everything should come from the data you're getting. 

I think the issue with automation is the expectation that AI would be more strategic than you are. AI is good at executing, but not always at being strategic.

7. What do you think budding content marketers should not do?

Content marketers should not say yes to everyone who has an idea about something. The issue is that people tend to have a lot of ideas, but if you don't advocate and rally people around your strategy and content plan, the content team becomes a sweatshop. It becomes like a resource and production team, not a strategic team driving a specific agenda. Take input but don't become known as the person one can go to write or edit anything. 

Be patient because marketing is a game of patience. It takes a while to figure out if something is working or not. Especially if you're coming from another marketing area, it is important to understand that content marketing happens at a different speed, and optimization happens slowly over time. 

Also, do not think you're the only one responsible for quality control. Often, an editor-in-chief gets wrapped into the head of the content role. But to be that quality control point and the main editor for an entire team takes a lot of time because it's almost a full-time job. But over time, it's a function that I think people need to invest in so that the head of content can keep being strategic and make sure that they're coaching the people on the team instead of being so in the weeds, touching and reading every piece of content multiple times. 

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