If you are working as a content marketer, there is a good chance you are spending countless hours each week in the ideation phase. Every successful content marketing campaign is based on a great idea, and anyone working in the field will attest to the fact that these often don’t come easily!

It can take hours upon hours of brainstorming, researching, and refining ideas to come up with a winning idea and it is not uncommon to have tens of bad ‘just okay’ ideas before you have a great one!

That said, clients and content marketers aren’t always aligned. What one thinks is a great idea might not be seen in the same way by the other party, and this can be disheartening.

For one reason or another, clients will often reject the concepts put forward by SEO and content marketing agencies. This can lead to a sense of frustration from both parties, but the good news is that this doesn’t need to keep happening.

Here is a look at five reasons why clients keep rejecting your content marketing ideas and what you can do to overcome this.

Note: here we are referring to content marketing for the purpose of earning links to support an SEO campaign.

1. They Don’t Understand What You Are Trying To Achieve

In many cases, both SEO and content marketing are concepts which clients understand to a certain extent; but likely not to the level which you do.

While as a marketer, it is second nature that it is a vital part of the wider digital strategy to create content campaigns which earn top-tier links; to clients, it is often not quite as straightforward.

Especially when working with SMEs, you have got clients who have been working with SEO agencies for years; many of these will remember the days when you could rank #1 on Google for almost any search term of your choosing simply by buying a few links from overseas.

Times have changed.

If your client doesn’t understand what it is you are trying to achieve (i.e., earning links through great content to support the SEO campaign), how can they fully justify to themselves a content concept?

We all know that, when producing content, you have to have a great idea backed up by a solid format and outreach strategy to drive success. Some ideas work, some don’t, however, an experienced content marketer should be able to have at least a strong inclination as to how successful an idea will be at meeting the goals.

Education is Key

Ask yourself whether your client truly understands SEO and content marketing. If not, take the time to educate them. Education is a powerful tool and can be the difference between ideas being signed off and being asked to go back to the drawing board.

Get them on your side and seeing things from your perspective; you need to earn links, and content marketing is one of the best ways to do that. Show them case studies from other clients and demonstrate the impact which great ideas can have.

2. They Are In the Mindset That Content Marketing & Advertising Are the Same Things

Let’s get it straight; content marketing and advertising are, in many cases, two different things.

When it comes to advertising, the creative and copy will typically be 100% focused on the products or services being sold. Don’t forget that many consumers, especially Millennials, are immune to traditional advertising, even digitally; with a reported 30% now using ad blockers. Today’s consumer wants to make their own decisions through conducting their own research and interacting with brands in a multitude of different ways.

With content marketing, on the other hand, it is all about producing the content that your audience will want to consume. Forget advertising. Consumers want to find solutions to their problems, engage with brands in fun and innovative ways, and buy because they want to, not because they have been told to do so.

Looking at this even more specifically in relation to content-led link building; a failure to distinguish between advertising and content marketing is one reason why clients commonly reject content ideas.

If a client is thinking in an advertising mindset but you in a content marketing one; there is bound to be a difference of opinion.

Content marketing when used as a link acquisition tool, is not, and never will be advertising. In fact, staying too close to a brand’s product or service offerings can hinder the performance of a campaign.

To lay out an example, let’s say you are working with a fashion client.

This is an industry notoriously known for big influencer marketing budgets, sponsored collaborations, and gifted product reviews. As such, a content marketing campaign needs to be something special to cut through. Publishers and bloggers are used to big bucks changing hands when it comes to ‘content’; but as a content marketer, there is a good chance paid promotion isn’t what you are looking for, especially if your primary goal is to earn links to support your SEO campaign.

Content produced around fashion (let’s say, as an example, a guide on the season’s latest trends, a celebrity lookbook or even a guide to color matching), is too close to the brand to deliver great results.

Publishers can see through this sort of content; that which is disguised advertising.

Think outside the box and ideate around complementary topics; celebrity lifestyle, entertainment, pop culture, and the like.

Create content which the target audience wants to consume, and they will engage with the brand and, hopefully, begin a period of interaction which leads to a purchase or a lead. Stay too close to the brand’s offerings and you may as well be advertising, and you will struggle to gain traction.

Above all else; ensure that clients understand that the difference between content marketing and advertising.

Take the time to educate them on why content marketing needs to stay that one step removed from the brand and you will find your ‘out of the box’ ideas get approved much easier.

3. You Don’t Understand Their Business

Perhaps the most frustrating situations for a client, when being presented with a list of potential content campaign ideas, is feeling that you don’t understand their business.

This may be due to presenting completely unrelated content concepts, those which step just a little too far out of the box or the possibility that you are struggling to present in enough depth on a complex topic.

Clients want to know that all areas of their marketing are in good hands and presenting concepts which don’t fully showcase that you understand their business (or their audience) can be a sticking point.

Always take the time to research not only content concepts in great detail but also take the time to understand your client and their business. Spend a day with them or arrange a series of Skype sessions to ask questions and listen to them talk about their industry, their audience, and their own problems.

Once a client feels confident that you fully understand their business and audience, you will typically find it easier to get a sign off on content ideas; even if they are a little outside of the box.

Another top tip here is to take the time to understand the client’s stance on certain topics. Don’t present political concepts, as an example, which goes against a client’s own views. You are probably wasting your time. Similarly, try not to present anything which directly conflicts with their own internal company culture; again, this could meet immediate rejection even if you can fully justify your reasons behind it.

4. They Feel They Have Not Been Involved In The Ideation Process

Just as clients want to have the confidence that you understand their business, industry, and audience; in many cases, they will also want to feel involved in the ideation process.

All too often, the point of presenting final concepts to a client feels like the agency is in full control and the aimed-for outcome is ‘their way or no way.’

This isn’t how agency-client relationships should work; especially in our industry.

While clients themselves likely don’t have the experience to turn an early idea into a finished concept, don’t forget that they are the industry experts…so don’t be afraid utilize them for their knowledge and experience!

Ideation Sessions

Run a joint ideation session with your client and their team, going through the same process which you would as an agency and see how the ideas change. With a wealth of industry experience at your fingertips, do you suddenly find that you’re understanding the problems which their audience have far more than you thought you did previously?

Brainstorm around hot topics in the industry, common problems and trends amongst the audience. They may or not be fully relevant to the products or services, but that’s the beauty of content marketing.

Once you start to involve your client at the ideation stage, they will quickly see how complex the process of taking a content campaign from idea to rollout is, and either trust your judgment outright or at least feel that they have contributed towards the end goal.

It is a win-win situation for both parties. Client involvement = better industry insight. Better industry insight = better ideas. Better ideas = better results. Better results = happy client.

5. You Can’t Present the Hook, & Why Publishers Will Cover The Story

If you can’t explain to your client in a few sentences what the hook is both to their business and to the media, there is a good chance you are walking down a road towards rejection.

Only the best content campaigns cut through the noise with top-tier publications, and the journalists here are typically looking for stories, not content. Always remember this when conducting ideation sessions and refine your idea to just a few short sentences when pitching to your client.

If you can quickly outline the stories which can be pitched out from the content piece and why it is likely to be covered by your target publishers, you are likely going to see approval. Clients want to see results, and if you can pitch an idea to them in the same way you will the journalists, it helps it all make sense.

If on the other hand, you either can’t present a story, or there is no obvious hook to the business, it is difficult to see a vision of how it will be successful.

Understanding Where the Rejection is Coming From

As an agency, ideation takes time and time = money. Your reputation and income rest upon the success of campaigns, and it can be disheartening when clients seem to continually reject your ideas.

If this happens time after time (some ideas will always be rejected, that is just the reality of the industry), you need to find out what the issues are. Don’t be afraid to sit down with your client and ask the question.

Is it a case of education? If so, invite them to your offices to spend half a day with your team, getting to know the process a little better from start to finish.

Is it a case of you not fully understanding what they are trying to achieve or their business? In this case, ask if you can spend a day working from their offices; seeing a day in the life of their company for yourself.

Content ideas get rejected for a number of reasons, but by understanding what these are, you can work to reduce this happening and align both client and agency from day one.