Content Strategy

Content Marketing Metrics that Inspire C-Suite Buy-In—and How to Talk Them Up

By Lauren McMenemy on May 15, 2020

Marketers are pretty intimate with content marketing metrics, data, and analytics these days—and if you're not, you'd best get learning.

We've long moved on from the days where follower and like counts were considered the apex of robust marketing engagement data. But the proliferation of measurement tools and the increasing number of platforms that let us speak directly with users have delivered a big challenge: measuring the true impact of marketing efforts on your brand's bottom line.

So what are the metrics that prove your content strategy's role in driving profits? And how can you defend them in C-suite conversations to unlock higher marketing budgets? For starters, you'll need to speak like an executive.

Choosing Your Words

There's a fundamental gap between how marketers talk and the language the C-suite uses. For example, it's common for marketers to inquire about the cost per click of a social ad or campaign. However, when CEOs and CFOs hear the term "cost per" from marketing, they may begin to view the team as a cost center rather than a strategic partner who influences growth.

"Never, never talk about 'cost per' anything with the leadership team," advises Bruce McDuffee of Manufacturing Marketing Group. "Using this phrase cements an idea that is likely already in their minds—that marketing is a cost and not a source of revenue. Always, always talk about 'revenue per' or 'contribution' with the C-suite, with the objective of creating the perception that the marketing function is a source of revenue."

Yes, the language we use when talking with the C-suite is of huge importance, as are the metrics we use when demonstrating our success. Think of senior leadership like you would your customer personas: Each member of the C-suite will have different pain points and needs, and you must appeal to these to get your message across. By choosing your words wisely with executives, you'll have the best chance at securing the budget and resources your team needs to create best-in-class content.

Man writing on clear whiteboard

Photo attrtibution: Diggity Marketing on Unsplash.

Talking the Talk

What are these magic metrics and buzzwords, then? It's easy to say "steer clear of cost per click" or "talk about revenue, not followers," but what language can you use instead?

According to HubSpot, there are several marketing metrics you can use to grab the C-suite's attention and get them to understand your value. These include:

  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC): This is what your brand spends in marketing and sales costs—including ad spend, salaries, bonuses, overheads—within a given time period, divided by the number of new customers in the same period.

  • Ratio of CAC to customer lifetime value (CAC:CLV): Most of the C-suite will be interested in the overall value a customer can bring to the company, especially if your brand operates on subscription or recurring revenue models. Being able to show the cost of acquiring a customer against the total value they bring can be incredibly powerful in demonstrating marketing's value.

  • Time to pay back CAC: This is the amount of time it takes to earn back the customer acquisition costs. "You take the CAC and divide by margin-adjusted revenue per month for the average new customer you just signed up, and the resulting number is the number of months to payback," explains HubSpot.

  • Marketing-oriented customer percentage: What percentage of new business is driven by marketing efforts? That is, what ratio of new customers came initially through marketing efforts? What was the first touch point?

  • Marketing-influenced customer percentage: Slightly different than marketing-oriented customer percentage, this metric looks wider at those sales where marketing had some influence. This could be initial contact, but it could also be where content or other marketing efforts, such as events, helped to nurture the prospect through the funnel.

But getting the C-suite to listen to your content strategy success will take more than just gathering these data points and putting them in a presentation. You'll also need to understand the individual needs of each member of senior leadership. This allows you to speak to them in their own language and demonstrate how your marketing efforts impact their personal business objectives.

Approaching the CMO

These days, the chief marketing officer is an endangered species. As costs are cut and efficiencies are sought, this marketing leader often also leads sales and customer service under a chief customer officer title. To win them over, you'll want to talk about customer needs.

Show how your successful content strategy will nurture prospects by helping them engage with the brand and by encouraging them to become loyal advocates. The CMO may also be interested in those "cost per" content marketing metrics but only insofar as it impacts the marketing budget and ROI.

Justifying the Need for More Budget to the CFO

Unsurprisingly, the chief financial officer wants to know the numbers. They want to know how much this is costing the company, as well as how much revenue and ultimately profit the company will make as a result. Remember the term net contribution: It's a percentage based on gross profit, which shows the CFO how your overall strategy and tactics will drive revenue. It's the best measure of efficiency, and it can help you show how their investment can lead to a more successful content strategy.

Woman in red top sitting behind laptop

Image attribution: Christina @ on Unsplash.

Convincing the CTO to Invest in Martech

To get accurate data for content marketing metrics, you'll need to invest in martech—and for that, you'll need the chief technology officer's backing, especially in large enterprises where the tech stack is tightly controlled. Demonstrate to the CTO how the application or platform in question will help you connect the dots and break down silos, how it will generate efficiencies, or how it will make the customer's life easier.

Getting the CRO On Board for Lead Generation

Next to the CMO, the chief revenue officer or chief sales officer is your best friend. A successful content strategy from you can help their team nurture leads and build a loyal audience that's ripe for conversion. Show them how you'll help with this by talking about more than just marketing qualified leads.

To begin with, ensure you bring sales along for the content marketing journey, getting their input into your strategy and making sure the content marketing assets you produce provide them with extra value. Get them involved by proving how your work will support their sales, showing that you have the right assets for the right stage of the nurture journey. For example, you could look back at previous conversions and track those customer journeys through the sales funnel. Map each time a prospect connected with a marketing output, and show how it was your content that helped convince them to sign on the dotted line.

Involving the CDO in Marketing

Where does the chief data officer come into play? This is a newer C-suite role created to ensure compliance with the various privacy regulations coming into place around the world. They may not be as interested in hard content marketing metrics as their fellow C-suite members, but the CDO will want to be consulted on how you're getting content in front of customers and prospects. Get the CDO on board by demonstrating compliance with data protection legislation, such as Europe's General Data Protection Regulation.

Proving Your Worth to the C-Suite

Remember, even though the C-suite doesn't care about marketing vanity metrics and may as well be jumping on the table crying, "Show me the money!" that doesn't mean they come from a different planet. The C-suite is ultimately looking for value from all of the company's teams and marketing isn't excluded from that.

Put in the effort to gather the right metrics and research to justify your content program, including those ROI and customer acquisition cost stats. Then, present your findings to senior leadership using their language. Do this and you'll find the C-suite not only listens intently to what you have to say, but they may even celebrate your content strategy success.

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Featured image attribution: bruce mars on Unsplash.


Lauren McMenemy

Lauren is a storyteller. A journalist by trade, she has worked in agencies, in-house and in the media over her 20-year career. She's worked as an editorial strategist and content creator for some of the world's biggest brands, setting up processes and guidelines, advising on planning, auditing content, building loyal audiences, leading social campaigns, writing blogs and flyers and presentations - pretty much handling the stuff with words. She was born in Australia, has resided in London for the last decade, and writes fiction on the side. You’ll often find her grinning like a fool at a rock concert.

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