Most brands today include content strategy and creation in their overall marketing budgets. This practice shows up as another line item on the laundry list of initiatives run annually at an enterprise organization. While a marketing department may dedicate more than $100,000 per year to content marketing, the process of tracking, measuring, and evaluating that content can get pretty messy. How do you quantify the business earned through thought-leadership content? How much awareness-driven media should you produce versus conversion-oriented campaigns? How should you calculate the overall value of each piece of content when you create an array of media for different purposes and projects?
Business leaders are going about this in a variety of ways. While there still isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for you to follow, there are innovators in content performance measurement who can inspire how you go about systematizing your content ROI process. The most compelling and thorough systems include a robust content strategy and software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools to help collect and compare data points to increase customer acquisition.
In HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2014 report, brands that blog are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive content ROI—but without the right platforms, blogging alone doesn’t lend itself to content performance management. In the report, leadership teams say they measure ROI by an increase in leads (25 percent), lead conversion (22 percent), and increased revenue from current customers (15 percent). Here’s an example strategy to follow to get you to these “golden metrics”—not surprisingly, measurement starts at the beginning.
You can’t prove ROI from content marketing unless you actually produce original content. While it seems counterintuitive to prove ROI by investing more in creative work, it’s the best place to start. Begin by researching your audience’s needs, and conduct a site audit to understand what concepts you’ve covered fully and which you could benefit from expanding upon. This shows clear gaps in content production, and gives you a starting point.
For enterprise organizations that are just starting out with content marketing, measurement won’t come immediately. As you create original content for your web properties, continue to benchmark your progress week over week and then month over month. It may seem overly granular to get so specific with analyzing your key performance indicators (KPIs), but it’s all you have to go off of. See the trends unfolding in front of you, and take risks by experimenting with the content you create from the start.
A lot of businesses already use solutions like Marketo and HubSpot to automate marketing. We use Marketo at Skyword, and one of my favorite features is the platform’s ability to track unknown and known lead behavior on blog content. Every Friday, I get a report sent to my inbox that tells me which leads visited which pages on the Content Standard. This not only tells me what the most popular themes of the past week resonated with my target audience, but it directly influences the intel I deliver to my sales team.
In combination with this feature, Marketo does the obvious by collecting lead data on downloaded assets like eBooks, case studies, research, and more. With organizations producing a wider array of marketing materials today than ever before, having the ability to track lead engagement on each format helps build a cohesive content strategy that truly does hit every stage of the buyer’s journey. There may be a ton of data out there that says decision makers are more likely to convert after watching video content, but that insight may not tell the whole story for your audience. Learn what moves your leads forward by using a tool like Marketo and mapping content creation to how your immediate leads are behaving.
Another reason we use Marketo is because it seamlessly feeds intel into Salesforce.com and updates our sales team on which leads took action over the past week. This also links some of the lead-nurturing process to the marketing team, specific lead-generation campaigns, and individual blog posts. Then, it’s just a matter of determining how much of an impact each touch point had on a new deal or contract signature!
As new business is won, marketers can access lead files through Salesforce.com and begin to see trends in customer behavior. In total, three known leads from that new business engaged with your content, both downloading assets and visiting your blog regularly. Overall, four eBooks were downloaded and 24 blogs were read from the time the leads became known to when the contract was signed.
You can weight each asset however you please, but I tend to focus more on the story this action tells rather than the specific monetary value each article or eBook contributed. So long as the marketing material consistently contributes to X percent of new business won by Skyword per year, I’m content. A lot of marketers and decision makers focus on the monetary ROI of content performance measurement programs and neglect the information return they get by watching unknown leads become known and then convert.
Of those four eBooks and 24 blogs, if 75 percent are on the same topic, I can compare demographic information with other known leads and serve them a similar experience, while simultaneously building out any gaps I notice throughout this process. This not only shortens the time to takes for a lead to become known and then convert, but it also minimizes wasted resources and ups ROI conversion.
Getting lost in the dollars and cents makes sense sometimes, but for me, ROI is information. I use content performance as a way to refine strategy, and I let the sales team count the pennies.