The market seems to be confused about the difference between inbound marketing and content marketing—how each is defined, how they are applied, and the benefit of each. But primarily, marketers are simply struggling to determine which is better at driving ROI
. A variety of content measurement techniques
are available for marketers to track content performance, but still no exact formula exists to show content marketing ROI.
Why are marketers struggling? It’s because we’ve put the cart before the horse and the egg before the chicken. Simply put, we’ve forgotten about the basics.
In order for anyone to be successful in what they do, they must first understand the world they live in, make sense of it, and then try to find solutions. In marketing terms, marketers need to understand the definition of inbound marketing and content marketing before determining where their dollars are best invested for driving ROI.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is the idea that your story, or brand, is so compelling it pushes people to take action. Whether that action is to visit a piece of content, download something, provide contact information, make a phone call, sign up for a newsletter, or purchase a product, it’s all inbound marketing. It’s all driven by your story and how it’s perceived in the market.
Thinking about investing in inbound marketing to drive ROI? Here’s what you need to get started:
- Start with a destination: It could be your website, a blog, or some other digital portal, but the goal is to create a home for the experience you want to provide to potential customers.
- Build connections: There must be a way for your customers to get in touch with you. For beginners, make your social media profiles available and make it clear to potential customers that if they speak to you there, you WILL respond, and respond quickly. If you already have an audience, take it a step further and offer a newsletter that showcases your content and other important stories your readers may be interested in.
- Focus on quality: This is said a lot, but if the experience you’re creating or the story you’re telling sucks, no one will listen and your inbound marketing tactics will be dead on arrival. Too often, companies half-ass it and put up a facade that looks like a good experience, but as you read more articles, you find shallow content and poorly executed marketing.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is storytelling. Well, good content marketing is storytelling. Content marketing starts with the world your company operates in. It’s not your brand message, your brand identity, or the story of how your company was incorporated. Your audience cares about why you are in business. If your company was built to provide superior value to its customers, that’s something worth sharing. What are the values of your customers that your brand aligns with, that the people in your company align with? That’s what people want to hear about. They want to be entertained, educated, and informed about the world we all live in.
If you want to use content marketing to drive ROI, here’s a good starting place:
- Again, start with a destination: It could be your current website blog or an entirely different publishing destination that operates like a media site. The important thing is to establish where your stories will live and where and how people will be able to consume them.
- Distribute everywhere: Great stories don’t attract readers immediately after publishing, especially if your content marketing program is young. Eventually, organic channels like search and social will help boost awareness, but out of the gate send your content to everyone you can. Include it in your customer emails, partner emails, sales emails, employee signatures, social media channels, your employees social media channels, anyone who is willing to read it should see it. Your content should follow wherever you go.
- Foster collaboration: Get more than your marketing department involved. Poll your company to find out who has ideas and is willing to share those ideas. The people closest to your industry will have great insight into what the audience may be interested in (not with regards to your brand, but the values you stand for). This also gives people a sense of involvement. If Dave in product development submits an idea and you hire a writer to create content about it, he’s more apt to read and share that content when it’s published because he helped craft it.
Which One Is Better at Driving ROI?
The jury is out on this one, but if I had to provide a roadmap for where to start investing, here’s what it would look like:
- Create a website
- Seek ideas from everyone (within your company, your friends, your family, third-party research)
- Publish incredible content (articles, video, graphics, etc.)
- Give reasons for your audience to come back (newsletter, episodic content, unique perspectives)
- Make content measurement a priority—measure everything
- Do MORE of what’s working
- Rinse and repeat
For more articles on content marketing ROI, check out Skyword’s free eBook, The How and Why of Content ROI: Defining Goals and Measuring Success.