Executives are obsessed with measuring ROI — and with good reason. This measurement allows us to validate the time and resources spent on marketing efforts with quantitative results. ROI measurements are proof that we’re doing things right — and provide guidelines for change if we’re not. However, we can’t overlook effective marketing techniques just because measuring ROI is difficult.
Understanding the Value of Content Marketing
In general, content marketing means developing and distributing content that adds value to the lives of customers and prospects. Content marketing allows companies to move beyond a transactional relationship to a deeper, more profitable one. The transparency of the current marketplace makes this critical.
What makes content marketing so valuable is also what makes it so challenging to measure in terms of ROI. Measuring ROI for content marketing is tricky because it’s a long-term strategy, not something to be turned on or off whenever it’s convenient. Challenges for measuring content marketing ROI include:
• Timeframe: Companies really need a minimum of a six-month timeframe when gauging content marketing results.
• Sales Tracking: If content marketing is done correctly, it shouldn’t substitute for an advertisement; including a strong call to action can turn away prospects or customers. Therefore, tracking sales directly back to a specific piece of content can be difficult.
• Delayed Results: This type of marketing is not like pay-per-click, which can be easily measured in real time. Instead, brands must look back to see how content marketing impacted sales.
Finally, it’s important to remember that content marketing has an added benefit: establishing us as thought leaders in our industries. This can open up additional marketing and PR opportunities for a company, such as invitations for speaking engagements and being cited as a source in industry articles. More importantly, industry leaders become the first stop when people have questions — the best sign that the investment is more than paying off.
Three Ways to Measure Content Marketing Efforts
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to measuring content marketing ROI, but companies can use several methods to measure content marketing benefits. These data points help determine whether businesses are delivering the right type of content for their audience, and they can serve as guideposts for future content development. It’s vital to measure:
• Social Shares. This is one item that’s straightforward to measure and can be a good indicator of whether content is valuable to a customer segment. If people aren’t sharing the content, the company either isn’t adding enough value or picking the right topics.
• Email List Growth. Having more prospects signing up for an email list is a good sign. The audience is showing it finds the offered content valuable and wants to see more of it.
• Increased Engagement. Brands can measure the engagement on their websites or blogs by tracking page views and time spent on certain pages. This provides valuable information on exactly which pieces of content are most relevant.
Other items that are more difficult to measure, but still merit scrutiny, are sales cycles and churn in a customer base. Shortened sales cycles may be the result of our content increasing customer trust. In addition, less churn in a customer base could be caused by a stronger relationship between the customer and the brand. Measuring these results can be more difficult, but they’re also important in determining the return on our investment.
We may be obsessed with measuring ROI, but ROI doesn’t do us any good if it prevents us from maximizing the right techniques and resources. We have to see beyond the numbers — and into a future that isn’t always captured by data.