Chap 3: Measuring content marketing ROI

The goodies in this chapter include a CALL TO ACTION template, email templates to engage your team, and a simple framework for measuring the many facets of your content marketing program.

Measuring content marketing ROI

Methods of measuring content marketing effectiveness

“You can’t measure your content marketing until you know who you are trying to talk to.” These are the words of Bryan Gardner, Content Strategist at Novelis.

Novelis is a multi-billion dollar aluminum company, owned by an even larger Indian metals conglomerate, so it has more resources at its disposal than the typical startup or early stage company. But, Novelis is old-school, with a fixed list of customers which the company admits isn’t likely to grow very fast — big names like Chevrolet, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Coca-Cola.

The many facets of measuring content marketing ROI

While Novelis is great at making rolled aluminum, it hasn’t been excellent at bridging the digital divide.  The company has been very accustomed to traditional public relations, where earned media is everything. Novelis hasn’t been used to telling its own stories internally. However, the company’s current public relations team knows that telling its own stories through content marketing is exactly what Novelis needs to do.  The team has several battles to fight: an antiquated web platform, a traditional corporate culture, and some silos within the company that make developing content marketing a little tricky.

The team at Novelis is busy working to correct its challenges so it can achieve two objectives through content marketing:

1) Thought leadership in its industry

2) Message on sustainability and environmental responsibility.

But before Novelis, and any other company, for that matter, begins churning out content, it must understand the target audience and how to measure results–and that’s the journey Novelis, and maybe yourself, are embarked on right now.

There are lots of different ideas out there on how to build a framework to measure content marketing ROI, and the way companies use content marketing and measure it varies from company to company, industry to industry. For Novelis, they’re focusing on some very specific activities in the next few quarters:

  1. Making the blog more shareable–both from a content and a distribution strategy perspective.
  2. Getting better analytics data. Bryan says, “We have to make sure the code spans all the sites so we can get an accurate view of how people are finding us and the path they are traveling once they are on one of our properties.”
  3. Experiment. Bryan says, “We’re not just redefining some of our KPIs–we’re also beginning to do some A/B testing or multi-varient testing and optimize the pages based on incremental improvements.”

Whether you are a leading multinational like Novelis or a newly minted startup, here’s how to establish those effective frameworks to measure your content marketing ROI:

Step 1: Defining priorities 

Content marketing sits at a unique intersection between sales, marketing, and public relations, so to be successful at running the content marketing program the manager has to understand which one of these three areas most needs to be maximized by the company. To start the process of developing metrics to successfully determine content marketing ROI, first go ahead and get everybody’s goals out on the table. This includes anyone who might touch content marketing at your firm, including departments like marketing, sales, and investor relations.

Each department will have their own goals and aspirations for content marketing.  For example, sales will want more quality leads. Marketing might want to make sure the company website is highly ranked for certain key search terms. Make sure you ask the each department what’s important to them.  The content marketing program itself will have its own defined goals like posting frequency, posting schedule, and how much engagement your company gets from its content. And, everyone at the table will care how much the content marketing program costs.

A wise content marketing manager won’t tell the participating departments that their goals are wrong. Their goals are right. But, the manager needs to get the goals of the various departments either thrown off the table for now — or prioritized.  The goals presented by each department should be ordered into the top one, two, or three priorities.

Step 2: Determining goals and tactics

Once a company has identified its top one to three goals, it’s time to start implementing tactics to achieve them.  Let’s say the top goal for content marketing in the firm is to create quality sales leads.  First, it needs to be able to get contact information from the people who consume the content.

To get contact information, think of ways of delivering content that is so compelling, people are willing to give out their email addresses or phone numbers. It’s a very high bar to set for content.

When setting the goals for a company, it’s critically important to set an easy-to-read bar for everyone involved in content marketing.  Fuzzy goals are not helpful.  An example of a fuzzy goal would be something like, “we want to put out great content that people can share.”  This is way too vague.  Rather, companies need to set a bar that is much more concrete.  For example, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” has a goal of driving more traffic to its website each week. So, host Jon Stewart lets his on-air interviews run long to be used as unique, web-only content. The numbers won’t lie. You’ll know if your goals are too optimistic or pessimistic, depending on the results.

Step 3: Plan, plan, plan

In order to make best use of the results, and keep an eye on content marketing ROI, put a weekly meeting on the calendar — not about the content itself, but about the measurements from the content. Analyze the top performing content from the week; examine what that content looked like.  Keep your eyes open for the posts that sizzle and break all previous records, so they can be replicated.  By making sure you build in time to analyze and identify spiky, hot content pieces, you can use them to inform your content calendar and increase your content marketing ROI.

  • TEMPLATE: See this sample Write2Market Editorial Calendar with hashtags and keywords to get a jumpstart. It’s in the Templates section of this site.

Step 4: Motivating the consumer of the content

Another important thing to test for in your content marketing, especially if your top goal is to create more sales leads, is the call to action. The way you phrase your call to action makes a big difference in determining whether people respond to your content. If you feel your content marketing is on point, but your lead generation isn’t going well, you may want to evaluate how your company presents the call to action.

A great example of an effective call to action is the one offered by heat mapping site, “Crazy Egg.” Go onto Crazy Egg’s homepage, and see the question, “What’s making your visitors leave?”  It’s a simple, compelling, powerful question that any company with a website wants answered. A pop-up then appears, offering customers a free, 30-day trial of Crazy Egg with the button, “Show Me My Heatmap.” Crazy Egg’s CTA works for several reasons: 1) It establishes why using Crazy Egg is risk free. 2) It presents the value proposition in simple, clear, conversational language. 3) The “Show Me My Heatmap” button taps into the voice of the customer.

  • CALL TO ACTION TEMPLATE: Check out this call to action idea starter to help think through a variety of possible calls to action. The right CTA completely empowers your content to deliver the ROI you want from it.

Step 5: Engaging your team in the process

The final thing you want to consider in the measurement process is the engagement of your team in content distribution. It’s important to keep in mind three types of measurements:

1)   There is the measurement of the effectiveness and content marketing ROI, which we have already discussed.

2)   There is also the efficiency of the CM program: Every time you hit the set content marketing goal, or generate a lead, how much did it cost you to generate that opportunity?

The cost of lead generation via content marketing should be more affordable than conventional lead generation. If you have to hire a CMO to write to CMOs, it would get very expensive.  But, the good news is that writers and social media pros tend to be cheaper than a CMO. But, they are not typically cheaper than an outbound caller.  A company must understand how efficient it is with this practice as compared to other processes trying to accomplish the same goal or goals. Comparing the amount of leads generated by the outbound calling department versus the content marketing department is one way to measure this.  The measurement of the efficiency of a content marketing department is different for every company. Measuring how efficient your content marketing department is at producing desired results is critical, so you can measure the outcome against other company methods.

3)   The reach of your distribution network: Your company is fully capable of producing interesting content marketing, but what is its strategy to get it out there? One of the ways you will measure the distribution is pure reach. One thing to examine is how many networks and people are actively distributing your content.  A lot of companies begin with content marketing person who does a ton of sharing, posting, and tweeting.  But, one person alone can only achieve so much success. As the company grows, a few more people will join in and support his efforts. When the company moves from one person to five people sharing, it will see a ten-fold increase in reach.

  • TOOL: use this quick estimator to get a sense of your company’s reach on social media. Prepare to be impressed with what your actual reach could become if you engaged your team.

According to the Pew Research Center, the average American has 634 ties in their overall network. Pew’s research revealed that LinkedIn and Twitter users have the most social connections, 786 and 838 connections respectively, with Facebook users in third place with an average of 648 connections. To have an effective content marketing program, keep your eye on how many people are distributing your content – and give thought to how to maximize the distribution network to improve your content marketing ROI.

  • TEAM ENGAGEMENT TEMPLATE: Write2Market shares a collection of three emails you can use with your team to get them invested in your socal distribution program. Companies see double digit results in improved site traffic from social using these. Check it out!

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