Marketers Look To Channels, Buying Stages When Measuring Content ROI

Published: March 4, 2014

Content has become a beneficial marketing tool for companies of all sizes looking to engage buyers, collect valuable behavioral data and educate prospects. While content can be a precious asset if used correctly, many marketers are struggling to understand its impact on the company’s overall revenue.

Although marketers can obtain a large amount of data from buyers’ interactions with content, it is important to focus on performance by channel and stage in the buying cycle, observers explained.

“The winners of content marketing are those marketers who really take that wide view of what content is and realize that if you can break it down to all of those channels, you can deliver a really interesting and engaging experience when you mix the content up with offers that drive conversion,” said Damon Ragusa, President of Idio, in an interview with Demand Gen Report.

When it comes to measuring content, marketers need to make sure that they understand the basics prior to taking the next step in evaluating content ROI. According to Ragusa, marketers are focusing more on investing in paid media than the technology needed to analyze the data their content already generates.

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“By and large, a lot of companies simply disregarded the value — the executional value and the strategic value — that their own marketing communications channel developed,” said Ragusa. “Companies spend a lot of money on infrastructure and automation, but haven’t really thought about how they can take advantage of customer interactions with content that are being created millions of times per day.”

Start With Short-Term Objectives

While planning for the future is important when it comes to analyzing and measuring the effectiveness of content, it is essential that companies meet short-term goals so content marketers can get the ball rolling and help them understand which pieces of content work in certain situations.

“For small organizations with very limited resources, it’s victory enough to establish and maintain a regular production schedule, clarify a handful of priority audience personas, find where they already congregate online, start developing online relationships, and let the momentum grow gradually,” said Mitchell Beer, President of Smarter Shift. “That back-to-basics approach doesn’t take in everything the big brands are doing, but sometimes it’s all an organization can do to post a weekly blog and develop positive relationships with colleagues whose material they regularly retweet. More than three quarters of small businesses aren’t even doing that, and everyone has to start somewhere.”

Understanding the behaviors that content can create within an audience can lead to a greater understanding of the customer, which in the end can help marketers connect the dots on where content affected the customer buying cycle. If marketers begin to take a look at the overall picture of the customer’s buying journey, marketers will be able to see how their content is affecting each stage — from initial contact to the point of purchase.

“The easiest way to measure your content is to figure out what your end goal is, and start backwards from that,” said Shanelle Mullin, Director of Marketing at Onboardly. “For the most part, all of your channels are going to be affected by content marketing on some level, so I think it would be very difficult to find a startup nowadays that doesn’t have a huge amount of their traffic coming from social media or search engines.”

Buying Journey Provides Clues On Content Effectiveness

Analyzing a customer’s journey from the initial interaction highlights the customer’s interaction throughout the customer lifecycle, therefore showing what triggered the customer’s decision to continue along the buying cycle. This information helps marketers determine what content is the most effective, and whether or not that content played a major role in the customer’s buying decision.

“I think the key to any successful content strategy is a content road map,” said Rachel Balik, Content Marketing Manager at Demandbase. “This map is specifically charted to your customers’ buying journey — the customers’ path from first touch to finally purchasing from your company. By just understanding the path that the customer takes towards making the final purchasing decision, you can plan what kind of content needs to be available at any given time in order to move them along the cycle.”

In the end, content plays varying roles throughout the buyer’s journey. Although a piece of content may not close a deal, there is always a possibility that a piece of content helped a customer take the initiative on inquiring further about the brand and its offerings.

“Not every piece of content is going drive conversions and leads,” Balik said.“Content has to be segmented into stages just like your accounts. Having content that speaks to buyers at different phases allows you to better personalize the experience and enhance overall engagement.”

Analyze The Right Data

With startup companies especially, content is the primary way marketers are engaging with their target audiences. However, a “common misconception” for startups is that “it is extremely hard to measure and track,” according to Mullin.

“This difficulty might have been true five years ago, but isn’t necessarily true anymore,” Mullin explained.“Obviously there are intangible benefits to content marketing such as thought leadership and customer engagement, but I think — for the most part — it is very easy to figure out how your readers are converting and are actually making you money.”

Many startups suffer from believing that they have to measure and analyze all of the data they are able to collect about users’ interactions with content. But eventually being able to tie the data to overall business goals is what will prove content effectiveness. Learning how to do this can save content marketers time and resources, Mullin noted.

“A lot of marketers are relying on vanity metrics that help them feel good about themselves and show signs of progression, but they aren’t actually tied to business goals that will help the company move forward,” Mullin concluded. “If you make sure that you are collecting the right metrics that are tied to your end goal, you will have a much better idea of where your company is and whether or not you’re producing content that anyone cares about.”

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