I recently reviewed the “2015 B2B Content Marketing” report by the Content Marketing Institute and was astounded to read that 70% of B2B marketers create more content year over year, yet most inadequately track results. Nearly half of B2B marketers (48%) do not even have a clear, documented plan of attack.
How can marketers invest invaluable time, energy and resources in content marketing without first setting and tracking metrics for ROI? It made me wonder if marketers are setting the bar too low for content marketing ROI, and are unaware of the consequences. Creating content without having any goals in place or a system for evaluating results is like firing a shot in the dark: it’s dangerous.
It’s dangerous because it further opens the doors for companies to misrepresent themselves on one of the biggest and most unforgiveable stages of them all, the Internet. Companies turn away prospective leads and customers before they even have a chance to grow a relationship, all because they didn’t take the time to aim before they fired off into space.
Brands, like individuals, are publicly recognized for their content successes as well as their mistakes.
Take for example the Huffington Post’s criticism of Uber for the company’s infamous “Teachers: Driving Our Futures” blog post, which their audience claimed was insensitive and exploitative. This one post came under fire, and erased any goodwill from the nearly 100 other Uber posts that successfully positioned the brand.
Operating without a strategy or tracking metrics is also dangerous for marketers’ careers. As a whole, content marketers need to get serious about demonstrating their impact. Marketing is notorious for being the first department to suffer budget cuts. Without demonstrating solid business contributions, how can content marketers expect to survive their company’s next economic hurdle? Content marketers need to prove themselves as profit centers to have longevity.
By being accountable to a documented strategy, brands are more accountable to their audiences, content marketers are more responsible to their companies, and brands are more true themselves.
What’s your ROI?
Content marketing, at its core, allows businesses of all sizes to become an informational authority within an industry or niche market. Passion allows every business to become an expert in the field, and that expertise comes out through whitepapers, blogs, webinars, social media posts and even curated content. This content, if done correctly, is lasting and gains trust among your customers and potential customers.
It is not uncommon for companies to talk about gaining a return from their investments. Content should be treated the same way and given the same amount of thought as a financial transaction or stock acquisition. Everything a B2B content marketer does should have the purpose of creating leads through forming and strengthening relationships. All metrics used to evaluate ROI should flow from this understanding. However, I would caution anyone from measuring content marketing ROI strictly on monetary worth.
When done properly, content marketing should have long-term monetary worth through customer retention and acquisition. The research proves this fact. In its recent “State of Inbound Marketing” report, HubSpot stated that marketers who blog are 13 times more likely to drive positive ROI. ExactTarget says 80 percent of business decision markers prefer to get information in a series of articles, rather than an advertisement, and according to Kapost, content marketing produces three times more leads per dollar.
Yet most importantly, ROI should be measured by overall customer and industry engagement, which shows relevance, usefulness and the importance of one’s content.
Remember that content marketing, unlike other forms of marketing, has an upfront expense associated with creating the content. However, content brings value long after it’s paid for, bringing customers back to a brand’s website, e-commerce site, webinars, etc. Search engines love content. Good, quality content that is picked up by search engines creates an abundance of new opportunities for potential customers to find your business through organic search.
Content marketing success does not come overnight. However the expression that “good things are worth waiting for” holds true given the loyalty, relationships, leads and earned media that solid content marketing creates.