How to Measure Your Content’s Effectiveness

“Content is king” is a phrase that’s dominated the marketing world for years now, and for good reason. Content works. It helps connect with customers in their buying process and it helps drive demand. But it’s also a lot of work, and if you’re producing content without any sense of how well it is or isn’t performing relative to your demand marketing, then you’re potentially wasting a lot of time, energy, and money. The most well-written piece of content in the world could be nothing more than just that – a well-written piece of content. When it comes to demand marketing, what matters is how effective that content is at moving prospects through the funnel to closed-won. But being able to measure content effectiveness is still a challenge for many marketers. In fact, recent research shows that a near-majority of marketers (44% of those surveyed) struggle with determining content marketing ROI.

The root of the challenge is in closing the tracking loop and optimizing your content against marketing KPIs. Without the ability to do that, your team is stuck in a cycle of random marketing campaigns. When stuck in this state, marketers struggle to learn from past performance and they aren’t able to replicate success. So why are marketing teams still not measuring content ROI?

Why aren’t YOU measuring content ROI?

Creating content takes a lot of time, energy, and money. Businesses today spend about a third of their marketing budget on content, but nearly half aren’t measuring the ROI of their content, and even less consider their content performance as “very successful”. Why?

Of a survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, the answer is that ROI isn’t tracked for four main reasons. 

  1. Marketers aren’t asked to track it 
  2. It’s too challenging 
  3. They simply don’t know how 
  4. It’s too time consuming 

These four concerns are alarming considering they are all solvable challenges. We explore each one in-depth and then share how you can calculate your own content ROI.

Content ROI

Concern: No formal justification required 

This concern stems from two places. The first is a leadership team that doesn’t yet expect marketing to prove its value and instead is satisfied with a focus on vanity metrics. While this may be the case for some companies right now, it won’t be for long. Business leaders are beginning to expect demand marketing to demonstrate their contribution to the bottom line (if they’re not already), and that will include showing the ROI of one of the largest line items in the budget. The smart marketer sees this shift coming and is preparing by laying the groundwork for measuring content ROI now.

The second, is that marketing hasn’t seen the value in demonstrating the ROI of content. If no one’s asking for it, why care? But as marketing budgets have been declining year over year — dropping from 12.1% of company revenue in 2016 to 10.5% in 2019 according to Gartner — it’s becoming more and more important for marketing to demonstrate its value in order to secure the budget necessary to be effective. Smart marketers know they can request more budget if they’re able to demonstrate their spend is creating a return. Proving content ROI will help get those budgets back up.

Concern: We need an easier way to do this OR we don’t know how to do this

Tracking content performance isn’t easy. If it was, we’d see much higher numbers of people tracking ROI! But it’s worth it. Setting up an efficient and accurate content tracking system will involve more than just your marketing team. At a minimum, you’ll need to sit down with marketing, web, marketing and sales ops, and data teams to make sure that there is connectivity between systems and a clear dashboard reporting structure. This isn’t a light lift as it involves making sure that the MAP, CMS, CRM, and analysis tool that your company uses are all configured in such a way that performance can be connected back to contact-level behaviors. Once you get the framework operating, your team will be able to easily check in on performance. If this is your challenge to reporting on content ROI, then find a strategic partner that can do the heavy lifting for you.

Concern: Too time consuming

Sixty percent (60%) of marketers create at least one piece of content per day and it takes, on average, 1-4 hours to write a blog post. We’re spending a lot of time producing content! Whether it’s a social media post, email copy, ad copy, blog post, white-paper, or ebook, your team is going to spend hours making sure the finished piece is polished. So why would you not spend the time tracking its performance? If you take the time to make sure you’re working on the right content – you’ll drastically reduce the time you spend going down the wrong path. 

What you should be measuring

Now that we’ve debunked the four major concerns that are holding demand marketing teams back, let’s talk about how to measure content performance. Start by recognizing the right metrics to track. The three main KPIs to track content success are volume, elasticity, and impact expectation.

  • Volume: Number of leads that engaged with the offer
  • Elasticity: Percentage of leads who engaged that later converted to a sales-ready lead and also, separately, a Closed Won lead
  • Impact Expectation: Volume x Elasticity

Measuring volume will tell you whether your offer is engaging an audience; elasticity will tell you if it’s engaging the right audience, and impact expectation combines the two. A lot of marketers will only measure download volume, or even just webpage traffic volume. This metric alone won’t help your marketing. You need to know if the people downloading your content are in the right audience and if the content is compelling them to move forward in their buying process to ultimately generate revenue. Start with the offers that struggle on the impact expectation index and break them out into volume and elasticity:

  1. Low Volume, High Elasticity: If you’re seeing offers with low volume but they’re converting the leads that do engage with them really well, it’s time to explore how the offer is being promoted. Ask yourself whether it’s being promoted at all via third party channels. If it is, are they the right channels for your target audience? If so, could you increase your spend to increase the offer’s visibility? Could you promote the offer in an outbound campaign, or highlight it on your website
  2. High Volume, Low Elasticity: Offers with high volume and low elasticity may be engaging the wrong audience (although you’d want to make sure this isn’t a broad trend that would imply other issues in the funnel). Take a step back and make sure you know who your target audience is — what are their roles, what industries are they in, what size is their organization, etc. Does the under-performing offer speak to the pain points and differentiators your defined target audience cares about?
  3. Low Volume, Low Elasticity: If these offers have truly been visible enough to be engaged with, consider them as candidates for retirement. Try to identify patterns with these offers so you can avoid putting effort into similar projects – are they focused around similar topics? Is a particular format not working? See what you can learn from these pieces before removing them from circulation.

But it’s not just about taking note of what’s going wrong. Look at the offers performing well in terms of impact expectation and take note of what you did here! What channels was this offer promoted across, what’s the format, the topic, the audience? Figure out if there’s a formula here that you can replicate as you expand your content inventory and use it to optimize your ROI.

If you want to know more about the KPIs your marketing team should be measuring read: Demand Marketing KPIs and Metrics to Monitor.

Measuring ROI

Now that you’ve set up tracking and are gathering the right data, you can begin to calculate your content ROI. 

Calculate how much you’re spending on content production for each piece of content. That includes research, writing, editing, and promotion. This is simpler if you’re outsourcing the work, but you can do a calculation on internal man hours as well. Then, measure that spend against the KPIs and metrics mentioned above. By doing these two operations, you can calculate the spend and the return of your efforts to achieve an ROI number.

Measuring content performance is absolutely critical if you want to move away from tactical, one-and-done campaigns, and into a strategic demand marketing state. In order to create predictable, repeatable patterns of demand, you have to know the patterns of success to replicate. Once you’re able to measure content performance, you can stop wasting time creating new pieces of content that inevitably will fail, and instead redirect your efforts and your dollars into the strategies that work. 

If you want to know more about what a strategic demand marketing state looks like read: Making the Critical Shift from Tactical to Strategic Demand Marketing.

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