Marketer: “So, we are launching a content marketing campaign this quarter.”
CFO: “Ok, how will you measure its ROI?”
Marketer: “We’re measuring the leads and sales opportunities that result from people reading our content and filling out our lead form.”
CFO: “Great. Our target is 30% ROI for new marketing channels, so if it doesn’t achieve that, we’ll shut it down.”
Marketer: “Um, ok.”
While marketers are focusing on the short-term ROI of content marketing campaigns, measuring ROI in a vacuum will lead them astray and encourage the use of less-effective content strategies.
In reality, the ROI of marketing programs is determined by the variety of channels used. For example, large, established consumer brands split online marketing and advertising spending between direct response (SEM) and brand marketing (display ads, video, etc.).
The combination of both achieves the highest ROI. Take away the brand advertising and the ROI of direct response suffers. To be successful, do both .
I discussed this specific issue with a friend of mine who is an exec at a popular video website. His opinion is that their direct response advertising did significantly better when it was run simultaneously with a major brand campaign. When the brand campaign wound down, his direct response campaign slowed. When I asked him why, he said “Consumers are more likely to click on that Adwords link for a Netflix promotion if they have already seen a Netflix TV ad promoting the brand.” It’s a fact.
Much of what content marketing accomplishes is difficult to measure. For example, it’s hard to attribute a later sale to current efforts to build thought leadership--especially if your observation timeframe is narrow.
Suppose a customer reads a great article on your blog about security and five months later, needs to replace their security system. They Google your name to make the sale. How can that sale be attributed to the article?
While there are tools that can help track investments in content marketing, it will never be possible to accurately calculate ROI based solely on revenue or leads because you’ll never know what that observation timeframe should be, or where the ultimate effect will surface.
Let’s consider some content marketing outcomes that create trackable ROI, as well as some outcomes that do not, but still create substantial value.
Leads, Direct Sales: Some customers who find you via content marketing will convert immediately to sales opportunities.
Audience: Consumers discovering your brand via content marketing will be more inclined to follow you on social media, helping build an audience for ongoing marketing efforts.
Awareness: Consumers introduced to your brand by relevant, helpful content are more inclined to search for you by name and click your ads in search.
Authority: As search engines determine that your website is an authority in your market, they will give your site higher ranking and search visibility.
In conclusion, Content Marketing is a key tool in the marketer’s kit that contributes to a healthy ROI now more than ever. Businesses should focus less on measurement of short term, isolated ROI, and more on strategies that contribute to overall marketing efficiency.