Measuring return on investment (ROI) is a crucial part of any marketing initiative, but has become increasingly difficult in the age of online marketing. While measuring the return on certain types of marketing campaigns in terms of dollars and cents is seemingly simple, measuring content marketing ROI is not so cut and dry. I wrote an article for last month’s issue of Chief Content Officer magazine (and posted here) discussing this very topic, as I believe it is a part of the marketing cycle that business owners frequently become stuck on. However, measuring content marketing ROI is truly essential for success, and it can be done!
So, why do many people get stuck on measuring content marketing ROI? Often, they do not know where to start, or how to effectively monitor the customer sales cycle. With an endless list of key performance indicators (KPIs) to consider, not only can measuring ROI be overwhelming, it can be confusing. I’m often asked, “What content marketing metrics should I be measuring?” My answer to that question is different in almost every instance, because the metrics that matter to one business may not matter to another. Because of this, I strongly suggest determining how content marketing can help to achieve your business goals by answering the five Ws (and one H):
- Who is this content for?
- What type of content am I going to create?
- Where will the content be published and promoted?
- When will this content be released?
- Why am I creating this content?
- How is it important to my customers?
Once you have answered those questions, you should have a pretty good idea whether content marketing can help to achieve a business goal or not. Only then do I recommend moving on to the next step of defining which metrics to measure.
Defining your Metrics
While increasing revenue and traffic are usually at the top of most business’ list, I suggest breaking objectives down based on different types of metrics:
1. Consumption metrics
Consumption metrics can be measured in analytics programs, like Google Analytics, and include traffic (total visits, unique visits, etc.), time-on-site, bounce rate, abandonment rate, downloads, cost-per-visitor, etc. These metrics can help you to conclude how your content is being consumed by your customers, as well as the path they use to find that content and beyond. Of course, be sure your site is equipped with the software necessary to measure consumption metrics, and do so weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly to better understand the lifecycle of your content marketing investment.
2. Lead-generation metrics
Lead-generation can be measured in a number of ways. For example, some businesses hide content behind a lead-capture form, requiring users to provide their name and email address to gain access to the content. The lead is then passed to the sales team who is tasked with closing the lead. Though this isn’t guaranteed new business, you can attribute the lead to a piece of content through the form fill. Additionally, leads can be measured by tracking where a lead originated, say from a blog post or video, and resulted in a form fill.
The way you measure leads will largely depend on what you consider a lead. From contact form fills and requests for more information to email and blog subscribers, not all leads are created equal. The importance of each type of lead is up to you to decipher, but once you know, be sure to apply a value to each.
3. Sharing metrics
Though social media metrics are more difficult to quantify in terms of a dollar amount, I think there is still value there. Most likely you are promoting your content pieces on social media networks, which generates referral traffic, conversions and builds awareness, which are all important to content marketing success. Social media also provides insight on how people share your content and the sentiment towards your business and content, which can be applied when developing future content marketing strategies.
4. Sales metrics
Sales metrics are often the easiest to comprehend, as well as the most important. You must determine how much revenue your content generated to effectively calculate content marketing ROI.
Tracking the Sales Cycle
Again, I believe sales metrics are often the most important metrics of any I previously mentioned. After all, increasing revenue is what marketing is all about! But even so, it’s not all about revenue; it’s about understanding your customer, which you can do by tracking your sales cycle. Reviewing conversion rates on your website is one thing, but unless you are an e-commerce site where website conversions = dollars, you must be able to measure whether your leads are turning into paying customers through your CRM system. Because of this, it is crucial that your CRM system allows users to be tracked throughout the entire sales cycle.
To effectively measure revenue gains, you need to dissect the path customers take from the first site visit to the closing sale. Eventually, you will be able to see what types of content your paying customers consumed throughout the sales cycle, and assess which content influences sales the most. An additional benefit to tracking the entire sales cycle is seeing where leads drop off by tracking the last piece of content viewed and the steps taken to get there. With this data, you will better understand your customers and can use that knowledge when strategizing future content marketing projects.
Though it seems like great deal of work, the point I want to make clear is that measuring content marketing ROI is possible with the right mindset, strategy and tools in place. While it may take some time up front to ensure your content marketing plan meets business goals, define metrics and set up the necessary tools, these steps are necessary in providing an accurate representation of ROI. And together, consumption, lead-generation, sharing and sales metrics can help you measure your ultimate business goal and provide insight for future content marketing endeavors, which is surely worth the investment.