Proof of the ROI of content was a central topic at Content Marketing World 2021. As the industry is booming and content is the focus for many companies around the world, business leaders and financial players are looking for ways to weather today’s uncertain economic market conditions. The ongoing global pandemic is still wreaking havoc, and number-conscious executives have put more pressure on content marketing teams to demonstrate their worth.
In the past, content marketing has been associated with “softer” performance metrics and KPIs – but that’s changing. A session at this year’s CMWorld focused on and delved into that exact subject, examining how brand leaders can assess and measure the ROI of content marketing in a way that is linked to business bottom line.
This female-only panel showcased some of the best content marketers in the business, including moderators Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich, Managing Partner at Masthead Media; Jessica Jensen, CMO of Indeed; Michelle Wong, CMO of Sprinkles Cupcakes; Annie Garnet, Vice President, Content Marketing at Marriott International; and Nekasha Pratt, Vice president of marketing at HarperCollins Publishers.
Here are eight key ways these marketing leaders measure their content success:
1. Look back to look ahead
When asked how she decides where to put her marketing dollars and how she divides her budget each year, Nekasha said, “The first thing we do is look back and look ahead.”
This is wise advice, especially in this day and age when every business is trying to make data-driven decisions. According to Nekasha, her team is always thinking about what will bring them the greatest return on investment, and data and research are key drivers in making those decisions. This is a great way to justify your budget.
2. Balance the “hard” and “soft” metrics
Jessica had an apt answer to this question: “Marketing is the wonderful amalgamation of math and art.
Jessica works with her leadership team to develop “hard” metrics and assignments. For Indeed, this includes KPIs such as creating new jobseeker accounts and creating new employer expense accounts. Content they create for these metrics is aimed at driving lead generation, and topics can include anything from “What is the right job for you?” to “How should you prepare for an interview?”
This type of content is very easy to understand, offers clear advantages for SEO and traffic acquisition – and makes the management team happy. In doing so, Jessica creates space for content initiatives that don’t have such measurable results, such as content that makes people think about changing jobs. In the end, this results in a “patchwork quilt of efforts and metrics, and we try to get everything to the desired result”.
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.
3. Tie everything back to the brand
The driver behind the work Michelle leads at Sprinkles Cupcakes is the brand message. “For Sprinkles, our content is always reflected around our basic brand beliefs. It is the thread that connects everything. “
This key message is, “We want to empower our customers to find love and celebrate it every day – they don’t have to wait for a special occasion.” Michelle uses this lens as her guiding principle for content development. She explores the emotional connections underlying the brand’s products to shape messages and demonstrate the brand’s beliefs, and this affects how content is designed and executed.
When executives see this message embedded, they understand how it expands the brand’s values, how it helps customers connect with the product, and how it affects the bottom line.
4. Make a habit of reporting metrics to executives
At Marriott, Annie says she’s made a habit of reporting results across the chain: “We regularly (monthly or quarterly) provide a summary of the metrics to senior management.”
Don’t hesitate to share your successes with your business leaders at a once or twice a year meeting. Even if your content is not at the bottom of the funnel, you can draw a line between what you do and how it increases in sales. The more you demonstrate this to leadership, the better.
Annie gathers everything from interactions in social posts and click rates in newsletters to various metrics on engagement and brand awareness meetings.
5. Identify metrics that matter to your niche
At HarperCollins Publishers, Nekasha looks at the standard metrics first: Follows, Views, Visits, Engagement, etc. But she also looks at early success indicators for her particular industry.
In publishing, for example, reviews and presales are important indicators of success. Your own target group is also important: have the e-mail subscribers grown? Have the open rates increased? What do authors’ followers / readers look like when they compare the audience of their last book to their latest book?
Nekasha also checks to see if people want to engage with content. Are they downloading content? Do you add books to your wish list? Do you continue to participate and would you like to reconnect? Finally, she looks at bestseller lists, another strong indicator of success.
These types of metrics may not be relevant to other industries. So if you are tracking the standard metrics, it may be time to evaluate the value of these benchmarks and see if there are other indicators that you can track specific to your area.
6. Make every content decision targeted
According to Michelle, you should be careful about creating content to have content. “No matter what we bring out, it’s always targeted,” she said.
And that’s an important piece of advice: it’s easy to get used to focusing on quantity rather than quality. But when you have a purpose behind any piece of content, it’s easier to justify its existence.
That said, experimentation is a good reason to create something. When someone has a new idea that they really want to try, it’s worth pursuing. You could uncover a customer insight you otherwise wouldn’t know while sometimes just taking away that it’s not a path you want to go.
Annie had a similar experience at Marriott. The team hesitated to try a new platform: TikTok. They weren’t sure how the content would play out or if there was an audience at all, but to their surprise, an organic audience already existed. Thousands of people created TikToks to showcase their hotel rooms and indeed their first foray into the platform as a brand turned out to be a huge hit.
It just shows that trying new things is just as valuable as following proven strategies.
Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels.
7. Reuse content to get even more value from it
Nekasha had a compelling perspective on content as the goal of her organization as a publisher is to create content to sell content. As a result, she always thinks about clever ways to use and reuse the content her team has created.
For example, she could create a quiz, list of funny facts, or a recipe for a book. While this content is usually one-of-a-kind, she can reuse the content by sending it to PR or other channels that can then use it to aid her marketing efforts.
“That’s the beauty of content marketing: we can scrap and reuse content, which allows us to be cost-effective and keep making our money,” she said. “We also create content that our writers can use to build their own platforms. This in turn helps us sell books – and that’s why content marketing is so important to our overall marketing strategy. “
8. Remember: Not everything is measurable – and that’s fine
Finally, after all this talk about reporting by key indicators and hard metrics, Jessica had an apt reminder for her fellow brand marketer: “Not everything is measurable.”
At Indeed, Jessica always thinks about it, “What is the quality of work that we can produce and do that is unique to us and our market, but then forms a coalition of our partnerships and elevates us and them as thought leaders?”
This type of work is not necessarily measurable, but its effects can still be felt. If you do things that reflect your brand and values, and you work to change society for the better, you will find partners who want to do the same. Together you can spread a positive message that will resonate with customers and that can be more valuable than all the numbers in a table.
Hopefully these important insights from some of the brightest executives at CMWorld will help you in your quest to evaluate and measure content marketing ROI.
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Highlighted Image Attribution: Photo by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash.