What is the ROI of content marketing? If it’s not the first question asked after a presentation, it’s definitely one of the top three. Regardless of how thoroughly the discipline of content marketing is explained, most budget holders and decision-makers want a guarantee before they even consider making an investment. It never fails to annoy me. Here’s why.
When was the last time anyone asked about the ROI of advertising? For that matter, who worries about the ROI of marketing? Tactics within marketing or advertising may get consideration about return on investment but business understands the need for an investment in each of these areas as part of a business strategy. Whether the ‘half the money I spend on advertising is wasted’ quote is fabricated or not, it demonstrates overarching acceptance that every penny spent can’t be attributed to a business outcome.
Content marketing doesn’t get the same pass. It’s puzzling because, unlike campaign-based marketing and advertising, you have more ways to prove the worth of your expenditure when you invest in a solid content marketing strategy.
Content marketing builds your audience.
Business has become accustomed to getting reports on campaign effectiveness based on indirect information about audience size. Nielsen, Bridge Ratings and newspaper circulation numbers provide an idea about potential audience share, but nothing concrete about who is actually consuming your content.
And here’s the problem; it’s unlikely everyone buying a newspaper sees your advert. It’s impossible to expect every person tuning in to the radio or driving past a billboard is interested in your product. In the traditional model, you’re dependent on an audience you don’t own.
Content marketing allows you to build your own audience of prospects and customers who want to hear from you. Using content to capture contact details like email addresses or phone numbers allows you to construct a specialised list. You don’t need to worry about audience size if you’ve cultivated a high-quality database of people specifically interested in your content. When you send an email to the people on your list, it’s much more likely to be of interest than if you send the same information out to the general public.
Trap: An audience is only useful if they will buy from you. Too often brands have resorted to entertainment as a way to build an audience. That’s great if your core business is entertaining but not so good if you can’t make money from performing. The preponderance of cat videos and social media gimmicks proves brands can lose sight of business goals when building an audience. Listen to episode 21 of Brand Newsroom to hear further discussion about a popular example.
Content marketing creates long-term business assets.
A solid content marketing strategy looks to find ways to build long-term, durable business assets. This means the investment you make in content continues to drive business your way for months or years after the initial spend. This happens in a number of ways, for example:
- Creating content around certain keywords allows you to influence organic search rankings. The more often your content is returned in search results, the more web traffic your company receives.
- Case studies are good investments because they capture the sentiment of a positive user experience at the time it occurs. Even if key personnel at your customer site change jobs in the future, you’ve preserved their testimonial. A case study written five years ago can still help your sales team close business.
- A white paper attracts new subscribers long after it’s first published. Using a landing page for each white paper gives you the ability to capture new names to your list for weeks or months after it was published.
- Content brands like a blog or podcast increase your authority on a topic by showing a collection of work demonstrating expertise around a certain subject. Content brands also help to increase audience numbers and establish your credibility outside of products or services you offer.
- Overall cost per lead reduces with time. The most content assets you create, the greater the ability each of them has to influence each sale. A blog post you wrote five years ago still has the ability to generate leads.
Trap: You must attach business goals to your content if you want to create assets. Chasing vanity metrics or buying fans and followers is a waste of time and money. If you’re going to invest in content creating, make sure it serves a purpose in your business that motivates your customers to take action. Your goal might be to get more subscribers, fill seats at your next event, generate sales leads, or reduce the dependency of paid search. Whatever you want to achieve, make sure your content goals are aligned with business objectives.
Content marketing is measurable.
Content marketers are awash in analytics from Google, social media and any number of automation tools and platforms. We have more data at our fingertips about content effectiveness than we know how to manage. There are no vagaries about what’s working and what isn’t, especially for digital content. The real downfall in reporting is not having time to sift through the many different data points we possess.
Content marketers need to produce a monthly report for their management showing content usage metrics, trends and recommendations. If you have a blog, social media channels and an email project, you have enough data to produce management reports. Once you can benchmark your content efforts and show progress, tracking ROI becomes much easier. It might seem difficult at first but collecting even the most basic metrics will help you get into the habit of reporting.
Trap: If you haven’t defined measurable goals based on business objectives, you’ll have a hard time proving ROI. Make sure the information you’re reporting is useful for making business decisions. Canned reports might look impressive but they’re of no use if they don’t show positive customer action.
Content marketing is less expensive, more effective
When people ask about the ROI of content marketing the answer is always, ‘It depends.’ It depends on business goals. It depends on the type of content you’re creating. It depends on the maturity of your content brand. Several studies report the same fact; the cost of a lead generated by content marketing is less than leads generated by traditional marketing and advertising. As an added bonus, content has a long shelf life and will continue to drive business for you long after the initial spend.
Stop finding excuses
It’s time for marketing executives, entrepreneurs and business owners to quit demanding proof of ROI before they consider venturing into content. It’s impossible to determine a blanket figure because every business is different and every marketing initiative has different goals. In addition, content marketing is a long-term strategy so your investment will continue to pay dividends long after the initial expense is incurred. Ditching the campaign mentality about marketing improves your ROI!
There’s no disputing content marketing is a viable way to promote your business. (Watch The Story of Content documentary if you’re skeptical.) Develop a content marketing strategy attached to business objectives and you’ll be on your way to creating long-term assets for your company. Without doubt, you’ll experience a healthy ROI.
If you want to find out the ROI of a content marketing initiative in your organisation, give us a call. We’re experts at helping companies develop and implement strategies that build long-term business assets for marketing departments around the world.