As marketers, we have proven that content marketing works, that it is often cheaper than advertising, that it makes your enterprise look better, and, well, that it is the only choice anyway. At the same time, we are having a hell of a hard time convincing clients that it really drives revenue.
Businesses must look at the bottom line. Marketers who do not work hand-in-hand with the client to improve the bottom line will sooner or later be out of a job. This is even more so in traditional business environments like Asia, where marketing and sales are often synonymous, and sales people have way more influence over business decisions than marketers. (Read here about the ideal role of marketing in the enterprise.)
Therefore, we marketers must find a way to show clearly how content marketing drives revenue throughout the enterprise. Only then can we prove our value and keep our accounts.
There is real money in content marketing
The easiest way to show ROI on content is to have a clear call-to-action on a content and install the necessary tracking tools to show revenue derived from that content piece. Remember to do this through your distribution also, such as the Facebook Pixel. Whether you are writing about software or gardening tips, there is always a way to link your blog, infographic, video or podcast to your sales momentum.
What works particularly well is content that is timely and campaign-specific, such as content written around a holiday, special event, company milestone; combined with offers that are linked to that content in a meaningful way. "Download the white paper and get 20% off your next purchase," that kind of thing.
Customers are in a buying mind when they consume the right content
Customers are actually more inclined to shop when they are in the right mindset, and they are in the right mindset when they are reading a post or watching a video they have actively chosen - as opposed to one that was pushed in their faces in the form of advertising. "I like what I see, where can I get that?" is the surest way to sales. If you manage to identify that path and track the journey, analytics can show a clear return.
Of course this works only if you do your inbound marketing right. Read about 10 common misconceptions about inbound marketing here.
Monetizing your audience
Not everyone will make a purchase when first reading a single piece of content. Sometimes it takes longer and the customer journey is getting more complicated by the day. Even without sophisticated tools like IBM Journey Designer, you can still track your customers through a variety of smart, guided designs.
Whether it is the sneak preview of your new product, the signup before the launch, or the monthly newsletter, customers who are interested in your brand will sign up to these even if they are not quite ready for a purchase. In our agency, we find that clients return to our site 2-3 times before signing up to the newsletter, and are subscribed an average of four months before they end up contacting us.
Still, we can track every single contact back to the original content published. You can use different tags, examine the referral traffic, or use more sophisticated subscription-based automation tool. It is a little more complex than simple call-to-action measuring, but rocket science it ain't.
For retailers, coupons are a simple option to measure ROI. Coupons also work well for events or signup for software.
Just ask, for goodness' sakes!
One of the simplest ways to measure ROI on content is to ask when customers call where they found you. I have to remind my colleagues twice a day to do that, but it's an amazingly easy and too-often overlooked way of tracking. Every new lead that reaches us via phone needs to have an entry in the Lead Source field of our CRM. The answer "I found you on the web" is not an answer. Find out whether the new client read a specific article (ROI on content marketing) or found you through Google search (ROI on SEO) etc. Make sure everyone in the organization knows that this kind of attribution is necessary to measure marketing efforts.
That SEO thing is ROI too!
Which brings us to one of the most important aspects of ROI on content: indirect ROI. The more authoritative content you have on your website, the high the content authority points Google awards you, which improves your search ranking.
Thus content ends up boosting your site performance overall. Which means that if you ask people how they found you - or use Google Analytics - you have a clear way to measure ROI of your content marketing efforts.
While this may not be directly attributable to the newest post or video, you should be able to tell when you published new content. Your ranking will increase for new search terms as time goes by. Therefore, a good SEO analytics tool should be part of the toolset of any marketer.
You can then plot your ranking results on a timeline and correlate them with revenue earned. Not always 100% reproducible, but more than enough to convince your boss that you are creating value for the company.
Compare that to advertising!
So now you know. If anyone tells you that measuring revenue on content marketing is impossible or too technical, just show them this article. It's not that difficult to find and collect the right data. What is important is to show the results of your efforts so that when the time comes time to renew the client's contract or pass your annual review, you can show how much revenue was tied specifically to your and your team's efforts.
Sometimes clients or your boss want to compare the results to your advertising efforts. Very often advertising (especially TV) doesn't offer a good way to track effectiveness. Traditional corporate structures may mean that any and all improvement in revenue is attributed to advertising.
As content marketers transforming businesses with our efforts, we must make sure that we get credit for our work. For advertising-heavy industries, it may make sense to run an occasional questionnaire on your content platform to find out what percentage of people have also seen advertising for the brand.
Make sure you aren't comparing apples and oranges. In a recent case study, we found that over 80% of respondents of a car manufacturer had also seen the TV ads, but more than half of those said that it was the social media content that actually prompted them to visit a showroom. This got us into a kerfuffle with the ad people who wanted to defend their turf, so we had the client go one month without TV ads while intensifying content production. Visits to showrooms went up, not down. Content marketing 1, advertising 0.
Of course, the exact numbers vary from industry to industry, but one thing is sure: content marketing ROI isn't hard to measure, and taking on old-fashioned advertising is a lot of fun. Go content marketers, go!
------ Martin Hiesboeck is an international branding, corporate strategy and technology consultant with a focus on Asia, and the CMO at Geber Brand Consulting. He works mainly with companies developing international brands, developing new technologies, and guides multinational companies on their journey in the Asian marketplace. A sought-after keynote speaker in both Chinese and English, he also teaches university courses in branding, digital marketing, and technology management. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/@MHiesboeck.