I know, right? That’s, like, other-dimension, Matrix stuff right there. People, we just took the red pill.
Except we didn’t, and it isn’t. The ability to measure ROI from content marketing is a pretty mundane point, just one that seems perennially overlooked. A lot of corporations and businesses are still waiting on the big reveal: that elusive secret formula that will tell them exactly how to get a return on investment – the all-powerful ROI – from content marketing. And the big secret is [drum roll please]… there is no secret.
To put it bluntly, content marketing is one of the forms of marketing for which you can track ROI.
Just allow that to sink in for a second – you can measure ROI from content marketing – it’s really not that hard. It just needs time and attention and a smidgen of intuition.
How you do that and what measures you refer to rely heavily on what your marketing goals are, but in the digital marketing age we are inundated with usable metrics. You may want to focus on one particular measure – most likely drawing on customer conversion rates from your main site, or readers that have converted to subscribers via your blog’s call-to-action – or use a range of metrics and build a mosaic snapshot of how your audience typically behaves. Either way, those figures are at your disposal and are there to react to – more fool you if you don’t.
The only reason that some are so hesitant to budget for content marketing is because the results are not immediate, they’re not necessarily visible in the way a TV advert might be, and the process is not the ‘traditional’ marketing methods your company has successfully employed for the last 30 years.
That might seem fair, but then ask yourself this – can you prove ROI on your current advertising or PR?
Who can prove your ROI?
ROI is not easy to prove, full stop. But it’s a heck of a lot easier to demonstrate online. TV ads, for example, might have the biggest immediate reach, but it’s untargeted save for whatever assumption you lay on the audience watching the show you interrupt. As a marketer you pay for the potential audience, its size and its relevance to you, which aside from throwing a few gender stereotypes into the mix is a bit of a clusterbomb. You can measure spikes in your sales and attribute them to points when your advert airs, but beyond that you don’t actually have a lot of ammo in the way of ROI.
And lest we forget, if John Lewis’s now-iconic Christmas adverts are anything to go by, then the accompanying social media campaign is beginning to chomp at TV’s heels.
With content marketing, things are much more advanced. The rules are the same, but the results are better.
As we always say at Southerly, content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. We don’t push an advert in front of you, say ‘buy this’ and impatiently wait for the monumental sales spike. ROI for content marketing must be measured over time as content marketing and business storytelling techniques create an atmosphere of trust and familiarity around your brand. It’s not an advert; it’s an adventure.
With a sustained and well-conceived content marketing strategy you’ll gradually witness organic website traffic increase as more and more become wise to your tales and activity; bounce rates will slowly lower as people start to spend longer on your pages and take the time to digest your content; there’s an increased uptake of your promotional material and in your email sign-ups, as potentially interested parties bring themselves around to the idea of doing business with you and see what else you have to offer; and there’s the crucial measure of conversion rates.
Given the wealth of information that a content marketing agency has to draw on about the specific customer personas it wants to target for you, it’s actually very easy to track someone that has converted to either a subscriber or a paying customer.
Better results, better customers
Additionally it’s a higher quality result in the end: you’re tracking audience activity at every step of the marketing process and buying cycle, letting customers decide for themselves and buying when they’re ready – an ethos which lends itself very well to repeat business, now your brand is in the forefront of their minds. For the most part you can only correlate sales with a TV ad at the exact time of airing. After that it’s anyone’s guess why people decided to buy your stuff.
Don’t think that I’m deriding traditional marketing – far from it. I’m just saying that in terms of ROI content marketing yields higher quality results, with long-term customers that are actually engaged with your brand. These are the sorts of customers that will recommend you to a friend, shout about you on social media and come back for more. And incidentally, once you’ve established that quality of audience and reputation, just think how much more impact a future TV advert would have.
To those desperate to see ROI from content marketing or unconvinced whether to spend their marketing budget on content marketing, I say this: there is no difference in ROI. This is marketing, pure and simple; however, you won’t see a sudden spike in sales. It won’t happen. But in many ways it’s like the difference between taking a lift up The Shard and enjoying the view for 15 minutes, or hiking up Everest and reaping the ongoing rewards of a worthy adventure to the peak of your brand.