Content marketing: understanding its role, value and ROI

Over the past few years, content marketing has gone from being an accessory advertising tactic to a focal point of modern marketing.

According to ClickZ’s 2016 Digital Trends Report, it was reported as one of the most significant trends for brands heading into 2016 – with nearly a quarter of respondents saying that it was the most important trend for them.

digital-trends-chart

By 2019, content marketing is projected to be a $300 billion industry.

Although content marketing has seen immense success over the past few years, there have been numerous limiting factors that have prevented companies from taking full advantage of its potential capabilities.

For example, some chief hindrances have been:

  • A lack of a content strategy
  • Interference from those in management
  • Haphazard approaches in the development of content and a lack of dedicated teams.

This past year, 2015, however saw incredible growth. There was a massive adoption of content development as a source of marketing success.

We have also recently seen the birth of RankBrain, the Mobile Update, and Panda is now considered a part of Google’s algorithm. These updates have all pushed marketers towards focusing on creating high-quality content that is user-centered. Content marketing is maturing.

A crucial part of this maturation process will also be the realization that content has a unique role to play across organizations.

It is not just a silo that exists next to several different departments, functioning within its own atmosphere. As brands learn to employ the full power of content marketing, they will be able to measure how it impacts the full range of roles within the brand, including the marketing, sales, PR, recruitment and customer service teams.

The role and value of content throughout an organization

The value of content marketing stretches across the various departments and helps to create a welcoming, customer-centric experience. Brands and customers are able to interact and collaborate, allowing the organization to learn from customers to drive the development of future products and services.

Marketing

Content marketing is the basis of an effective online marketing program. It is the foundation of websites, a social media presence and organic optimization. Content presents the brand as a thought leader while helping customers learn about the industry and the specific products and services offered by the organization.

Content can also offer brands greater insight into the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. They will be able to see how well they are engaging with their intended audience and if they are appropriately addressing their pain points. This will help guide their future marketing efforts.

Sales

Content helps to present products and services to customers in an inviting and engaging format. With enticing descriptions, digestible and persuasive white papers as well as intriguing case studies, content can be an excellent way to draw customers towards the bottom of the funnel and prepare them for a conversation with a sales rep and then a purchase.

Customers today like to remain in control of their buying process. That is why an estimated 60% of the sales process takes place even before a customer speaks with a brand representative.
Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing

Content, therefore, can help drive revenue by engaging consumers and making it easy for them to see what the brand has to offer.

Customer service

Customers service has taken a much more personal turn with modern technology. Consumers expect the brands they interact with to take an individual interest in them and their needs.

Quality content can help brands do that by providing material that answers questions and provides solutions to the problems of consumers. Well-designed websites – which are easy to navigate – coupled with excellent user-centric content can be a wonderful way to form a reputation for strong customer service. This service can then be continued when the consumer reaches out to a representative.

The content helps to establish the brand as one concerned primarily with customer satisfaction. It also helps to build relationships with interested potential customers, creating better bonds, which can then boost customer loyalty.

Recruitment

Content can also be an excellent vehicle for finding new people to add to the team. Content can build and share the brand culture, which will then help to attract new potential employees with the same attitude and values.

This process can help companies avoid turnover and maintain a cohesive brand culture. Hiring people that do not fit well with the company culture can be disruptive and damaging to team morale.

Public Relations

Content marketing means more than just producing material, it also means building distribution channels that can get that content in front of the right audience. This is a major component of PR.

PR can use content to get news out about major developments in the company or thought-leadership pieces into the hands of influencers and in front of countless potential customers.

PR can use media sources and influencers that are trusted by the intended audience to help their content attract more attention and publicity. This can then boost the overall performance of the content marketing efforts by building a larger audience.

Measurement

To understand the true value of content for your brand, you will need to use quantifiable content marketing metrics that will let you see progress and gauge performance. These metrics can be divided into three main categories: your site metrics, your social metrics and your sales metrics.

It can also be helpful to review your sales funnel as a whole and measure your success along the different stages.

From my personal experiences, I have found that people are most successful in their content development efforts when they have access to data pertaining to each of these levels. Each category will offer a unique perspective of your content. Together they will give you a full picture of the success of your efforts and how it impacts each part of your business.

Site metrics

These metrics will offer insights about the performance of your site in search and how well it engages visitors.

  • Look at bounce rates to see if the right people finding the content and if they find it interesting and engaging
  • Monitor traffic rates to see how well the organic channel is performing
  • Utilize technology platforms to see how many people are linking to your content and from what sites
  • Measure the time spent on the page to see how engaged people are with the content
  • Track the number of return and unique visitors that come to the page. Return visitors indicate that people view you as an authority and are beginning to have greater trust in what you have to say. Unique visitors show that your content efforts are helping to get the content in front of new people.
  • Understand how people engage and convert on your landing pages and how that correlates with the traffic on your promoted content.
  • Work closely with your PR teams to see how many publications are successfully picked up or promoted by influencers and major media outlets and how that impacts traffic and engagement rates.

Social metrics

Social media is the modern water cooler. People use the platforms to connect with friends and family as well as brands that interest them. It is important to note that many of the social metrics can be considered just vanity metrics, but in certain situations, they can offer valuable insight.

Keeping an eye on your social metrics can help indicate how interesting people find your material and whether or not they see it as worthy of their official acknowledgement through a share or a ‘like’. This will give you insight into how receptive people are to your content.

These metrics should be used in conjunction with other metrics to see how much influence social media is having on your success.

Track:

  • The number of likes your content receives
  • The number of comments and other forms of feedback your posts receive
  • Positive vs. negative brand mentions online
  • The number of social shares
  • PR professionals should monitor their success with receiving mentions from industry influencers and how these influences impact brand traffic and perception
  • The number of questions or complaints voiced online and how they are handled

Sales metrics

Although sales are not the only goal for content marketing, these metrics are definitely a high priority for most organizations, particularly the people in leadership positions.

These metrics can shed some light on the direct impact content marketing is having on conversions and revenue.

  • Analyze the number of conversions and the investment that was made by the company in a specific marketing campaign to see the estimated cost per conversion.
  • Look at the number of conversions overall as well as on specific landing pages and analyze this data for insight about how well different aspects of the marketing campaign are performing.

The conversion funnel

In addition to the metrics mentioned above, it is also important for brands to carefully track their progress through the sales funnel. A successful funnel will engage prospects and bring a large percentage of them through the funnel to conversion. The funnel is also a company-wide effort and is influenced by every branch of the company.

Brands should be producing content that matches prospect and customer purchase funnels. You can also track the different types of content you have developed for the various topics and the stages of the funnel to see if you have any gaps. See here for more on content metrics.

Track how well you are performing at each stage of the buying cycle. Monitor how many of your visitors are becoming leads and how many of the leads end up becoming customers. Low percentages at any stage of the funnel should warrant more attention to see where you are losing potential customers and what can be rectified.

In conclusion

Content marketing is maturing and early majority adopters are beginning to realize the importance of pursuing quality, as backed by data and best practices, over gut feelings in their marketing strategies. These marketers are running content marketing by the numbers.

Content has an impact on a number of different departments across any organization. Understanding how it works with these different groups can also help brands streamline their content marketing efforts and take advantage of all that content has to offer.

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