Speaking Their Language: Using ROI to Defend Content Marketing Strategies
Content marketing is having a boom – marketing your business through engaging content that’s both fun to create and enjoyable for consumers to engage with seems like a win-win. Businesses know that content marketing generates huge exposure, lead generation, social shares and ultimately sales, and these are the reasons that they’re devoting a part of the budget to content marketing. However, when you ask the same businesses how they measure the success of these aims, a lot of them come up blank. Many businesses don’t have any analytic tools in place to assess these goals.
Putting your faith in content marketing is the right thing to do, as it’s proven to work. However, once you go higher up the ladder, the executives in your organisation are likely not to be working on faith. These guys like to see numbers. ROI (return on investment) may be a dirty word to marketers who are hard at work generating exceptional and engaging content – but communicating the value of content marketing entails an understanding of the ROI it provides. With Forrester Research estimating that marketing spending will increase by 27% by 2022, it’s clear that the competition is spending money. If your business is going to keep up, you need to justify spending that money too. Being able to demonstrate the ROI of content marketing ensures that businesses marketing strategies continue to include content marketing, with you at the heart of it.
Why Measure ROI?
For many people, key metrics such as social media sharing, site traffic and ultimately sales do enough work to prove the value of content marketing within a marketing strategy. These are hugely valuable indicators for how your marketing strategy is performing, but to demonstrate the value of content marketing as a facet of a broader strategy it’s important to do a little more work. Knowing the value that content marketing is adding to the strategy and being able to demonstrate what the business is earning as a direct result of this work is the way to swing executives onto your side and ensure that content marketing remains a pillar of your marketing approach.
Being able to talk about the value of content marketing with specific reference to ROI enables you to do a few things. Creating a persuasive business case for content ensures that your marketing plans are going to be approved by the higher-ups, ultimately getting leadership onside for future projects. The executives want to talk numbers, and the way to get their backing is to speak their language.
What We’re Measuring
Since the benefits of content marketing can be nebulous and varied, it’s essential that we understand what content marketing is being used to achieve. Once there is a strong understanding of the individual ways content marketing can generate a strong return on investment, they can be analysed individually. The main goals of content marketing are exposure, social media shares, gathering links for your content and generating leads and converting these into sales. All of these can be understood numerically by assessing analytics but generating a dollar value for these things is a little more complicated. However, it’s this single number, the dollar value, that is the most persuasive tool in defending your content marketing efforts.
Exposure can be simplistically measured by comparing the traffic that is generated from content you publish on-site with your content marketing efforts off-site. However, to prove the value of content marketing in the context of exposure it’s important to assign a dollar-value to the exposure that content marketing generates.
This dollar value can be generated through some clever use of online analytic tools. Find out the keyword phrases that your content ranks in a Google search, and take a look at the column marked CPC – that’s cost per click. Here you’re getting an estimate of the amount you’d have paid if you were per click if you were using Google AdWords. Multiply the CPC by the amount of traffic that the content generated, and you’ll have an estimate of what that traffic would have cost through Google AdWords. Voila, an indisputable dollar value of the exposure generated by your content marketing efforts.
Social shares are a valuable outcome of content marketing, generating increased brand awareness and better engagement for your business. There are loads of tools out there to get the raw data of these shares but understanding the dollar value of these shares is the key to calculating your ROI.
Taking Facebook as an example, begin by creating an ad for “Post Engagement”. Scroll down to “Pricing” and you’ll find what Facebook’s suggestion is for what you should pay each time someone clicks on your post. Since you’ve already got those clicks through your digital marketing strategy, you can multiply this by the number of shares your piece originally got to work out what the dollar value of your content marketing is. A similar process can be followed on other social media sites, such as through Twitter Advertising, and you’ll have a solid understanding of the ROI of your content marketing through social shares.
Generating links from your content is always good, and lots of links is an immediately encouraging result for your content marketing. As above though, calculating a true economic value for these links allows you to set that value in stone.
To understand the dollar value of the links you can research various SEO consultants and compare their fees. A consultant that offers 40 backlinks a month and charges $1000 for the service is charging $25 a link. If your content produced 100 backlinks, then the value of those links can be calculated at $2500.
Leads & Sales
Figuring out the dollar value of your leads and sales from content marketing will allow you to assess the ROI and you can do this through Google Analytics. By setting up a goal and attaching a value to it you can have Google calculate a page value for each piece of on-site content. For off-site content you can see the conversion value of each piece in Google’s Referrals reports. If you gather leads via contact forms and each lead generates a minimum cost, Google will collate this for you to reveal the economic value of these leads.
Make It Your Own
As there are so many valued aims for content marketing, and each organisation may be focussing on a different one for their own campaign, you can calculate the ROI of your content marketing in your own way. The above methodology uses different tools to assess the numerical value of things like social shares or leads, but there may be other, more accurate methods in your specific industry. Further thinking about what else content marketing is achieving for your business is essential, and there are usually multiple ways to assign a dollar value to those aims once they’ve been achieved. However, applying these rough economic principles to your content marketing outcomes will allow you to calculate in economic terms the value of these strategies, which will provide compelling evidence for their continuation.
A Compelling Defence
Content marketing is currently an influential strategy, but when meeting with executives of your business it still requires a sturdy defence. Communicating the ROI of your content marketing is an essential step in providing executives with the evidence they need to get on board.
Effectively communicating the power of content marketing to your executives starts with ROI. The numbers need to make sense to have them on board. But don’t be afraid to tell them a story that’s more than just numbers. Communicating with those who make the economic decisions can come down to more than simple economics. Building a strong relationship with your executives means being frank with them – be ready to defend the metrics you’ve used to calculate ROI if they question it. Further, don’t shy away from the risks involved in a strategy built around content marketing. Being honest about the rewards and the pitfalls of your strategies will ensure that the leadership trusts you to understand what could go wrong, and to know how to avoid it.
The Final Say
Having the final say means being prepared – that means you need quantitative and qualitative arguments in favour of content marketing. Measuring ROI means getting immersed in the economic analysis of your content – this nitty gritty is considerably less inspiring than producing the engaging and exciting content that drew you to the industry in the first place. Nevertheless, ROI is the necessary evil that proves the value of the work you do.
Enthusiasm from the leadership means more support for your strategies and often a bigger budget. With the ever-increasing importance of online marketing, this money is going to be your business’s mouthpiece, and it will ensure you’re one step ahead of your competitors.