Are We There Yet?

Finding Your Way in the Blizzard of Content Marketing Data

Most business functions – product design, manufacturing, finance – have long used data-driven methods to continuously improve operations. But that level of quantified analysis has been elusive for marketers and communicators.

As in, “It’s great we ran that ad or placed that article in the Wall Street Journal. But how many people actually read it? How many clipped it out of the newspaper and shared it with a friend? What do they think about it? Are they going to buy our product?”

That’s why digital content marketing provides such an exciting opportunity. Google Analytics, email tools and marketing automation software can provide a wealth of data for measuring your content marketing program. If used effectively, you can see which of your efforts have paid off, both in the short- and long-term, so you can adapt and efficiently target your efforts.

The challenge is figuring out what to measure. The wealth of data can become a blinding blizzard if you don’t have a framework for making sense of it. That’s why your content marketing program must be tied to both bottom-line business goals and your method of moving prospects through the sales process. When assessing how best to measure your content strategy, as Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.”

There are many different models to consider when establishing your metrics framework. The Content Marketing Institute is a good place to find resources. And as a starting point for goal setting, here are five broad metrics categories, starting with how you connect with prospects and move them ever closer to an eventual sale.

  1. Consumption. How many people are consuming your content? How often? Which content do they seem to like the most? Google Analytics on page views, unique visitors and more provide part of the picture. Email tools give us insights on how many people opened your message and when, as well as the number of clicks and downloads.
  1. Retention. It’s great that people are consuming your content – but are they coming back for more? Metrics such as unsubscribes and opt-outs, return rate and bounce rate provide a clearer picture. You can also look at your social media following: is it stable or growing? Retention is a good sign you are building a relationship. But are they taking the next step?
  1. Sharing and Engagement. Sharing means your readers aren’t just reading your content – they are finding real value in it. Whether they like a post, add a comment to your blog or forward an email, it’s validation and it spreads your message in a highly credible way. Metrics can help you determine which kind of content gets shared most, who is sharing and where they are sharing it.
  1. Leads and sales. The bottom-line question: is your content delivering financial results? How many leads are generated? Which types of content moved potential customers further into the sales process and ultimately paid off? This type of metric requires linking the content marketing program to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or marketing automation software.
  1. ROI. By comparing sales and costs you can determine which types of content are really making a difference. Is your team developing content efficiently? What did specific pieces cost, whether in staff time or outside costs – and how much did they help in moving prospects towards a sale?

These broad categories provide a high-level starting point for thinking about how metrics tie to your goals. There are a wide range of issues we will drill into further with future posts.

As Holly Michael pointed out recently, effective planning is critical to getting the most from your content. With clear goals and a tailored metrics plan, you can adopt continuous improvement strategies by producing the types of content that deliver the best bottom-line results. Your colleagues in more data-driven business disciplines – including those who influence or determine your marketing budget – will be impressed.


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