Content marketing is the latest buzz word on the lips of marketers and for good reason. People are no longer directly contacting vendors to make their buying decisions. Instead, they are using the web to self-educate.
What that means for marketers is they need to provide the right kind of content for each stage of the buying decision, from videos to white papers to webinars, so that potential prospect can learn about the industry in general and the specifics of their products and services.
But if content marketing has replaced direct contact, how can companies engage with prospects? Put another way, what do 100 likes of an infographic on Facebook, 1,000 views of a video on YouTube or 10,000 downloads of a presentation actually translate to?
These content marketing efforts should lead to sales and tangible results, yet few businesses see measurable outcomes despite the vast amount of valuable content being produced and consumed. The high volume of activity looks great on paper and is often associated with building brand awareness, but too often these numbers do not directly translate to leads that fill the sales pipeline.
What’s needed is a way to know who is looking at your content marketing no matter where they find it – and a way for sales to engage with viewers and turn them into customers.
Why is it important?
According to a report from Gartner, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.
The result will be greater accountability for marketers to demonstrate an alignment between marketing spend and revenue goals. Every effort made to create and distribute content will be expected to produce a measurable result. This doesn’t mean that every piece of content will generate a sale on its own, but what is important is making sure that views of content can turn into an opportunity for engagement with a real person.
Today’s marketers often find themselves stuck between old school marketing – building brand awareness and hoping it will translate to sales – and accountable marketing, where the goal is a direct and measurable impact on sales. You can see this gap in the data below, provided by the Content Marketing Institute, which publishes a yearly summary on the state of B2B content marketing.
The Confidence Gap data shows that 40-50 percent of the time marketers are not confident in the effectiveness of their content marketing. The reason for this may be found in the data the Content Marketing Institute collected on Organizational Goals for B2B Marketing: Six out of the nine goals – from customer acquisition to lead management to sales – all require a way to know and interact with the people viewing the content.
Turning content marketing into content engagement
Looking at the data above, it seems that marketing hasn’t made any improvement since the 1890’s when John Wanamaker was famously quoted as saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
With online marketing, odds should be better than 50 percent.
Analytics about web and social activity have improved the way we measure and iterate marketing campaigns so that efforts are more predictable and accountable towards filling the sales pipeline. But while these tell you about the activity on each channel (i.e. how many people re-tweeted your post about a piece of content), it can’t tell you who viewed your content, let alone allow you to engage with its viewers.
Fortunately, businesses can change its content marketing and measurement strategy so views can translate into meaningful engagement.
The key is to put content at the center of the content acquisition strategy…
So what does this mean? Instead of thinking of content as a means to fill all channels, where analytics just show how each channel is performing, you should measure who viewed your content, no matter which channel it came from. Instead of data about activity (they liked your tweet), this lets you measure intent (they viewed your content). By knowing who viewed your content instead of just the channel they viewed it on, you now have an opportunity to start engaging with them.
Intent creates engagement, which is the first step in filling the sales pipeline.
Another key to the strategy of putting content at the center of customer acquisition is abandoning the notion of driving people to your website. Instead, you need to get your content to where your prospects already visit, meaning sites where your peers are sharing content and other networks they reside on (such as your partner’s sites).
Marketers are often stuck on the notion that the way they get credit for their efforts is by showing they generated traffic to their site. But if people are browsing less and sharing more, they need to rethink this metric. Again, it’s not about the channel anymore – content is the new destination.
This brings me to one final strategy.
Many content marketers have bought into an incorrect view that brands should be their own publishers and can replace outbound efforts (i.e. paid ads) with inbound-only campaigns such as social and email. But only relying on inbound efforts is like never leaving your circle of friends. Instead, one of the most effective ways to get new prospects is to publish content as an ad, generating net-new viewers and opportunities for engagement.
Again, it’s not about a channel strategy – it’s about a content strategy and making sure you’re placing the content wherever potential prospects reside.
The next generation: Measuring your content ROI
All this can be summarized with one simple question: What is your content ROI?
Measuring by the number of visits to web sites or YouTube channels may make marketing feel good, but there’s no way to directly correlate the investment made to produce and promote content with closed sales. Instead, just as there are tools in other industries to measure returns on investments, the future of content marketing will allow you to directly calculate the return on your efforts with revenue achieved.
The VP of Sales, CFO and CEO can’t wait until that day comes, and neither should all marketers.
Because there’s nothing more satisfying than exceeding business objectives and being able to clearly show that your efforts were an essential part of the success.
David Greschler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is CEO of PaperShare, a real-time content engagement platform. From publishing all types of content to any place prospects reside, and then letting companies engage directly with the people who viewed it, PaperShare turns content into a meeting place for brands and the audiences they want to reach.