I’ll be the first to agree that it’s extremely important to measure any return on investment, whether it’s old-school marketing, digital marketing or even content marketing. With digital marketing, the beauty of having so much data (which can be a challenge at the same time) is that you can see how every marketing effort is viewed, consumed and ultimately what ROI it generates. However, all this data can cause a lot of confusion and sometimes set unrealistic expectations.
Other marketing channels – let’s say print advertising – use selling points such as circulation figures, readership and demographics to justify client ad spend. However, having worked in that industry previously, I know how inflated those figures can sometimes be. And really, where is the tangible return in that other than a rough estimate of how many readers saw the advertisement or acted on a specific call to action? The lack of tangible data, I believe, is what keeps advertisers going back for more – they believe they are getting pretty good bang for their buck. On the other hand, data from analytics packages such as those offered by Google and Omniture are hard to argue with.
This brings me to my point about many marketing professionals still being unclear about what actual ROI looks like. They are unsure of what data to include/not to include and they don’t know how to measure return, let alone when to measure it. When it comes to content marketing, I get asked about this all the time. This is where I believe we need to go one step back – before we work out what the KPIs are – and ask what tools and processes are in place to measure the data in the first place. If they are there, are they set up in such a way so that it gives you a true reflection on long-term return?
Whether you’re an e-commerce site looking for clicks, conversions and ultimately purchases, or whether you’re looking to grow a community and raise awareness to be seen as a thought leader, having the right tools for the job is imperative. There are so many great analytic packages and marketing automation tools out there (Eloqua and Marketo come to mind) that can help marketers, but it means nothing if they are not used correctly. The same goes when setting up a process to measure and report on your content marketing activities. Remember, content marketing is not a campaign. It is ongoing, and that’s where a lot of businesses go wrong from the very start. Be rid of that dangerous mindset.
So before you start to think about traffic numbers, levels of engagement and purchases, ask yourself if you have truly covered all ROI areas. Put the proper tracking and measurement procedures in place before you start reporting on the true success of your content.
Elmo Stoop – Key Account Manager