Forget ROI. Content marketing success should only be measured by your ability to earn subscribers.

content marketing

By Daniel Hochuli – Head of Strategy (Asia)


Last month I wrote a couple of articles (Part One and Part Two) on LinkedIn Pulse that discussed the problems surrounding the content marketing industry. Essentially, I concluded that most marketers, both on an agency side and internally, are still not clear on what content marketing is, how to do it well and how to report its success.

The primary mistake most marketers are making with their content marketing efforts is they approach the method as if it is a form of digital advertising. This means they create content that is highly product-oriented and then amplify it on digital channels that are built for advertising purposes (e.g. AdWords and some native channels). When it comes to proving success of the campaign, the primary goal for content marketing is usually measured in the form of an ROI around lead generation and sales.

Yet, the content marketing method, at its core, is not advertising. It is an audience research method. And so its execution and goals are different to advertising.

The primary reason why leads, sales and ROI are poor metrics for content marketing success should be relatively obvious – a person is rarely in a ‘buyer’ mindset when they are consuming content. Rather, they are in a ‘discovery’ mindset. Most people simply don’t read a blog post and suddenly realise they need to ‘buy a boat’. Sorry, Business Cat, people just don’t engage with content this way.

content marketing

A case in point: I highly doubt that, after you read this article, you will pick up the phone and call King Content for a quote on content marketing (though I’ve enclosed the link if you want to). Instead, if this article helps you understand content marketing, I would expect you to perhaps read another piece of content I’ve written or even ‘subscribe’ to the content we at King Content create via our weekly email newsletter.

Indeed, the act of subscribing is simply a more natural and human reaction to quality content than changing a mindset and immediately purchasing a product. Because it is the most natural action, the acquisition of ‘subscribers’ should be your only goal to prove your content marketing is working.

Why are subscribers so important?

A subscriber to your content is a person who has voluntarily said: “Yes, I like what I’m reading and I want more.” There is no better goal to prove that your content is resonating with the audience than the ‘subscriber’ goal. In order to prove your content is working, you simply want to monitor the rate of your subscriber growth over time and track what pieces of content are attracting the most subscribers.

Once you have acquired your subscribers, you need to put them to work for your brand. Essentially, at King Content, our strategies for content marketing have three key phases that turn your subscribers into a research asset for your brand:

Content marketing strategy approach

Acquire new subscribers: To acquire an audience through content. This audience is usually acquired when they click the ‘subscribe’ button on the content assets you create.

Research subscribers: To research that subscriber audience and discover more about them. This is an incredibly important phase that most marketing fails to do. You can research subscribers by conducting simple surveys, looking at demographics reports in Google Analytics and even inviting them out to events and talking to them.

Execute on insights: To execute on that research to improve your business. This could be as simple as optimising your content to find broader appeal, or changing how your advertising works, to complete game-changing business moves such as creating new products that your subscribers are demanding.

The hidden benefits of content marketing

When your core goal for content marketing is to acquire and nurture subscribers, your marketing has the potential to bring real change to your business. This is how content marketing differs from other advertising and marketing methods whose goals are just focused on selling products.

Below is a typical content marketing funnel. You can see it differs a lot from the standard advertising buyer funnel:

content marketing

If you are curious about how content and subscribers can assist your business, here are a few examples:

  • Advertising and sales: Research your subscribers around their interests, age, demographics, income and so on via targeted surveys or additional content, such as events and webinars. This will give you extremely robust audience data, which you can use to improve the messaging in your future advertising campaigns – hopefully resulting in better quality leads and thus more sales.
  • PR and comms: Subscribers are essentially a stable ‘community’ of advocates around your brand. Reward them for being part of your community. Look at what they are doing, where they spend their time and what their passion and pain points are; work out where your brand needs to be and who you need to partner with in order to own that niche around the community
  • Customer service and processes: Listen to your subscribed audience’s feedback and watch how they navigate the content. Use this insight to learn how you can create more content that assists in shortening the sales cycle with quicker and higher-quality information or even address issues with upset customers.
  • Physical retail positioning: By analysing where your subscribed audiences live, you can position your brand’s physical presence better in those regions, and identify potentially new regional markets.
  • Automation methods: Build customer journeys from content efforts and then automate the process to provide better content cadence.
  • Corporate social responsibility: Understand what the subscribed audience cares about, or the demographics in that audience that most need corporate support, then reach out and partner with like-minded groups.
  • HR and employer branding: Use subscribers to tell you what is attractive about your business. Create content that showcases the personalities and achievements of the brand’s employees in order to attract quality talent to your business.
  • Product production: Use content to capitalise on trends driven by the subscribed audience and thus potentially build a product, and thus a new revenue stream, that is bespoke to them.

Subscribers have for too long been seen as just a group to whom marketers can spam inbound marketing messages. In reality, subscribers are so much more than a ‘potential sales lead’; they can be the bellwethers for change across all departments of your business, if you know where and how to look.

Content marketing is essentially audience marketing, and in order to have an effective content marketing strategy you need to attract an engaged audience. That said, no audience is more engaged than the subscriber who has chosen to opt in to your content. Researching who they are, what they want and how they see your brand is why subscribers are the most important metric for content marketing success.


Contact King Content for a consultation on how you can improve the success of your content marketing.