Are content marketing objectives – and how we measure them – fundamentally skewed?

There are countless ways to interpret content marketing – it’s “the opposite of advertising”, “help not hype” or even “storytelling”. But no matter how you dress it up, savvy marketers know the key to successful content marketing is about presenting calls to action to encourage people to purchase your product or service. It’s about lead generation; it’s about sales. And that’s all your C-suite cares about.

But what if the goalposts were shifted? What if selling products was no longer the target? Let me explain…

The rise of the customer

Traditionally, the go-to marketing process has been identifying broad target segments, promoting products via mass communication and measuring success by the number of sales. Is it an effective method? Increasingly, no.

In today’s technologically-driven landscape, there is no end to the amount of tools marketers have at their disposal to understand and interact with prospects. Customer relationship management systems, website analytics and online forms are sources of invaluable customer data that allow us to analyse, segment and target. And that’s before we even touch on social media.

To compete in today’s highly-interactive landscape, brands need to get personal. This doesn’t just mean producing audience-appropriate content or having two-way conversations with customers via social channels. It’s about completely rethinking company structures and championing a fundamental shift in marketing objectives – a shift from driving sales to maximising customer value. That means long-term customer relationships come first, and products and services come second.

A new scale of marketing metrics

If the end goal is to serve customer segments, rather than push products, what do the performance metrics even look like?

In an article titled Rethinking Marketing, Harvard Business Review outlines four metric shifts the authors believe are key to gauging a marketing strategy’s effectiveness.
Rethinking content marketing metrics graphicv3

The article suggests companies need to focus less on product profitability and more on customer profitability. This means putting less emphasis on current sales, instead focusing on customer lifetime value (and future profits generated from current customers).

Furthermore, companies need to shift the focus from brand equity (or the value of the brand) to customer equity (the sum of lifetime values of customers). They should also pay less attention to market share, instead focusing on customer equity share (or the value of a company’s customer base divided by the total value of customers in the market).

Content marketing is all about putting your customers’ needs first – giving them a relevant, useful and engaging hook is the best way to lead them to your products. But perhaps the real question is whether the business objective should be customer first too.

This all sounds great in theory, but transforming the way an entire organisation thinks and operates is no easy feat. Few executives would ever agree to taking the focus away from driving sales. Some would argue, however, that this shift is inevitable. And the brands that move first will ultimately get the first peak in profits.

1 Comment » for Rethinking content marketing metrics
  1. Hi,

    Thanks for an insightful article. I think one way businesses are struggling is that they haven’t accepted consumers have radically changed their behaviour. If the customer no longer acts the same way, why does business keep marketing to them the same way? Of course our metrics must change but, as you point out, we’re a long way from getting our executives to understand that.

    I do think the change will start in small, entrepreneurial businesses first. It wasn’t that long ago Amazon was shaking things up and everyone said their model couldn’t work. Now everyone is chasing them.

    You’ve given me something to think about today.

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