Visibility, Community, Action: How you should be reporting content marketing value

December 16, 2015Uncategorized
Daniel Hochuli, B2C Content Strategist & Editor

Daniel Hochuli, B2C Content Strategist & Editor

For a while now, I have been playing around with the idea of how to report ‘value’ from the content we produce here at King Content. A simple regurgitation of metrics, such as bounce rate, time on site and Facebook ‘Likes’, seemed to be nothing more than a bunch of numbers in a report that really don’t mean a whole lot. What was missing were answers to questions like: how is my audience growing; who are my advocates; and how can I create better performing content?

I wanted to unlock the value hidden within the metrics to provide real insights on content marketing value and success.

And so I when back to basics.

One of the first questions I asked myself is, what value does content marketing provide for a business? As a strategist, I felt I should be able to answer this question. I came up with this answer: Content Marketing is a strategy where you create assets for the purpose of researching your audience. The value is in using this research to make better business and communication decisions.

Note that I did not mention ‘sales’ or ‘conversions’, because I do not see content marketing as a strategy to just sell product. I see it as an audience research tool. This meant that my reporting needed to attribute value to performance outside how much traffic came to our client’s site or how many sales/conversions the content made. I needed to measure other elements of ‘value’ that content marketing provides for the business, including growing brand awareness, trust, levels of sentiment, repeat business, advocacy and client nurture.

Our old reporting process:

In the past, our reporting was very linear and we assumed the customer journey would be linear also. We would break our reports up into three key stages of that buyer journey:

1 Traffic.
2 Engagement.
3 Conversion.

But there was a problem with this type of reporting when it comes to finding value out of content – it doesn’t consider the audience. It only considers the end result – the sale. It’s ‘sales’-based reporting, not audience-based reporting. It assumes the audience path to conversion is linear and does not involve multiple actions and multiple touch points. However, we know that audiences rarely convert directly from content. Instead, content plays a supporting role in indirectly creating conversions at a higher funnel stage. In addition, this linear reporting structure did not give any insight into how the audience discovered the content, how the audience felt about the brand or how we could use content to make better business decisions.

I had an epiphany (though I’m not the first in this space). What if we forgot about ROI for a moment and focused on the audience? What if we reported audience behaviour in terms of value instead of metrics, and looked at how different audiences engaged with the content?

So I set about breaking out the traffic in Google Analytics (GA) by audience buckets (using the Advanced Segments filter) rather than Goals or Channels.

I created four core audiences in GA.

New audiences

These were new ISPs and new traffic that had never visited the site before. I wanted to know what percentage of my audience was ‘new’, and how could I measure this in terms of growing brand awareness and reach? I also wanted to know which channels were bringing in the most new audiences and what percentage of new audiences were actually converting the goals I’d set in GA.

Returning audiences

These are returning ISPs. I considered this my community. Again, which channels were working best to ‘nurture’ this community and what percentage of returning visitors were converting? I also wanted to know how many times these people were coming back to my content and how many pieces of content they would consume in a session. This data would help me optimise how many times a month I should create content.

Converters

These are an amalgamation of both new and returning visitors to my site, but they all had one thing in common – they ticked a content goal I set on the website, such as an email sign-up, move to a ‘conversion’ page, filled out a form or made a product purchase. Note that I did not just focus on sales, meaning converters does not necessarily just mean customers. Converters are visitors who showed ‘purchasing intent’. I then asked, which channels and pieces of content were creating the most converters and why? This helped me hone my CTAs, test headlines and content topics to maximise the results I wanted.

Non-converters

These are perhaps the most important audience group to measure. Non-converters are the audience that continuously comes to the site but does not make a purchase. I wanted to know why they didn’t convert, which channels brought them in and what value they provided for my business outside becoming a customer. My conclusion was this group included advocates, past purchases, haters, competitors, influencers and ‘content consumers’ (or what I like to call ‘loyalists’). These people were here for my content, not my products, and how they engaged told me a lot about the future of my content marketing strategy. It gave me ideas on how to monetise the content, how to optimise for themes, topics and distribution channels. It also told me where I could potentially take my business in the future by looking at the relevant interests in this group. In short, this group showed me how to run a better business and broaden my potential customer base.

Content marketing doesn’t need sales-based reporting, it needs audience-based reporting.

From ‘audience’ to ‘value’

My next task was to bring these four audiences into a simple reporting system in order to extract value from the data I was capturing. I placed these audiences into three interchangeable pillars of ‘value’:

– Visibility.
– Community.
– Action.

Visibility

Audience segments: New audiences, Converters and Non-converters.

The goals for Visibility are to measure the soft value of content around growing awareness, reach, sentiment and trust of the brand. Using the New Visitors advanced segment (because these are quantifiable new potential customers), we can see what content works best for this audience and which channels are best to distribute that content to maximise these Visibility goals? Use the Converters segment to see how many goals are being ticked by the New Visitors (Note: You will have to add the New Visitor’s rule to the Converters segment).

VALUE:

– Increased brand awareness.
– Establish trust with a new audience.
– Source new customers.
– Audience research on content.
– Report and optimise ways to shorten the customer journey.
– Benchmarking performance.
– Reputation management.
– To entertain.

 

Community

Audience Segments: Returning audiences, Converters and Non-Converters.

The goals for the community are to measure audience sentiment, to measure the growth of your community in terms of loyalty, repeat business and advocacy. Here I experimented with creating serial content, like a TV network, delivering the same program/theme at the same time each week to make build a subscriber base.

VALUE:

– Establish a tested routine/schedule for content.
– To identify and encourage advocacy from subscribers.
– Audience research on content.
– Report and optimise ways to shorten the customer journey.
– Benchmarking performance.
– Reputation management.
–  Provide value beyond the product.

 

Action

Audience Segments: New and Returning audiences, Converters and Non-converters.

The goals for the Action reporting were to look at both the hard and soft content marketing goals and compare performance against the different audience groups. This includes sales, sign-ups, downloads and leads. Using these segments I could see which audiences were converting better for specific goals, and why were others not converting?

VALUE:

– Proves content marketing success in terms of commercial transactions.
– Identifies what content works and what doesn’t.
– Answers what is the Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV).

Over time, insights start to form. I started to effectively track the rate of brand awareness based on new visitors as well as the rate of growth of my community based on those returning visitors. I used the data to improve and tailor the content to what the audiences were telling me they wanted. It created more new audiences and a larger community. I was then able to look at how the audiences were engaging with the content in terms of converting and to reduce the time it took from new visitor to customers.

This is how one should report on content marketing. Forget ROI and sales reporting. It sucks, and is like putting petrol in a diesel car – it breaks everything. Move away for pushing visitors to your products and services, instead measure the growth of your audience and the way they engage and react with your content. This is the value of content marketing and can assist you in making long-term strategic business decisions in the future.