Content Marketing ROI: Part 5 of Social Media Marketing Series

Content Marketing: ROI

As we’ve learned through this Social Media Marketing series, creating a content marketing strategy has several considerations. It also, frankly, takes a lot of time, energy, and effort. Therefore, it makes sense that you would want to measure and track your results, not only for yourself but your stakeholders. In the LinkedIn Learning video by Velera Wilson, “Content Marketing: ROI,” we will learn about the importance of tracking ROI (Return on Investment) and how to do it using an actionable plan (Wilson, 2020).

Establishing Content Marketing Goals

Wilson points out that it’s not enough to get buy-in for your content marketing strategy from your immediate department or team. You need to check in with other groups (or stakeholders) in your company. Meeting content marketing goals, especially in the long run, requires that they understand the plan, the goals, and the process so that they fully support your efforts.

Stakeholders? What’s that?

You are a stakeholder of any project in which you participate, but there are many others. Stakeholders are anyone who benefits from your project. These could include your team members, boss, other departments, clients, and even your competitors. It could also be the bank with which you have your business loan or your suppliers.

Engaging Stakeholders

To proceed with your strategy, Wilson (2020) says you need to develop a plan to engage the stakeholders, ensuring you get the support you need for success.

Identify Stakeholders

It would be a worthwhile exercise to sit down and write out all your stakeholders. There are more than you might think, so this will be a bit of a brainstorming activity. According to Wilson (2020), there are three main types of stakeholders to consider:

  1. Those with authority
    These are the people who sign off on the plan and approve the budget.
  2. Those Impacted
    Your marketing efforts will directly impact these people. Think of the sales team, the HR team, or even the receptionist. When you kick butt with content marketing, you will likely get an influx of business. So it’s a good idea to prepare everyone.
  3. Those who contribute
    Now that you’ve come up with a superb strategy, someone needs to put it into action, which would be this group of people.

Define Content Marketing Goals

Collaborating with stakeholders can often be challenging, says Wilson (2020), which makes sense. When multiples of people care about a project, there will likely be many ideas regarding achieving its success. So while you may believe you’ve got the plan fully figured out and are eager to get started, it’s worth your while to spend the time having a meeting of the minds with your stakeholder team. They might even have ideas you haven’t considered.

Wilson (2020) outlines some questions to consider:

  1. What are the goals the company hopes to achieve? For example, brand awareness.
  2. What are the gaps? For example, lack of web traffic.
  3. What are the opportunities? For example, an increase in sales.
  4. How can content marketing solve these issues?

Evaluate Ideal Content Marketing Goals

Wilson (2020) describes multiple goals that you may consider when devising a content marketing strategy.

Wilson (2020) emphasizes this question when considering which goal to pursue:

  1. Brand awareness: Recognition of your brand and company
  2. Engagement: An interactive relationship with the content and clicks or shares.
  3. Lead generation: Genuine customer interest and inquiries
  4. Sales
  5. Retention and loyalty of customer base
  6. Upselling/Cross-Selling

Which goal(s) will offer the most significant impact on your business?

After the groundwork of identifying goals and evaluating which ones will impact the success of your business, Wilson proposes that coming into agreement with your stakeholders will be a natural outcome.

Measuring Success Using Metrics

Metrics are measurements used for tracking performance; each goal will have specific metrics with which to align. Unfortunately, aside from sales, which have a defined numerical measurement, many content marketing goals are challenging to gauge…unless you understand how. Wilson (2020) suggests that the secret to measuring success is in understanding which metrics to use and aligning them to your organizational goals. 

For example, with brand awareness as a focus, you might use website traffic metrics or the number of views on your video. If you decide to focus on engagement, you might observe the number of Likes or Comments on your posts.  With regards to Lead Generation, you may track the number of email subscriptions.

Each goal has metrics that indicate how well your content marketing is doing.

Benchmarking

It’s not enough to look at the metrics; we need to analyze them. Part of that analysis includes benchmarking or, in other words, comparing our results against our past efforts and the efforts of other companies (Wilson, 2020). Observing our past campaigns, our competitors’ content and successes, and marketing strategy reports are three methods we can use to perform benchmarking, according to Wilson.

Timeframes

Like any goal or strategy, defining time frames for action steps and performance reviews is an essential step (Wilson, 2020). Time frames help keep stakeholders in the loop, reinforcing the alignment of the goals with metrics.

We’ve learned that creating a content calendar is essential for consistent posting and scheduling campaigns through Facebook Business Manager to direct our advertising efforts efficiently. In addition, measuring performance within a constrained timeframe that matches our content marketing efforts and schedule helps you determine what isn’t working.

How to Calculate Content Marketing ROI

The ultimate goal is to generate sales for our organization or project. It’s exciting to see click-throughs and money coming into our bank accounts, but how do we know we’re earning revenue? We do this by measuring the ROI (Return on Investment). How much money do we have after we’ve considered any funds invested (Wilson, 2020)? Stakeholders will be very interested in ROI so that they can decide whether to continue to authorize the strategy and sponsor our efforts or fund future promotions. It also helps them determine what financial contribution our content marketing plan is making to the company (Wilson, 2020).

Calculating ROI

  1. How much money did you spend?
  2. What is your net profit? (Sales-Cost)

ROI Calculation

Estimate ROI Using a Business Example

If we are going to sell our stakeholders on our plan, we need to show them that we can achieve our goals, and they will want to see some numbers as proof (Wilson, 2020). Using data from a past campaign, you can estimate:

  1. Cost
  2. Conversion Rate
  3. Revenue

Estimate Cost

We need to list out all the costs involved with our marketing strategy. For example, how much will our paid ads cost? Are we hiring a copywriter or web designer?  Record and total all costs involved; if you don’t know them, you can contact companies for quotes.

Estimate Conversion Rates

Remember that conversion is when people who interacted with your social media marketing become paying customers. Leads generated are when a potential customer responds by, for example, entering their contact information, filling in a request for more information, or signing up for a newsletter.

When you use the number of leads you generated from a previous campaign along with how many sales you generated, you can calculate your estimated conversation rates.

Estimate Revenue

Once you have the estimated cost and conversion rate, you can calculate revenue.

Creating Content to Drive Results

Wilson (2020) asserts that content must apply directly to the customers you’re trying to reach, which makes good sense, but how do you do it? You must develop content with your target customer in mind. Your customer guides every decision! While many say that content is king, I would posit that the customer is king.

Developing Content

Developing content which will get you the results you’re looking for involves a few factors:

  1. Target Customer
  2. Content types
  3. Resources
  4. Content that will support organizational objectives

1.     Target Customer

As always, you need to start with considering your target customer.

  • Who is the target customer?
  • What kind of content and media would most resonate with them?

2.     Content types

Focusing on the customer, perhaps even picturing a target customer persona, will help direct your content strategy. Imagine your ideal customer: would they respond to video or white papers filled with data and evidence (Wilson, 2020)? Teenagers, for example, are more likely to respond to videos. In contrast, lawyers may be interested in white papers. Wilson explains that you’ll know what content to create once you know WHO you’re trying to reach.

1.     What resources do you have available?

Once you’ve decided what to create, you must identify the resources you have available. For example:

  • What is your budget?
  • How much time do you have at your disposal?
  • Who is willing or qualified to do it?
  • Content that will support organizational objectives

According to Wilson (2020), content should also support your goals, reiterating how important it is to set them.

Wilson reminds us that while “content is king,” it is not one size fits all. Instead, we must first consider our target customer, our available resources, and our business goals. Then we can determine the content we want to create.

Buyers Journey

Wilson (2020) explains that it’s the job of the content creator to move their customers through the buyer’s journey, which has four stages as depicted here:

Following is a detailed description of each stage, as explained by Wilson.

Awareness

Buyer: It occurs to them that they have a problem and have begun seeking a solution.

Content creator: Helps the buyer further understand their problem and offers possible solutions using light content that is easy to consume.
Examples include short videos and posts, which have memes.

Consideration

Buyer: They begin to deepen their research into possible solutions. They’ve become aware of your brand as well as your competition’s brand. They’re at a crossroads, deciding which path to take, and they must consider all their options first.

Content Creator: Educate buyers using more detailed information and content, helping them see that you should choose to solve their problem.
Examples include webinars and white papers.

Decision

Buyer: They are about to take the path towards your product and check into some final decision determiners, such as reading reviews or returning to your Website a few times.

Content Creator: Provide details on your product/service.
Examples include demos, free trials, and product description pages.

Purchase

Buyer: Completes the acquisition.
Content Creator: Celebrates and evaluates success for future reference.

Modern Online Buyers Journey

I found a post by Blue Corona that takes the traditional buyer’s journey and literally twists into a circle (The Modern Digital Marketing Funnel, 2019).

According to the post, the buyer’s journey is more like a cycle of twists and turns than a funnel (The Modern Digital Marketing Funnel, 2019, para. 8). In the examples they include, buyers cycle around and around in the consideration, research, and discovery loop many times before landing on the purchase phase. In the online world, this makes sense. There is simply more information available at our fingertips. When I think of my own buyers’ cycle, I may stay in the loop for a long time and even appreciate, at times, those ads that follow me around offering me more information to help me decide.

Distribution Channels

Of course, the first thing we must consider is our target customer. We need to think about where they hang out online, making data an essential aspect of this step (Wilson, 2020). Google Analytics will help determine the online habits of your customer.

  1. Which online platforms does your customer visit?
  2. What content has the best results on those platforms?
  3. How will the content reach them?
    Paid distribution such as Facebook ads
    Shared distribution when someone shares your posts
    Owned distribution through your newsletters and websites

Attribution Models

According to Wilson (2020), attribution refers to crediting the level of influence or effectiveness of the content that drives a buyer to decide to purchase. The models allow you to understand and give credit to the content that delivered on your goals. Choosing from one of the four models ahead of time will help analyze the results of your campaigns.

Four Models:

  1. First touch: assumes the first content your buyer encountered is the most important
  2. Last touch: assumes the final content your buyer encountered is the most important
  3. Linear: assumes equal value to all content the buyer encounters
  4. Time Delay: assumes the content which is closest to the conversion is the most important

Not Which Model, When

After learning about the attribution models, I wondered how to decide which model to use. I came upon a blog post by Amy Bishop (2017). She says that since one model can’t reveal all the answers you’re looking for, it’s not which model to use. It’s when to use it (Bishop, 2017, paras. 1-3). For example, if you want to know “which channels generated new prospects,” the First Touch model would your best choice (para. 15). Bishop’s method of the “not which, when” deciding process ensures that we’re not missing important information and becoming biased in our assessments.

Overview Case Example

As described in a post by Michael Brenner (2020), this process can become very detailed, who outlines a customer-driven content creation strategy in the image below. First, the customer persona is identified, including needs, personality type, motivators, media preferences (content types), and more. The more you can get into your customers’ heads, the more you can create content appealing to them.

Reporting Campaign Performance

The content distribution methods used by you and your organization will determine the tools you will use to track performance. Just a few examples are:

Useful vs. Relevant Metrics

There are useful metrics, such as page views, which indicate an aspect of your marketing efforts. However, Wilson (2020) posits that relevant metrics take useful metrics a step further because they link the overall effectiveness to your organizational goals. Examples of relevant metrics are conversion rates and leads. The way I think of it is useful metrics show me what’s happened in my campaign, while relevant metrics show what happened NEXT.

Adjusting Campaign Variables

A big takeaway for me during this series is that content marketing requires constant monitoring and adjusting. It’s more than creating an excellent post and sitting back to see what happens.

Once we’ve set up tracking and have insights into our marketing efforts, we will likely need to adjust.

  • First, determine what is and is not working.
  • Second, what could be improved?

Wilson (2020) lays out four variables that we can change if we determine an issue.

Authors Conclusion

The whole point of creating content campaigns is to drive results that meet our organizational goals (Wilson, 2020). We need to observe and evaluate effectiveness over time so that we’re able to adjust for what is not working and how we could make improvements. Equally important is learning what works well to duplicate our efforts, cutting down on time and expense.

Wilson suggests staying up to date in this ever-evolving online landscape by utilizing these resources:

  • Content Marketing Institute (CMI)
  • LinkedIn Learning

My Conclusion: Personal Case Study

Click here to read this content in action.

References

Bishop, A. (2017, January 6). Choosing an attribution model: when, not which. Retrieved from Search Engine Land: https://searchengineland.com/choosing-attribution-model-not-266909

Brenner, M. (2020, February 24). How to develop an effective content marketing strategy. Retrieved from Marketing Insider Group: https://marketinginsidergroup.com/content-marketing/develop-content-marketing-strategy-not-plan/

Gilday, E. (2018, May 14). 5 rules for marketing addiction treatment to parents of young adults with sud. Retrieved from Little Light Copywriting: https://www.littlelightcopywriting.com/blog/5-rules-for-marketing-addiction-treatment-to-parents-of-young-adults-with-sud

How to pick the right analytics attribution model when there’s no right answer. (2021). Retrieved from Neil Patel: https://neilpatel.com/blog/best-analytics-attribution-model/

The modern digital marketing funnel: explained. (2019, July 31). Retrieved from Blue Corona: Measurable marketing solutions: https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/new-digital-marketing-funnel-strategies/

Wilson, V. (2020, November 4). Content marketing: roi. retrieved from linkedin learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/content-marketing-roi/why-calculate-roi-of-content-marketing?u=2109516

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