Why Content Marketing ROI Tools are Flawed and What to Use

Jan 15, 2015

Marketing to busy audiences is increasingly complex. It requires strategies to engage multiple stakeholders throughout multi-stage sales cycles, conducting an intelligent dialogue, and making a well-reasoned case for engagement. Successful marketers take a comprehensive view of their customer by considering their changing industries, job roles, jargon, challenges, threats, pain points, aspirations, and opportunities. What remains eternally true throughout the marketing process is that the customer is at the heart of every business' success.

The foundations of great marketing are:

  • Authentic, intelligent interaction
  • Innovative method of delivery and a creative end-product
  • And always - always - designed in measurement from the outset. This allows us to analyze, review, and learn -- and to report success

Between CRM tools and the influx of connected devices, marketers are processing more real-time data than ever before - and they will struggle to make sense of it all. The industry has plenty of data gathering and visualization tools, but the big challenge will be insight and smart action.

Marketers are expected to overcome the glut of data as a no-excuses approach to campaign performance analysis takes root. The abundance of measurement tools means that marketers can no longer get away with unmeasured initiatives. They must have a plan to align marketing activities with business objectives, and to then report on their outcomes

Today, there's a lot of talk -and a lot of confusion - about content. Marketers who have been constrained by bullets and feature lists can finally give compelling stories the center stage with content marketing. While 86% of companies implementing content marketing programs according to the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, most marketers struggle to measure the ROI of their content marketing programs and here's why: They are measuring the wrong things.

The biggest problem that we see repeated across marketing departments, verticals, sectors, and geographies is that marketers fail to thoroughly and accurately define the value that their campaign must deliver to their business. The value of a campaign can vary widely, and may include measurements such as leads, search ranking, social growth, engagement, registrations, sales, demo requests, free trial sign-ups, customer wins, and more.

Typical measurements such as likes, hits, and shares - even conversions - fail to expose the true nature of the customer's engagement with a brand and their likelihood to engage in further desirable behaviors. Additionally, every campaign should not use the same measurement techniques to validate its effectiveness. What works for a promotional email campaign may not work for customer showcase.

How Can Marketers Bridge the Content Creation and Measurement Gap?

Information architects and writers must collaborate to provide junction points and give users the ability to decide how deep their commitment to the story will be. And marketers and analysts must also work together to measure the accumulative impact of those interactions.

Now, more than ever, marketers must become adept statisticians, with a variety of tools and techniques to measure program effectiveness, all while mapping overall performance back to the objectives of the business. Marketers must match the right tool to the job and measure ROI as it relates to the customer lifecycle. By creating content that is tailored to each phase of the lifecycle, and then using the right tools and techniques to evaluate the success of that content at that particular phase of the customer journey, marketers can capture a more complete and nuanced view of campaign effectiveness.

Lifecycle phaseWhat to measureTools
Awareness of NeedsWebsite visits; Content distributionWeb analytics; Media placement 
ResearchSocial activity; Peer-to-peer engagement; DownloadsSocial dashboards; Key word search; Heat maps 
Evaluation Trials; Webinar attendance; Sales presentations Content dashboards; Sales funnel tracking 
Purchase decisionConversionsSales; E-commerce 
Post-purchase evaluationUpgrades; Referrals; Advocacy involvementCustomer reference program analytics; Repeat customer conversions 

There are three steps that marketers need to take before they invest a single dollar or minute into new measurement tools.

  1. Rethink your definition of success
  2. Understand meaningful connection and engagement vs. visibility with customers
  3. Investigate the measurement tools before you commit - choose the right tool for the job. 

Marketers can measure nearly everything now, and rather than taking a historical view of measuring what worked, they should use this analytical power to anticipate their best move.  Marketers should weave together the data that is revealed through likes, shares, downloads, etc. to tell a story about the sustained quality of engagement.