It’s hard to ignore the impact the recent health crisis of COVID-19 has had across the globe. As concern sets in and the workforce transitions in droves to operating remotely, companies are also rethinking other realities when it comes to how they run their businesses. In the marketing industry, big-name events like Adobe Summit, Google Cloud Next, and Salesforce World Tour have all gone virtual — choosing to move online rather than cancel completely. Between the growing customer base that’s working from home and a new event strategy, dollars originally invested in events have shifted to content. With this renewed focus on content, measuring content marketing ROI is pivotal for marketers to understand the impact they’re making with content and determine its effectiveness.

But first, it’s vital to note that even before coronavirus struck, businesses had been using content to their advantage. Content marketing has evolved. In Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing and Advertising 2019, which explains the maturity, adoption, and application of technologies, content marketing finally graduated off the Hype Cycle in 2019 and is now considered a fully mature technology.

Content Marketing is a Fully Mature Technology

Credit: Gartner

“Fully mature” means the technology and tactics around content marketing have officially entered mainstream adoption. Applicable to many in the market and relevant to a wide range of industries, content marketing is already making a significant impact, and measuring content marketing ROI can show just how much.

Brands have also started out the year prioritizing content marketing in their 2020 strategy, and are investing more in content. The CMO Club surveyed US CMOs in August 2019 and found that 86% of these marketing leaders stated that content marketing is the most important area to invest marketing dollars.

Credit: eMarketer

Content Marketing ROI Can Be Tough to Measure

However, as brands make more room in the budget for producing compelling, relevant content, they’re discovering that proving content marketing ROI can be tough. For example, eMarketer reports that 55% of B2B marketers find measuring success and determining content marketing ROI to be most challenging.

Credit: eMarketer

This is because content has a different purpose compared to other forms of digital advertising, as it works to tell a story, connect brands to certain values, and create authority. This leaves traditional KPIs such as unique visitors, time on page, and scroll depth only reporting a portion of what content can achieve.

Enter content intelligence.

Content Marketing Institute highlights the importance of content intelligence technology and how it can help content understand itself. Seventy one percent of enterprise marketers gain better insight into how their content is performing through content marketing technologies. Seventy one percent!

Credit: Content Marketing Institute

Through measuring content marketing ROI, enterprise marketers also gain insight into audience preferences, and can drive further conversations with consumers. Content establishes trust and affinity between the brand and their consumers, and measuring that sentiment and how audiences are feeling about the content they interact with, is essential for holistic understanding.

Determining Content Success

Now that we’ve established the trust that marketers are placing in content marketing and the necessity of measuring content marketing ROI, it’s time to think about the steps needed to make that happen.

Goal Setting

First, set realistic goals surrounding your content. Perhaps it’s influencing brand perception, evaluating the effectiveness of your messaging to your target audience, linking your business to a set of values, or moving consumers from one stage of the customer journey to another. It could also be measuring the trustworthiness and effectiveness of publishers, or identifying successfully performing content themes to continue investing in. Either way, it’s going to be tricky to evaluate performance when your goals aren’t defined or achievable. When considering realistic goals, brands like Ally, Ford and JPMorgan Chase are moving the needle through careful planning to accomplish their goals. On the opposite spectrum, failing to have your content deliver could end up being a costly mistake without careful goal setting.

Budget Allocation

Second, decide just where your content budget will go. According to Content Marketing Institute, the B2B marketers that are the most successful are spending 40 percent of their total marketing budget on content marketing.

Credit: Content Marketing Institute

And even today, in the midst of the current coronavirus outbreak, B2B marketers are going digital, with PredictHQ reporting that in February alone, there was a 500 percent surge in cancellations and postponements of significant events due to the latest healthcare crisis. This leaves more dollars at marketers’ disposal to invest digitally. Consider your media mix and the various channels you have at your disposal, and make sure to allocate accordingly. More money allocated to content doesn’t mean simply shoving money into content without strategic thinking. This upfront budget planning can then allow you to stretch your content budget even further.

Choosing The Metrics That Matter

Third, decide the exact metrics you’re going to track and make sure they align with your goals. Just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean you have to. It can distract you from what’s really relevant, like consumer sentiment. Be disciplined with the metrics you choose and don’t overdo it. Metrics such as audience demographics can give you a unique view of who’s interacting with your content, as well as audience sentiment. After engaging with your content, audiences will leave with a particular impression and emotional response if the content fits their needs (or failed to do so). See just what they’re coming away with after engaging with your content so you can optimize where needed.

Content Can Drive Results

Now that you’ve created a strategy to help you with your content marketing ROI, just what results can you expect to see? According to HubSpot, content marketing can drive three times more leads than leads from paid search ads, and YoY growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers. High quality content is critical for generating inbound leads, and content marketing ROI can be linked to site traffic and increased leads. This visibility can then hand the sales team the opportunity they need to make a case for their product and prove its value.

Content marketing isn’t a timely response for what’s happening right now with coronavirus. It’s a thriving, humming engine that’s been fueling marketing efforts and returning results for quite some time. Marketers can lean on the wealth of opportunities that content marketing provides as they learn to navigate this new reality this healthcare crisis has created, and start seeing results.

Mar 23, 2020