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November 1, 2017 (Updated: January 24, 2023)
Return on investment is perhaps the most basic element of business success. Content is generally far better at bringing in ROI compared to plain old advertising on the Internet. However, if you’ve already started a content marketing campaign and find your results underwhelming, or even negative, it can be easy to throw up your hands and say “Oh well, I tried. I suppose content marketing isn’t profitable for me.” Or, perhaps, you don’t even know how to tell if it’s profitable or not.
Chances are content marketing is a viable strategy for your business, if you just plug the leaks and figure out where you’re missing the opportunities to grow. It’s also important to realize just how many ways content can add up to a positive return and factor them in before you get discouraged. Below, we’ll get into ROI in content marketing, what composes its measurement, and common things to try if the numbers don’t look great. With these tips you should have a new plan of attack and a better perspective on how your content works.
In the first place, you have to look at all content of the same type through a consistent model for comparing your costs to your gains. Let’s focus on the happier side, and harder to calculate, first: returns. There’s a lot more to understanding the return of your content marketing than watching how many sales you received in the week after releasing your B2B whitepaper. Think about the different KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, that would tell you how well something is performing.
Obviously revenue from purchased products or services matters. But what about content that encourages email subscriptions to a newsletter? Find the average value of one of your subscribers by dividing the revenue made through them with their total number. How about social media shares? You might notice that the average share online leads to a certain amount of bonus revenue in subscriptions and direct sales. Don’t get so caught up in the sales numbers that you forget other KPIs.
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While costs are generally simpler to figure out with content marketing than returns, there are still a few factors that require outside-the-box thinking. Cost isn’t just about how much you pay people to make content. Time is an important resource you’ll never get back, so it helps to factor in the value of that time. If your team could have been doing something else with the time spent on content development and marketing, come up with a conservative idea of what those hours are worth to you business.
Another forgotten cost of content is when it goes unused. Chances are you’ve not used all the content your company has commissioned or developed. Sirius Decisions even found that 60-70 percent of all B2B content goes unused, which is massively wasteful. Avoid waste by demanding top-quality ideas. There’s no problem with putting out less but better content if it means you use all of it.
Content doesn’t have to never be posted to go unused. Sometimes it just never gets seen by enough people to make a difference, which is a real shame. Unlike with advertising, there’s no required expense to get more eyes looking at your content. Polishing up your SEO, sharing your latest content pieces on social media, asking current fans and customers to share links, these things all add to the number of people who visit your content, which in turns means more people who take calls to action such as buying or subscribing.
It’s been said not to make judgements about a startup until at least 1000 people have been exposed to it, and every piece of content should be treated that way as well. Without a crowd of visitors, you don’t really know if your content is effective or not. It can help to look over your current content, find which ones have little to no exposure, and focus on getting them seen over producing more new stuff. For the future, come up with an exposure strategy that spends nothing or a negligible amount to give your new content maximum visibility.
One of the ways content marketing can fizzle in the ROI department is if your content comes across as too obvious or “on brand”. Much of the time, content can be used to grab potential customers’ attention at the beginning of the buying cycle, introducing them to problems and opportunities where your business could serve them. A lawn care company, for instance, could have online reports on the latest pests threatening yards in their local area. People would then trust that brand to a degree, take more interest in their content and eventually consider booking a service.
But if the content focuses too much on how their own business’ products or services are the solution to the problem, people will be turned off to them, even if good information was provided first. You have to warm people up with content, and play it cool. Look at things from a consumer’s viewpoint and think about if something might seem too much of a hard-sell or too self-referential. Don’t push too hard, because if people really like your content, they’ll remember where it came from and visit again.
People are growing less fond of online ads and are more and more likely to ignore them or block them with apps. Content marketing, meanwhile, continues to grow in power, because it serves needs and addresses problems without coming across as overtly commercial. Considering how common content marketing is these days, you need to be on top of your game and stand out from the increasing crowd of competition.
If you want to watch your content marketing ROI climb up and up, quality content can’t be understated. Content is so universally desired that as long as you don’t put off your audience, you have a fantastic chance of earning well more than what you spent. Professional writers, visual designers, translators, etc. are a must, and once you see the difference they make you’ll be eagerly telling others the same.