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I can’t tell you how many sales calls I have been on at CopyPress that sound something like this:

Me: So how can CopyPress help Company X?

Company X Marketing Manager: Well, I have been tasked by the CMO to start doing content marketing. I am currently investigating the best route.

Me: What are your KPIs?

Company X Marketing Manager: We don’t know yet. We want to get a blog going and see how we grow from there.

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This conversation almost never ends in a sale. Sometimes it’s because the marketing manager chooses another agency, to hire internally, or to freelance. But more often than not it is because CopyPress will pass on this kind of campaign. 

Where did the conversation go wrong? Company X just wants to “start doing content marketing.” This statement and a few prophetic utterances after it, like the lack of KPIs and the starting point of a blog, forecast a campaign that will utterly fail. Why not just take the business? Because that isn’t what we get paid to do. We get paid to deliver wins. A blog isn’t a win. “Doing” is an action, not a result.

The Importance of KPIs and Goals

I have spoken around the world over the last decade at great length about the role of the marketer. Whether you think of yourself as a great artist, scientist, technologist, or any other label, the reality is you have a single job; to make somebody money. Marketers are the close cousins of advertisers, and companies pay marketers and advertisers money to make more money. It is the reason we hear the abbreviations ROI and ROAs in our meetings. 

I often wonder if people in the audience at some of these talks have thought I am a super capitalist, a Gordan Gecko of marketing. I am not. My passion at CopyPress comes from helping our employees find career success and our contractors a place to earn a decent living from their passion. I am, however, pragmatic. Marketing exists as a function of sales, and sales fuel a business. 

And to that end, we can always point to at least one metric (KPI) without even thinking about it. Increased sales. Whether you are an ecommerce website, a B2B website, or a social network, everything comes down to sales. Sales of goods, sales of services, and sales of data are all the end game. 

Conversely, “doing” is not an end game. It is an activity. An activity that costs money, time, and sometimes people their jobs when the doing has no purpose. For CopyPress, taking projects that are just “doing content marketing” can have impacts on our reputation.

We tried CopyPress, but we saw no return from our investment.

This sentiment makes business sense, but it usually is proceeded months earlier with a phone call where I ask:

Me: What are your KPIs?

Company X Marketing Manager: We don’t know yet. We want to get a blog going and see how we grow from there.

Having clear, structured KPIs that you can monitor is the foundation of any marketing effort, and content marketing is no different. Whether your title is Marketing Manager, Brand Storyteller, or Digital Brand Ambassador, eventually you will sit in a room with a PowerPoint presentation sharing metrics that quantify the value of your work. 

So the first step in every marketing campaign has to be the creation of clear objectives, and the objective can’t simply be activity. 

Blogging for Bloggings Sake Is Worse Than Just Doing

The CopyPress blog probably has over 1,000 pieces of content. We have been in business for nearly a decade at this point, and several years ago we required employees to post content they crafted on their subject expertise. We abandoned that practice after about a year, and last year we abandoned the blog completely. 

Our blog is actually the highest trafficked portion of our website. We abandoned it because the traffic does nothing. Conversion rate experts out there will read this and think we are insane or lazy, but this isn’t an issue of conversion. Our blog is heavily trafficked due to traffic from organic search. The terms that drive this traffic look like:

  1. Traditional Advertising
  2. Passive vs Active Voice
  3. Where to find statistics
  4. News Headline Examples

Almost no one coming to our site from these terms is even in the demographic of our buyers. Thematically, no one searching for these terms is actively researching topics around our services. 

We stopped producing blog content because the data showed us that blogging for blogging’s sake wasn’t yielding the kind of traffic we needed to hit our KPI; sales. 

We didn’t stop producing content. We switched our focus to a resource center that had a defined structure and was thematically relevant to our conversion funnel. Traffic has grown for this content by 250% over the last year, and we are ready to begin conversion optimization to reap the rewards of our well-planned work.

So when a potential customer begins a conversation on strategy with me around “blogging,” I will almost always veer the conversation to KPIs. Blogging isn’t bad. It is a great fit for some companies and is an exceptional way to communicate your brand voice and vision. However, it is not the single point to begin all content marketing campaigns.

Traffic Then KPIs

Company X Marketing Manager: We don’t know yet. We want to get a blog going and see how we grow from there.

The reality is this Marketing Manager likely won’t be the person to figure out the KPI and conversion puzzle from their work. They will have spent thousands of dollars on creating a blog, and the best that they can hope for is huge spikes in traffic. This metric may be enough to get the higher ranks excited for a while, but conversion needs to be figured out eventually or someone is going to lose their job. 

If you work in publishing or have advanced data collection methods that feed into the sales process, then traffic for traffic’s sake may work. However, 90% of you don’t live in this world. 90% of you need to focus on KPIs before traffic, regardless of what your boss tells you.

Stop Doing, Start Creating

We all have to start somewhere, and doing something is better than nothing at all. – Khloe Kardashian

I don’t know where this quote came from. Perhaps it is in reference to something truly important like social justice. However, out of context, it represents the general concept embraced by most people starting work in a new marketing channel. 

Doing is not good enough. Creating should be your goal. 

Creating KPIs.

Creating a strategy to reach those goals.

Creating informative, or even beautiful, content as a part of that strategy.

Creating a way to validate your effort and iterate it.

Creating is a magical thing. The human ability to imagine and create is what separates us from our animal cousins. We can bring things to life with our minds, our hearts, and our hands. And in that sense, marketers are artists. They are scientists. However, that creation has to have a purpose. Sitting at a pottery wheel with no goal in mind will just leave you a lump of misshapen clay. 

And while you’re at it grab a copy of our PDF on scaling content and taming the content management bear here.

Content Marketing Pyramid (ebook)

Download eBook

Blog: Content Marketing

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