What color is your ROI? Effective marketing campaigns are moving the needle away from the red and creating more revenue than costs. Marketing campaigns cannot exist just to exist, they must contribute to the bottom line and support corporate goals. Last week Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO GinzaMetrics sat in on The Friday Hangout with hosts Steve Farnsworth, Adam Helweh, and Janet Fouts to discuss how marketers can better measure the ROI of their content creation and show effectiveness toward overall company goals.
Set Your Goals
As with any good plan, a good content marketing program begins with goals and objectives. The goal of any viable business is, of course, to make money. Conversions can range from B2C companies filling online shopping carts to B2B companies creating a larger user base or making sales.
The first step in developing a strategic marketing plan is to identify how the marketing effort fits into the overall goals of the business.
“From there your department identifies which KPIs are already in place. Is it user growth, expanding revenue, or taking existing users and turning them into evangelists? Once you know that, you have to figure out how content would support those specific goals,” notes Erin.
Setting goals and identifying how content will help reach those goals is the real purpose of content creation. In some instances, marketing content will be used to fulfill multiple KPIs, supporting different goals in different ways. These might include:
- Maintaining the customer base
- Increasing revenue within the existing customer base
- Creating user growth
Thinking about content in a more global way is a recommendation of Janet. She states, “Think of how you can use this throughout the company – instead of just creating content, using it to market your product, and measuring it. That is too short sighted and its too hard to develop something effective if it isn’t going to be part of the whole picture.”
Know Why You Act
Marketers are often in a difficult position with pressure from members of the executive team asking for content like that created by a competitor without understanding why the content worked for the other brand. The question responsible marketers must ask, according the Erin is, “Why do you want it? While competitor parrity is sometimes a good reason, you must know the goal of the content and whether that particular vehicle (example: white paper) is the best way to reach the goal.”
Using metrics to measure campaigns and verify the achievement of business and marketing goals requires a closed loop system. Every company has a business goal and every campaign must create a logical path to reach that goal. For every goal there are a series of actions – content, deliverables, and marketing tactics – that you must be able to map back.
“The way to map back,” according the Erin, “is to ask, Who is the target audience for the goal and what is seeming to work for that audience?” Once you decide who you are trying to reach and with what kind of content, you must develop the content and decide what channels are best to deliver the content.”
Beyond Vanity Metrics
Effectively measuring content goes beyond just looking at the vanity metrics. It’s not enough to count the number of retweets or the number of likes from social media. At the end of the day, marketing efforts must help to sell the product or service provided by the brand. If all your content marketing efforts are gaining you are more fans on Facebook, or followers on Twitter without contributing to increased sales, then you must ask yourself if that time could have been spent elsewhere or if you should use a different distribution channel.
“Follow-through and say that for everybody that viewed this content, followed this content, or engaged with this content – what does that look like when it comes to a conversion?” suggests Erin.
When the expectations for conversions – whether it’s filling shopping carts or turning prospects into qualified leads – is set up at the beginning of the campaign, then marketers are able to understand what is working at a granular level. In other words, what is it about the content that’s working? Is it the topic or the deliverable? There are many ways to deliver topics? Knowing which of these your audience prefers will help you get your message to the right people, in the right format, and through the right channel. Some deliverables to consider include:
- Slide Share
- Landing page
No Silver Bullets
For marketers there are no silver bullets. One thing is not going to be the explosive driver – there are usually a lot of contributing factors. Keeping all these contributing factors in the workflow and measuring their effectiveness requires a dashboard that provides a full view of how all marketing channels are contributing to a campaign.
Once the campaign is set up with all the contributing factors – pieces of content, targeted keywords, target audience and distribution channels – it’s important to understand the entire ecosystem. If you’re in an environment where email, social, paid, and SEO are all in different silos, you will never understand what the metrics are telling you and what works for other groups. Just because one piece of content gets a lot of retweets or a a slide share gets used, the insight into how those discrete pieces contribute to the whole is lost.
The most effective dashboard is one that allows top level insight into traffic and conversion rates across the board. In the end, measuring effectiveness means looking at the topics that resonate with your audience and measuring which channels reach that audience and contribute to sales conversions.
Within metric results, the best metrics allow the user to drill down and understand exactly where the traffic is coming from. If you know that social is driving a large portion of your conversions, you will want to know exactly which channel to put more effort into. If your Facebook page is delivering your message and you put more effort into your Instagram channel, then your metrics have not provided the information you need to respond to your market and improve your campaign effectiveness. On the other hand, if your campaign has created amazing traffic numbers, but your company did not increase sales, then your campaign failed. You can’t look at traffic numbers alone. Campaign results must always be tied to conversions and corporate goals.
Closed Loop Process
An effective content marketing framework involves a closed loop process that begins at the inception of the goal. Once you’ve decided how you’re going to create content, where you’re going to distribute it, and how it will be measured, this framework allows other groups within your organization to give feedback.
“A good example might be marketing driving a lot of prospects to marketing qualified leads and then growing them to sales qualified leads and handing them off to sales” advises Erin. “When you do that, you also want the opportunity for sales to come back and give you information on what is working and not working. What kind of questions and feedback are they seeing as a result of this content that you have created? A lot of times people will read a white paper or a case study and it will spark something during a follow-up sales conversation,” she notes.
The same thing goes for the customer success, customer support, and community management teams. They’re hearing a lot of questions and topics that are prime to build content around. It’s important to provide these teams with the answers and the information so they can address them as they come up as a result of the content that has been created. An effective system maximizes the efforts for the content being created and provides a pipeline where ideas can be generated, launched, reported, and feedback can return up the pipeline to inform future campaigns.
The key to an effective workflow is the continuum of data informing action and communication across departments in an organization. When all these things are working together, strategic marketing replaces plug and play practices and the efforts move the ROI needle forward.