August 17th, 2017

Content Marketing ROI: Are You Getting What You Paid For?

How do you know you’re getting a good deal on your content marketing?

When was the last time you had to invest a lot of resources into a product or service you didn’t understand? Most of us have been there before, and it adds a lot of uncertainty and insecurity into the buying process. We want to make the best decision we can, but we’re out of our depth. After all, if it’s not our expertise, how do we know we’re making the right decision?

Our clients, by and large, are not content marketers. Some of them come from a marketing background, but don’t have as much expertise with the latest generation of digital tools. Others come with less knowledge. But at the end of the day, we still have to deliver the same reports, full of terminology, metrics, and graphs, much of which can be hard to interpret without some sort of glossary.

We don’t want our clients to feel left behind, but we also don’t want them to feel like they have to become content marketing experts in order to understand the value we’re providing for their business. So as you’re trying to understand whether you’re getting a good content marketing ROI, here are a few guidelines to consider.

Know what outcomes you want to achieve.

It’s impossible to create an effective marketing strategy when you don’t have an objective in mind, when that objective changes from week to week, or when your objectives don’t match your budget. If you come in one month with the goal of building your brand awareness and decide the next that you want to drive walk-in traffic, that shifting strategy is going to require different actions. And because a good content marketing strategy is built on data, your frequent course changes are probably going to muddy the waters.

“Begin with the end in mind” applies to content marketing just as much as to anything else. Determine what result you want to see, and talk to your content marketing team about what metrics will matter for those results. If you want to increase your conversion rate, determine how you will do that. If your biggest goal is to grow your lead list before you pass them on to an in-house sales team, talk about the kind of leads you’re looking for. Or, if you just want to grow a following, find out where that following will bring you the most value.

Establish a common language.

Remember those jargon terms we mentioned? Content marketing is full of them: CRM, CMS, SEO, keywords, meta descriptions, title tags, etc. etc. All that terminology develops for a reason: we need a common language to describe some of the specialized tools we use in our content marketing. For the most part, we can’t avoid using these terms when we talk to our clients, but we also go out of our way to explain what they mean.

This knife cuts both ways. It’s likely that your business comes with its own set of terms that mean specific things for your industry. While some of that jargon can be broken down, some of it needs to remain intact. Be willing to work with your marketing team so that they understand the difference and can keep your messaging on target.

Invest in outcomes, not actions.

None of us want to work with people who make us feel stupid or who ignore the goals we’ve set. Your client should be willing to explain their services, and why those services will achieve the outcome you’re looking for. It should be a major red flag for you if someone is trying to discourage you from understanding their process.

That said, every now and then, we have a client come to us with a great new service they’re excited about. They want to move forward with it, even though it doesn’t fit the strategy we discussed, or because it’s the latest fad. This isn’t just unhelpful to our team, it’s counterproductive to your company.

Focus your energy on understanding the results, not in dictating process. The former will help you understand if what we’re doing works. The latter is just another form of micromanagement. Your knowledge of your business and your customer base should help establish your desired outcomes. But our expertise is what will get you there.

Expect results to take time.

We want to be as up-front as possible with our customers that content marketing is about the long game. It takes time for posts to begin to rank on Google. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably recommending some very dodgy strategy. It’s good to know this from the start so that you know what to expect from your metrics.

The good news is that this gives you a lot of opportunity to build a strong partnership with your content marketing team. That partnership is your best guarantor of a strong content marketing ROI. Content marketing has shown time and time again that it yields more reliable sales outcomes than any other strategy you could choose. And you don’t have to rely on guesswork: you can get the data to back it up. So work with people who want to work with you, and you will see your efforts pay off.

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