In the post Lessons from a Shark, we looked at how senior executives measure content marketing performance. Here is one way to apply those lessons and get started understanding the performance of your organic content.
- Set up a content performance whiteboard. Draw a big circle on it. Then draw two smaller circles so that it looks like a dartboard.
Label the outermost circle Awareness. Most of your content engagement will fall in this circle. Any action that occurs on social networks or in email newsletters, in ads or third party sites where you share and publish your content will occur here.
- Label the second circle Interest. This is any action taken to show that a prospect wants to go further, read another piece of content, take the next step. Content at this stage is longer and more complex and the CTAs are stronger and lead to a stronger relationship. If email opt-in list growth is also a focus, or if webinars convert to leads, these secondary conversions will often occur before any direct buying behavior in online prospects, and may indicate interest not intent.
- Label the bullseye Intent. These are the people who are most engaged with your content, who go past interest, indicating some likelihood that they are going to convert to a lead. Content at this stage may be pre-sale, diagnostic content or event-based like a webinar.
The best way to capture organic content behavior and understand attribution through each stage of the research/buying journey (in this case, 3) is to link 3 content assets together that satisfy objectives at each stage, and measure how many people progress through each.
Let’s use BYOD (bring your own device) management content as an example. To get the best data, you will need several content assets: an awareness post, an interest asset, and an intent asset and event.
- Starting with Awareness, as an example, a tweet or G+ post: “On our blog: the top 6 things you need to know about BYOD in 2014”. This will generate awareness clicks to the blog post. (If you post on multiple platforms, you can see which generates the most clicks)
- In or at the end of the blog post, link to your Interest Asset (ideally in its own landing page), a more complex or specialized but related piece of content: “Concerned about BYOD in your organization? Read this 2 page summary of our white paper on network device detection management”. How many take action on that link vs the awareness stage tweet or post will tell you how many people have interest enough to read a more complex or specialized asset.
- At the end of the article, or throughout, include two calls to action that demonstrate Intent: one to download the complete white paper and one to attend a webinar on network device detection and management. Include an option to opt in to your mailing list on each landing page.
- Post the awareness content in each respective channel (Twitter, LinkedIn, email) with an individual link for each instance.
Presto! Now you have data. On your whiteboard, write the number of awareness clicks for each platform, then the number of Interest clicks, then the number of Intent. Include the number of people who opted in for your mailing list (subscribers), the number of people who provided contact information (prospects) and the number who signed up and attended the webinar (leads). Your biggest numbers will always be in awareness, and smaller numbers will convert to action at each subsequent stage. You ‘ll know if they are more interested in reading or attending a webinar. With further testing and experimentation your programs can get even smarter and more targeted.
The equation of successful content marketing
How many business results did your content generate? That is the question your whiteboard should be helping you answer. It should also demonstrate where your best awareness activity comes through (anything that generates the most conversions throughout the process). The holy grail is to then connect this to CRM data on closed business, but because much of what happens once the lead is generated is out of the marketer’s control, sales ROI numbers (cost to produce content and program – revenue generated from web leads = ROI) may or may not be a fair metric.
Another way, then, to look at ROI is on a comparative basis. Cost to produce content asset divided by weighted business results will give you a cost-per-business result number. Compare that to other similar numbers in your organization (how much does paid search cost to generate a lead? Outbound calling? How much does it cost to acquire a targeted email address in other campaigns?) By breaking down your content performance by type of action and stage of buying cycle, you’ll start to see very clearly what is performing where, what to fund, and what to discontinue.
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