Content marketing measurement: Show me the money

I had a conniption last week, and not the right sort… Unfortunately, it became apparent why some people refer to the marketing team as the colouring in department.

And I suspect this view is exacerbated for content marketers.

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For context, I was judging the CMI 2019 Content Marketing Awards.

I want to say upfront I was honoured to be involved in judging, this is not a soapbox post or a dig at the awards, and there were a heap of cracking submissions that blew my socks off – more on this later. 

The winners and finalists are indeed the best of the best, and there were myriad exceptional entries that unequivocally do not fall into the 'colouring in department’.

But in too many instances, I didn’t believe there was a clear articulation of how content marketing was powering a paid, owned and earned (POE) ecosystem; or how the program delivered commercial outcomes.

And to be honest, some were little more than beautifully glossy entries peppered with bright images and colourful language in an attempt to tart up an otherwise dull campaign entry – i.e., perfectly coloured in between the lines.

In my humble opinion, what we as an industry are often lacking is a clear strategy that aligns and delivers business goals, execution aligned to the buyer journey, and a way to measure tangible results.

When these elements aren’t front and centre, we do ourselves a disservice by reporting on stuff our executives just don’t care about.

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In a recent post about judging, I said: “The critical element I'll be awarding top marks for [are] submissions that show how the strategy enables business goals, and the execution delivers them.”

Rather than bemoan the industry or crucify the lesser lights, I want to focus on what made the most robust projects so outstanding.

The submissions that stood out were from organisations that are extremely customer focused and unashamedly monetise their operation.

It’s also worth calling out that some of the best examples operate in dull, low-interest categories. They are most definitely not the likes of Nike, Red Bull or Tourism Australia.

Hopefully, these redacted insights, which I've summarised and combined from some of my favourite entries, will help you steer a more robust path forward.

Content marketing strategy

Content is not a standalone. It’s the hero within a broader POE strategy. And their operating model straddles content, social, PR, SEO, customer insights, and performance marketing teams.

Content is underpinned by clear customer insights and an understanding of the emotional drivers behind the behaviour.

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  • They have a laser-beam focus on who their target audience is at a granular level. 

  • They have clear, measurable objectives.

  • They aim to become thought leaders within their industry, helping to differentiate and build brand salience.

  • They leverage technology to capture data and reengage users, ultimately moving them towards consideration and purchase.

  • They empower customers to choose their product confidently, and without needing to decipher industry jargon.

  • Their strategy is designed to capture specific leads, and they have clear tactics to nurture them through the buying process.

  • Content is designed to provide utility and build trust. It is contextually relevant, relatable and easy-to-digest to help overcome the fact their industry is in some cases complex and dry.

  • Content is designed to drive a predefined next step of the user.

  • They actively encourage engagement and conversation – they've created a community and respond to user questions. 

  • Their content is rich in storytelling that addresses our target audience’s pain points. They focus on quality over quantity.

Content marketing results and return on investment

They report results like this: For every $X invested, we generated $X in revenue and $X in profit.

They understand the macro environment: i.e., if our target audience completes [action] once a year, it will deliver $XM.

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  • From humble beginnings, these blogs now dominate search engine results pages and generate significant unique visitors (leads). 

  • They are competing against, and beating, mainstream press for audience attention – not their direct category competitors.

  • Content is linked to the path to purchase and generates a significant number of new, qualified leads.

  • Their content marketing has enabled them to make their media spend more efficient. And they have subsequently been able to reduce – or reallocate – their traditional marketing spend.

  • They can directly track content marketing’s contribution to increasing their business profit.

  • They have robust measurement frameworks in place.

  • Their content is so good their partners leverage it within their POE campaigns.

I can’t wait until the winners are announced as there are some cracking entries.

I encourage you to dissect what makes the best so good and to draw inspiration from (i.e. steal ideas) to strengthen your marketing efforts.


Matt Allison is the Managing Director of Ubiquity Lab. Click here to sign up to our monthly EDM, or here to follow us on LinkedIn.

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