How To Measure Content Marketing Success
A step-by-step guide to understanding content success and measuring content performance
Say you’ve just finished and distributed a masterful piece of sales enablement content to your reps. You breathe a sigh of relief as you close all your browser tabs and finally check the project off your list. Time to move on to the next one.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem. Many organizations neglect the most crucial step in the sales content lifecycle — analysis.
But how do you know what to analyze? The technology platforms most sales teams use collect enough data to fill a hundred hard drives. What do we focus on to determine the efficacy of our content?
In this post, we’re going to do a deep dive into how to understand sales enablement ROI, how to measure the success of marketing content, and specific KPIs and metrics you should be tracking as part of your marketing strategy.
What Makes Content Successful?
Successful content drives prospects further down the sales funnel and accelerates the pace at which deals close. But not all sales content has the same goal, and therefore not all content should be judged by the same criteria. It all starts with a robust understanding of your organization’s sales funnel.
Understanding the funnel and content goals
This may be a tough pill for sales reps to swallow, but not all content is created to close deals. Content should meet your prospect where they are in their own individual buying journey.
No experienced sales rep would present a first-time prospect with an aggressive request to close a sale. The same is true of content. Doing so is like getting down on one knee and proposing before the first date is even over.
The best content doesn’t shove prospects to a sale, but gently nudges them further down the sales funnel.
Therefore, it stands to reason that each funnel stage should have different content governed by different goals, all informed by one overarching objective to close more qualified deals at a greater frequency.
The reason funnels are funnel-shaped and not cylindrical is because you will inevitably have some attrition as leads move down the funnel. In other words, funnels leak.
Some attrition is good and is a result of natural lead qualification: people who aren’t really your target market opting out.
However, most attrition is bad. It’s often the result of unengaging or irrelevant content. By the end of this post, you’ll be well on your way to diagnosing where your funnel is leaking and how best to plug up those holes with effective sales content.
How the funnel stages affect content metrics
A helpful way to think through the funnel stages is through the rubric of interest, educate, and action.
This isn’t written in stone and should be tweaked based on the individual needs and offerings of your organization, but the following rubric for funnels has served many online businesses well, and it should be a good starting point.
Top of funnel content should successfully interest your prospect by adding value on a particular subject matter or solving a pain point. The best content in this category gives away information or value in exchange for trust and sometimes an email address.
Middle of funnel content educates prospects on how your offering solves their particular pain point. Usually, content in this stage is sent to people who have already subscribed to your email list or otherwise agreed to engage with your content.
Bottom of funnel content exists purely to close the deal. Content in this funnel stage is all about getting the prospect to take action, either through a purchase, demo request, or agreement to a meeting.
What content marketing metrics should you track?
Now that we’re on the same page about funnel metrics and goals, we need to talk about the quantitative ways you can ensure your content is achieving these goals. As a general rule, you can’t fix what you can’t measure.
But in a world full of endless data collection, it’s a bit overwhelming to decide which metrics to track.
Track what matters and forget vanity metrics
Folks in sales and marketing tend to have a bad habit of collecting way more data than we need.
We can geek out on social media shares or subscribers to our organization’s YouTube channel, but a more important question is whether or not those are actually driving people down the funnel and contributing to revenue growth.
Many of these are what’s commonly referred to as “vanity metrics.” Vanity metrics look great on a graph or a PowerPoint slide, but have almost no bearing on actual revenue.
This is why understanding what metrics to track is so important, lest we forget the “key” in “key performance indicators.” If something is key, it means it’s crucial, essential, or special. If every metric becomes a KPI, you’ll get lost in the weeds of analysis without any real substantive action steps to take for improvement.
As it pertains to content marketing success, a general rule of thumb is that you should analyze no more than ten KPIs. You can collect as much data as you want, but when it comes to actually drilling down and discerning intelligent insights, less than ten is the sweet spot.
That said, there are a few non-negotiable metrics that simply must be tracked if you want to accurately determine the efficacy of your sales content.
Calculating ROI – the most importance content performance metric
Content marketing ROI is the ratio of net profit to the cost of investment in a particular piece of content. It’s often presented as a dollar amount and reveals how much net revenue a piece of content generated over a set period of time.
It’s safe to say that ROI is the most important metric to track. If a piece of content succeeds in every other metric but produces a negative ROI, it fails (from a revenue standpoint, at least).
Thankfully, that’s usually not the case. Success in other KPIs like engagement, conversion, or traffic often predict a positive ROI. We’ll get to those other KPIs later in this post. For now, let’s talk about how to calculate the ROI on a piece of sales content.
It seems feasible to tie a monetary value into a bottom of funnel piece of content. After all, the goal of content in that stage is to close deals. But how do you tie value into something as abstract as an education blog post or downloadable eBook?
This three-step process will help you calculate the ROI of any piece of content, regardless of funnel location or type.
Find the cost of the asset
The first step in any ROI calculation is to determine the investment amount. In the case of content marketing, that amount is the total cost of what it took to produce and distribute a particular asset.
The following four categories will usually cover all expenses in the content creation process. I’d recommend starting a spreadsheet and logging each of these amounts for organization:
It goes without saying that the most valuable (and expensive) asset you have in content creation is your people. To discern the personnel cost of content creation, divide each contributing employee’s yearly salary by the amount of time it took them to create the content.
Admittedly, this technique isn’t 100% foolproof as employees are likely working on other things in tandem with the asset at hand, but it’s a great place to start.
If you want to be precise, you can coach your content creators to use a free time-tracking service like Toggl to better understand how much time each piece of content demands from your team.
The cost of any contracted help you’ve hired to create or consult on the content should be noted here as well.
Everything from your team’s graphic design programs to any marketing automation or distribution software costs should be listed here. If your software is utilized on a subscription basis, divide the yearly cost by the time spent creating the content for a more accurate cost estimate.
Ad spend cost
Any social ads, PPC campaigns, or paid promotion should be noted in this category.
Calculate your lead-to-customer rate
Your lead-to-customer rate is what percentage of generated leads become closed deals. This can be challenging to calculate if you don’t have a decent sample size of leads that have made their way through the sales cycle.
Most CRMs like SalesForce will have features that allow you to export this number as a report. Another way is to export a CSV of all closed deals over the past month, quarter, or year (the more time, the better) and divide that by the total number of leads collected over that same timeframe.
For example, if you collected 2500 leads in 2019 and 150 of them became customers, your lead-to-customer rate would be .06, or 6%.
Determine your average sales price
Unless you’re selling one fixed-price product, you’ll likely have variance in your deal costs. Use your CRM’s completed sales data to determine the average price of a closed deal.
Plug the numbers into this ROI formula
Once you’re confident you’ve got all the requisite data, you can plug them into this formula suggested by HubSpot:
[((number of leads x lead-to-customer rate x average deal cost) – cost or ad spend) ÷ cost or ad spend] x 100
If you’re not a math person, this will probably seem overwhelming. It’s not so bad if you take each part of the equation step-by-step. Let’s break it down with a real-world example.
Content ROI example
Say you’re the head of a marketing department for a guitar manufacturer. You’ve just published a well-researched and polished eBook on how to get started playing guitar.
You plan to use this asset as a top-of-funnel lead generation tool to collect email addresses and nurture leads to hopefully purchase one of your guitars.
The personnel cost of the employees who created the content was $4,000, your lead-to-customer rate is 14%, and the average cost of a sale is $1,000. You spend a total of $500 on PPC ads, social ads, and various promotions.
After six weeks, the asset has generated 350 leads. Utilizing the above formula, your equation would look like this:
[((350 x .14 x 1,000) – 4,500) ÷ 4,500] x 100 = $988
So over the past six weeks, the asset has generated roughly $988 in net revenue for your guitar manufacturing business. Of course, your lead-to-customer rate is always in flux, and there are a number of variables that will affect revenue. This is a ballpark figure, but still much more informative than no data at all.
Also keep in mind that the longer the asset performs, the more leads it will collect. Over time, the ROI will continue to grow.
So how do you know if this is a good ROI? Well, until you have other content to compare it against, you don’t. Consider this content your new benchmark.
For your next campaign, let’s say you take the content in the eBook and repurpose it into a short video course for beginner guitarists.
At the end of the day, the cost of producing the course is $9,000. But over the same six week period, the asset has generated a whopping 2,500 leads. Using the same formula above, the new ROI equation would look something like this:
[((2,500 x .14 x 1,000) – 9,000) ÷ 9,000] x 100 = $3,788
Clearly, budding guitar players respond better to video content. You now have a clear roadmap for what you need to be focusing on.
Some simple retroactive analysis on your content marketing efforts can save your organization from spinning its wheel on ineffective tactics. It takes some legwork to get an accurate picture of your content marketing ROI, but once you have a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t, the revenue-generating potential is significant.
Conduct this calculation often, especially after the content has been performing for a significant amount of time in the marketplace. The longer the time frame, the more accurate your ROI calculation will be.
More metrics that predict sales content success
ROI is the most important metric for content success, but there are other metrics that predict good ROI. Keeping in mind the rule of ten mentioned above, it’s a good idea to pick a few of these KPIs to track as they align with your content goals.
If your content is hosted on your site and searchable, SEO is something you’ll definitely want to be paying attention to.
Optimizing for search engines means more traffic. If your content is engaging, more traffic means more conversions, which means more leads and more deals. SEO is a massive discipline that warrants a much larger explanation, but a few simple questions you’ll always want to be asking are:
- What keywords is this content ranking for in search engines?
- Does my content match the intent behind these queries?
- How can I optimize this content to better align with search intent?
Finding out ranking keywords
The whole point of SEO is to make sure your content can be found by prospects searching for it. This generally means optimizing your content to include keywords or keyword phrases that encapsulate your target audience’s pain points or desires.
A quick way to discern how well you’re ranking for your target keywords is to open a private or incognito window in your browser and do a quick Google search. Enter in some keyphrases that your prospective audience might search for. If we were to continue the above guitar manufacturer example, that be phrases such as:
“How to play guitar for beginners”
“Beginner guitar course”
“How to play a C chord on guitar”
That last keyphrase isn’t explicitly searching for a beginner guitar course, but it is implying the person who’s searching is a beginner guitarist. That’s why it’s important to use SEO to discern intent. How can you meet your target audience where they are, even if they’re not exactly sure what to search for?
Perhaps you show up high in Google for these keywords, or perhaps you’re nowhere to be found. A more precise way to discover what keywords you’re ranking for is to use a tool like UberSuggest. Type in your domain and it reveals your top ranking pages, what keywords people are searching to get there, and suggestions for improvement.
Or, if you’ve got Google Analytics and Google Search Console configured on your site, you can actually see what specific words people are searching to get to your content. If you have a high bounce rate (people abandoning the content early), that’s a potential sign that the intent behind the search queries doesn’t match what you’re producing.
This may be a good opportunity to revise the content by altering the keyphrases or including more specific keywords that match the intent of your audience.
Understanding domain authority
Modern search engines have algorithms that assign an “authority” ranking to certain domains based on their reliability and consistently valuable content.
When these sites link back to you, it’s a signal to search engines that your content is likewise valuable. As such, your ranking authority increases with each of these “backlinks.”
As your content grows in popularity and people begin linking back to you as a resource, search engines serve you up to more searchers, perpetuating a cycle of success as even more backlinks are earned.
Engagement is a universal predictor of success. Whether you’re hosting assets on your website or sharing them via a branded microsite, tracking who views, accesses, downloads, and consumes your content is a key metric no matter what stage of the funnel you’re in.
Engagement is a fluid metric that often changes based on the type of content being analyzed. For an eBook, engagement might mean a download.
For a video, engagement might mean retaining an audience through the majority of the video’s duration. Whatever the context, engagement is almost always a predictor of success.
After all, a prospect that engages with your content is interested in what you’re saying and much more likely to progress down the funnel.
But tracking engagement is tricky and often unreliable, especially when you’re trying to track the user’s behavior over multiple systems or environments. One platform tells you when they visited your site, another tells you if they downloaded the asset, and another tells you if they opened any of your follow-up emails.
A good sales enablement solution will make shared content easily trackable and provide buyer engagement activity in real time. Furthermore, advances in Marketing AI technology will let you track content being used and personalized by your sales reps all the way through the sales cycle. It will automatically track all buyer/seller interactions around the shared pieces, and correlate any acceleration in deal energy that can be attributed to the piece of content.
In a complex B2B sales cycle, with many moving parts influencing the health of the deal, technology like this is critical if you want to accurately measure the impact of your sales and marketing content. Read more about buyer engagement and how to measure sales content effectiveness in some of our other posts.
SEE ALSO: Sales Content Effectiveness
This data can then be integrated with your CRM and tied to this user’s record. This makes tracking and logging user engagement effortless.
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Content marketing metrics by funnel location
At the beginning of this post, we talked about how the definition of content success changes drastically as you move between funnel stages. It’s unproductive to judge an asset in the bottom of the funnel by criteria for top-of-funnel content.
The lines between the funnel stages can get blurry when scrutinized closely, but generally speaking, the following are KPIs most often tied to funnel location:
Top of funnel metrics
- Web traffic
- Email list conversions
Middle of funnel metrics
- Demo or free trial requests
- Qualified leads
- Buyer Energy
Bottom of funnel metrics
- Up-sells or cross-sells
KPIs by content type
The reason email lists are such powerful assets for your organization is because it’s one of the few things you actually own. Almost all other databases of prospects are held captive by either a social media platform or some form of software. Therefore, having a direct line to your audience via marketing emails isn’t something to be overlooked.
Writing effective marketing emails is both an art and a science. People are increasingly wearied by marketing emails inundating their inbox, but if you’re offering truly valuable content, email is still a valid content marketing strategy.
Here are some of the email marketing terms you’ll want to dive into if you want to be effective:
- Opens – How many people (or what percentage of your recipients) opened your email. A high open rate is often indicative of a great subject line
- Clicks – How many people clicked any link in your email
- CTR (click-through rate) – How many people both opened and clicked through the call-to-action in your email. The true sign of a great marketing email lies in this metric
- Unsubscribes – How many people opted out of receiving your emails. Many email marketing platforms have exit surveys that users can take to give more insight into their reason for leaving
- Bounces – How many emails were unsuccessfully received by users in the database. A high bounce rate is a telltale sign of “dirty data.”
Web traffic doesn’t directly generate revenue, but it is the first step to conversions, which turn into leads, which turn into sales. Therefore, it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Simply put, web traffic is attention. What you do with that attention once it’s on the page is another topic altogether. In our low-attention-span instant-gratification world, getting people to pay any amount of attention to your content should be considered a win.
Web traffic is most easily discerned by Google Analytics or similar web analytics tools. Some terms you’ll want to familiarize yourself with as you dig deeper into your traffic are:
- Traffic sources – this represents where on the web your traffic is arriving from. Common sources are social media platforms, search engines, direct from the browser, ads, or referrals (backlinks from other sites)
- Session – The period of time a user is active on your site
- Bounce rate – A single-page session on your site, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests. Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions. A high bounce rate often indicates unengaging content or mismatched intent
- Pageview – A pageview is an instance of a page being loaded (or reloaded) in a browser. A high pageview count within one session means the user is engaging with other pages on your site.
These metrics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to web tracking and all that a tool like Google Analytics can do, but they’re a great place to start.
YouTube is the second most-used search engine in the world right now. By 2021, the average person will spend 100 minutes every day watching online videos (a 19% increase from 2019).
93% of companies claim they got a new customer because of video content.
It’s safe to say that video marketing is here to stay. If you’re going to dive into the world of video marketing, here are the most important metrics to track:
- Likes or positive reactions
- Dislikes or negative reactions
- Watch time
Webinars are excellent marketing channels for a few reasons:
- It’s a great way to engage live with your audience and answer questions
- Most of the content can be repurposed into other forms of content with little effort
- You can offer real-time calls-to-action on the webinar and convert multiple leads simultaneously
- Most webinar platforms offer in-depth metrics that help you understand how well your content is resonating with audiences.
These metrics include:
- Registrations – Most webinar registrations come with a promise of value or in exchange for a piece of content. The key to a high sign-up rate is a captivating webinar landing page with a clear path to register and how the webinar will enrich the lives of the attenders.
- Attendees – The amount of people who actually attended the webinar. Anything about 50-60% would generally be considered a success, but these numbers fluctuate based on audience size and industry.
- Attention – Many webinar tools like GotoMeeting come with built-in analytics that will determine how long the webinar window is in focus on the attendee’s screen. Meaning, if they’re minimizing your content, navigating away from the webinar, or just letting it play in the background, the dashboard will reflect that. You can even drill down into specific parts of the webinar that didn’t hold the attendees’ attention for ideas on what to cut or improve for next time.
- Survey results – Just about every webinar platform offers some sort of survey functionality. Not only are audience surveys a great way to break the ice before the webinar content beings, but depending on what questions you ask, you can also get some illuminating content ideas for the future.
- Conversions – Every webinar should have some sort of call-to-action, generally placed at the end of the content. It doesn’t need to be an aggressive hard-sell. It can be a nudge to download a specific asset or a free trial offer. Whatever your “lead magnet” is, you should set up a custom, trackable URL in Google Analytics to isolate the traffic coming from the webinar. Create a redirect link that’s specific to this call-to-action and send all traffic there as part of your offer. That way, you’ll be able to cross-reference any traffic or conversions to that page against your webinar registrations and better understand how the content performed.
eBook or other downloadable
Most assets like eBooks, one-pagers, or white papers are PDFs and therefore impossible to track engagement on after they’re initially downloaded. In essence, you’re flying blind.
With a tool like Accent Connect, you can set up microsites that allow you to not only track how a prospect engages with downloadable content, but even send over specifically relevant pieces of that content (like a page of an eBook, for example). Metrics on how long the prospect reads the piece are tracked and tied to their lead record in your CRM.
Automate your analysis
Tracking content marketing success is just the beginning of the sales cycle. How do you take that data gathered from your analysis and use it to make decisions and close more deals?
Look for AI-driven sales and marketing platforms that gather your CRM data and visualizes how your content effectiveness is driving your deals forward. Eliminates the busy work of trying to correlate content success with real revenue and helps your sales reps get back to actual selling.
To learn more about how Accent Technologies can help you not only optimize and distribute your content but also give your sales reps intelligent insights at a glance, contact our team today.
Accent Technologies is the first and only SaaS company to bring together Sales AI and Content Management in a true revenue enablement platform. We provide both sales and marketing with better visibility into the performance of their teams. This drives revenue through intelligent recommendations for complex sales scenarios, and provides the data for rich analytics that calculate buyer energy and power better coaching and forecasting for sales management. Learn more about our solutions or request a LIVE DEMO to see it in action.