Five Non-Fluffy Ways to Measure Your Content Marketing Efforts

November 17, 2015

cotton candy

Quiz time: What do you do when your boss schedules a content marketing face-to-face with the executive team?

A. Quickly schedule an offsite you absolutely must attend.

B. Gather your confidants at lunchtime so they can tell you how awesome marketing is looking lately.

C. Tally likes and shares so you can talk about how popular your content has become.

D. Put together hard proof that your efforts are making the company money.

If you can honestly answer “D,” you’re well ahead of many of your content marketing colleagues. No matter how good you feel about the work you do or how popular your company memes have become, ultimately all your Big Rocks, pithy infographics, and lively webinars have to pay their way at the bottom line. When talking to your C-suite, replace feel-good stories with hard facts and you’ll get their attention. Try filling their heads with fluff, and you’ll find yourself facing questions you can’t answer.

Here are five ways to prepare for that meeting:

Focus on relevant engagement.

Popularity is no great measure of content success, as Ann Handley points out. Rather than talking about how viral your blog post went, dig deeper to find out who is sharing, liking, and commenting on it. If your company sells business software, but the people watching your cute panda videos are all under the age of 15, the mania you create is meaningless. Your CEO wants to know about the panda fans most likely to convert.

Show how you create new pipeline with non-branded keyword traffic.

I’m not an SEO guy, but I can tell you this: Search engines exist for one reason – to connect people who have questions to relevant answers. Any new search engine algorithm, no matter how complex, has that goal at its core, so when your great content shows up in a search, it’s no accident. It means you’ve done your keyword homework, researched your audience, and spent time crafting relevant stories that meet their needs, wherever they may be on their buying expedition.

Does your blog reach potential customers before they’ve thought about your brand – or were even aware of your company’s existence? That means you are creating new pipeline, growing your customer base, and adding indisputable value. Tell your CEO about that, and she’ll listen.

Demonstrate your ability to influence social conversations.

When you promote content on LinkedIn or Twitter, what happens? Do you see increases in referral traffic? Which social network drives the most traffic to your latest Big Rock, and what works best: Organic or paid? Light humor, or thought leadership? Locally customized stories, or culturally generic ones? Show your C-suite that you’re on top of these questions – and that you’re focusing your efforts and scaling where you see the most value – and they’ll show you some healthy respect. Trust me on this.

Get sales on your side.

According to Marketo and ReachForce, sales departments spend half of their time on unproductive prospecting, ignoring up to 80% of marketing leads. If this is happening in your organization, you can make a big difference by building some bridges.

Start by defining terms. What constitutes a marketing qualified lead, for example? It may sound simple, but if the goal of your Big Rock is out of step with the goals of your sales team, the leads it produces may never see the light of day. On the other hand, when you’ve successfully aligned goals and lead scoring, your sales team is much more likely to keep you in the loop as to how often and how quickly that Big Rock is contributing to deals. That information is gold for your C-suite meeting.

Offer a true pipeline picture.

Content fuels your sales pipeline. The trick is to demonstrate how, which can be a complicated process. That customer who just signed off on a million-dollar refrigeration contract may have learned about your company from his warehouse manager, who ran a search and read a blog post. What followed may have involved a combination of eBooks, trade show appearances, emails, and sales meetings that finally added up to a profitable deal.

If you are using a good marketing automation platform, you can begin to track all those touches and determine how your content directly contributes to the marketing and sales pipeline over time. It takes time and persistence, but those are the numbers your C-suite wants to hear about.

Measuring the bottom-line value of your content may not be the most creative thing you do today, but it does wonders for keeping your team of brilliant content creators employed. Fluff has its place – marshmallows, pancakes and dandelions come to mind. But remember, this is business – even when you happen to be having the time of your life.

Time to prove your impact on revenue. Rise to the attribution challenge with The Sophisticated Marketer’s Crash Course in Metrics & Analytics.