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March 25, 2015

Editor's Note: This post was contributed by Alicianne Rand, VP Marketing, NewsCred

I joined NewsCred almost four years ago as the first marketing hire. With no team and very little budget, we needed to get creative with our marketing. More importantly, as a content marketing software company, we needed to prove that we were amazing content marketers ourselves. If we weren’t leading the pack, how would our customers? We had to practice what we preached.

We started from the bottom -- literally, with no blog and zero followers. But, over the past couple of years, we’ve worked tirelessly and have made a ton of progress (mostly thanks to our kick ass Managing Editor and Social Strategist). By 2015, we grew to 64,000 subscribers and 100,000 Twitter followers. Even more exciting, we’ve been relentless about tracking metrics and connecting everything we do to revenue. By being disciplined about our KPIs and tracking our content through the entire buyer’s journey, we’ve proven that content marketing is critical to the success of our business in growing brand awareness, driving conversions and closing more deals. For example, we know that….

  • In 2014 alone, our content directly influenced over $72M in customer lifetime value!
  • Leads that have engaged with our content are twice as likely to accept a meeting with us.
  • Once these prospects become customers, 41% have a higher renewal rate, 33% are more likely to be upsold, 24% have higher MRR than our average customers.

So, what are we doing behind the scenes?

Register for our upcoming webinar: Content Marketing ROI: A NewsCred & LinkedIn Case Study on Thursday, March 26 at 10am PT to learn what has made our LinkedIn efforts effective.

In the meantime, here are 5 tips that we’ve learned along our journey:

1. Know what you want to achieve

We ask ourselves a series of questions that keep measurement simple and make sure we are always on track.

  • Is our content reaching the right audience? Our goal is to grow brand awareness with our target audience, measured by growth in social followers, traffic, and social engagement.
  • Are the right people engaging with our content? We don’t necessarily want more people but the right people. This means growing the number of influencers engaging with our content (ie: decision makers and people meaningful to our sales team).
  • Is our content converting? This involves tracking total subscribes to our blog, subscribers that convert to leads, and the percentage of people that convert from our blog to our main website.
  • Is our content driving the business forward? How many blog subscribes convert to actual leads and how does this trend over time? What is the conversion rate to opportunity stage and deal? And, for every sales deal and customer, how many (and which) pieces of content influence the customer journey?

2. Build a sustainable content mix

We’ve learned that the fastest way to scale the quality and quantity of our publishing is to utilize a mix of custom, licensed, and original content. This diversified strategy has allowed us to increase our publishing cadence without sacrificing quality. For example, in April 2014, we started publishing 10 articles per week to our blog  (previously, we published 2 - 5 articles a week) and standardized a cadence on our social channels. The increase in publishing cadence of both licensed and original content boosted our social traffic by 60% and increased our social shares by 2.6X. Additionally, we also found that licensed content cost 50% less but yielded the exact same page views as original content as well as 2X the social shares!

3. A/B test like crazy

We are constantly experimenting to figure out what works and what doesn’t. In the past year we’ve learned some interesting things:

  • Digestible content works: In our newsletter outreach, our top 2 posts were infographics.
  • Superlative language motivates: 4 of our top 10 articles had headlines with words like: "top," "best," "most.”
  • Know your audience: 35% of top 20 articles have the mention of "content marketing" or "content marketers.”
  • Stats matter: 70% of top 10 articles have numbers in the headline.
  • Stay familiar: 25% of top 20 articles have a brand name mentioned in the headline like VICE, BuzzFeed, Nike, and Red Bull.

4. Leverage LinkedIn for conversions

On LinkedIn we post twice a day, 5 - 7 days per week. We’ve found that high value content (whitepapers, webinars, etc.) works really well in driving conversions on a number of fronts:

  • Quality: LinkedIn Sponsored Updates yields higher quality and value leads than Google Adwords. 60% of leads are Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) vs 20% coming from Google Adwords.
  • Costs: LinkedIn Sponsored Updates has a 20% lower cost per name (CPN) generated than native advertising and 75% less CPN than Google Adwords.
  • ROI: Every dollar invested in LinkedIn Sponsored Updates yields more than $17 in revenue, almost 6x the ROI of Adwords.
  • Organic Reach: Our unsponsored posts now receive 4.2x more views, indicating that we’re extending our brand’s reach and influence and establishing NewsCred as a resource for marketers.

5. Focus on reaching the right people, not just more people

As a metrics obsessed company, we leverage data-driven insights to help inform our decisions at every step of the marketing process. However, as we started to scale our content marketing practice, we became acutely aware that the metrics we were tracking (page views, uniques, shares, engaged time), were not truly connecting our top of the funnel content activities with our middle of the funnel demand generation strategies. We knew that people were reading and sharing our blog content, but how were these activities impacting our sales numbers? How could we speed up middle of the funnel conversions?

We set out on a mission to fix this problem. Our solution? Build it. After months of work, NewsCred recently announced the launch of Audience Insights, the first analytics suite that enables brands to see real people behind their content marketing efforts and build a 360-degree picture of the entire content journey.

Through NewsCred Audience Insights, we’re able to understand who’s engaging with our brand and our competitors, then target the people who matter most to us. We believe that the most successful content marketers don’t just strive to reach more people, they strive to reach the right people. These insights have enabled us to build smarter social selling campaigns. For example, we sent a prospect who was engaging with our competitor’s content a personalized package in the mail. And.. it worked!

Every day we answer questions from marketers and entrepreneurs who are just getting started with their content marketing strategy. They want to know how we scaled so quickly and what we learned along the way. Our advice is to be consistent, measure everything, iterate your strategy based on what is working for your brand – and know that all of these aspects rely on each other. As technology changes, the role of the modern marketer is evolving to include content creation, data analysis, and customer service. By having a strategy for content creation and measurement in place, you’ll be equipped to meet the demands of the modern marketer.

Want more insight into how NewsCred defines ROI and measures impact on the LinkedIn platform? Register for our upcoming webinar today: