Measuring return on investment (ROI) is a sensible thing to do when you have to allocate scarce resources with constantly tight budgets. But in an era when no corner of an organisation is immune from demonstrating the value of budget spend, content marketers often wrestle with effectively measuring ROI and attributing what they do to successful business outcomes.
Measurement is not the enemy
Former agency executive and bestselling author Andrew Davis, a thought leader in content marketing, believes the ability to measure its effectiveness is critical to its success, but he also believes marketers should cut themselves some slack.
“At the very high level [of marketing], marketers can increase the size of the market, but we’ve become a bit timid [about articulating that]. Marketers have this unbelievable and uncanny ability to inspire people to buy the things they sell,” Davis says.
He adds that measurement is not the antithesis of the marketer’s art, nor does it need to be a complicated process.
“Even at a very granular level, I think marketers have a real problem understanding the differ-ence between reporting on the right things and measuring the right things. At the end of the day it boils down to making very simple assumptions.”
Davis is concerned that in trying to demonstrate ROI some marketers find themselves caught in an unforgiving reporting and measurement loop and eventually lose sight of what they are trying to achieve. And he’s not just pointing the finger at others.
“I find myself spending hours analysing reports on all sorts of stuff and wondering what they’re telling me,” he says.
“You can very easily compile a 10-page report that shows all of the things you’ve done, and even pokes at the impact it’s had, but you’re doing yourself a real disservice if you aren’t wondering how you can tie it to revenue. If you start with a really simple assumption, like every blog I post is making an impact on the revenue we generate, then you will actually start reporting on the right things.”
Seeing value beyond the sales
There’s no doubt content marketing presents its own distinct challenges when it comes to meas-uring ROI. The most obvious one is that there is no direct correlation between tactics and reve-nue. What if, for example, you are providing content for a retail channel and your job is to create demand in the marketplace but you’re not directly selling the product? How do you quantify that contribution?
Davis says it is not unreasonable for a marketing team to incorporate assumptions in its ROI calculations. If the assumption is that content marketing impacts revenue this can be legitimately incorporated in an ROI document based on overall revenue.
“Content marketing can have a huge impact on fostering the relationship with existing clients and customers,” he explains.
“Every time you target and win a new niche you need to have an ongoing strategy that’s de-signed to foster that relationship, up-sell or cross-sell those clients, as well as find your next customer and client.”
Davis says research can ensure that content marketing tactics remain relevant and well targeted.
“The hardest part of marketing today is trying to figure out what to stop doing so you can start doing something that has a bigger impact,” he says.
“We need to stop doing a lot of the things that are burning our marketing energy, whether it’s dollars or resources or time, and reinvest in smarter research so the stuff we do execute has a much greater impact.”
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