Content marketing sure is in fashion at the moment. But lots of people are, perhaps understandably, reluctant to follow fashion for fashion's sake.
Senior managers in particular often want to know – beyond the oft-repeated marketing buzzwords – what demonstrable results they can get from investing in content, and how this can all be measured. They're looking for clear impacts on the business' bottom line.
There's an ongoing debate around content marketing and return-on-investment (ROI): basically, we're all doing it, but few people really know how to measure it's value – or even if it's full value can be measured.
We thought we'd use our latest article to explore this subject in more detail: can content marketing ROI be fully measured? And if so, how?
If you've ever wanted to take the plunge with content but hesitated because you couldn't answer the question, 'How will it make me money?' (whether that question came from yourself or your boss!) then this article's for you.
Creating Content: The Costs
The starting point of evaluating any investment is working out what it costs. Costs always seem to be easier to define than value, and that's generally the case when it comes to content, too.
If you create content in-house, your costs will include things like staff salaries and overheads. Depending on the content type, you may also need to consider factors such as distribution and promotional costs, as well as any software you use to create and share your content.
If you task a Content Marketing agency with creating your content, the costs are even more black-and-white. Here at Wyzowl, for example, we charge fixed prices for content creation, from planning all the way through to distribution. You're given a simple, predictable, one-off bill which covers the total package.
As we've already touched upon, calculating the 'value' of content is where things start to get a little foggy.
The good news is that there are obvious things that you can measure. You can use analytics programs to understand where your traffic comes from – meaning you can measure content-driven inbounds, evaluate which particular pieces are creating interest and driving traffic, and understanding how customers behave once on your website.
Using tools like this, you could, in theory, work out how many qualified orders each piece has generated and – by subtracting your costs from the value of these orders – have a pretty scientific ROI 'value' for each piece of content. Of course, that's only in theory.
You see, like anything else in business and marketing, it isn't quite as simple as it first appears!
The full value of content is much more sophisticated and difficult to calculate than this. Principally, this is because content has other, holistic benefits which can't really be quantified – it builds familiarity, relationship and trust among your audience, which can't be defined numerically.
This approach also carries a pretty naïve view of the way viewers consume content, and exactly how it informs their purchase decisions. It assumes that customers view content and – without delay, having viewed it just once – head to your website and place an order. Sure, sometimes that might happen, but generally, forget about it. It just doesn't work like that.
This was covered in an awesome Slideshare presentation put together by Moz's Rand Fishkin. In it, Rand explained that, while many companies expect to see a direct and immediate link between content and sales, that's generally an over-simplified and unrealistic aim.
In reality, as Rand explains, good content engages your audience. It encourages them to check out other content you've produced, and builds a sense of trust and familiarity between them and your brand. Eventually, when they need your product, you'll be in a highly favourable position to secure their business because you laid the groundwork with that initial investment in content.
Content is forever
Another awesome feature of content – which makes it hard to gauge ROI – is that it has tremendous long-term value to your brand.
Content doesn't disappear or diminish in value over time – it remains out there on the web, waiting to be discovered by potential customers. It's lasting and permanent, which means that – although you pay only once to create and share it – you can actually benefit from awesome content far into the future.
As businesses ramp up their focus on content marketing, we're all gaining an increased understanding of it's value, and how we can get a return on our investment. It's not always as immediate and simple as some businesses expect - but we believe the benefits of content are holistic, long-term and very, very real. It may take a little while for the investment to pay off, but the numbers tell us that - eventually - it does, and handsomely, too.
If you're thinking of taking the plunge into content marketing, why not get in touch for a chat? We've recently launched our new Content Marketing Agency and would love to discuss how content can help grow your business, driving traffic, generating leads and developing engagement between you and your future customers!