Valuing your Content Marketing

Creating effective digital marketing content is not as easy as many businesses believe. And as such, we still see a ‘Spray and Pray’ marketing approach, whereby content is placed anywhere and everywhere in the hope that somebody notices. They won’t! You need to be accurately delivering your marketing messages directly to the heart of your target audience.

Many a senior executive or small business owner is being told that they need to be on social media, writing a blog, or sending out an email because ‘people still read e-mails’. So, they might dutifully tweet random thoughts now and then, or post a quote on Facebook as an afterthought. But the reasoning and goal behind each content piece are not being established. It’s simply not enough to do it for the sake of doing it.

If your content doesn’t relate directly back to company objectives, the target audience and the customer buying cycle, they are just random activities that are way off their mark.

This is unfortunately often what I see as part of my content delivery and production review—Step 4 in my digital marketing audit process. What it comes down to is a lack of insight into understanding the goal of each individual piece of content. It’s asking these questions every time you create content: ‘What do I want them to do after they read it?’ and ‘What is its purpose?’.

It’s not about how much you produce, but more about establishing a pathway to your company website. Whether it is a blog, an Instagram pic or an EDM (electronic direct mail), it needs to generate leads and re-engage existing customers.

For example, a business blog goal could be to initiate and foster customer engagement. This can then be measured through reader comments. In addition, you may want the blog to improve your search engine results through its use of keywords, or generate new leads online by funneling traffic to a conversion page – again very specific goals that can be readily tracked.

Your content doesn’t need to be a direct sales pitch—in fact it’s better if it’s not—but it does need to be engaging, authentic and relevant to your core business in some way.

Spiderweb to Attract; Metrics to Track

A common but effective analogy is the comparison of a website to a spiderweb­. A spider doesn’t actively hunt its prey but sets up a system to capture them automatically. In the same way, all marketing content needs to drive as many ‘leads’ as possible to a company’s website.

Lead generation may take time, and just like the spider, you will need to be patient. Short-term, an increase in traffic, likes and retweets may be nice, but they are simply the churn within the tool you are using that will hopefully lead to the ultimate goal of a sale, or service request.

Long-term success for your content marketing involves the growth of your customer relationships and ongoing engagement. It may actually be an email subscription as the result of reading a blog that will lead to an eventual sale six months down the track.

It’s doubtful you will see results in a week or even a month but over time consistently publishing quality content will make a positive difference to your ROI (return on investment).

Measure the Value

Last blog, I wrote about the importance of data analysis in gaining a factual overview of what aspects of digital marketing is and isn’t working. And obviously, there is a lot of crossover between content and data analysis in terms of understanding the performance of the different marketing channels, website pages, blogs etc.

To measure lead generation effectively you need people to register their details before they access your content. You can also measure leads generated after content has been read. Using a lead generation form, or browser cookies for both ways will help you understand whether your digital content marketing is making financial sense.

Sales metrics using a customer database, such as Salesforce can also be used to crosscheck whether a customer has read certain content pieces, and allows you to assign a value to the content that helped drive the sale.

Committed to Content

There are many companies in Australia that do content marketing to engage their customers incredibly well. The likes of Boost Juice, Lorna Jane and Black Milk clothing are just a few who invest heavily in social media – telling their stories, seeking opinions and proactively encouraging customer discussion.

Original and compelling content is becoming more and more important in light of the recent changes Facebook has made to its news feed algorithm. Businesses and brands who use ‘engagement bait’ – posts that contain ‘tag’, ‘like’, ‘share’, or ‘comment’ within their content to encourage users to engage with their posts will be penalised, i.e. seen less and less.

Customers now need to engage with you without prompting, and that only means one thing…lifting your marketing content game. You need to help solve your potential customers’ problems so they will become fans and influencers for your products and brand.

A real commitment to your digital marketing content is necessary. In my opinion, many companies lack sophistication in their approach to content generation in Australia compared to their international counterparts. It comes back to a lack of understanding, direction and lack of knowing what is required or how to approach it.

For small and medium-sized businesses, I admit it can be a lot tougher. They don’t have the skilled writers who can dedicate the time to research, create and distribute two to three quality posts a week.

The problem is that producing lightweight content (quick and easy to produce) is typically cheaper but has less impact and cut-through, when compared to original, well-researched content that is more share-worthy and engaging.

Getting Back on Track

An audit of your marketing content is the best way to get back on the pathway to identifying whether it is really lining up with your company objectives and goals.

You can do a content audit yourself – there are plenty of blogs that meticulously guide you through the process and provide templates.

However, after the data collection is completed, it can take major resources to analyse it correctly as part of a complete digital marketing review.  Bringing in an expert is the better way to go.

They can help identify content gaps and advise on more effective content tagging and structure, and ensure effective metrics are in place.

I usually find a major overhaul is not needed, just a few tweaks here and there to what isn’t working, while regaining a focus on the aim of each content piece.

A major benefit of doing this for marketing managers/executives and small business owners is being able to justify marketing spend – determining its value and therefore share of the budget against other lead generation avenues such as paid advertising.

It’s about marketing with intent…and leaving the ‘spray and pray’ approach firmly in the past.