Will content marketing help you achieve business goals?

I’d classify myself as in the “content marketing” space, although it can vary on a day-to-day basis (as can any job). I try to read stuff about it whenever I can, and I came across this post on ClickZ that was interesting, if for no other reason than this quote:

Most content marketers use engagement stats as a proxy for effectiveness: how many shares, how many clicks, how many tweets? But there’s no clear correlation. “Everyone is wrestling with this. A lot of work that’s going on right now is experimental,” Johnson says. “In the near term, they aren’t worrying about conversion.”

Engagement is easy to measure but difficult to match to business key performance indicators (KPIs), says David Brown, executive vice president at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing (MXM). “The gold standard is to connect content marketing to a business measure – not an engagement measure – such as a sale, a repeat sale, or loyalty. If you can only get to engagement, you have to create a bridge or proxy to a business measure. That’s possible, but takes significant analytics to create those correlations.”

I’ve talked about this a little before — first off, what metrics should you be using? and then secondly, can you turn social and content into legitimate revenue? Both seem like “Holy Grail” questions of this space. Let’s run through a few steps.

1. Content marketing seemed to explode because of the associated concept of inbound marketing — namely, you offer content that people are searching for, and they’ll come into you as leads.

2. Whenever anything gets a big following, other people start to rush into the space. The same thing happened with social media. Everyone is seemingly trying to do content marketing these days — that means a lot of things, but predominantly it means there’s a lot more content out there for potential sales leads to be consuming. Does that mean the “content editor” is actually more important than the “content marketer?” It might, and we could write a whole ‘nother post about that idea. But it does mean you need to find a way for your content to stand out.

3. This is the confusing part for many, I think. When you read a really interesting article in The New Yorker, let’s say, do you actively think about the article and then go do something related to it? Or do you nod and say “That was interesting” (and then maybe use it as a jump-off at a happy hour?). Probably most people are the latter. So why are we assuming great content is necessarily going to push someone into a sales funnel? It might, yes, but the conversion rate isn’t going to that high.

I love the idea of content marketing — and how creation of what people want, as opposed to simply “the traditional funnel,” is driving the experience of customer acquisition. I just wonder if content marketing isn’t linked enough to business goals, and that’s making it harder to really upsell the idea to the C-Suite.

There’s this idea, too, that content marketing’s true business goal is brand awareness/acknowledgement, and that may be true — but if that’s true, then you’re back in the space that digital has had problems with all along. When digital emerged as a force, the idea was that there would be tangible tracking — think Google Analytics — which is in opposition to TV advertising, which is a little bit of a junk science, all things considered. Problem is, even though it’s hard to understand conversions from “traditional” marketing plays, the numbers are typically higher in a TV space than an online space, and big numbers appeal to senior leadership, in general.

What do you think: is content marketing linked enough to business goals and KPIs? 

Ted Bauer