Content marketing is more important than ever as we head into 2017. That’s why so many organizations—an impressive 75 percent, per Curata research—plan to increase the amount of money they are investing in content marketing. It speaks to the overwhelming effectiveness of content marketing, despite some companies’ struggle to measure the value and ROI of their content marketing efforts.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers on average sink about 28 percent of their overall budget into content marketing, creating the blog posts, articles, gated assets, videos, social media, and other content that attracts prospects and bolsters sales pipelines. The most effective B2B marketers allocate 42 percent of their budget, and the most sophisticated/mature allocate 46 percent. B2C organizations, while slightly lower, still spend 25 percent of their budgets on content.
That is a large chunk of budget devoted to what can feel like a leap of faith. Content marketing is all about the long game—not necessarily immediate gains—and measurement can be difficult without the right tools. Companies who aren’t investing in content marketing struggle to compete, yet many business leaders find it difficult to justify allocating so much budget to something that can be hard to quantify.
The onus is on marketing teams to prove that their efforts are worth it. This comes down to providing cold, hard data.
Ungated Content Is the Way to Customer’s Hearts
These days customers avoid a hard sell like it’s MySpace, and rather than turning to salespeople for information, they research products and services online by themselves. They investigate multiple companies and rely on reviews to form their opinions—well before they talk to a salesperson, if they talk to one at all. It’s possible for a potential lead to have spent hours mulling over marketing collateral before making a buying decision. In fact, today, 80 percent of customers’ buying decisions happen before they ever interact with sales, primarily by consuming ungated content.
This should give pause to marketers who rely on tracking customer sales cycles through a traditional sales funnel using marketing automation software such as Marketo, Pardot, or Eloqua. The vast majority of marketing content consumption today happens long before a potential customer ever fills out a form. Ungated content is what potential leads use to form an opinion about a business—not necessarily the webinars, whitepapers, and ebooks hiding behind forms.
All this ungated content allows companies to forge deeper connections with customers and build trust and brand awareness, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, for most marketers to measure its impact on the business. Therein lies the challenge.
Ungated Content Is Where We Invest the Most
Blogs are the number one content type produced by both B2B and B2C marketers, with eight in 10 respondents from each group reporting their production, according to Conductor. They’re easy to read, easy to share, and (relatively) easy to produce. But these strengths are also a weakness.
Because marketing automation platforms are lead-focused, they’re only set up to track customers once they’ve gotten to the point of filling out a form to access gated content. Because they’re ungated, blogs are the content format that’s measured the least by content marketers.
Gated Content Is Easier to Measure
Marketing convention says that you if slap a form on a piece of content and require people to register for it, you’ll “get your money’s worth” by gaining access to high-quality leads you can immediately progress down the sales funnel. And it’s a trackable lead, so you can determine how effective a piece of content was in generating leads and revenue.
(Learn how to effectively track the impact of a marketing campaign throughout the larger portion of the sales funnel using Salesforce, starting with a Lead all the way through to a closed Opportunity.)
While this does work, gated content can also be risky. Most people know that when they download your freebie, they are potentially committing to a future of emails and phone calls from this day forward. They know they aren’t getting something for nothing. While people who fill out a form are probably warmer leads, many won’t fill it out at all, and most won’t share something hiding behind a form. Beyond that, if your content doesn’t meet their expectations after they went through the trouble of filling out a form and dealing with the subsequent solicitations, good luck trying to win them back.
People aren’t as apprehensive about ungated content. They can take their time to learn about your organization and your products without the pressure of a sales pitch. If you provide high value in your ungated content, your audience will be much more willing to hand over their contact information when you share gated content. They’ll trust that what you are offering is worth it.
That said, if you’re like the majority of marketers, lead generation is the most important KPI for your organization. So if you don’t gate content, how do you measure its effectiveness?
The Struggle Is Real When Measuring Ungated Content’s Performance
Most content marketers aren’t doing a great job measuring the performance of their ungated content. They tend to focus on vanity metrics, such as unique visitors, page views, subscribers, downloads, or social shares. But all the “likes” and “shares” in the world don’t matter if they don’t turn into qualified leads. While vanity metrics aren’t completely irrelevant, they are worthless if you can’t connect them to lead generation, the sales pipeline, and ultimately, the revenue your content marketing generates.
To quantify your content marketing effectively, you need to track other metrics. These include how much time customers stay with your content, which pieces of content have the most engagement, which channels perform the best, which influencers drive the most traffic, and most importantly, which content leads to conversions—and ultimately generates the most revenue. Unfortunately, such a deep dive into the data exceeds the capabilities of most content marketing platforms’ analytics.
Many modern marketing organizations already have the data they need to track the effectiveness of their content marketing, but it is siloed in different systems, such as a content management system (CMS), marketing automation platform (MAP), or Excel spreadsheet, making it extremely difficult to synthesize and analyze.
New Technology Allows You to Easily Wrangle the Data
Technology is essential to collate all the relevant data from its siloes and make sense of it. That’s where content marketing platforms come into play.
Understanding how each piece of your content affects the bottom line requires a content marketing platform that can pull data from disparate data silos such as your content management system (CMS), customer relationship management (CRM) software, marketing automation platform (MAP), editorial calendar, web analytics, and social all together into a central data warehouse.
The best systems allow you to break down content by multiple different views and attributes so you can see how a given piece of content is performing anywhere in the funnel, whether gated or not. They offer full visibility into how your efforts are impacting the bottom line (Not all CMPs can do this).
An inability to measure—specifically ungated content—creates a blind spot for many organizations. Overhauling how you think about and conduct content marketing measurement offers a huge opportunity to drive more lead generation, and to clearly understand every piece of content marketing’s impact on revenue.
Once you’ve connected all these data silos, you can now answer questions such as:
- What is the total value of all opportunities my (ungated) infographic helped generate?
- Which blog post drives the most Google search traffic and, ultimately, results in revenue?
- What are the most popular content topics consumed by director-level employees at a specific named account?
- Which content interactions resulted in a closed won opportunity?
- Which content most heavily influences the renewal opportunities of my SaaS product?
- Which content accelerates the sales cycle the most? Which protracts it the most?
- Across the thousands of pieces of content we’ve ever published, what’s their overall influence of revenue?
If you’re interested in learning more about how to measure your content marketing, download The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics eBook.
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