Much has been said about ROI (return on investment) of content in recent times. As the world jumps on to the content bandwagon and gets past initial experimentation, the ‘value’ question begins to get inevitable and rightfully so!
More and more marketers want to understand how their marketing dollars translate into business…and that is where things start to get tricky.
For an asset that is created to influence the very top of the path of the purchase funnel, it is difficult to devise a clear-cut measurement formula. Content is rarely the last click before the purchase and it might or might not be the first… So how then should one go about justifying the case for content?
Before getting to ROI, the basic product understanding needs to be in place. Marketers need to clearly answer three questions:
What am I selling?
Some offerings are just not suited to convert through content while some fit in beautifully.
For example, content plays an important role in influencing the purchase decisions of potential buyers in the consumer technology ecosystem, however majority of these buyers end up buying their gadgets (phones/laptops) at physical stores. In such cases, online sales would not be an accurate indicator of ROI.
On the other hand, if you look at e-tail (online retail), content plays an imperative role in the final purchase. I can recall numerous times when I have taken a liking to fashion content which resulted in a purchase provided pricing is was not a barrier. Even better if there was retargeting involved.
What are the KPI’s that will help measure my content performance?
A measurement framework needs to be set up specific to your product, which will then guide you to choose the appropriate KPI’s. Based on your marketing goals the KPI’s must be chosen carefully as they will be key in determining the efficacy and efficiency of your content plans.
Is my content in line to achieve these KPI’s and thereby the brands overall goals?
A piece of content talking about the latest fashion trends would not necessarily translate into a sale unless you have a related and compelling call to action associated with it.
Having established the basics, there are a few of ways of measurement that might fit the bill:
1. Measure direct conversions
This is the most straightforward way of measuring your content’s efficiency in reaching out to the relevant people and making an impact on the bottom-line. Any content resulting in immediate conversion would classify under this bucket. Conversion here could be leads, sign-ups, whitepaper downloads or event purchases.
This method works best with e-commerce brands which rely on content to convert and have carefully crafted strategies to ensure conversion goals a met. Also, some B2B brands measure the impact of the content on the audience by seeing how many of the readers went one step ahead to download their white papers or signed up for their newsletter with the hope of a conversion somewhere down the line. That said, being the last click before conversion is a rare phenomenon, as content by nature is not meant to bring in immediate returns.
2. Attribution modelling
This is a more realistic and sophisticated method of measuring ROI as it recognises the flaws in last click attribution. It gives a certain weightage to each and every critical step in the consumer journey in order to attribute a value to its contribution towards returns. However, since this requires marketers to be certain about the role/ weightage of each and every click at each step of the consumer journey, this method has not gained much popularity in this side of the world yet.
As an indirect means of measuring return, it is one of the most import factors in determining the overall success of any content plan. While most content is created with this hope of going viral, only one per cent makes it to that league. For all those who do not, it is important to understand the nuances of what worked and what did not; which pieces of your content got the readers hooked and which did not. Ultimately, engaged time and repeat visitors are a fantastic indication that your content is building relationships and helping you achieve your marketing objectives.
This is the metric that tells you the audience’s reaction to what you had to say and should not be taken lightly.
Engagement could be measured by simply looking at the analytics on time on page or could go a step deeper to see the likes/ shares/ repeat visits/ next actions from audiences post consumption of content.
I am a strong believer in test and learn and I believe no content plan should be implemented without web analytics. Without analytics you are aiming in the dark with the hope that your audience will like what you have to say.
4. Soft measures like brand lift
Marketers understand the importance of this better than anyone else. It is indicative of the brand health and its potential to do business in the days to come. It measures how people think about you in relation to your marketing objectives.
These are conducted in the form of surveys done with a control/ exposed group in order to determine the shit in brand metrics (such as affinity) for audiences exposed to your content. They give a clear sense of how audiences are influenced by your content overall. However, these come with a drawback since these are point-in-time studies and are expensive to conduct on a regular basis.
5. Other indirect measures
Depending on the overall goals, marketers can also look at other indicators such as unique visits/repeat visits/social sharing etc. Before you do that, be sure to know how these metrics help to influence the overall consumer journey.
In the end it all boils down to how well thought through your content strategy is. Brands who have a clear cut objective and KPI’s for their content are bound to achieve much greater success in the long run.