Blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, guides, webinars, case studies, videos: the content marketing opportunities available to modern enterprises are abundant.
But there is such a thing as too much choice and, though marketers have access to an increasingly diverse array of channels, optimising return on investment (ROI) remains elusive. It's no surprise that as many as 39% believe proving ROI is one of their biggest challenges.
So how do you get the best bang for your marketing buck? By making your content achieve its full potential and finding better ways to measure its success.
Optimising content marketing ROI
1. Upcycle existing content
When a blog post, whitepaper, or any other form of written content performs well, you'll probably be tempted to simply continue writing blogs on similar topics, using analogous keywords. Subscribing to the age-old adage of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
But the key to extracting maximum value from your initial investment is to take that piece of content and think about how it can be applied to additional formats and channels.
For instance, if you have an ebook that’s full of useful advice for new and existing clients, why not turn it into an on-demand, step-by-step webinar? Alternatively, you could pull out individual snippets of information and create a series of short videos based on the insights they provide or host a podcast on an important topic.
You could even consider creating bespoke gifs or slideshows using the most eye-catching statistics and sharing them on relevant social media channel. That way, you can increase awareness, trust, and interest in your products or services in a way that’s easier to digest and better suited to modern sensibilities. Just remember to include a link back to the original: aside from the SEO benefits, this gives potential customers the option of delving even deeper into a particular subject at their discretion.
In addition, review your existing content to see what's worked in the past. Adapt your best performing pieces, ensuring the information contained within is accurate and relevant, and re-promote it on your marketing channels.
Repurposing or upcycling content in this way is quicker and easier than starting from scratch. It enables you to stay relevant, and, crucially, is more cost-effective. And, if you choose your keywords carefully, your blog posts, whitepapers, and other material will continue driving traffic to your website and generate leads for years to come.
2. Ungate key content
In a recent post, we examined the relative merits of gated and ungated content. We concluded that this doesn’t have to be an ‘either or’ decision; the best marketing strategies make use of both approaches.
Gating content is a great way of identifying prospects. But it’s not great for the user experience. Worse, it can act as a barrier between that excellent piece of long-form content you spent so much time and effort creating, and your audience. So, if a particular piece of content is failing to drive traffic and justify your initial investment, it’s probably time to ungate it.
Typically, this is achieved by turning it into a pillar page that can be accessed directly from your website. Now your audience can benefit from your expert insight without having to hand over their personal information for the privilege.
Once your content has been ungated, it can also be indexed by search engines. Alongside referrals, email, social media, and those who arrive on your site directly, this adds organic traffic to the list of channels guiding people towards your expert content.
Ungating content isn't an automatic guarantee of success. But it does open your content up to a wider audience.
3. Use customer stories creatively
Case studies have been a cornerstone of B2B content marketing for a long time. Objective, real-world customer success stories provide the proof you need to back up your claims of industry expertise and demonstrate your credibility.
Unsurprisingly, 73% of B2B marketers continue to use case studies in their wider marketing strategy. Yet, in order to keep up to date with the changing attitudes and behaviours of their target audience, forward-thinking organisations should find new ways to leverage customer success stories.
Experiment with video case studies. They offer an alternative way to showcase the value of your products or services in a more authentic way. And, as a visual medium, they better suit the type of content many buyers like to engage with.
You could also consider conducting an interview instead of asking clients to participate in a traditional case study. The answers and anecdotes you receive can then be turned into a blog post, highlighting their experiences, with relevant quotes pulled out and shared on social media. This approach allows you to extract the pertinent information in a less invasive way.
Other tactics you can use include:
- Inviting customers to write guest posts on your blog
- Using customer data to conduct in-depth studies
- Creating infographics that highlight important facts and figures
These are all ways of enhancing the traditional case study, allowing you to get new marketing collateral out of a strong customer relationship. Especially as some customers may be unwilling to participate in a traditional case study. Not because they’re dissatisfied with their level of service, but because of the amount of time and effort that goes into creating them.
Similarly, due to the sensitive nature of the information contained in sector or use case-specific case studies, it can be difficult to gain sign-off. Under such circumstances, you may find you have to anonymise your stories.
4. Establish and monitor key metrics
Marketing budgets cover a range of resources and potential revenue streams. To that end, it’s essential you establish the key metrics of your marketing strategy early on.
The type of content that contributes to these metrics will differ from organisation to organisation. For example, to accurately gauge the success of their content marketing strategy, a Software Developer would be more interested in engagement rates relating to interactive webinars, slideshows, or video packages. Whereas a private law firm might focus on whitepaper and ebook submissions.
Even so, there are several key metrics you should be monitoring. They include:
- Conversion rate
- Qualified lead rate
- Opportunities created
- Revenue closed
Bear in mind that securing visibility into these metrics is only half the battle — one which a substantial percentage of marketers continue to end up on the losing side of. That being the case, it's crucial you find a platform that enables you to effectively and accurately monitor your marketing efforts.
Ideally, your chosen platform will allow you to break down and review the performance of individual channels and pieces of content. The advantage of this approach is that it allows you to establish, among other things, which sources of traffic were responsible for the most leads. This is invaluable.
For example, should you then discover that organic search is your main source of traffic in the majority of your blog posts, while social media contributes relatively little, it goes without saying that it would be sensible to spend more time and effort identifying relevant key words than increasing the frequency of your LinkedIn updates. Not only does this help you optimise existing assets, it enables you to develop a more effective long-term marketing strategy.
This, in turn, provides the visibility you need to leverage interest in specific pieces of content or marketing channels, supporting you in your efforts to improve overall MROI.
Which is why it’s all the more surprising that only 48% of marketers perform such in-depth data analysis on their campaigns.
5. Embrace automation
Although marketing automation has steadily grown in popularity over the last few years, achieving positive ROI from the technology can prove challenging. This could be due to any number of factors, including the scale of the company in question, the ease with which a specific solution can be integrated with an organisation's existing systems, user competence, and/or the effectiveness of the available analytics.
Yet, as we know, when configured correctly, a marketing automation system can streamline operations and deliver better results at a lower resource cost — directly impacting your content marketing ROI. How, exactly, does it do this?
An automated system should provide your marketing team with a single integrated platform from which they can access the tools they need to drive demand. That includes everything from blog posts and whitepapers, to follow up emails and calls-to-action. What’s more, as information is stored in a centralised hub, they won’t have to switch between systems to monitor performance.
If done right, marketing automation improves the consistency of your analysis and reporting. Marketers can delve deeper into specific metrics to improve their understanding of the buyer’s journey and visitor intent, as well as which campaigns are working, and which aren’t.
The time-saving benefits shouldn’t be underestimated, either.
In an automated system, information submitted via a contact form can be captured and stored automatically, making it easy for sales to gauge interest in a particular offer at the cost of minimal effort. While follow up emails can be configured to be dispatched automatically once a particular action has been performed, saving your internal teams time which would otherwise be spent performing laborious administrative work.
Crucially, these are but two examples of the numerous processes that can be streamlined through automation.
Without a system capturing leads and monitoring prospect behaviour, salespeople are flying blind - reacting to calls without additional intelligence and unable to take a proactive or consultative stance
- Phil Vallender, Sales and Marketing Director at Blend Marketing
Marketing platforms like HubSpot may appear costly at first glance but consider how long it takes for your sales team to follow up on every individual download request manually. Or the amount of time and effort that your marketing manager expends creating and uploading contact lists to your email service provider by hand, whenever you wish to send a newsletter.
After that, the perceived costs of upgrading to a new system might not seem quite so high.
Calculating your budget
Cultivating even a rough understanding of your marketing budget, let alone calculating it accurately, is notoriously difficult - particularly if you're new to the inbound methodology or content marketing more generally.
The problem is that, when allocating your content marketing budget for the year ahead, it's paramount you have a clear idea of how much you need to invest and where. Put simply, if your marketing budget isn't correctly aligned with your business goals and desired outcomes, you'll struggle to optimise ROI.
Making use of every available weapon in your content marketing arsenal is therefore vital.