Whether we’re blogging, creating sales enablement materials, or producing whitepapers, we rely on data to inform our strategies. The challenge, however, is that the information that we need—ROI metrics, opportunity assessments, engagement benchmarks—is often hard to find. Not to mention, this data can be confusing and tangential, at best, to the stories that we want to tell.
Hard-pressed to ‘prove’ the value of our work, we grasp on to whatever numbers we can find—pageviews, share counts, and leads generated. Even still, we often wonder whether we’re capturing pure vanity metrics or real-deal ROI benchmarks.
A year down the line, content marketers will often come to the conclusion that their pageviews and social media shares aren’t translating into direct sales and ROI. As common as this conclusion tends to be, it’s also false.
Content marketers and business leaders will often assume that their efforts aren’t working because they don’t have the right data. Don’t let bad information lead you to failure. Outsmart the inevitable learning curve by knowing where your data is leading you astray.
What we think the data tells us: Content isn’t driving direct sales
What the data actually tells us: Buying journeys are complex, and sales happen over time
Most analytics tools give marketers direct sales numbers. In other words, we see how audiences respond to our campaigns now, rather than six months from now.
From this vantage point, it seems obvious that promotion-heavy email campaigns are converting higher than non-salesy content pieces. The data that we’re often missing, however, is what influenced the buyer along the way.
In terms of ROI, content is effective. It just takes a bit longer for efforts to yield sales. Because of this time lapse, the success of our investments are often difficult to measure. But there are steps that we can take to eliminate these foggy areas and ‘prove’ success in clear terms:
- We can field a customer survey, and ask respondents whether our content influenced their buying decisions
- To the best extent possible, collect data about our customers and prospects (through sign-in mechanisms, for instance) to keep engaging with them across multiple channels.
- Of our customers who respond to promotional emails, we can examine whether they’re reading our editorial contentInstead of measuring sales, we need to measure influence on ROI.
What we think the data tells us: We’re generating ‘bad’ leads and subscribers
What the data actually tells us: There’s a problem with the sales funnel
One of the biggest challenges that organizations face is the disconnect between marketing and sales. Across both B2B and B2C companies, we often ‘blame marketing’ when leads aren’t converting.
While it’s true that there might be a messaging issue, the greater likelihood is that there’s a problem with the sales funnel—an area that’s collectively owned by marketing, sales, and revenue optimization teams.
We can’t let the pain points distract us from our content marketing success. Instead, we should figure out what problem areas are rising and what pain points are causing points of friction. Here are some steps to follow.
- We should start by auditing our overall website analytics. From this information, we can identify key drop off points on our website. We might find high rates of churn on checkout pages, for instance.
- From the information above, we can reach out to prospective customers using live chat and messaging software. We can then learn what’s bogging audiences down.After we know why customers aren’t converting, we’re in a better position to adapt our content marketing strategy—which might even mean halting operations while we course-correct our product/market fit challenges.
What we think the data tells us: Our visit counts are low and cruddy
What the data actually tells us: We’re targeting the right, tailored audiences
Content marketers are obsessed with visitor and pageview data. It’s natural—we want audiences to read and respond to our work. When we’re not driving astronomically high traffic numbers, we feel insecure.
What’s important to keep in mind, however, is that growth won’t happen overnight. It takes time, and we need to be consistent in our content marketing to see our traffic data grow gradually. If we see it stagnate—that’s a problem. If we see growth, even if it’s incremental, we’re doing something right. Here’s what we can do:
- Measure growth over time.
- Identify whether there are certain campaign initiatives that are generating growth.
- Evaluate whether growth is specific to niche or broad-scale audiences.What matters is that you’re achieving growth in the right areas—which means that you’re reaching the right audiences. When it comes to content marketing and customer education, quality will always trump quantity.
Ritika Puri is a content marketing consultant and entrepreneur with a background in enterprise analytics, strategic partnerships, and business education. She is passionate about helping marketers close the insights-to-action data gap, and loves helping brands succeed through content.