There’s an old marketing joke I hear all the time. It goes like this: “I know half of my marketing dollars are working—I just don’t know which half.”
Truth lives in that tired joke. And as more marketers realize that content is what fuels their marketing efforts, the haziness around measuring the return on content is becoming a growing concern. Seventy percent of B2B enterprises are creating more content than a year ago, with 52% planning to increase spending on content, according to new research from the Content Marketing Institute.
50% of B2B enterprise marketers cite the inability to measure content effectiveness as a challenge.
But measuring and proving the value of all that content is a major hurdle. Fifty percent of B2B enterprise marketers cite the inability to measure content effectiveness as a challenge. In other words, half of us don’t know which half of our content is working.
The reason so many marketers struggle to prove the impact of their content is largely because most of us don’t know what to measure. Don’t get me wrong: we can dig up plenty of analytics. But analytics alone can’t inform or aid us in optimizing content effectiveness. The metrics need to roll up to insights—insights that measure the health of the entire content life cycle.
In most organizations, marketers use a hodgepodge of data points (social shares, web traffic, form submits, etc.). What they get is a spotty dashboard that’s unequipped to say where marketing needs to improve to impact productivity, engagement, and the bottom line.
If content is what fuels our marketing, then we need to measure the impact of that content across our marketing.
The content metrics we capture should not only explain performance, they should help us improve performance.
With that in mind, what areas of measurement should we apply to marketing content? Here are the three basic pillars that B2B marketers should track and report on.
1. The Health of Your Content Production
This is probably the most ignored area in content measurement, so I’m going to ahead and put it first. Content has become the product of marketing, so it’s important to be able to improve the process for getting to market. The only way to do this is by tracking your content production cycles.
There are a few key areas marketers need to measure in order to get a sense of how well their content pipeline is flowing (and to remove any clogs that pop up). These include:
Average length of production: If you’re going to get content to market, you need to know how long it takes your team to execute and optimize those production cycles. A key measurement here is the average number of days it takes to move content from an idea through to publishing. B2B marketers need to track this number across all content—even down to individual assets—if they’re going to accurately understand how their entire process works. It can’t just be limited to the time it takes designers and writers to complete their tasks; you need to measure the time it takes for content to move through revisions, reviews, approvals, etc. Ticketing systems are great, but to actually benchmark the time it takes your content to get to market, you need to capture the entire flow of production.
On-time delivery rates: Marketers have become accustomed to pushed deadlines—it’s almost a given. The problem is that marketers usually don’t have systems in place to quantify the “late content” problem. Missed deadlines mean missed opportunities, so B2B organizations need to track and improve their on-time delivery rates, tracking how often they miss deadlines and how that breaks down by asset type, contributor, and more.
Bottlenecks in workflows: Since workflows are what guide production, marketers need to be able to pinpoint which tasks are slowing production down. These could be big steps (submitting or editing content) or smaller, yet critical, steps (approvals). The best way to measure this is to examine the average time it takes to complete a specific step in a workflow against how often that task is completed late. Armed with this data, marketers can tackle the bottlenecks that come up, many of which are often easy to fix but are typically hidden.
Content coverage gaps: In B2B marketing, mapping your content-to-buyer personas and sales stage is critical. It’s the only way to ensure that the content you develop and distribute is targeted, relevant, and timely. That’s why marketers need to map content in production to the buyer’s journey (as well as other objectives like regions, business units, etc.), locating gaps in coverage. Without the ability to spot these gaps, content will continue to be produced against the best guesses of where the gaps are, rather than the actual data.
2. The Total Reach of Your Content
Just about every marketer is measuring reach and engagement in some way. Page views, clicks, shares—all of these are metrics most professionals are familiar with. But what’s missing for most B2B organizations is 1) the ability to track different engagements across content types and channels in a single place, and 2) metrics on their content’s internal reach.
When it comes to reach, these are the two critical areas to capture in your dashboard:
External reach: Reach is a difficult metric to define because how you calculate it (impressions, engagement, etc.) will often vary from channel to channel and system to system. What’s important to calculate is how content creates an engagement (read: a click, a view, a share, a download, an email open) across the channels and tools used to reach buyers.
A solid B2B dashboard will track your cross-channel reach, including engagement metrics such as: email opens and downloads, which channels are driving the most engagement, how fluctuations in channel performance are impacting total engagement across each channel, and which assets are creating the most engagement over a specific period of time. Again, most marketers are tracking some, if not all, of these metrics, but in disparate spreadsheets. They need to be tracked in a single dashboard.
Internal reach: Marketing content isn’t just produced for top-of-funnel performance (at least, it shouldn’t be). You’re also producing content to be used by teams internally, enabling sales teams and equipping customer-facing support teams. That internal usage needs to be tracked, reported on, and optimized against.
There are at least three critical aspects that need to be tracked: 1) how many views your content is getting internally; 2) how that content is being distributed by internal teams to external audiences such as prospects and leads; 3) how much traffic those shares from internal teams are driving back to your content.
This is the kind of closed-loop reporting (internal view to external referral) that teams producing content for both external and internal usage need to measure in order to demonstrate impact.
3. The Conversions Your Content Generates
Reporting on content performance often stalls out somewhere at the middle of the funnel. Organizations will track social shares and views—maybe even downloads and form submit—but they often stop at the point of conversion. Since the B2B buying process is usually lengthy and anything but linear, marketers need to track how content is moving buyers from conversion point to conversion point in the pipeline.
A complete B2B marketing dashboard measures the content score of assets, campaigns, and content categories. The content score is essentially an attribution model for the leads, opportunities, and revenue at each stage of their pipeline. For instance, if my pipeline is made up three stages (marketing-qualified leads, sales-accepted leads, and closed deals), I’ll want to track the assets that have generated the most conversions for each of these stages. This allows me to optimize future content production based on what converts within my pipeline, not just above my pipeline.
Content scores can be calculated against individual assets. But, ideally, B2B will also measure content scores by multi-asset campaigns and various categories of content (lists, data sheets, interviews, best practices, etc.) to get a total view of conversions across teams, functions, and channels.
For B2B marketers, content development isn’t just designed for top-of-funnel activity. It fuels every touchpoint in the buyer’s journey. So a B2B marketing dashboard needs to look at the health of their content production cycles, the internal and external engagement that the content sparks, and ultimately how that content is moving buyers through the pipeline.
Content is growing up within B2B enterprises. Our reporting needs to evolve along with it.