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5 areas to identify the real cost of your content marketing

Triana Jarman

Less than a third of organisations believe they are successful at measuring the return on investment of their content marketing efforts according to the Content Marketing Institute. In fact it seems that 28% aren’t measuring the success of their content marketing activity at all!

Anyone involved in marketing will have noticed the increased pressure these days to track the effectiveness of every pound spent – perhaps even more so since we enter (or should that be ‘re-enter’) uncertain economic times largely thanks to Brexit. It is for this reason that we have dedicated a chapter in our ‘Ultimate Content Marketing Guide’ to this topic. Based on that chapter, "How to Measure the ROI of Content Marketing", we look at some of the challenges of measuring content marketing success and go through some of the important cost considerations.

A tricky measure

Once you have established your campaign objectives it is important to define metrics in order to track performance. This can be a challenge for marketers, in part because it is a relatively new concept: content marketing can involve multiple layers and, as yet, there is no text-book single process to report on such activity. It is because this form of content can differ so much that the process for measuring success can vary so wildly. It is at least good news that no matter the format (whether it is a blog, a white paper a webinar or simply an email), and no matter the promoted, providing it's digital it will be measurable in some way or another. It just might not be consistent or comparable across each content type.

The BIG question

There’s then the definition of what a success metric actually looks like. Could it be a sale, a download, a read, an email open, a Facebook ‘like’? The list could go on for some time. This is a hugely important question, but hopefully not the most challenging one as it is simply a question of going all the way back to what you’re actually hoping to achieve.

It’s natural to start thinking beyond the success metric too. For example, what about when the preferred end-action isn’t taken by the reader… surely there’s still significant value in the brand exposure to that individual? Then there’s the other extreme where the prospect does take the preferred action (say making a purchase), but continues to make frequent additional purchases and goes on to have an amazing customer lifecycle value. How are these things to be measured with regards to ROI? While it is technically possible to measure these things, for the purposes of individual campaign ROI we suggest each measurement should look at the particular part the sales funnel you are aiming for and focus metrics accordingly.

Let’s be practical

Now that we’ve stated the obvious and agreed that ROI is important, raising a few questions that may get you thinking, how about the practical steps to actually measure content marketing ROI? We’ve established that every piece of digital content marketing is measurable – it’s just  a question of which metrics are the most appropriate to use. It could be that this simply involves viewing high level data in Google Analytics, but this single data point may not be sufficient for your needs, in which case a more detailed automated report direct from your CRM or marketing automation tool may paint a better picture. You’ll find a lot more on this in our guide, where we take a deeper dive into analytics as well as reviewing a more holistic approach.

The real costs of Content Marketing

The key to measuring an accurate ROI is to calculate the costs involved in actually producing the content and taking it to market. It is only when you have these figures to compare that you will have a clear view of your ROI. Below are five areas where costs are accrued:

Planning

These are the strategic costs associated with identifying business goals and generating personas. They tend to be one-off costs and might vary from an internal strategy session to appointing a global consulting firm to run residential workshops. One thing is for sure, investment here is key.

Ideation

These are the costs associated with generating a flow of ideas such as  mapping buyer journeys and identifying the kinds of assets that will be required. Again, these are largely one-off costs.

Strategy will still play a part here – for instance it may be where you consider options such as content curation.

Production

These are the costs associated with creating the content and the editorial plan. These are recurrent costs that will be incurred on every new content campaign. While the other steps will also involve this to some extent, it is very much where you will want to apply time resource to monetary value.

Distribution

These are the costs associated with generating traffic, leads and sales through the promotion and nurturing of the content. Again, these will be recurring costs although they’re likely to vary between each project.

Measurement

These are the costs associated with the evaluation and optimisation of the content. There will be an element of time resource here, but you may also need to factor in the cost of any tools being used for reporting and analysis.

Looking for more?

Use our chapter “How to Measure the ROI of Content Marketing” to fully understand how to calculate your costs against your success to know your ROI.

Or get yourself a copy of "The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing" which contains the chapter on ROI as well as practical insight and tips on all the key points of content marketing success, such as:

  • The 5 elements of a killer content marketing strategic plan

  • Understanding and leveraging curated content

  • How to keep blogging relevant, driving both brand awareness and leads

  • The growth of video content marketing

  • Content lessons from the masters