content ROI

How to Change the Conversation About Content ROI

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If you’re a content marketer, there’s a certain acronym that probably makes you sweat.

You know what I’m talking about, right? ROI.

Many people get nervous when ROI comes up. Maybe you feel uncomfortable discussing it, or you’re not totally sure what all the metrics and KPIs even mean. You’re probably a pro storyteller, but can you easily weave a tale about the results of your stories?

But there’s no reason to be scared. I want us to change how we talk about ROI.

At our recent Managing Editor Live! event, I shared the strategies I use to understand, predict and measure the results of content — and talk about it to anyone without breaking a sweat.

To get my full pep talk, you can watch the recording here.

Know the Business Problems You’re Trying to Solve

Most content marketers spend most of their time thinking about their creative output. But when you’re talking about the business impact of content with your boss or a client, remember their perspective. Don’t think about the content first.

Ask yourself: “What’s the real business problem we’re trying to solve?” Then, be proactive. Don’t wait for people to come to you with questions about results. Show how your content can help — or is helping — solve these problems. That might mean changing the kind of content you produce.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your organization’s goal is to shorten the sales cycle. For the past year, your content strategy has been focused on writing blog articles for top-of-the-funnel prospects. You could suggest a change in that strategy to focus more on people who have already expressed interest. You could publish case studies that help warm prospects understand the value of your product or service.

Proactively present that idea to your leadership, instead of waiting for them to tap you on the shoulder or instead of trying to reverse-engineer Google Analytics data to show marginal results from the top-of-the-funnel content you’d been producing.

Take ownership of the conversation.

Don’t Get Lost in the Data

The objectivity of data is the ultimate means of proving your worth. But remember, you’re a storyteller — and if you’re overwhelming your audience with numbers, they’ll tune out. I think it’s really easy to get lost in all the data. And it’s easy for the people we report to and we collaborate with to get distracted by the wrong numbers.

So carefully choose the metrics you present. Pageviews, clicks and likes might make your team look great, but if you aren’t generating business then it’s ultimately useless. Make sure you show how you’re solving business problems. For example, if your goal is to re-engage an old email list, you might want to keep an eye on click-through rates in an email newsletter:

Know When to Say ‘No’

Sometimes, your preparation for a conversation about ROI might lead you to an answer your client or boss doesn’t want to hear: No. Content might not always be the right tool.

Being able to say no is a sign that you’re engaged with a business and its needs. If you're the content marketer who understands the business problems well enough to know that content isn’t the answer, then you're operating at a very sophisticated level.

Saying no will also help steer you away from campaigns that have little chance of succeeding. But make sure you have the data and acumen to back up your decision:

Watch our full recorded conversation on changing the conversation about content ROI and browse the rest of our recorded sessions on managing a modern marketing team.

Mary Ellen Slayter is CEO of Rep Cap. Before creating her own content marketing firm, she served as director of content development and a senior general business and finance editor at SmartBrief, a leading publisher of e-mail newsletters. Before joining SmartBrief, she spent 8 years at The Washington Post, where she authored the Career Track column and worked as an editor in the business news department. You can find Mary Ellen on Twitter @MESlayter.

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