3 Tips for Maximizing Content ROI

According to a new report by the Content Marketing Institute, 70 percent of surveyed marketers say they are creating more content than they did just one year ago. Yet only 30 percent of the content that marketing teams put together is actually used by sales. With this divide between content creation and use, it's no wonder that sales and marketing have been searching for ways to better understand and measure the effectiveness of their content.

Unfortunately, there's not always a solid relationship between good content production and making a sale. This does not have to be the case. There are ways to directly test which pieces of content are being used by sales, and, as a result, which pieces are most commonly linked to a purchase. Following are three tips for measuring content ROI:

1. Connect marketing and sales. Although sales and marketing are both working toward the common goal of increased sales, in many organizations they are not necessarily partnering to achieve these results. On one hand, marketing is working hard to define the company's core messaging and increase demand generation by creating a lot of great content. On the other hand, sales is striving to close deals.

Though both initiatives are well intentioned, they are not always as effective as they could be because there's an interdepartmental disconnect. According to an Aberdeen Group study, companies with aligned marketing and sales teams achieved an average of 32 percent yearly revenue growth, while their misaligned counterparts saw a 7 percent decrease. It's essential to establish a line of communication, wherein sales tells marketing which pieces of content they're actually using so that marketing can focus on creating more content pieces that contribute to revenue generation.

2. Track prospects' interactions and views. Marketing creates a wide variety of content designed for different parts of the customer journey—from awareness to demand generation all the way through to sales close. While marketing can often track which pieces of content lead to a prospect entering the marketing funnel, gaining visibility into how sales uses this content to further engage, educate, and move prospects through the buying process is key, but often untracked.

Tracking what sales presents to prospects, what prospects actually interact with, and if a prospect becomes a customer involves integrating a marketing system with your CRM to erase the discontinuity between marketing and sales. Leading organizations are even asking sales to rate content through interactive sharing that can create a feedback loop into popular marketing automation tools. Together, these integrated feedback mechanisms give sales and marketing leaders better visibility into the entire lead-to-customer conversion process.

Tracking prospects' interactions with your content is largely a tool issue—making sure that marketing and sales tools integrate and that there is someone in the marketing department who is keeping track of what happens to content once it's in your CRM system is crucial for achieving content ROI.

3. Create a revenue-value correlation. Once you've successfully linked your sales and marketing tools, it's time to quantify the information that they've jointly yielded. For example, if a whitepaper you created for $10,000 is used by 80 percent of your sales force in the latter part of the sales cycle, generating $800,000 in revenue over six months, you can easily justify the ROI of this piece as 8X. Compare this to other assets to prioritize maintenance and improvements.

Two things have changed recently in terms of tracking content ROI: We now have tools that can measure, in different ways, the effects of content on sales, and we also have a new position in marketing, director of content. In fact, Forbes predicted in 2013 that director of content would be the most sought-after position of 2014. This person would be closely linked to another of Forbes' predictions: that "calculating content marketing ROI will spawn new SaaS software and companies."

Whether or not director of content is actually the most-sought after position of 2014 is yet to be seen, but what's clear is that there are now tools to measure content ROI, as well as positions being created for somebody to oversee this endeavor. Directors of content should implement tools that track pieces throughout the sales cycle, measure their effectiveness on prospects, and determine which pieces have the greatest revenue impact. To maximize success with content marketing, organizations need more than great content and a director to oversee its creation. They need feedback mechanisms to ensure its impact on the business.

Chanin Ballance is the CEO at MobilePaks, a marketing and sales enablement software solution provider.

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