Make Content Marketing Effective: Choose the Right KPIs (Part 2)

Make content marketing effective: Choose the right KPIs, part 2

In part two of this three-part series, I explore strategies and KPIs for experienced content marketing organizations. 

In my first post, I argued that the reason so many organizations fail to prove content marketing effectiveness is because they choose the wrong Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Rather than chase the latest KPI trends, marketers need to first assess their program’s content marketing maturity level and select a couple of KPIs that will focus a team and help build the skills, processes and strategies needed to scale efficiently in the future.

To recap, there are three content marketing maturity levels:

  • Emerging Organizations have sporadic success running effective content marketing campaigns and have yet to gain organizational support to deliver consistent results.
  • Experienced Organizations are publishing content towards one strategic plan consistently and effectively but lack the tools to understand how the content drives overall business goals.
  • Optimized Organizations typically have invested in more sophisticated tools and have transitioned to a data-driven program that is a core component of the company’s overall marketing strategy.

In part one, we looked at how emerging organizations should master breaking through the content noise and delivering content that their audiences like. For part two, we explore how experienced content marketing organizations ensure their content production is providing actionable results for their organization.

Experienced Content Marketing Organization

An experienced content marketing organization has ramped up content production to a consistent level and has the resources, budget, and processes in place to produce more. Now is when teams should get really savvy about delivering content that speaks to a specific segment at a particular lifecycle stage that delivers value to the organization. Content purpose becomes a priority and teams should master producing, publishing, and measuring how content drives action for a specific audience during a specific lifecycle stage.

KPI 1: Unique Views by Segment

At this point, marketers have gotten really savvy at driving content views. They likely have a basic profile of who their audience is, but the question remains: Are they engaging the right audience?

While it may seem obvious to ensure content viewers match the organization’s customer segments, it is surprising how many times these do not align. Marketers need to start paying attention to who is engaging with their content and making sure those demographics align with the customer segments that drive their business. Once those demographics align, marketers can begin to build out 360-degree personas for each segment. A 360-degree persona goes beyond traditional demographic and behavioral data and looks at a viewer’s emotions and mindset at the moment of content consumption. Knowing a customer’s preferred channel interactions, content type, keywords, and pain points can provide razor-sharp focus for content planning and production.

To build a 360-degree persona, marketers can conduct market research while validating and adjusting their persona models through tests on actual content. This can sometimes be an arduous process, but the more well-rounded and accurate the personas, the more streamlined the team will become at delivering content that moves needles.

KPIs should be familiar to the team so they can quickly test, learn, and focus on adjusting personas as needed. I recommend month-over-month growth of unique views by segment. If teams can build and optimize an efficient content engine that draws in a steady growth of business-valued customers, they will not only prove value to the organization, but also train them in customer-centric content strategies.

Masters of this stage:

  • Report content views and engagement by segment
  • Integrate 360-degree personas into content creation processes and content creators can describe their target audience in detail
  • Build feedback loops to ensure content created for each segment is attracting that segment
  • Have unique content distribution strategies for each persona
  • Monitor segment social conversations, updating keywords and sentiments for each persona on a quarterly basis

KPI 2: Conversions by Lifecycle Stage

Once marketers are feeling confident about their segments, they should expand their 360-degree personas by building journey maps to detail each lifecycle stage. A journey map provides clarity around the needs, questions, emotions and sought-after resources customers have at each lifecycle stage. Again, marketers can take an iterative test and learn approach to effectively model what content drives views and engagement at each stage and hone their understanding of their target audience.

Example of a customer lifecycle journey:

Once marketers can consistently produce content for each lifecycle stage, they can begin linking lifecycle stages to customer actions. Customer actions look beyond content interactions like viewing, liking, and sharing, and focus on the customer behaviors that drive business objectives. A few examples include: whitepaper downloads, form completions, offer views, demo requests, and subscribing to email.

To implement, teams will likely need additional software to ensure customer actions can be attributed to a particular content campaign. Once teams can link content to customer actions, they can set-up tests to learn how lifecycle stage and content type effect conversion rates on those actions. If marketers can be smart in how content effects customer action, they will be one step closer to building the bridge between content and business objectives.

Masters of this stage:

  • Integrate lifecycles into all content creation requests
  • Benchmark conversion rates by customer action
  • Prioritize customer actions by conversion rate for each lifecycle stage

A common mistake many experienced marketing organizations make is rushing through lifecycle learnings and having teams chase more complex metrics such as MQLs and ROI too soon. Teams that are not trained to prioritize, plan, produce and measure content by each customer lifecycle stage will ultimately see diminishing returns on their content as they try to scale. Starting off with simple KPIs will prioritize focus on customer-centric content strategies which will be critical for teams transitioning to the optimized content marketing organization stage.