Make Content Marketing Effective: Choose the Right KPIs (Part 3)

Make content marketing effective: Choose the right KPIs – part 3

Measuring content marketing effectiveness is a growing priority for many organizations as they try to justify increases in content marketing spend. With only 30% of marketers claiming their programs are effective, marketers need to ensure they are choosing KPIs that will align teams around the right initiatives and demonstrate impact on overall business objectives.

Many organizations choose KPIs based on the latest trends without giving thought to what they are trying to achieve. Instead, marketers need to figure out the maturity level of their content marketing program and choose KPIs that will help accelerate their growth.

To recap, the three content marketing maturity levels are:

  1. Emerging Organizations have sporadic success running effective content marketing campaigns but have yet to gain organizational support to deliver consistent results.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 and part two, we explored KPIs for emerging and experienced organizations. Today we look at KPIs and strategies for optimized content marketing organizations.

Optimized Content Marketing Organization

Optimized content organizations can win big competitive advantages by understanding how content drives revenue and other core business objectives. However, one mistake many marketers make at this stage is evaluating core business metrics like ROI and customer acquisition costs through a marketing lens only.

In the prospect-to-customer journey, two teams are involved: marketing and sales. And in many organizations, the handoff between these two teams is where many inefficiencies exist. Marketers tout their success delivering qualified leads only to have sales teams claim they aren’t acceptable.

Rather than blame each other, marketers need to step up and claim responsibility for the prospect through the entire journey. They need to choose and define KPI’s that will foster better communication between marketing and sales, improve handoffs and prioritize content creation by conversions.

KPI 1: Sales Accepted Leads/Qualified Leads

A good KPI will focus marketers on controllable improvement opportunities, and many exist at the lead handoff stage. Many marketers choose customer conversion as a KPI at this stage since that is the business objective. However, conversion, while important to measure, is vague in helping marketers focus on a problem within their control. There are simply too many touchpoints by sales for them to really influence. Rather, marketers should choose a KPI that will bring laser focus to improving marketing to sales handoffs: sales accepted leads.

Typically, handoff inefficiencies are caused by persona and/or timing mismatch. While many marketing and sales teams have good intentions to improve communication and information sharing, oftentimes it is difficult to prioritize without some cross-pollination of metrics. A KPI focused on sales acceptance will encourage marketers to reach out and study how to make leads more acceptable.

Aligning Sales and Marketing Personas

In part 2, I discussed how often sales and marketing personas misalign and the need for 360-degree personas. Even if sales and marketing require different information about a prospect to get their job done, teams need to ensure the handoff between marketing and sales is seamless from the eyes of the prospect. The prospect shouldn’t one day be receiving one type of content in an email drip and the next day receives different content from a sales representative. Sales and marketing teams need to meet often to share insights for their core segments and update personas and content flow accordingly. Generating conversations around “what makes a high value, sales-ready prospect” will be a good conversation starter.

Handing Off When the Prospect is “Sales-Ready”

Even if a prospect meets all lead requirements, they may not be “sales-ready”. Scoring and prioritizing leads based on their sales readiness will help improve sales acceptance. The best way to score readiness is by using implicit actions. Armed with the knowledge of what content drives what action and what aligns best with each lifecycle stage (a skill developed in part 2), marketers can score implicit actions more efficiently. Then sales can customize accelerated nurture flows and prioritize leads to ensure leads are chased down at the appropriate time.

Masters of this stage:

  • Combine marketing and sales metrics on their reporting dashboards
  • Meet with sales frequently to share insights and perform full-funnel analysis
  • Think about the prospect throughout the entire lifecycle process
  • Prioritize leads based on implicit actions. (For examples, see Marketo’s big list of lead scoring rules)
  • Test and iterate implicit actions in their scoring models
  • Have accelerated lead nurturing streams for high-intent sales opportunities

KPI 2 & 3: Revenue attribution and conversion cost

As more budget shifts into marketing, teams will be under greater pressure to demonstrate top-line impact and justify costs. And as content marketing takes center stage in many marketing strategies, the need to measure content ROI will grow. The challenge for many teams is how to report ROI accurately. To make ROI more actionable, I encourage organizations to think of ROI as:

Conversion Cost Formula

Revenue Attribution

In simple terms, revenue is really just another attribute of a customer. Each person that touches a piece of content has a projected dollar value associated with them. The challenge is, most customers touch multiple pieces of content prior to purchase. So how do you allocate that revenue across various content types?

Basic models typically attribute higher percentages of dollars earned to the first and last pieces of content since they are the ones that do the heavy lifting. Then, any content touched on can be equally shared with the remaining percentages. The good news is most lead generation analytics systems make this easy to set up, monitor, and optimize.

Conversion Cost

Everyone defines costs differently. Ask an accountant and they may mention COGS (cost of goods sold).  Ask a marketer and they will likely mention content creation costs and advertising expenses. Ask a salesperson and they might mention employee costs per touchpoint.

When choosing costs to include in a content ROI model, marketers should include all costs it takes to convert a prospect to a customer. Many marketers only track advertising and content creation costs and forget sales costs even though content can have a huge impact on sales channels as well. A whitepaper that fast tracks a person through the sales conversion process could have a higher ROI versus a whitepaper that captures a name early in the process. While it may be hard to measure all costs, the point is to ensure that sales touchpoints and bottom-of-funnel costs are considered in cost models as well.

Thinking about the cost it takes to move a prospect through the entire funnel will help marketers keep the prospect at the center of conversation and encourage further communications with sales.

Masters of this stage:

  • Factor in all costs throughout the prospect-to-customer lifecycle
  • Set ROI benchmarks for content types at various stages of the funnel
  • Frequently meet with sales teams to discuss costs, content needs, and lead handoffs
  • Evaluate and optimize their content revenue attribution models quarterly

The key to measuring content effectiveness is choosing the right KPIs. Putting thought into what you are trying to achieve as a content marketing organization and aligning KPIs to those initiatives will ensure that teams are laser-focused on delivering results.