A 3-step approach to defining your content marketing key performance indicators.
We’ve touched on this subject more than once here and the way we see it, it is something we need to touch upon on a regular basis.
The way to measure performance, to link it to business KPIs, is essential to measuring your content marketing efforts, but it also remains a challenge for all content teams to demonstrate clear ROI.
This article aims to lay the foundation of a strong methodology to measure content marketing and branded content initiatives.
Let’s define some content marketing goals!
If you do some research, you will find hundreds of articles that aim to tell you which metrics and KPIs you should be measuring. Some of them will suggest 20 metrics to measure, others will have 19, others will have 7, but a lot of these articles talk about numbers, dials on your dashboard, without actually diving deeper into the real link between what your content achieves with your audience and what the business and brand you work with really needs.
Diving straight into Google Analytics, measuring page views on your blog posts or social shares, making sure bounce rate stays as low as possible and conversion rates stay up is great, but simply measuring these without proper strategic thinking might not have the internal impact you are looking for.
When working with clients on content strategy, the first step we tackle is establishing the measures of success (it is the initial element of our Content Strategy Canvas). What future state of reality do we want to get to? What are the indicators that will tell the team that it is doing a great job?
We approach this stage of content strategy in three steps:
- Document business goals;
- Transform these goals into content objectives;
- Establish key performance indicators to measure these objectives.
Step 1: Document business goals
No content marketing strategy can be successful and will have its budget renewed next year unless the way it measures success is tied to the business itself.
Measuring social media likes and reactions will not make a dent in the C-suite unless it actually is something that is part of the organization’s strategic plan.
What you want to do is make sure that you (and your content team) know what the business is looking to achieve in the next 12 to 18 months.
This allows everyone to be aligned as to what will be valued internally in terms of results, the vocabulary to use and what drives executives for months to come.
When you are able to report on metrics that actually mean something to the business, you are one step closer to demonstrating actual return on investment for your content program, even though you might not be influencing revenue directly (we mention the influence on revenue here because as most of you know, content initiatives rarely are able to DIRECTLY move the needle on revenue, it will most often be influential in future revenue or retention, but will rarely have a direct impact).
For this article, we will show examples with three business objectives:
- Increase our market share by 5 points in Ontario.
- Achieve a 3% increase in gross margin.
- Launch our new business solution and obtain $1M in revenues.
As you look at these objectives, you can clearly see that they are business related and not directly marketing related. This is important. This is what you want to work with. These are examples that will resonate with the people you report to, whenever you are able to make links between the content you publish and the business’s north star.
Step 2 : Transform business goal into content objectives
After documenting business goals, the team must reflect on what they can achieve in terms of content that will have an impact on these goals.
Note that should the strategic plan of the organization have 6 clear goals for the next 3 years, you might only choose 3 or 4 of them on which you can have an impact. Content is everywhere, everything is content, but this does not mean that you should pursue every single business objectives with your content program, you can make choices as to where you will make the biggest difference.
These content objectives and the way they will be defined, pave the way to actions that you and your team will be able to take to influence elements of the business, towards the goals that we documented above.
When translating these goals into content objectives, you can focus on 4 main types of content objectives.
The content objectives most content teams work with usually fall into one of these 4 types:
- Increase reach
- Increase engagement
- Generate leads
- Impact revenue
These types of objectives allow you to figure out where your content can influence the overall business operations so that your choices and content assets you publish and activate make a difference.
In our three examples, the three business goals could be transformed into these content objectives:
- Increase our market share by 5 points in Ontario: Develop our audience in Ontario;
- Achieve a 3% increase in gross margin: Work our content pillars as to increase content initiatives that favour high-margin products;
- Launch our new business solution and obtain $1M in revenues: Create a toolbox of content focused on the new product.
See? It is not that hard to bring the business directly into the content team. These are examples that touch expansion, operations, sales, and that will allow your content team to focus on elements that really matter to the business.
Step 3 : Establish key performance indicators to measure these objectives
Once you have your content objectives, it is now time to decide what to measure, to define your content marketing metrics. Decide on the numbers, the dials in your dashboard.
Doing so prior to knowing what impact you want to have would not have allowed you to make sure your pieces of content would be linked to the business and not just active on the content front.
At this point, you have a myriad of content metrics you can decide to work with. As mentioned earlier, there are dozens of numbers you can work with. But having in hand a set of clear content objectives, you can better choose which will bring the most relevance to your reports.
We recommend deciding on 1-3 content marketing KPIs per content objectives, no more than that. The goal is to keep reporting simple and make sure you are able to have a clear view on the numbers that make a difference internally in your organization.
Following on our 3 examples above, these are metrics that could be measured to follow the progress the content team is making:
- Increase our market share by 5 points in Ontario: Develop our audience in Ontario => Increase visitors from Ontario by 30% in our content hub over the next 2 quarters;
- Achieve a 3% increase in gross margin: Work our content pillars as to increase content initiatives that favour high-margin products => Over the next year, publish 45% of content related to the most profitable series of products;
- Launch our new business solution and obtain $1M in revenues: Create a toolbox of content focused on the new product => In the next 90 days, deliver a batch of content on the new solution (with clear list of deliverables).
As you can see, all these content metrics are clear, have a defined path to success and also have a timeline (this last element is very important, just having a target number without a timeline defeats the purpose of being able to see if you are on the right track).
Measuring content performance is easy, demonstrating relevance is more of a challenge
As you can see from the 3-step process above, measuring content performance needs to be linked to the business and not to vanity metrics that just look good.
To be able to drive strong results and be seated at the big table in your business, you need to be able to demonstrate results and relevance.
It is armed with these metrics that you can start publishing blog posts, tackling all these types of content pieces that you crave to produce, leverage social media platforms and impact your target audience knowing that what you are publishing is resonates with what the organization wants to achieve.
This is where your content creation engine really starts to rev up and you can deploy a successful content strategy.
We work with dozens of clients every year in defining their content objectives and content marketing KPIs, and we’ve seen great results from this process. If you have questions, or need a hand defining success for your content marketing efforts, do not hesitate to reach out to our experts.