Measuring the ROI of content marketing

Paul Everett, Director of Marketing Strategy at The Marketing Practice

Paul Everett, Director of Marketing Strategy at The Marketing Practice

RM: How would you advise marketers to calculate or think about ROI on a large scale, primarily print, content marketing project? 

PE: It’s important to do before and after research at the start and end of a year of a content programme to say what did people think of our brand and how inclined were they to purchase beforehand and how did that change towards the end. If it’s print you know the distribution list, you match that up with customers and the retention rates for those customers or the spend you’re getting from those customers and you see if there’s a correlation.

You need to look at indicators that show that people are responding whether it’s unique URLs for more information or people wanting to sign up more colleagues in their team to receive the publication. You need that efficiency metric as well as the ROI.

RM: How do you think marketers can really capitalise on their content?


1) Finding better ways to repurpose and share existing content more effectively and get more out of every project.

Often clients make a really big investment in quality content but then don’t follow through on how that’s promoted. So you end up with really great content but then you have someone who’s just joined the business writing the ways that that’s going to be used in newsletters or social media when actually the people who produce the content really understand the audience and the proposition and have some great things to say.

2) Making sure that content gets to the right people in the right format and the way it’s promoted to them will actually intrigue them.

Our creative team are looking at how content and advertising work together. A lot of people say that content marketing will kill off advertising but there’s so much competition out there now and so much content that you have to actually advertise to promote your content. A few years ago you’d be advertising the benefits of your solution, now you’re advertising your latest new piece of content.

It’s easy to under-invest and create an advert that makes your really great piece of content the most boring thing ever when instead you need a great advert that hits people and makes them want to go through and read it. You can be so targeted now, there are solutions where you can even advertise based on peoples’ IP addresses. It’s all about making sure the adverts are making the best use of the content that exists.

3) Improving the quality of thought leadership that comes from named individuals.

We’re working with the chief executives in some of our clients’ firms to produce great stuff in their name. Often people aren’t properly supported in doing that.

Measuring and communicating marketing impact (from ITSM 2015 survey)

Measuring and communicating marketing impact (from ITSM 2015 survey)

RM: With the internet bursting at its seams with articles, blogs, infographics and videos, how can B2B marketers ensure that their content cuts through the noise? 

PE: The biggest two things for me are:

  • Making better use of advertising.
    Low cost pay per click advertising to promote your content to the people you don’t really want to see it doesn’t work. Often advertising is managed by completely different teams, departments and agencies than the content efforts.
  • Having more confidence to ground their content in stuff they’re really great at.
    If you really understand what you’re great at, and start making sure that’s included in the content you’re producing, then you have more of a personality and a voice that stands out.

High-quality content about real experiences – that’s the type of material people will want to share online

Paul Everett

The mismatch between current measurements of content ROI by businesses, and the best sources of ROI

RM: If content is king, what in your opinion, is its queen?

PE: The sad but true answer is data. It’s queen for a couple of reasons; for being able to prove that your content is working you need data on not just how many likes it’s got but who the people were and what’s happened to those organisations since they started engaging with your content. And your context point is to make sure it goes to the right people at the right time - that’s where you need data.

RM: Marketers are told to tailor their content for each platform- but also ensure that their marketing channels are working together holistically- how should marketers approach this challenge? 

PE: Sometimes you try to join everything up because it looks nice in internal presentations to say that everything is one consistent theme and sometimes it’s important that your audience is going to see the same thing on multiple channels. Someone once said to me that ‘consistency equals trust.’ If something that people are seeing from you doesn’t seem consistent then instinctively they start to distrust the organisation that they are seeing that from.

Other times we kid ourselves that people are going to see all those links. You’re better off designing it correctly for the right channel with maximum performance rather than trying to squeeze in the brand image from your overall campaign which is damaging the effectiveness of that post on LinkedIn.

RM: And finally, the question that every B2B marketer wants to know the answer to: what content always produces great ROI? 

PE: Really high-quality content that’s about real experiences is probably the start, not just someone’s opinion but something that is actually happening - that’s the type of material that people will want to share online. One of our clients, 02, closed their head office in Slough for a day, they had 4,000 people work from home and that created enough content to last two years on that topic of Flexible Working. Doing something like that and finding great ways to talk about it and share the experience is the stuff that people will want but most people can’t prove that it generates an ROI by traditional metrics.