Over the course of the past several years, content marketing has become an integral part of B2B marketers’ strategies. Whether developing content for a corporate blog, thought leadership pieces for senior leaders, assets like white papers and webinars for use in your lead generation efforts, email newsletters, case studies, infographics, videos or podcasts, content feeds many different parts of a marketing (and sales) operations’ functions. But while marketers have in many instances become adept at producing content, measuring the effectiveness of B2B content remains a challenge. Let’s take a look.
The State of Content Analytics Today, By the Numbers
How do you know if your content initiatives are effective? Unfortunately, many companies say they don’t. A survey by Heinz Marketing done in late 2015 included feedback from 400 B2B marketers and sales enablement professionals. A small sample size to be sure but, based on what we see from clients and prospects, not too far from the truth, for companies of all sizes. The survey found that the state of content analytics today leave much to be desired. A mere 34 percent of respondents said they were not even measuring the effectiveness of sales content, although eight out of ten agreed it was important. Doing something—anything—without a process and tools in place to measure its effectiveness makes me crazy. But I digress.
Let’s talk about budgets, which play a big role here. In a 2016 report by the Content Marketing Institute, B2B companies reported devoting an average of 28 percent of their total marketing budgets to content. While that’s a significant investment, it doesn’t appear that those budgets include adequate resources to measure the ways in which content is delivering value. It’s a major misstep, but companies seem to be opening their eyes—understanding content’s effectiveness is number two on the priority lists of content creators in 2016 (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. B2B Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America
Ways to Measure B2B Content Performance
To understand if your content is working, you must be able to objectively measure a few key variables. You can do that by asking these questions:
- Are sales reps using your content? If so, how?
- What results is that generating and how are you tracking that?
- How effective is your content at engaging customers during different points in their respective customer journeys?
- Are there particular customer segments that seem to respond better to certain types of content?
- Does any of this have measurable impact on leads?
- What content are you using to nurture those leads and how effective is it? How about the impact your content is having on sales?
Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to optimize your initiatives. You’ll not only be able to more effectively develop a content roadmap, creating the right content for the right purposes, but you’ll be able to help your sales and lead gen teams get that content in front of customers or prospects more effectively–and of course you’ll see an impact on your bottom line. Here’s how to get started.
- Start mapping. Develop buyer personas for your target audience and break down each of your sales segments—like product line or geography, for example—and map content to those personas as well as to their individual buying journeys–and each part of the sales funnel.
- Start tracking. Create a log that tracks the date content was created and update it regularly. The more evergreen, or current, your content can be, the more effective it can be for you. This also helps with internal linking within content you’re creating for your website or blog, as it impacts the SEO value of that content.
- Promote internal content awareness and usage. You want your sales teams to use your content—that’s the whole point, right? But keep in mind that this is not necessarily an intuitive process for them—especially if you want to use social media channels as a method of content distribution by your sales team. Do all you can to make every part of the process as easy as possible for them. First, make sure they have access to the content created for their use, and how and when it’s intended to be used. Make sure that your CRM or content tracking processes allow you to track who on your sales team has downloaded what content and how they distributed it. Then, track how effective that content is in terms of leads, opportunities, and sales.
- Don’t take social prowess for granted. Many times your sales teams are comprised of good salespeople who don’t use or understand the value social media can add to the customer acquisition process. Training them on the value social selling can deliver, helping them develop and fine-tune social profiles, and spoon feeding them content on a regular basis for sharing in their social channels can have a big impact on the overall effectiveness of your content operations.
- Measure customer engagement. Knowing what resonates with your prospects and customers is critical. Track what is happening with each piece of content you create, where it was used, and what results you’re seeing. Track things like email open rates, CTRs on specific pieces of content, views, shares, downloads, contact form submissions, email inquiries and phone calls. Be sure to also check how much time customers are spending on your media—the longer they’re on a website or landing page, the more likely they are to act as a result. Most importantly, make sure you’re nurturing these leads as part of your CRM and/or marketing automation processes.
- Track the ROI of your content. It’s easy to lose sight of the importance of closing the loop on the ROI of your content, but if you make it a part of your processes, it can deliver much value. If you don’t already track this in your CRM, meet with your sales team weekly or monthly and dig into the topic of what’s resonating with their prospects. Did they send a whitepaper to a prospect via email that ultimately led to a sale? Did they share a post in a LinkedIn group that led to the opportunity to participate in an RFP? Did they share something on Twitter that resulted in a conversation with a prospect? Did a case study or a YouTube video that was included in an email campaign lead to a sale? Did someone publish a post on their personal LinkedIn profile that was so popular it blew up–creating the opportunity for a conversation with a prospect? All of these things help measure the value of your content marketing initiatives but they don’t do you any good if you’re not tracking them. And if you don’t regularly get in front of your sales team and have these conversations, you might never know.
- Understand what content converts. To measure how effective content is in progressing the buyer’s journey, take the customer mapping exercise I mentioned earlier to the next level. Track what deals advanced and what deals didn’t. What types of content interfaced with the customer at the make-or-break phase for each situation? What about the one before it? We have some general ideas as to what content is typically valuable during each stage of the customer buying journey, but that is slightly different for each business—and perhaps even each situation. Put systems in place so that you can understand what content converts and what doesn’t based actual data, not speculation.
Measuring the effectiveness of your B2B content isn’t brain surgery—and it doesn’t take a million-dollar budget to do it. It takes a commitment to developing a measurement strategy, putting the right processes in place, and also an understanding of the resources, tactics, and tools necessary to do it. And, of course, it also requires fighting for the budget dollars necessary to make that happen.
If you don’t have much in the way of resources, don’t let that derail you. It’s absolutely possible to develop your own system of content measurement by using some of the tactics above. And once you can prove the efficacy of what you and your team are doing, and you’ve got your sales team on board, it can lead to a proof of concept that will allow you to get a bigger piece of the budget for more sophisticated analytics in a relatively short period of time. That’s the path we take on a regular basis—once you woo them with the data, there’s no going back! Marketing automation platforms can help a great deal, great CRM systems play a role, educating, interfacing with, and making it easy for your sales team is important, but most of all, being committed to showing how your content is delivering value and putting systems in place to help you do that is the game-changer.