How Has Content Marketing Valuation Matured?

I recently spoke with author and senior content marketing manager Liz Bedor about her views on the discipline of content marketing. Liz is a frequent speakeLiz Bedorr on the topic of content marketing ROI, and in 2015 published a book with co-author Michael Brenner about how to measure content marketing success in business terms.

Titled “The Content Formula: Calculate the ROI of Content Marketing and Never Waste Money Again,” Liz and Michael teach marketers how to justify budget spend and make sense of all the moving parts.

WHAT PROMPTED YOU AND YOUR CO-AUTHOR, MICHAEL BRENNER, TO WRITE THE CONTENT FORMULA?

“We wrote the book to answer the very questions our clients (then, while working at NewsCred) asked. It seemed every client asked that question, regardless of size or industry. Fluffy, high-level answers don’t work any more. And marketers just weren’t equipped to go back to their desk and tactically hammer it out on their own.

We wanted to be the first to give people the answers. We wanted to answer each business case for content marketing, and create a model that everyone could follow independently.

While content marketing is no longer a shiny new term, the brass tacks of what works and what doesn’t are still sharp. There’s no software to help you arrive at a magic number. So many marketing departments might simply look at bounce/open rates or Google Analytics to try to figure out how their content is performing. But content marketing ROI requires more aggregation. A lot of the data is there, but the insight isn’t.

Our goal was to put context around why each data point is important, and what to do with them. Content marketing takes time. Six months of activity should show movement in numbers, but companies can’t compare against other companies very easily; there are too many variables.”

WHY DO YOU THINK ROI IS SUCH A PARADOX? EVERY MARKETER KNOWS IT’S CRITICAL, BUT AS EVIDENCE HAS SHOWN, MANY AREN’T DOING THE MATH?

“A lot of marketers don’t track things as closely as they should. It’s like that old saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. It’s important to track offline and online activity at all times because insight just isn’t going to come out and wave at you. The continuous loop of content marketing is different than singular or execution-based activities like email or events. When does testing and evaluation occur? Content marketing is a continuous science experiment.

And when a single topic does well, some companies make the mistake of blowing it out. Only everything you write about can’t be about that single topic. So you have to iterate all the time the stuff that does work, using a larger sample.”

DO YOU SEE ANY VARIABLES OR CIRCUMSTANCES THAT DIFFER IN B2B CONTENT CALCULATIONS THAN B2C?

“I’ve worked primarily with B2B clients, so measuring B2B content came easier to me. I think it’s easier to measure all around because it deals with leads, while B2C deals with soft intangibles like brand awareness. Also B2C buyers can be more fickle. Which comes first, producing content that changes perception, or changing perception itself?

B2C has so many other variables you can’t directly influence as a marketer. But content can be used to level the playing field. Answer your customer’s questions, period.”

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CONTENT MARKETING MISTAKE?

“The path to measuring ROI for content marketing is a journey. Marketers must do certain things at certain times. The biggest mistake is to not recognize what their business case is…what they want to achieve. Is it to retain customers, get more leads, raise brand awareness, etc?

Don’t “do content marketing” without a business case behind it.  It’s not always an easy answer at first. You must align with executives POV, and gain buy-in and alignment w/other marketing teams inside your company first.”

DATA IS ONE THING. INSIGHT IS A DIFFERENT ANIMAL. DOES YOUR BOOK HELP READERS UNDERSTAND HOW THEY CAN PROPERLY EVALUATE WHERE TO SPEND RESOURCES?

“Absolutely. We explain things in a way that even a non-marketer can understand. No jargon, only layman terms. We explain a concept, why it’s important, then follow up with a real-life example worked out for the reader. This provides context to bring the idea to life.

There is a place for thought leadership. But a tactical take-away is always key.”

About Liz: Liz Bedor is a senior content marketing manager for Bluecore, one of the leading marketing software companies in New York City. Prior to joining Bluecore, Liz was a senior brand strategist for content marketing platform, NewsCred, where she consulted enterprise brands including AXA, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Estée Lauder, E*TRADE, IBM and Verizon on how to conceptualize, implement and optimize their content marketing strategies. Before joining NewsCred, she worked in content marketing and sales enablement for technology industry leader, Salesforce.

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