The hangover after the party: Are your content marketing efforts worth it?
I could hear the cheers and high fives from across the hallway in my office. From the decibel levels, it couldn’t have been my programming team, reclusive and corpse-like as they always were. All my sales reps were out on business, and the proverbial sales gong hadn’t made me temporarily deaf. By the sounds of the hoots and what I gathered to be a happy dance, it was coming from the marketing team.
I peeked into the war room. “Hey guys, what’s the party for? A new client? A big sale? The cure to end world poverty?”
Charles, my inside sales guy, Annie, my marcom coordinator, and Susan, my marketing writer, were hovering around the desk of my company’s Heinz-57 web/SEO/social media “guru,” Ian. From their gleeful looks, bordering on pure ecstasy, it had to be something B.I.G.
Annie waved me over. “Come here,” she said breathlessly. “Look, our latest blog post is getting some retweets and likes. Even a few shares!” I looked over at Ian’s screen. Five likes on Facebook. Two on LinkedIn. 2 retweets.
PS: this wasn’t happening at the dawn of Twitter. It happened in 2014.
“Are they from clients, prospects or what?” I didn’t have the heart to ask if any family members were involved, but I remained dubious.
Ian looked up at me, god-like-looking as ever. “Clients.”
Charles: “That is AWESOME! Clients are referring us! That will do wonders for our brand awareness!” Annie nodded her head vigorously like bobble head on a dashboard, smiling from ear to ear.
Susan: “Wow! That means we have engaged with them. We’re in on the conversation!”
You gotta love them buzz words.
Meanwhile, I was having a wrestling match inside my head. Half of me did not want to kill their enthusiasm and the other half wanted to, swiftly and surely. While I was glad that our clients had taken their precious time to acknowledge and share our latest blog post, I felt I had to teach the team an important lesson before the cult of content marketing euphoria devoured their brains like a mass pandemic.
Content marketing is a total waste of time and resources if it is not helping to acquire new clients, convert prospects or educating customers to come back for more.
There, I’ve come out of the closet.
Now before you feed me to the hounds, here me out. Content marketing (and its sidekick social media) can be fantastic tools for raising brand awareness, generating leads and connecting with prospects/customers. They can also be powerful weapons for a company’s customer support, training and pre-sales queries.
It’s ok, I think we all get that.
The problem is when a company fires off a new content marketing “strategy” like it is some recipe for your great aunt’s secret flaming BBQ sauce. You know the drill:
- A few blog posts here
- A couple of social media updates there
- Add in a white paper/case study/testimonial
- Some call outs to others for their greatest and latest post/tweet/share
- And the sauce’s uber-secret ingredient? A VIRAL VIDEO!*
SHAZAM! Applied consistently, you are on the fast-track party train to millions! Right?
Er…dude, where’s the party?
Content marketing is indispensable to any company hoping to survive the uber-competitive landscape we are all in. But you can’t wing it. You can’t fake it. And you had better be ready to have a documented plan (with measurable objectives) and a means to track the ROI.
Alright, I killed the party.
But I am not alone: here’s a great infographic by Dean Montandon from a UK-based agency. Thanks, Dean!
As web marketers, we must, of course, continue to educate our teams and clients on the value of content marketing. But it is also our duty to help them structure their content marketing strategy so that it actually:
a) Factors in the process a buyer goes through to purchase the product or service
b) Creates a truly valuable experience for prospects and customers
c) Drives revenues
The Content Marketing Institute surveyed earlier this year both B2B and B2C companies regarding their content marketing strategy. In their reports, some pretty shocking results, which you can read here. In both cases, less than 30% had a documented strategy (read: the blind leading the blind) and nearly 50% cited that their ROI tracking was unsuccessful—or not even happening!
Basically, companies are bleeding their marketing budgets dry without knowing how big the bang they are getting for their bucks. With more and more budgets being dedicated to content marketing, the problem is only going to get worse.
If you’re spending that much money on publishing content, say, multiple times per week, apart from web site traffic, what is it doing for your sales lead quality? Conversion rates? Sales growth?
Of course, you cannot measure the ROI of your content marketing initiatives as cut and dry as, say a PPC campaign (ex: If you spend $X on PPC, you make $Y in sales). Hubspot provides a great tool on how companies can measure the ROI of their content marketing strategies by associating them with their overall buyer personas and TOFU, MOFU and BOFU marketing (ahem…sales) initiatives.
In a nutshell, by truly getting into the heads of how your ideal customers buy, whether in a B2C or B2B environment, understand what value they are looking for and how/when they like to be engaged will go a long way to generating better content and fine tuning your social media presence. And for Pete’s sake, start measuring the ROI! If you don’t, you might as well just give your content marketing budget to a real housewive of (_________). It ain’t much different than that, folks.
Epilogue: My team’s pow-wow was short-lived. While I commended them on generating some love for our business, I, in turn, gleefully gave them a group project to work on: to prepare a presentation for upper management to demonstrate how we were going to turn that love into moolah.
* Not everyone has an in with or the budget for an epic stunt with Van Damme, but hey, we can all get dream, right?