By Steve Goldner
Brand content marketing should be soft and subtle on a product mentions. The content a brand produces should be helpful and/or entertaining to the target audience, and be free of direct ‘selling’ and blatant calls to action. But content marketing should not be regarded as an endeavor in which you naively just hope for results. You should be able to produce empirical data that indicates you are yielding results.
So if you cannot expect sales to be the end result of content marketing, what can you expect? And what should you measure?
All marketing efforts require metrics, and there are no exceptions for content marketing. Content marketing serves the progression of behaviors target audience move through as we work to tee up transactions. Let’s look at it in terms of the sales/marketing funnel:
In the funnel, content marketing can demonstrate empirical results with regards to awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy.
You typically gain awareness off your site. If someone is on your site consuming content, they are probably already aware of your brand. Thus, awareness comes from mentions and discussions elsewhere; news and blog coverage, sites where you do digital PR and outreach to; and brand or URL mentions on social platforms or other media sources. The global metric here is the attention your brand is attracting within the active discussions of your marketplace.
Once individuals become aware of your brand, they’ll want to check you out and learn more. Consideration can be as simple as viewing more of your content. Content lives on your site, and on the all the channels where you distribute and promote. Measure visits and views and shares and other indicators that your content is being consumed. Also look at the kinds of themes that are emerging within the discussion of your brand and products, watching for more conversation about issues where you focus or excel, or even capabilities that you’re highlighting in your content pieces.
You want to build a loyal set of customers and turn some of them into advocates. Loyal customers will remain engaged with your brand. They will write comments, interact with your content, and spend time consuming and sharing your materials. While raw numbers of subscribers to your site by itself is not particularly telling, looking at these trends AND looking at the volume and results of their engagement is a very positive indicator.
Engagement is very good to see, but having individuals that actually market your brand (word of mouth marketing) is the pinnacle of success. This can be measured by the micro-actions (retweets, shares, etc.) but more importantly by the emergence of new influencers – people or organizations who share opinions or amplify your content and get reactions to their efforts. Looking at overall sentiment indicators within total attention, or for key influencers is also interesting.
The funnel shows a linear sequence, even with its cyclic nature where advocacy re-feeds awareness. My experience examining customer behavior for the brands I work with reveals some slight variations. Yes, the funnel states are still there and individual consumers can traverse the funnel states in a linear fashion. But we see more and more variations away from a linear movement as shown in the diagram below.
As we examine the new construct of target audience relationships to change behavior and drive transactions, notice “conversion” is not part of the content sharing and social activities. Awareness, Consideration, and Loyalty states “tee up” a conversion. Content marketing is not a strong activity to promote a sale.
Awareness promotes consideration. Awareness can also drive a transaction. Consideration yields conversions and has a higher probability of invoking sales than simple awareness. After a purchase is made (conversion), valuable content can help to generate loyalty. Loyalty can result in repeat purchases as shown with a double arrow in the diagram above. Loyal customers can become advocates as well. You should think about post-sale follow up content and engagement to move your customers to a loyalty and advocacy state. And once you produce advocates you have a most powerful outcome. Advocates inspire awareness, consideration and loyalty. They work as the most trusted source of marketing for your brand.
So make sure you know your content marketing is delivering measureable success. Know what is realistic to measure. If you do not see positive results, modify your content strategy and plan.
Make It Happen!
Steve Goldner is the Content Advisor for Appinions. This article is part of the Content Marketing Series he is covering to help marketers get better ROI from their efforts. Appinions is a data driven content marketing platform providing clarity on content generation and distribution.