Want to Prove Content’s Success? Stop Measuring It

Want to Prove Content’s Success? Stop Measuring It

What are you trying to measure? Through CMI’s blog, books, workshops, and master classes, we talk about measuring content marketing by looking at “what do audiences do that others do not.” Look at how subscribed audiences behave differently than others you might be marketing to through other means. See, whether you don’t understand the business goals or you don’t know how to associate content consumption metrics to the goals you do understand doesn’t matter. Thus, the first step is to address the question, “What does success of an engaged, subscribed audience look like?” Break down the answer into what we (maybe too cutely) call the Four C Investment Goals of Value – competency, campaign, customer, and cash. Competency value: Audiences enable smarter, more cost-effective business strategies Investing in acquiring data an audience provides is not simply aggregating shopping or surveillance data about what “buyers” do on your digital properties. The company began developing branded apps in 2006. Cash value: Generate revenue from marketing Cash value is squarely where my and Joe Pulizzi’s book Killing Marketing is focused. How do you measure content marketing? You don’t measure the content. You measure your audience’s impact on the business.

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prove-content-success-stop-measuring

What are you trying to measure? What does success look like?

Too often the answers to those questions have no relation to each other.

One of my favorite books about data and measurement is The Haystack Syndrome by Eli Goldratt. It’s almost 30 years old, but it’s more relevant than ever. He proposes a method to architect a system to appreciate the difference between data and information (hint: one has context and thus impacts action) and get to true business measurement.

One of my favorite quotes from the book should resonate with content marketers:

Tell me how you will measure me and I will tell you how I will behave. If you measure me in an illogical way, don’t complain about illogical behavior.

When I work with a company to evolve its measurement strategy for content marketing, two primary challenges appear. First, the company usually has no true purpose or goal for its content marketing initiative. Many businesses simply define their content marketing as producing ad hoc assets and measuring them like any campaign-focused asset. The team is usually then stuck (or resolved) to use vanity metrics on the content itself such as clicks, shares, visits, etc. In other words, it’s cool to know the blog post or infographic was found and read, but what behavior did it change? You don’t know.

The second challenge, related to the first, is that if businesses have an owned media initiative that collects and builds audiences, they simply don’t know how to connect that new audience to optimized buying behavior. In other words, “It’s neat that we have 5,000 people in our content marketing email list, but when are we going to sell to them or convert them into leads. Won’t that alienate them?” You don’t know.

Wait a minute. Shouldn’t you know if the content changed the audience’s behavior? Shouldn’t you know how content can convert subscriber lists into sales?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Through CMI’s blog, books, workshops, and master classes, we talk about measuring content marketing by looking at “what do audiences do that others do not.” Look at how subscribed audiences behave differently than others you might be marketing to through other means.

But, OK, what does that mean in the context of what you should measure?

Funny enough, the second half of Eli Goldratt’s wonderful quote addresses that:

Change my measurements to new ones, that I don’t fully comprehend, nobody knows how I will behave, not even me.

See, whether you don’t understand the business goals or you don’t know how to associate content consumption metrics to the goals you do understand doesn’t matter. The fact is you don’t fully comprehend what it is you’re trying to do. Therefore, no one really understands why you’re doing what you do. Not even you.

Developing a return on your audience

You can remedy this. Yes, content marketing can – and must – be measured in multiple ways to be a viable strategy. Recognize, however, that the business value is not in creating great content. “Value” lies in the behavior change of the audience affected by the great content.

Thus, the first step is to address the question, “What does success of an engaged, subscribed audience look like?”

Break down the answer into what we (maybe too cutely) call the Four C Investment Goals of Value – competency, campaign, customer, and cash.

Though each C can be broken into subcategories with different types of objectives appropriate for different kinds of companies, let’s look at a starting point for each.

Competency value: Audiences enable smarter, more cost-effective business strategies

Investing in acquiring data an audience provides is not simply aggregating shopping or surveillance data about what “buyers” do on your digital properties. Audience data is given willingly. I talked about this recently in discussing how GDPR is the biggest gift to marketers in more than 10 years.

This value exchange means that the data gleaned from these audiences can be valuable to other parts of your organization.

Schneider Electric, a global company specializing in energy management and automation solutions with more than $25 billion in revenue, has a multitude of marketing and sales efforts across the world. One of them is an audience-building platform called Energy University, a free e-learning resource.

energy-university-example

The platform delivers courses in 12 languages and has been endorsed by more than a dozen professional and trade organizations for continuing education credits. Over the last few years more than 180,000 learners have gone through the university. One of the biggest benefits Schneider…

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