Make your point with metrics
On the face of it, life for the content marketer should be getting easier. So why isn’t it? It’s because of these three words: Return. On. Investment
Make your point with metrics
Are your metrics doing you justice?
Using metrics to
prove your point
During the Crimean War Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, needed to demonstrate how conditions of care impacted patient mortality in military field hospitals.
Yet this was the 1850s, and Nightingale was armed with nothing but dense statistical reports and the knowledge that she had to illustrate the findings to members of parliament and civil servants.
Nightingale came up with an elegant way of visually describing the necessary information. Nightingale’s hand-drawn diagram, beautifully coloured and - even today - strikingly modern-looking, was an early infographic; a pictorial way of communicating huge amounts of data - in this case the impacts that hospital conditions had on causes of death among soldiers.
Nightingale fortified her infographic with some tight and informative messaging to ensure she was communicating a memorable story. She wasn’t simply in the business of showing that there were more deaths from sickness than wounds; rather Nightingale felt this was her one chance to prescribe the opportunity for investment to make a difference.
Proving that a marketing campaign will make a difference is critical. Yet how many of us find it easy to communicate relevant metrics that get right to the core of our objective like Nightingale?
More than 150 years on, not only is she remembered as a great social reformer and someone to whom many owed their lives, Nightingale was also a skilled data scientist. She was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society and in 1874 she became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.
Of course, few marketing campaigns serve to address such a critical challenge as hospital sanitation and mortality rates. Regardless, learning to illustrate in a meaningful way the return on investment driven by your work is as critical to content marketing success as the content itself.
“How many of us find it easy to communicate relevant metrics that get right to the core of our objective like Nightingale?”
Just as Florence Nightingale was able to distil her critical message into one single metric; more lives saved; the relevant metric for marketers to demonstrate their return relative to a strategy is likely to be simple - and scary.
After all, promising performance against a metric that means something tangible to your colleagues - one that can ultimately be exposed and measured against success and failure - feels daunting.
The more successful you become at communicating the value of the investment you pour into content and campaign creation however, the more elevated and respected marketing becomes within the business. More visibility for what you’re achieving means more goodwill, a more central role within strategy design and perhaps more budget to match the strengthened belief in you and your team.
This TurtlBook gets to the heart of what it means to be a modern content marketer; to go beyond the point of publication and into the world of metric storytelling.
We’ll address questions like: what are the right metrics to measure? How can you prove the value of the content you’re making? And which metrics show meaning beyond the marketing department?
Are you only
doing half the job?
Your work means nothing if you don’t know what it means
There’s more to
content than publishing
On the face of it, life for the content marketer should be getting easier.
Apps and tools are increasing in number as fast as they are evolving in sophistication and capability according to the Chiefmartech.com, which reports more than 40% annual growth in the number of marketing technology solutions. Yet almost 40% of UK marketers don't feel they have clarity over what content marketing success looks like.
Such new and increasing capability could be serving to obscure from view what is essentially a simple remit: tell stories that inspire and excite, resulting in new growth for the business.
The first part of the remit is the thing we, as marketers, find relatively easy. Marketing has always attracted the sort of people who can turn business insights into great ideas for compelling stories and campaigns.
The second part of the job is the area for which marketing - and especially content marketing - tends to come under fire.
Content marketing, reimagined
The roles of content creation and performance marketing can no longer be two roles performed by two separate people with little care for how the other might fare.
Instead, content marketing should be seen as the creation and performance measurement of the stories a business tells.
In this ‘age of data’ it is ironic that many marketing departments pretty much choose to ‘fly blind’ - to publish marketing content and opt not to track it in any way.
It’s hard to think of another business function that would be so willing to operate with such high stakes while wearing a blindfold.
The good news is that the tide is turning within marketing as realisation spreads.
“We need to prove the value we bring to the business through clear KPIs and demonstrable ROI and day-to-day performance is critical to any marketer gaining credibility,” wrote director of marketing for the Tui Group Jeremy Ellis, in Campaign magazine recently.
The bad news is that it is perhaps not turning quickly enough. It needs to be said, you only know how talented you are as a content marketer - and your value to your organisation - if you’re curious enough about how good your stories are to track their success.
Remove the blindfold
Developing the right metrics for success
‘Keep it simple stupid’
That content marketing needs to be measured is easy to say.
Figuring out which metrics are going to be of use is a whole different challenge.
Technology has made it possible to measure a string of metrics that were impossible in the past such as email ‘open rate’, ‘click-through rate’, ‘time on page’ and more. Marketing teams tend to obsess about these things because they are measurable - yet there’s one big problem: most CEOs don’t care about them.
What they do care about when it comes to marketing is genuine business outcomes. In other words, they’ll ask: ‘What is it that you are doing as a marketer, with all your customer insight, to help grow our business?’
As Steve Jobs said, sometimes the hardest but most important thing to do is keep things simple.
“You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple”
Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder
“That’s been one of my mantras,” said Jobs. “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Counting what counts
Counting the wrong things will send you in all sorts of directions other than the right one.
As MadisonLogic CEO Tom O’Regan writes, “just because something can be counted, doesn’t mean it counts”.
“Just because something can be counted, doesn’t mean it counts”
Tom O'Regan, MadisonLogic CEO
So what are the right metrics?
If you plan to open up a discussion on which content marketing metrics really count for something, it’s worth testing your own perceptions of what is and isn’t valuable with a truly big and challenging thought.
Doug Kessler, creative director at B2B marketing agency Velocity Partners says he often answers the question over which marketing metric matters with the answer: “Revenue is the mother of all metrics…”
In this blog post though he corrects himself. “Revenue is not the end goal of all marketing,” Kessler writes. “Revenue is itself a leading indicator of the most important metric in business. The most important metric in business is profit.”
If you take a moment to think about what this really means for marketing as a core business function, the question of data becomes much less of a numbers game and much more of a strategic one.
While the remit of the marketing department is to focus on the data that will establish - and challenge - pre-existing ideas, it’s also about finding a way to inform, excite and activate non-marketing colleagues, and build understanding of marketing’s real value.
Realistically however, this ‘profit-focused’ content marketing nirvana will only be reached once marketing teams learn to separate those metrics that matter within their team from those that matter outside the walls of the their department.
So what counts?
In truth there are hundreds of things that you can measure - but too much data has often been the problem for marketers.
It might well be that in focusing on more strategic business outcomes as content marketing metrics - something the rest of the business can really understand, get behind and support - a system of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ metrics is developed.
Internal metrics are those shared only among the marketing team and used as regular indicators of audience engagement on which to drive valuable iteration. These metrics, such as read times, allow marketers to optimise and personalise as campaigns progress to deliver the best content possible.
External metrics are those that are reported back to departments and teams outside of marketing. They might typically take longer to materialise as metrics that are genuinely fit to report but ultimately they carry more weight in the context of strategic business objectives such as the bottom line.
Both types of metrics are important - but not, it should be noted, interchangeable or to be compared against one another.
Just as there is no place for external metrics - such as cost per lead or profit - to directly inform content iterations, there is no place for internal metrics at the boardroom table. The content marketer's job is to know the difference.
The rule of thumb, and forgive the tautology, is ‘use what is useful’. If a metric tells you something about how to improve your content performance for the audience then adopt it as an ‘internal’ metric.
If it clearly demonstrates, without any questions or qualification required, the value of marketing to your organisation’s strategic goal, then it’s an external metric.
"Just as there is no place for external metrics to directly inform content iterations, there is no place for internal metrics at the boardroom table."
Nick Mason, Turtl CEO
A brave new world
Prioritise focus over speed
and technology combine
As mentioned earlier in this book, the prospect of adopting new tools to look under the hood at how your content marketing is performing can be daunting.
After all, few would relish the thought of seeing analytics that suddenly expose poor performance over long periods of time. Turtl CEO Nick Mason says: “It requires a level of bravery to do that. If you think that your content is having this huge impact and then you come along and you start using a tool that says, actually not many people are reading your content, that can seem like a threat.”
However, many marketers who use such tools are viewing them as an opportunity and welcoming the chance to combine meaningful analytics with the tools to do something about problems they uncover.
“If you start using a tool that says, actually not many people are reading your content, that can seem like a threat”
Nick Mason, Turtl CEO
If you look at the constant churn of disposable content today it seems most content marketers would place ‘speed’ as a priority above all else. But the killer app in content marketing is not speed. It is relevance; and relevance is now possible.
We can see what our audiences are doing with our content and how they are behaving. This then informs how we should be iterating. Crucially, that iteration can take place in real-time to optimise a piece of content while it is out there being shared and read by your audience.
"The killer app in content marketing is not speed. It is relevance; and relevance is now possible"
Nick Mason, Turtl CEO
As Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, writes: "before you focus on what's nice to have, focus on what's important". In other words, in the rush to get to the content marketing summit - whatever that might be for your organisation - don’t forget to check that your message is clear; that customers are receiving and engaging with your content across your existing channels and that the stuff is actually working. Content marketing is a long game and should be treated with the craft and patience it merits.
Relevance is the key to ROI. Optimise until you get it right. Tailor to get closer to the parts of your content that your audience is most engaged with. It’s the equivalent of ‘always-on’ testing and learning.
There’s a great deal of job satisfaction to be had by watching and tracking your stories as they make contact with the real world and being able to dial up the ROI potential with every new reader.
Hit ‘publish’ on your content today by all means. But the job is not then over. At that point it has just begun.