Make your point with data
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 data
Why is data so important?
How data-driven arguments make a difference
Using data to prove a point
From Florence Nightingale to Steve Jobs, people who make data-backed points have always had the most impact.
In the 1850s, Florence 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.
She came up with an elegant way of visually describing the necessary information. Nightingale’s hand-drawn diagram, beautifully colored 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 campaign will make a difference was critical - and backing it up with data even more so.
The data problem for marketers
What can we learn from Florence Nightingale? That illustrating in a meaningful way the return on investment driven by your work is critical. What you measure, and how you demonstrate it to others, makes a huge difference.
However, it's not always easy to prove ROI. The Forrester study, commissioned by Turtl, proves how much marketers are under pressure to prove their point with data. Our study shows that most marketers believe they play a central role in driving business, but not as many in sales agree.
Sales teams are:
21% less likely than marketers to say that marketing is the key driver of business growth
21% less likely to say that the marketing organization generates predictable and measurable buyer acquisition
13% less likely to believe that marketing leadership plays a central role in steering the direction of the business
So what can marketing do to increase their position? According to B2B marketing and sales decision-makers in the UK and US, the top two ways are:
1. Providing sales teams with better insights to sales qualification, cross-sale opportunities, and buyer motivation
2. Generating rich and reliable insights into the business's prospects and buyers
So what's standing in the way of marketing producing these insights and making their point with data?
Are you only doing half the job?
Measuring and clarifying content performance
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 realization 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. You only know how talented you are as a content marketer - and your value to your organization - if you’re tracking the success of your content.
Remove the blindfold
Developing internal and external metrics
Keeping it simple
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.
Sifting through metrics
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.
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 to your team and the wider business.
Doug Kessler, creative director at B2B marketing agency Velocity Partners says he often answers the question of which marketing metric matters the most with the answer: “Revenue is the mother of all metrics…”
Recently, though he's corrected 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. Data has to do more for marketing than it might first appear.
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 an understanding of marketing’s real value.
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.
Realistically, however, this ‘profit-focused’ content marketing nirvana will only be reached once marketing teams learn to separate the metrics that matter within their team, from those that matter outside the walls of their department.
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.
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
Internal metrics are 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 optimize and personalize 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 materialize 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.
When to use each
Both types of metrics are important - but not, it should be noted, interchangeable or to be compared against one another.
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 qualifications required, the value of marketing to your organization’s strategic goal, then it’s an external metric.
A brave new world
Prioritizing focus over speed
and technology combine
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
Speed vs relevance
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 winning aspect of 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 optimize a piece of content while it is out there being shared and read by your audience.
"The killer aspect of 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 organization - 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 and ROI
Relevance is the key to ROI. Optimize 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.