The shift is on. It’s hard to read an article or attend a presentation about social media or content marketing without the subject quickly transitioning from creative or strategy to measurement — and often with an eye on the ultimate prize: ROI (Return On Investment).
Ostensibly, this is a good thing. After all, it suggests that our industry has outgrown its “cottage” status and moved into the big house. But in our rush to “be measured like everyone else,” content marketers are in danger of shortchanging their full value to the organization.
Let’s look at four hidden benefits of content marketing that will never show up on the CMO’s dashboard but can bring immense value to the company and its internal relationships.
Content can give you a recruiting edge
Every quarter, I present Eloqua’s content marketing strategy to recent hires. Without fail, some of these new employees pull me aside to say that our content is what tilted their decision in the company’s favor.
In a competitive industry, recruiting top-caliber talent is a priority of the highest order. In fact, according to venture capitalist (and content marketer extraordinaire) Fred Wilson, recruiting top talent is one of only three priorities for every CEO. Yet despite the importance of recruiting, it would be easy to overlook the impact an engaging content marketing program can have on this business-critical priority.
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Here’s the takeaway: Partner with your HR department. When your company on-boards staff, have your recruiter ask new hires to share the reasons why they joined, and share this information with your internal teams. The ability to prove your content efforts have impacted recruiting will help make you — and your content efforts — indispensible to your organization.
Content can help boost company morale
Back when I worked at a PR firm, I recall challenging a client who wanted us to help his company secure coverage in a publication that didn’t necessarily influence its buyers. When I pushed back on the priority, the CEO told me, “The article isn’t for our customers. It’s for our staff. The place lights up when we get covered in the press… and I know a lot of our workers read this magazine.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson, and content marketing can help accomplish this very same goal.
When you publish a popular asset, the cheering it receives on the social web can validate the efforts of the entire company. Your victory lap is everyone’s victory lap, so make sure you “market” the popularity of your content to your colleagues — not to boast personally, but rather to remind them that as crowded as the social web is, your company managed to stand out.
Content opens up lines of communication
Remarkable content doesn’t just get customers and prospects talking; it also gets your internal clients buzzing. It gives colleagues something to share with one another, something to debate, or something to challenge. It opens doors, rings phones, and makes heads gopher over cubicle walls. It also provides you with an opportunity to recruit advocates and participants.
When your colleagues engage with your content, it creates an opportunity to invite them to contribute to future programs. Because content marketing sits between so many different organizational functions, it is a surprisingly political role. Be sure to marshal your supporters when you have their attention.
Content fosters trust
In a recent FastCompany article, marketing leader Don Peppers convincingly argues that the key to competitive advantage is “being proactively trustworthy.” Creating content that is so valuable that people would pay for it, yet you give it away for free, is a reliable way to earn the public’s trust. This is precisely why the value transfer in content marketing should be from institution to individual, which is an upside-down model for traditional marketers. In other words, when trust is the goal, companies should strive to sell by not selling.
None of this is to suggest that content marketers shouldn’t aspire to be measured — of course we should. But we also need to find ways to highlight the value we provide — especially if there’s no key performance indicator (KPI) attached to it.