Marketing, as an industry, sometimes does what Kevin Bobowski, Act-On’s CMO, calls “putting old wine in new bottles.” Exhibit A might be content marketing, which has become a very popular term since about 2011.

This is a screenshot of the increased interest in content marketing in recent years. Whether it’s content marketing or event marketing, what are the marketing metrics your CEO cares about?

Content marketing as a practice, however goes back a long way. Marketing agency nDash wrote a funny blog post noting how Benjamin Franklin used content to grow his personal and business brands:

“Benjamin Franklin could be seen as one of the founding fathers of content marketing. His monthly magazine, annual Poor Richard’s Almanac and various other printings all served to establish him as an authority and help grow his printing press business. One Franklin quote that all content marketers should know is: ‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.’”

In 1895, John Deere launched The Furrow, an agricultural journal for farmers. It’s probably the longest-running example of content marketing we have. It was educational, with the goal of helping farmers be more successful … the quintessential definition of content marketing. Even today The Furrow retains its original editorial mission. It’s also expanded to 14 languages for a global audience, and has a very sophisticated online presence, including video.

Regardless of the century, marketers are faced with the same question from CEOs – “What type of return are we getting from this marketing activity?”

The old adage says that “To measure is to know.” When communicating the value of content marketing, if we are armed with valuable metrics, then it’s easier to tell the story of success.

But what are the marketing metrics your CEO wishes he or she had that would truly show an impact?

Start with the business goal

Two-thirds of marketers create content without a documented strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute. So first of all, ensure there’s a strategy in place, and that the strategy is closely aligned with the business goals. Results will be easier to measure and have more impact if they’re tied closely to the goals important to your CEO.

The exact metrics that you use, however, will vary based on your unique business goals. So let’s examine what this may look like for your company.

1. Business Focus: BRAND

Perhaps the business goal is to grow brand awareness or more positive brand sentiment. Here are a few examples of how real brands are succeeding and measuring their success.

Airbnb: Creating Awareness

What they did: Airbnb created a campaign to showcase the types of experiences you can have using their service. They used #treehouseTuesday on Instagram, where they posted photos of actual listings where you can spend the night in a real treehouse.

This screenshot the instagram campaign Airbnb conducted for #treehouseTuesday

Since its inception, the campaign has been very successful. The post below generated over 800 likes and helped to build more brand awareness.

This is an example of a very successful post in the Treehouse Tuesday campaign

Key takeaway: If you’re measuring “likes” and “comments,” make sure that your strategy is focused on engagement and building brand awareness. Otherwise it’s more of a quantity metric instead of a quality metric.

LivePerson: Thought Leadership

What they did: LivePerson, an online voice and chat solution provider, wrote the eBook “The Future of Digital Engagement: 10 Thought Leaders Share Predictions for 2014.” The goal of this effort was to create thought leadership in their industry by compiling the voices of influencers to create a predictions piece (a highly popular type of content).

This image shows LivePerson's The Future of Digital Engagement Campaign

The company set out to create thought leadership, and they generated enough exposure to win the “Killer Content Award” for Best Influencer Campaign from Demand Gen Report.

Key takeaway: Partner with influencers to expand your reach and results. Then present metrics that are appropriate for influencer campaigns, such as number of shares, mentions and engagement – and in this case, awards, to strengthen your results.

Toshiba: Measuring Engagement

What they did: Toshiba created its “Smart Community” to leverage social content to promote awareness about its renewable energy solutions. They optimized the platform with specialized keywords to boost SEO performance and increase rankings.

This image depicts Toshiba's Smart Community campaign

The company generated over 347,000 global followers on LinkedIn through this campaign.

Key takeaway: Create content portals focused on issues and pain points that resonate with your target audience, and then measure the change in engagement across all platforms.

Measurement Tips: 4 Brand Metrics to Watch

The above examples give you a few ideas of how to measure and present results, but here are four more to consider when working on brand awareness.

  1. Message pull through. How often a particular term, phrase, or reference is made (perhaps tied to a specific campaign/launch); used to measure effectiveness of positioning statement.
  2. Share of Voice. Measure how the market talks about your industry. How much of the conversation is about you, and how much is about your competitors?
  3. Sentiment Tracking. Measure how customers feel about the brand through looking (via analytics tools) at the various social media channels and what customers are saying in the comments section to monitor sentiment about your brand.
  4. Thought Leadership Engagement. Measure influencer mentions, total attention time, and total social actions.

2. Business Focus: DEMAND

Another common business goal for B2B marketers is to create content that will generate leads, and ultimately impact the bottom line. Here are a few examples of companies that used content to generate leads.

ADP: Capturing Leads through White Papers

What they did: ADP decided to leverage their expertise in human capital management to create white papers featuring high-value content. They measured results by the amount of revenue produced by each lead.

This screenshot shows how ADP utilizes white papers to generate leads

As a result of this white paper campaign, they generated $1 million worth of new sales opportunities for ADP within the first month alone.

Key takeaway: Carefully track the number of leads generated by gated assets, conversions to sales, and the associated dollar amount of revenue. Note which channels produce leads and which produce revenue; they may not be the same.

Cisco: Measuring Product Launch

What they did: Cisco developed a new router and decided to use it as a case study to measure and understand the ROI of their marketing efforts. Unlike previous campaigns, they launched it using only social media to understand its potential impact.

This is a screenshot of Cisco's product launch campaign.

After measuring the results, they found the company shaved six figures off its launch expenses, setting a precedent for future launches.

Key takeaway: When possible, remove all factors from the equation (except those you’re measuring) for more compelling results.

DemandBase: Coordinate Your Channels

What they did: DemandBase is a marketing technology provider serving B2B brands. The company used white papers, infographics, and SlideShare along with links to webinars to source new leads.

The company measured the results of this content and found that these combined efforts generated 1,700 leads and were responsible for connecting with 125 webinar viewers. As a result, it generated $1 million in new revenue through content marketing efforts.

Key takeaway: Deploy integrated campaigns that maximize your results through a variety of assets. DemandBase combined the power of white papers, infographics and SlideShare across multiple channels to amplify their results.

Measurement Tips: 4 Demand Metrics to Watch

  1. Marketing-generated leads. Of all the leads that you attract to the top of the funnel, how many convert to the next stage, giving you permission to market to them? Or to ask a further question: how many of these does marketing deem worthy of working with (marketing accepted leads).
  2. Sales-qualified leads (SQL). Once marketing has accepted and nurtured leads, and deemed them ready for sales, how many does sales accept and deem “opportunities”?
  3. Win rate. Of all the leads from all the activities that become closed sales and generate revenue, what percentage close?
  4. Win rate sourced from marketing. And what percentage are sourced from marketing?

Extra credit: Cost per lead, and customer acquisition cost.

3. Business Focus: EXPAND

The “expand” concept covers retention, expansion, upsell and cross-sell, advocacy and retention. While it’s the most lucrative area of business, by some measures, it’s often the least attended to.

Retention is a live issue before the digital ink is dry on the contract. According to a survey conducted by SaaS metrics company Preact, 23 percent of customers churn due to poor onboarding. This is especially true when you have a fairly complex service, so it’s important to frontload the delivery of educational content. In addition, understanding how new signups are interacting with content is critical. Here’s an example of a company that used content and metrics to significantly decrease churn and expand their growth.

Groove: Uncovering Why Customers Leave

What they did. Groove (SaaS startup sales acceleration solution) had a 4.5 percent churn rate and wanted to decrease this metric by understanding, “Why did this particular customer quit?”

Screenshot of Groove's website.

They decided to research customer behavior and understand the specific factors that were responsible for churn. They called these factors “red flag metrics.” They found that:

  • Customers who discontinued using the company’s products typically stayed in their first session for only 35 seconds.
  • Customers churning were spending much longer to complete tasks than the average customer.

The company used these two pieces of information to identify high-risk users. They took action by sending emails to high risk users, which offered additional help with processes that might be difficult. The results of these emails was very high, with a 26 percent response rate. Of those customers that responded, 40 percent stayed with the company after 30 days.

Pro tip. If you’re launching a new email customer campaign, exclude 10 percent of recipients as a control group so you can say with confidence that the customer’s actions were a result of the campaign, and they wouldn’t have taken the same actions even if they hadn’t received the emails.

Measurement Tips: 5 Expand Metrics to Watch

  1. Greater retention, less churn. Are your customers satisfied enough to keep you as their vendor?
  2. Increased customer lifetime value. Customers who stay longer add exponential value.
  3. Increased up-sells to an existing customer base. Are your customers successful enough to use more of your product? Are they sold on your company enough to look to you first when they buy a new product?
  4. Do your customers like you enough to say nice things about you in public – without being paid to do that?
  5. Do you customers like you enough to refer their friends and cohort to you? Referrals are easier to close and worth more, so the investment you make to cultivate referrers is well worth it.

Bonus: Which of your customer persona are the most profitable?

Sharing Your Story through Marketing Metrics

Use content marketing metrics to tell a story and illustrate the before-and-after statistics for greater impact. For example, the website bounce rate may have been high in the past, but this rate may have sharply declined since you launched your new blog.

Providing concrete metrics that tell a story and directly tie to results will help you move past the generalities such as “likes” and “shares” and illustrate how these metrics relate to your company’s business goals.

What metrics do you use to demonstrate success of your content marketing efforts? Please share.

Top-performing marketing leaders understand the need to allocate their time and resources across the entire spectrum of marketing, acknowledging that an effective marketing strategy goes well beyond just driving demand for sales. Download Act-On’s eBook, Rethink Marketing [Automation], to learn how you can leverage marketing automation to help build your brand equity, drive demand and expand your customer relationships.