The question of measuring a business’s return on investment (ROI) for content marketing is a tricky one.

As marketers and business owners, we recognize that content marketing is critical for growth. But it’s an area where the relationship between the investment we put into it isn’t easily linked to the money we make.

When you run an ad campaign, it’s possible to see a relationship between ad spend and conversions. But the outcomes of content marketing are not as easy to track.

After all, how can we tell if writing a particular blog post leads to a certain number of sales? And what if people are buying from us today because of a social media post we made six months ago?

It’s possible to create some form of measurement with the help of proxies and analytics tools. And conceptually, calculating your ROI for content marketing is simple enough.

You look at how much money and resources you used to create content and then compare the leads you get and how many become paying customers. And the difference between what you spent and the money you get is your ROI.

Let’s look at the top ways content marketing creates a return on investment. As you’ll see, even when we know how content creates earnings, it’s not so easy to figure out the exact ROI.

Content brings new leads

The most self-evident way that content creates returns is by bringing in new leads to your business.

When you create posts that answer specific problems posed by users, search engines will bring more traffic to your website. And you can capture your site visitors’ information by using optin popup forms and by asking people to sign up for your newsletter.

As your audience interacts with your blog content, email messages, and other types of content, you’ll build qualified leads and turn them into paying customers.

Your content draws people through the sales funnel at every stage and helps you sell your products.

Content retains your current customers

It’s never enough to bring in new customers. Customer acquisition is expensive and time-consuming whereas customer retention ensures that you keep revenue coming in without the added effort of convincing people to buy from you.

To ensure that your content retains existing customers, you need to build blog posts, educational videos, and social media posts that focus on success gaps.

Here’s a quick example of how we apply the concept of success gaps in my business. One of the tools we’ve created is a form tool.

A form tool is essential for customers who need to create contact forms, calculators, surveys, feedback forms, and more. In most companies, success is when a customer successfully uses the brand’s product to carry out a function or meet a need.

But for me, I consider the use of our form tool to be a success when it helps our customers reach their overarching goals. Our customers may want to build a contact form for their site visitors to send messages, but their real goal is to see higher conversions.

The gap between what a product does and what the customer ultimately wants to achieve is a success gap.

By creating content that helps customers learn how to use your product to meet their larger goals, you create value. You also share powerful reasons for current customers to keep buying from you.

So, making online courses, blog posts, social media stories, and any other type of content that bridges success gaps will drive brand loyalty. It’s difficult to connect your future sales to content that addresses success gaps. But it’s very likely that building a solid product and enabling customers to succeed is the key to retention and revenue.

Content can bring back former customers

If your email marketing, giveaway campaigns, or other content-based activities lead to former customers coming back and joining your business, then that’s another way that content marketing creates a return on investment.

Sometimes, customers are just not in the right position to buy from you. Or they may not understand how your product can help them. Using content to reengage users can bring in revenue by bringing back older customers.

You can offer special discounts, free trials, personalized training and onboarding sessions, and lots more to reengage former customers. Getting in touch with customers who left can also give you insight into what didn’t work and what customers expect in order to invest in your product or services.

Go beyond ROI

There are many other ways that content creates earnings for a business.

  • Your web copy, ratings and reviews, testimonials, and other content can build trust and boost your brand image
  • Content marketing gets you noticed by search engines and your website and blog posts can appear in search results
  • When other people like your content, they’ll link to your posts and help you get more backlinks
  • Regular content shows users that you’re active and that your business is functioning

It won’t always be possible to link content marketing efforts to actual earnings. Does that mean that your business can afford to drop its content creation efforts? Of course not.

Even when you don’t see a clear outcome from the work that you do, you still need to write, make videos, post images, and reach out.

Use analytics, do split tests, and otherwise keep trying to track the effectiveness of your posts. If you can’t use these tactics, it’s necessary to get used to uncertainty and rely on your content to reinforce your brand in other ways.