57% —that’s how far the average B2B buyer is through the purchase decision cycle before engaging a team member in sales. With nearly 60% of your customers engaging first with your content, then with your team, there’s still only 88% of B2B marketers that consider themselves to use content marketing as part of their business strategy.

As a result, content marketing efforts aren’t being leveraged as a strategic business function, which means less budget and resources are given to marketing teams to engage prospective buyers. This means that most content efforts end up being experimental with a “just get it done” mentality, leaving thousands of dollars of untapped potential on the table.

Here are 4 key ways to make your content efforts data-driven:

Showcase the potential of content on your business’s bottom line by identifying the right metrics to measure content initiatives against.

If you know where you’re headed and why, you’ll know what to track to stay focused.

To be a data-driven content team, look beyond just measuring how much content you’re creating and answer why you’re creating content in the first place. Data-driven content teams think how content makes a difference long-term and beyond just the project to how that content impacts other functions of the business.content-funnel-lead-generation

A new webinar, for example, will get the business 100 new leads in the short-term, boost brand awareness, and increase web traffic. Long-term, the same webinar contributed to the bottom-line of closing $100,000 new sales in the quarter. Each webinar created, marketed, and executed captures more leads, builds brand trust, which all feed a marketing funnel.

All these efforts work in various ways to help with conversion to revenue. So how do you get started proving that connection and showing ROI? Think backwards.

Working backwards from strategic business goals insures you’re not creating content for the sake of it, but you’re focused on the right content to deliver on the bottom-line every time. Ask yourself what each campaign created is hoping to get you.

If your goal is to land $100,000 in new sales, think to the prerequisites needed to make a sale:

  • Figure out which exact metric you need to increase. Do you have enough leads to convert to opportunities, or do you need to focus on lead generation? Based on previous quarters conversion rates, you may need to focus on lead generation, or perhaps you have buckets of leads, and need to focus on conversion nurturing).
  • Identify a benchmark you’re working to improve. Look to last quarter’s conversion numbers to predict what areas specifically you can focus on increasing.
  • Create a strategic plan that highlights what content activities will improve each metric. Some content activities such as webinars, newsletter signup optimizations, events, or content downloads will work to capture leads, while email marketing will nurture and aim to convert leads to opportunities.

In the list above, it’s clear what content activities are directly tied to the strategic bottom-line of increasing revenue. While the direct impact of blog X compared to blog Y might be difficult to prove, a documented strategic plan clearly highlights what metrics matter, what content is contributing to what metric, and provides a quantifiable foundation to benchmark against.

Being a data-driven comes to always insuring the following two questions get answered:

  1. What metrics does our business care about?
  2. What content mediums are most likely to help us deliver on that metric?

If you’re unsure, always default to asking, does the metric you’re using to identify success help you make decisions? Do you know what you need to do to execute and make it happen? If you don’t, you’re probably not linking content output to the right metric.

Lean on the goldmine of data that is already right in front of you: Analyze what content has lead to conversions in the past to map out future content campaigns

One of the benefits of data-driven content marketing is that there’s always opportunities to iterate and optimize what’s already been done. If the business goal is to generate $100,000 in new revenue, and you know that to hit the marketing to sales conversion % you’re going to need 1,000 more new leads, look at past campaigns that have delivered the most leads.

Look at what worked within that campaign and see if there’s potential re-purposing opportunity. Analyze where along the campaign mishaps happened, such as spikes in unsubscribes, and take note of how your new campaign will course correct for those mistakes.

Being data-driven means you’re continuously analyzing past metrics to iterate on your strategy in future decisions.

A/B test to continuously create comparative data.

A/B testing is one strategy to ensure that you’re always aiming at optimizing the impact of content on your business. Whether the focus is on capturing new leads or, converting an existing database of leads into new opportunities, A/B testing can be used to make small improvements that drive low-cost data-inspired ROI.

From tweaking landing page call-to actions to testing email nurture campaign messages to drive lead to sales opportunity conversions, A/B testing identify what’s working, what’s not, and create a goldmine of insight into how you can continuously improve.

Don’t become complacent or okay with average.

A/B testing insures you’re continuously working on driving even more ROI time and time again. Even if your current conversion rates are making a strong impact on your bottom-line, becoming complacent with benchmarks can mean that your business is losing out on thousands of dollars of untapped opportunities.

Experiment with timing you send emails with critical CTAs and insure you have a control version.

A survey of over 6 million emails done by Hubspot revealed 80% fewer emails are sent over the weekend. As a result, they’re 10% more likely to be opened.* Always A/B test to optimize the potential of your messages, but be sure to use a control version to test changes against. A “control” version is the original version of the email you did or would have sent before coming up with a second version. Having the original to benchmark changes against insures you have 1 copy that you’re always checking against.

Having 1 version to check against also insures that slight changes you’re making aren’t “confounding variables” or things occurring that are out of your control (Email server blocks, away messages, etc.) In addition, without a baseline to measure against, it becomes difficult to see the actual ROI any small tweak you made along the way has against other changes you’ve made.

Conversion rates are only meaningful if they’re accomplishing the right goal for your business.

Benchmarks, best practices, and goals to track ROI are only meaningful if they’re the right metrics and ROI proof that your business cares about. The best piece of advice is that you have to do what’s in your business’s better interest.

Don’t just do what’s new and innovative because it’s a hot market trend.

What’s the business goal, how can content contribute in moving that forward, and how will we know our content is contributing to that goal.

A good way to manage ideation and pulse check if the content initiatives you’re executing on is continuously making a difference is to have bi-weekly status meetings as a team. Keep it simple by using the start, stop, keep method. Define what you should keep doing, what you should stop doing, and what you need to start doing.

Remember, being data-driven means that you’re taking specific business goals and identifying opportunities where content can make a positive impact against the bottom-line.

Looking for more information on how to become data-driven content team?

Download the free guide on moving from experimental content output to an insight-driven, scalable strategy.