You can only manage what you measure. Setting your content up for success means understanding what you want it to actually achieve before you implement. To tackle the content measurement conversation, I knew I had to get Jay Bear, Convince & Convert, on Content Marketing 360 Radio Show.

One of Jay’s many strengths is reminding his audience that measurement does not have to be complicated. Understand what you want from your marketing, know the steps of your sales process and track the data for results.

Below is an excerpt from my interview with Jay, where he shares :

  • How he got started in business
  • The important questions you need to ask before launching your content marketing strategy
  • Why Google Analytics is a must for tracking some of the right data.

Stay tuned to CMI where you can read the second part of this interview. Or, you can listen to my full interview with Jay in a couple of ways:

Pamela: A big welcome to my guest today on Content Marketing 360 radio show, none other than Jay Baer. He is, of course, the founder and chief guy over there at Convince & Convert. He’s also a best-selling author. His book, “The Now Revolution,” came out and really was something that took the marketing world by storm and it’s a great resource. I am very pleased to have Jay Baer on Content Marketing 360 today. Hi, Jay. How are you?

Jay: Hey, Pamela. Great to be here. Thanks for having me on the show. I actually am the co-author of that book. My friend, Amber Naslund, wrote all the good parts. I wrote all the fun parts.

Pamela: Isn’t it great to have someone to do some checks and balances to make sure you get the details right?

Jay: Fantastic.

Pamela: Well, great. A shout-out to her as well, of course. We never do this alone. We never do this alone.

Jay: You’ve got that right.

Pamela: There’s always a group of people around us to make us look great. But this is an area that you’ve been working in, Jay, for quite some time. I’m not sure if folks really realize how long you’ve been in the digital world, kind of like dog years, right? You’ve really been involved in the internet area of things in marketing for quite some time. So, why don’t you just give your audience a little background on how you launched Convince & Convert, which is your marketing consulting firm and just how that path started for you some time ago actually.

Jay: I like that delightful preamble which basically summarizes that you’re so much older than I thought. That’s great, Pamela. Nice job.

Pamela: It’s one of those backhanded compliments, right?

Jay: Yeah, no kidding. So, I was originally in politics. I was a political campaign consultant and decided to do something different. At that time, some friends of mine I went to school with at the University of Arizona had started the very first internet company in the state of Arizona circa 1993. They called me one day and said, “Hey, we need somebody who knows something about marketing because we don’t know about that.” I said, “Well that’s good because I don’t know what you mean when you say the word internet,” because this was before it was even a thing, obviously.

But it seemed like a grand adventure. So, I signed on as the Vice President and partner in this internet company. It turned out that one of my partners invented web hosting quite literally. Before he came up with this new algorithm, it used to be one domain name to one server. You couldn’t have multiple sites on one box so it was obviously pretty expensive to have a website because you had to have a dedicated server to have any website, even for your dog grooming business or what have you.

So, he invented the partitioning algorithm that invented the virtual hosting category. We grew quite a bit in a very rapid period of time, and I was the old guy at the tender age of 24. We made every classic mistake that you could possibly make. These were the days when you could register domain names for free because who would want to pay for something like that?

Pamela: They couldn’t afford to have a website, right?

Jay: We sold the to Anheuser Busch for 120 cases of long neck beer.

Pamela: I love it.

Jay: We got the better end of the bargain. Like half of our office was full of beer and we were like, “Yeah, we got those guys.” So yeah, I’ve been doing this a long time and managed to get out of that experience alive and then started a series of digital consultancies. Convince & Convert is my fifth start-up agency that I have founded since 1993, all in web strategy, web marketing, and now social strategy and content marketing.

Pamela: Excellent. That is a great story, Jay. Seriously, I love it. Actually you say 1993. Again, we’re in 2012 and it doesn’t feel that long ago, but there’s something about this digital space. So we’re going to call you an innovator, how’s that?

Jay: It ages that, for sure.

Pamela: We learn from all the fun mistakes we make and all of the success that comes with that. Our topic today is in an area that I know you’re passionate about, and work very closely with your clients, is the measurement of content, including social media.

This gets a lot of buzz, but sometimes just the down and dirty tactical “how do we do it?” gets missed, right? So, let’s start with the measurement process. It’s my business. I’m getting started, and I want to set some expectations. One of the things, I think it was Peter Drucker, who said you can only manage what you measure. So, how do we start that process if I’m a business diving into this wonderful world of content marketing? What are some great questions I should be asking of myself and my marketing team?

Jay: As you said, I’ve been doing this for awhile, and I feel like I’ve seen this movie before because the same questions that we’re asking today about how do we measure content marketing and how do we measure social media are the exact same questions that we asked awhile back about how do I measure the success of my website, email marketing or SEO? We just keep asking the same question but changing the subject of the question, which is good news and bad news, I guess.

I think when it comes to content and its relationship to social, the way I look at that is content is fire and social media is gasoline. Use the social side to introduce people to your content and help them engage with it. Let’s not use social media just to tell people how great we are.

When we talk about measuring content in particular, I talk a lot about there actually being four types of content metrics. It’s an important concept because everybody wants the magic number. Everybody wants the mathematical shortcut. A lot of people got into these businesses because they were told there would be no math. They have been lied to, unfortunately.

So, everybody wants the seven, thirteen percent. They want the one number they can keep in their head which is, incidentally, the reason why things like Facebook fans and Twitter followers are such a popular data point because you don’t have to run a report. You just log on and there’s the number. They always say if every time you went to a website in the top right hand corner it showed you how many email subscribers they had, guess what we’d be talking about? We’d be writing books about it. We’d be going to conferences. We would be spending all kinds of psychic energy around email subscribers. The reason we care so much about Facebook fans is that they give us the number without us having to run a report.

The four types of content metrics are:

  • Consumption metrics
  • Sharing metrics
  • Lead metrics
  • Sales metrics

You really have to pick one from every bucket. So, did anybody actually read this? Did anybody share this? Did anybody then take a desired action that helps our business make money or save money as a result of reading this? And then, did any of those people who took that first desired action actually become a customer?

It’s a continuum, and I think that’s an area that people get confused on. If you’re going to measure the success of a content marketing program or an individual piece of content, that answer, the value equation, is going to play out over time, not tomorrow because you have to have enough lapse in time, enough calendar pages have to turn, for whatever you want that person to do. That has to be allowed to happen.

I’m about to say, “Hey fill out this form and then get a demo and then eventually buy our software.” That’s probably not going to happen in five minutes.

If you’re going to justify your content expenditure, you need to look at that over a longer period of time. If you are looking at views this week, you’re looking at too small of a slice of pie.

Pamela: It’s an interesting dichotomy. It takes five minutes to actually get a Facebook brand page up and running, but it takes a lifetime to build the relationships and, depending on your product or service, the conversion can take a couple days, weeks or years. So, if I’m hearing you correctly, these four areas of measurement that you mentioned are very similar to any other kind of sales and marketing process before the internet, right?

Jay: That’s absolutely the case, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. I think the time lapse part of it is so important. Content and social are the long con. You were trying to build relationships over a long period of time. It’s not the smash and grab, and I think people are overeager to generate results. That’s not to say results can’t be generated — of course they can, and you can do amazing things with content marketing and social media — but you have to give it time to play out, the same way you would give an actual relationship time to play out.

Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a post about this on my blog, Convince & Convert. He says that too many companies act like 19-year-old dudes. They try to close the deal on the first night, and that’s very, very true when it comes to content and social media.

Pamela: I love that analogy. It’s part of this dichotomy of a fast-food nation that we’ve developed over time. When you strip away the elements of speed, high speed internet, I can talk to you within a millisecond. At the end of the day people are still people and you still need to understand your audience and how they are going to take in information.

So, that is a part of this measurement conversation, is when you’re choosing the strategies or the content in which you’re going to connect with your audience. How do you approach that, choosing the strategy and knowing what your benchmarks are? How do you approach that with a client? Do you have the benchmarks first and then choose strategies? Is it a combination? Because choosing the right strategies is also what a lot of businesses are struggling with today as well.

Jay: No question because I feel like, more so in social than content but in both, companies are now getting involved in some of these activities because they feel like they need to or that they should or their competitors are or they read about it in a magazine, and none of those are particularly compelling strategic narratives. So, we really have to understand at the behavioral level, what are we trying to encourage people to do more of that they are doing less of today? Is it tell their friends? Is it tell our forum? Is it buy the software? Is it advocate on our behalf? What behavior are we trying to create and then work backwards to figure out what type of content needs to be built and distributed to make those behaviors happen?

I think turning this whole process on its head leads to much better outcomes. Start with the answer and work backwards to the content.

Pamela: Well, and then, of course, part of that backwards content is for some of us it could be researching how our audience takes in information. So, are they reading it? Are they listening to it? Do they need some visual elements? Right now, when I think of all the strategies that are out there, it gets pretty crazy pretty fast. Like you mentioned, businesses kind of want that quick hit. They want what is the secret code. I think when choosing a strategy there’s a lot of that conversation as well. So, how is that working?

So, you’re setting your benchmarks. You’re setting what you’re going to measure. You go backwards from that, choose the strategies that you believe are the best suited for your business and your audience. But then, the actual process of tracking data, you’ve already talked to fans, followers, that’s the high level, okay, that makes us feel good for just a few seconds. How do we actually start tracking all of this data, and how does that connect to the specific strategies that we’re choosing?

Jay: It somewhat depends on what modality the content exists in. Let’s assume it’s, just for ease of math, something that is page-based, like a blog. If you are going to commit to robust blogging on behalf of your organization, you will look at those four types of metrics that I mentioned at the outset. So you’re looking at consumption metrics – how many people read the blog at the overall level and at the individual post level. You’ll look at sharing metrics – how many people actually shared each individual blog post in social media. All of those metrics are available within either your blogging software or whatever third party plug-in you use to power your sharing device.

On the first one your consumption metrics, of course, will be available in something like Google Analytics. If you’re not really good at Google Analytics but yet you want to be serious about content marketing, you have a donut hole in your world. You’re going to have to get good at it. It’s just not an optional exercise. So, you’d use Google Analytics presumably for the consumption data. You would use either social data or something from your blog for the sharing metrics.

On the lead side, how many leads came in from this particular blogging initiative? You would look at either Google Analytics and/or some sort of CRM system. So, if you use a piece of software to power your lead forms and your follower processes, so Infusion Soft, which is what I use, all the way up to Marketo or Eloqua, some sort of system like that will tell you those data points. And then the same thing on the sales side.

So, your database, if you put those leads into a database, and you should, should eventually determine whether or not those people became a customer and what that customer is worth. That requires companies who are doing marketing to bolt that together with sales. That’s underutilized in many companies, that sales and marketing don’t work closely together enough, and if you’re really going to get serious about the value of your content program, you have to tie sales and marketing together. They have to be on the same team.

So, it’s a long answer to a simple question, but I think what it shows is that not only is there not a magic number, there’s also not a magic piece of software. If you think you’re . . . and this happens all the time. We confuse the wizard and the wand. I get this question every day. What software should I buy to measure social media? Well, none. Because there is no software that inherently lets you measure social media. There’s software that allows you to measure a particular dimension of social media or content marketing, but there is no magic piece of software. You have to be your own middleware. You have to take data points from a bunch of different places and stitch them together so you can figure out the whole solution.

Pamela: There’s a couple of things in that, Jay, that I want to expand on and since we segued out of the software piece, a piece of that is okay, obviously, this is why setting expectations is so darn important because before you could choose what other tools, people, resources, or software resources are needed, you have to know what it is you’re going to measure. I mean, it sounds like the cart and the horse kind of conversation there, right?

Jay: Oh, absolutely. I just talked about this last week on my podcast, Social Pros, with my co-host Eric Boggs, and we had the same conversation about people saying I need this software. It’s like, what are you going to accomplish with it? I don’t know but I’ve got to have this software. Well, maybe we ought to make a list of the things that we want this software to do, and then we’ll determine whether, in fact, this is the right software or maybe it’s no software. Maybe the answer is Excel. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Pamela: Good old-fashioned manual counting. Wow.

Jay: Yeah. Fingers. The answer is fingers, the killer app.

Pamela: It’s funny you said it’s a long answer to a simple question. It has to be a long answer because this is almost like breaking down a myth as well as getting folks to realize it’s just like anything. The pretty shiny object is not necessarily going to convert more people. It’s what you do with it, it’s how you manage it, it’s still just a tool. It’s funny because maybe three, four, five years ago we were hard-pressed to find more than maybe, a handful of tools. Now, it’s kind of the wild, wild West in software.

Jay: No question.

Jay is co-author of The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to make Your Company Faster, Smarter and More Social, the co-host of the Social Pros podcast, and one of the CMI consultants. You can also see him speak at Content Marketing World, which is taking place in Columbus Ohio from September 4 – 6.

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