As a digital marketing professional, I often get asked; “is content marketing worth the cost?”, “What’s the return on investment?” and “How soon will I see results?”. The answers to these questions aren’t a simple number or percentage. Both the cost and the return of content marketing is a little more complex to measure than other methods of online advertising. Why, you ask? Allow me to explain.
Pay-per-click vs. Content Marketing
With pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns you can easily see the ROI by measuring the number of clicks, leads or purchases that result from your paid ads. The reason you can easily calculate the ROI of PPC marketing is because there is a specified cost and timeframe to measure results. The cost of PPC marketing is simply the amount you spend on your ads and with the sophisticated analytics available today, you can see the exact amount of purchase transactions that result. The cost of content marketing includes everything from the time you spent writing the content, the effort it takes to craft it and even the cost of paying a professional to manage it for you.
When it comes to content marketing, the immediate return can be more difficult to measure. You’ve probably heard of the Marketing Rule of 7; “a prospect needs to hear your message seven times before they’ll make a purchase”. The touchpoints needed to deliver a sales qualified lead may even reach 7- 13+ touches depending on your industry, geographical location, target audience, and the products and services that you offer. This means that every exposure to your brand is valuable whether it’s the first time, fifth time, or seventh. Keeping that in mind, how do you quantify the monetary value of each exposure? They are all cumulative in earning a sale. One way to get an idea of the return of your content marketing efforts is through your website analytics. Tracking conversions on your website will allow you to see how each user came to your website whether it was through social media, a blog post, email or referral. You can check this in Google Analytics under Goal Flow for Conversions. You can also check your referral traffic and organic traffic for more insights.
The results of content marketing campaigns are more long term than PPC campaigns. With PPC, the return stops as soon as you stop paying for the ads whereas with content marketing, your content can bring in an unlimited amount of return for as long as it’s published. A well-written blog post or popular social media account has the potential to bring in an unlimited amount of new customers long after its publish date.
The Value of Content Marketing
Content marketing is valuable for building awareness for your brand and communicating the value of your products or services. It is great for targeting people that are in the beginning stages of the marketing funnel (awareness and consideration). If your brand is newer to the market or isn’t already well-known to your target market, a brand awareness strategy will likely be the best course of action to drive sales in the long term.
Your content can also be tailored to target very specific audiences that are further down the marketing funnel to enhance desire and encourage individuals to make reach the purchase decision stage. Creating content that answers specific questions that a current customer or competitor’s customer may have will help build brand loyalty.
Regular blog posting is an extremely effective yet often overlooked method of lead generation. Blogging is the best way to bring in organic traffic because you can create highly targeted content for every possible audience you may want to reach. Search engines like Google will automatically rank your content based on the keywords used in your posts.
Social media is another popular form of content marketing. A strong social media presence is invaluable for your brand image. It offers a more “natural” way of connecting with current and potential customers through posting, liking, commenting and sharing. You can show off your brand personality and connect with followers on a more personal level to attract new leads and build a deeper brand loyalty.
When deciding if content marketing is right for your business, the answer depends on your objective. Content marketing is a great long-term strategy for lead generation and it may take longer to see results than other forms of online advertising like PPC marketing. On the other hand, content marketing has better longevity because there is no limit to the amount of leads it can bring in. PPC sales will disappear as soon as you stop paying for the ads.
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution to building your brand online, a combination of multiple marketing channels is often the best approach to allow your company to drive desired results both in the short and long term horizons. This might include using content marketing, PPC ads and search engine optimization.