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The measurement conundrum

How do I determine the effectiveness of white papers or blog or any piece of content for that matter?  How do I demonstrate RoI of my content marketing efforts?

Sounds familiar? These are some of the questions that clients frequently keep asking us and rightly so. With the grudging acceptance of marketing’s contributions in running a business leading to improved budgets, marketing functions are under the radar more than ever and need to prove their efficacy. Gone are the days when brand recall, engagement and other such qualitative metrics suffice. Today management demands a clear correlation between marketing efforts and business results. And we go back to the root question – how do we meaningfully link marketing efforts to business outcomes? Let’s just consider content marketing for the purpose of this blog.

It’s not an easy problem to solve. I have been reading a lot to understand this issue better and while there is a lot of discussion around it, a standard way is yet to emerge. In the meantime, there are several suggestions on how to go about it adding to the melee. Rest assured that I’m not going to suggest more ways to measure; rather my blog is on the approach to measurement – a recommendation to a more holistic way to assess efforts and results. Here goes.

We need to consider measurements from the overall business angle – assemble all the bricks and then make an assessment based on the final structure that you get. Today, the trend is to measure individual efforts and then leave it at that. While you may have a total number of leads generated by marketing through the year from various campaigns, however, that is not a holistic measure and only indicates outcomes of your campaigns and not content marketing as a whole. The key is to shift from that siloed mindset and instead approach in a more integrated fashion. After all content marketing is a common thread across most of the marketing programs, isn’t it?

First, think about areas where content marketing plays a role. Hint – consider both internal and external audiences. Here are the most common ones –

  1.  Campaigns, demand gen campaigns , branding campaigns
  2. direct sales
  3. sales enablement
  4. customer touch programs

and so on…

Typically with market-facing programs, we look at reach, engagement and business enquiries kind of measures for each of them. Keep track of the leads and closures that originated from these programs.

At the end of every quarter, analyze the opportunities won, lost and under consideration. Examine the role of content across each of these opportunities and you will get to know what content strategy, type of content, format and so on were successful and importantly which ones did not work for your audience. You may discover that “How-to” content works best to engage your audience for instance.  Here is a sample framework to carry out that analysis –

Whitepaper 1 Infographic 1 Edm 1
Average traffic generated across campaigns
Average engagement across campaigns
# Opportunities under consideration involved in
# Opportunities Won involved in
# Opportunities Lost involved in

Some of the other factors that you may want to look into are –

  1. On which campaign did the content piece have the most impact? Why?
  2. On which campaign did the content piece have the least impact? Why?
  3. Who was the audience for this content piece?
  4. What kind of qualitative feedback did you receive from the audience?
  5. Which types of content had the most impact? Educational, sales collateral, advise?

You get the idea. Carried out in this manner, you are sure to get a clearer picture of which content works and which does not. Extend this to a half-yearly and annual review as well. I suspect most companies don’t have this clarity yet. Granted marketing software such as Hubspot offers the ability to pin down on the specific piece of content that was most influential.

However, we are again at a campaign level and need to get a consolidated and overall view.  That’s only possible when you consider content that reaches out to all of your audience – both internal and external.

Next, consider sales enablement programs. Establishing a connect between customer-facing content and business results is itself tough. An even more sizeable challenge is that of linking an internal audience oriented program with business results, as the impact cannot be derived in a straightforward fashion.

This can be done by baselining the sales team’s capabilities and selling track record (goal vs. actual, deal sizes, nature of deals, consistency, profitability etc.) before commencing the sales enablement program. Repeat this exercise on a half-yearly basis and examine the results.

Adopt the same approach as the customer facing content by digging deep into these results to understand if and which content played a role in delivering results.

Whitepaper 1 Infographic 1 Edm 1
Readership metrics


In addition, get answers to these questions –

  1. Is there an increase in activity level for the sales person? (assess number of enquiries, opportunities, leads etc.)
  2. Is there a change in the kind of deals that the sales person is handling? What kind of changes are these?
  3. Qualitative feedback on the content shared as part of the sales enablement efforts – what difference did it make?

This approach is likely to get tweaked as we use it.

Every quarter, the marketing function should review the content metrics – both external and internal together to get the big picture view and see what effects it had on overall business results and not on just specific campaigns. Agreed that this approach requires some investment in terms of time and resources which may appear intimidating initially; nevertheless, you need to make a start if your company is serious about measuring marketing results.

It’s evident that it is simpler to connect external facing content with business outcomes than internal facing content. But the key is to get started with both and continuously refine the approach to arrive at one that makes the most sense for your organization.


(This blog first appeared on www.prayag.com)