Murky KPIs: How to prove the value of content marketing when sales aren’t the goal

If you’re a content marketer working in ecommerce, your KPIs are easy.

You’re gonna wake up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy, walk into the office, stare your line manager in the face and tell them that your content (social, email, copy, whichever) drove [x] amount of revenue this month.

Which is great.

Nicely done.

If you’re feeling fancy, you’ll report on assisted conversions to give an omnichannel view of the buyer journey.

Also great.

But what if you’re selling something less concrete that doesn’t have the same obvious price attached?

What if you’re selling professional services or consultations or driving downloads of assets in a stage before they become a lead? What, ultimately, is the value of a prospect – of a ‘maybe’?

Defining the value of a lead

As a content agency, we sometimes run into a similar problem with clients. They get content marketing. (It’s 2018; everyone gets the point of content now. It’s ubiquitous. The internet is a ginormous pool of it.)

They have marketing goals. They have leads.

They have no idea what their cost per acquisition (CPA) is or what their lead value is. They’re definitely not lead scoring.

Which can be tricky when clients are querying the inherent value of their marketing.

The first step here is simple: define a lead. That lead – or interested party – wants a variant of a product and you sell it.

Simples.

ecommerce content

To move on from there, you’ll need to understand your lead value. A simple formula might be to take the average sale value times the conversion rate. Most site conversion rates are less than a percent.

So, let’s say you’re on the marketing team for a bank and your current drive is around booking mortgage appointments. Your site converts at .5 percent.

According to the Journal, the average value of a mortgage is €185,939.

You’ll take the ‘sale’ value and multiply it out by the conversion rate:

€185,939 x 0.005 = €929.

It isn’t a science, but it’s a rough idea of the potential worth of a lead. Once you know this, you can calculate a solid CPA that’s worth it for your business.

Obviously, mortgages are high-ticket items, so it’s not a science; it’s more of a guiding point.

However, not all leads are created equal.

With great power comes great responsibility

Of the people who land on your website, a certain percentage will convert. Some will convert immediately. Some will take their sweet damn time.

It’s a bit like when you were a kid and someone hid something on you and guided you round the room shouting ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ depending on how close you were to your precious loot.

Lead scoring is the process of assigning value to a lead, usually in an inbound marketing matrix. An-inexplicable-ban-the-water-hoses-hot lead is someone who has booked a demo. A warm lead might be someone who downloaded an ebook and attended a webinar. A lukewarm lead read a couple of your blogs, but showed no intent beyond that. A cold lead is someone who popped by your site for a bit.

A glitch in the matrix is someone who landed on your site and bounced.

Warm leads are likely to convert with gentle prodding. A cold lead may never convert.

Typically, organic leads are warmer than other digital activity because they come with an inherent intent. They’ve googled something related to you and landed on your site. (Same goes with PPC.) Social is a harder sell, though retargeting and dynamic ads can help the cause.

Someone searching for ‘mortgages’ is probably far more likely to become a customer than someone who clicked on a bank’s ad on Facebook. It’s user intent – and it’s helpful in considering the value of content.

Your digital activity might not drive a large number of direct conversions comparative to organic, but the key thrust of any digital marketing is to bolster organic.

sales value content marketing

Proving the business value of content marketing

Content marketing has two basic value streams that exist in an either/or that isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive:

  • It creates monetary value.
  • It creates thought leadership/relevance/usefulness/whichever for your audience.

Again: one of these things is much easier to prove as a KPI. Dolla bills keep a company open. But even content without a direct sales value has direct benefits to a company.

How?

Let’s count the ways.

1. Content will live as long as the internet does

If you’re doing any advertising (from OOH to PPC or social), you’re paying for space on someone else’s terrain. Essentially, you’re renting from bus companies or display or Google or Facebook. You’ll pay though the nose for it.

Content is owned media exemplified: it’s taking your platform and using smart copy or imagery or video to create brand awareness.

Content marketing is constant communication, especially on your blog. Blogging takes time absolutely, but inbound marketing (the process of pulling people to you) is an invaluable lead stream.

Create content and assets. Put them on a landing page and ask for an email address in return. While email may be seen as old-fashioned, it’s a hyper-valuable connection direct to a potential lead.

Where bought media has an expiry date, owned media can generate leads forever.

Now that’s value.

2. Content is at the cornerstone of SEO

In the old days of digital marketing, websites could rank in all manner of dirty, cheater-y ways. Tactics like typing keywords into footers and camouflaging them by setting the font colour to be the same as the website background were rabid.

Essentially, you could easily trick the SERPs into ranking your site.

However, Google is a wildly different beast to 10 or even three years ago, with dozens of fail-safes to return quality content.

Keywords are becoming a moot point too, with backlinking and strong pillar pages forming the backbone of many strategies in 2018 and beyond.

The content that works best fuels both SEO and organic, while still being useful to the target audience.

Think about it.

Let’s say you’re a property company that deals in high-value residential properties. You’re considering a paid search campaign to boost quick wins based on your core keywords: ‘buy a house’, ‘estate agent’, ‘property’.

Of the three, ‘buy a house’ has the most intent.

It gets around 100-1,000 searches per month. It’ll cost you €1.71 per top of page bid. Estate agent is even pricier, at €3.22.

That’s an expensive placement.

By all accounts, it’ll lead to conversions.

But why spend all that money on that digital real estate (ba dum tish) when you can use content marketing to create a suite of blogs that organically gets you to the top of the SERPs? It’ll take time, of course, and it can’t happen in a silo – but it’s a clear proof point for content.

Content marketing is an organic, owned win.

Everything else is paid for.

🤷

3. Content has impact

In the last five or so years, advertising has changed.

You can thank content (and inbound) marketing for that.

The average consumer has a shorter attention span – but they’ve also got a more refined barometer for crap.

When traditional media was the only outlet, attention was easier served. Expectations were lower. Customers rarely had a voice.

As much as we talk about how the digital landscape is full of noise, we rarely consider how loud the consumer is now too. They’re on their phones and laptops at the same time, one eye on a meme and the other on Netflix.

They’re consuming an inordinate amount of content and propelling a rabid, 24-hour cycle facilitated by the blue gloom of always-on screens.

They expect more from brands.

They want sustainability and ethics and a clear sense of ‘why’.

They want answers and entertainment.

And they want it now.

The internet has put businesses onto the tracks of a hypersonic train. Sit still too long and you’ll be wiped clean out. Potential prospects will find a better deal or better information or a company who at the very least seems to care more.

Content is your outlet. It’s your in.

It’s putting you in front of your consumer.

It’s directly and indirectly driving sales.

It is, whether you know how to accurately measure it in Analytics or not.

That’s the sound of silence – and silence doesn’t sell.

Consider the ad campaigns you’ve loved. You can probably rattle half a dozen viral hits off the top of your head.

And as much as it’s about the blockbusters, it’s equally about the ‘quieter’ campaigns too, the hard-working inbound campaigns that drive leads and engagement, that boost rankings and assist conversions.

Sales may not be a direct metric, but ultimately, good content will feed organic, put your business front and centre, and create brand visibility.

And all of that leads to one thing.

Sales.

Need a knock-out CONTENT MARKETING strategy to generate leads?

We’re here to help! Our experienced social media and lead generation professionals will give you exactly what you need to generate qualified leads and grow your business. Get in touch to find out more about our services.

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About Lisa Sills

Lisa is Digital Content Manager with 256. A graduate of TV and Media Production, Lisa's got extensive experience in digital and content marketing and has been writing since she was tiny. She wrote her first novel at 8. It was terrible. She likes to think she's gotten better since.