How can brands quantify the ROI on their content marketing
programs? What are the keys to creating content that inspires deep engagement?
Where is content marketing heading?
Recently we sat down with one of our favorite content
marketing all-stars, Michael Brenner, to tackle these common questions. Michael
is the CEO of the Marketing
Insider Group and author of The
Content Formula, a step-by-step guide for determining the ROI of content
marketing. He’s also a frequent keynote speaker as well as the former Head of
Strategy at NewsCred and the former VP of Content Marketing at SAP.
Check out the Q&A below:
the difference between good content and bad content?
A: The definition I would use for good content tends to be
different than what other people think of. For me, good content simply answers
a question that a potential customer is asking as part of the buying journey.
That sounds like a relatively low bar, yet I think brands struggle
with answering simple questions using the expertise they have.
Q: We hear from a lot of marketers that
they have a hard time determining the ROI on their content, and this is
something you deal with in-depth in The Content Formula; what’s your advice to them on how
to get started with measurement?
A: The first thing I wonder when I hear the content marketing
ROI question is if it really is a measurement question or a defense mechanism
from a traditionally-minded or change-resistant executive.
About half the time I hear the question it is coming from a
marketer who believes that pushing out their message in traditional ways is
still the right way to market. My cheeky response to these people is: what’s
the ROI of throwing your logo on stadium? No one in the history of marketing
has ever been able to define that. Traditional marketing is hard to quantify
and measure the ROI of; content marketing is infinitely more measurable.
That’s part one. Part two is why I wrote the book. It’s not
for the change-resistant people but for those that are seriously interested in
Most people like to think about performance metrics of
content when they talk about ROI, that’s really only half of the story. You
have to understand the investment first. Then you have to tie it to your
original business objective for doing content marketing. For some, it’s
awareness. For some, it’s changing perception or driving deeper engagement. For
others, it’s driving leads and sales.
In the book I have actual calculations that can help define
the return side of the ROI equation for each one of those objectives. But you
have to start first with: what’s the business objective for the program?
Q: How do
you measure the ROI on something like posting to Instagram?
A: It’s important to understand my very strong bias for what I
consider content marketing is.
For me, content marketing occurs on your owned digital
platforms, so an Instagram post is not content marketing. That’s an example of
a distribution tactic for a content marketing program.
The reason for this is that it all comes down to measurement.
As Joe Pulizzi puts it: “Don’t build your house on rented land.” The point
of it is that you should bring folks to your company-owned content marketing
destinations, like your company website or blog or whatever, because you know
the value of those actions. Measuring things such as likes on Instagram is
irrelevant if you’re not doing that.
It’s very difficult to quantity the value of a social like or
share. Of course, having likes and shares is better than not having them. And
they’re a great way to look at which content within a content marketing program
is performing best. That helps you invest your spend. But it’s not an ROI
Q: You’ve got excellent content on the Marketing
site, in particular the expert articles; how do you approach programming the
blog? What are the goals?
A: I usually define the business case for content marketing as
reaching, engaging, and converting prospects or clients that you would have
never have reached or converted.
So, for me, I’m not interested in creating these pieces for people
who are typing “Marketing Insider” into the search engine. I’m interested in
reaching people that are typing: “How I define content marketing ROI?”
I’m hoping that they find the value in the content that I
publish and then engage. I typically see five to six, sometimes even 10 minutes,
of engagement on an article. I think the industry averages for a publisher are
more like a minute, so they are finding value.
Ultimately some portion of those readers is going to take the
next step and reach out to me for a client engagement.
Q: How do
you convert them? Do you use strong calls-to-action in the pieces immediately?
Or engage them later?
A: It’s always a struggle.
Saying: “Hey, are you interested in building you content
marketing strategy?” or “Click here to attend one of my workshops”
is relatively easy and effective for people later in the funnel, since they’re
ready to do that right now.
The challenge is how do you bring people from the top of the
funnel down to the bottom. So it’s the middle stages where we need to invest
time and money into creating things like whitepapers, e-books, and guides. I’ve
been posting almost all my
SlideShare, and that’s been effective. I’m able to generate leads there because
I think those people are often in that middle stage.
brands do you think are doing an excellent job with content marketing?
A: SAP is doing a great job. The SAP digital magazine, The Digitalist, has
turned into a full-fledged experience. They get excellent engagement on the
site, and there’s even an app. What they’re investing is relatively small, not hundreds
of thousands of dollars, and they’re getting a great return.
On the consumer side, I really like what Van Winkles is doing
with Casper, the
mattress company. They have such a strong focus on an unmet need in the
marketplace. They’re focusing on this idea of better sleep and talking to a
group of people that no one else is serving.
I also like what Wistia is doing with video. They are a video production platform
and they do a great job of creating videos about how to create great videos.
It’s very meta.
are there any content marketing trends that you’re watching closely right now?
A: Video. If you look at
the more mature brands in content marketing, they’re focusing significant amounts
of investment in video and on visual in general.
Think about Red Bull and GoPro, even the Lego Movie, these brands are
creating awesome visual content. The History Channel is doing some great
documentaries with brands that are brand-sponsored content. I think visual
story telling in general is probably the hottest area for content marketing in