The Universal Question: How Do You Measure Content Marketing’s Value?

Video from the #ThinkContent Content Marketing Summit on September 18, 2014.

Everyone in the content marketing industry is in the same boat when it comes to searching for a way to quantify the value of what they do everyday. How do you measure engagement? Can you really know what’s going on in the brain of a potential buyer just by the amount of time they spend on your page? What do metrics like click-through rates and social shares really mean in relationship to sales?

These are some of the questions that marketers toil with everyday, especially if they have to sell the idea of content marketing to various stakeholders who are mostly concerned with budget and ROI.

The truth is, there is no definitive or universally accepted way to measure the value of content … yet. But we’re getting closer.

At least that was the consensus of the three panelists at NewsCred’s #ThinkContent Content Marketing Summit 2014. Michael Brenner, head of strategy at NewsCred, who moderated the panel, said the worst question he can get from someone is: How much software are you going to sell with your content marketing?”

“It’s a sign that the person or company isn’t ready, and that education needs to take place. However, it is a valid question,” he noted.

Here’s what the panel of marketing executives had to say about addressing the notion of value when it come to content marketing:

Numbers or no numbers, promote content marketing for the awesome asset that it is.

“Content marketing is a strategic asset,” says Gurdeep Dhillon, VP Marketing, SAP.  “Our job is to set expectations properly with both marketing and other stakeholders that content is going to be that differentiator.” He went on to quote Rebecca Lieb, who said, “The atomic unit of marketing is content.”

When Dhillon took on his current role, he wasn’t asked to build a content team, but he knew that he needed one. “I was charged with demand generation, but we had this huge gap with resonating with our target audience. I made the case and built my team for that purpose,” he explained. “The onus is on us to acquire the skills and people that have this mindset, and can go and execute on them.”

Dhillon’s advice: If you put a strategy around the creation of content in place, then content itself becomes a strategic asset to differentiate you from your competitors.

Yeah, it’s hard to measure, but keep on trying.

One of the reasons evaluating the value of content marketing is such a challenge, said John Bell, VP, Enterprise Digital Marketing, Travelers, is because content plays a role through the whole customer journey. “Understanding how content helps find new leads or qualified leads is very different than nurturing prospects in the middle — and very different from bringing customers along at key moments,” he explained. You have to figure out the different types of value that content provides for each part of the journey.

“Outside of marketing, people don’t get why it’s valuable,” said Oliver Roll, VP, Global Corporate Communications, VMWare. “We have to teach our stakeholders about the art and science of content marketing. The second problem is marketers. We’re really in an experimentation stage of how to measure the outcomes,” he said.  “We’re all trying measurement in different ways, and I don’t think anyone’s gotten it right.”

The real value is in discovering what people care about.

“When you actually analyze the 77 people we care about most and how are they engaging with VMWare and what are they passing along and writing about – those are the influencer metrics,” Roll says.

His prediction: Metrics will continue to improve and do a better job of specificity, namely, learning to gauge the behaviors of the individuals we care about most.

Until there is a standard way to measure content’s value from an ROI perspective, take your cues by listening closely to those who find value in your content, and forge forward.

This post originally appeared on NewsCred

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