Content Marketing: ROI

ROI, or Return on Investment, is important to understand not only for analyzing your current campaigns and marketing strategies but to help estimate if a campaign will have a positive return on investment. For writers this is especially important as you want to ensure all the hard earned money you put into marketing actually comes back to you in some form of a return. This could be book sales, new subscribers to your newsletter, or social media follows.

Valera Wilson, a speaker, author, and coach, shared a detailed LinkedIn Learning video on Content Marketing: ROI (Wilson, 2020) that I highly recommend checking out, but I will be summarizing key points below. This can be useful information for when establishing a marketing goal focused on ROI.

Establishing Content Marketing Goals

The first thing Wilson (2020) explains that you will need is to establish your content marketing goals. You’ll need to take into consideration who your stakeholders are, or those who will be affected by the campaigns. On a larger scale outside of just the individual writer, or when working with a company or team, this could be:

  • Your readers/customer
  • Authority (budget holders)
  • The people impacted (sales team)
  • Those who contribute (marketing team)

To define your goals, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the business goals?
  2. What gaps or opportunities do you see?

There are a few different types of goals you could choose when setting a campaign:           

  • Brand Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Leads Generated
  • Sales
  • Retention or Loyalty
  • Upselling or Cross-selling (also known as the backlist for authors)

Determine which of these content marketing goals offer the greatest business impact for you and your company.

Metrics

There are different metrics to consider for each goal. Knowing each one will help you determine which is ideal for you and your specific focus. I’ll break down each goal and metric below:

  1. Awareness
    • Search volumes
    • Traffic to websites
    • Reach or impressions
    • Number of video views
    • Press mentions
  2. Engagement
    • Likes
    • Comments
    • Follows
    • Shares
    • Click-throughs
  3. Lead Generation
    • Downloads
    • Contact forms
    • Email subscriptions
    • Inbound communications
  4. Sales
    • Online (ecommerce)
    • Offline (brick and mortar stores)
  5. Retention or Loyalty
    • Renewals
    • Attrition
    • Net promoter score (or how often you are recommended)
    • Referrals
  6. Cross-sales
    • Percent of sales and revenue
    • Number of extra products/books or services purchased

You will want to benchmark your contents effects. This will help push the direction that future campaigns and your overall marketing strategy will move. There are a few ways this can be done:

  • Look at past campaigns – for example, look at open rates vs. sales on a newsletter email, but make sure the information you are collecting is relevant and your goals are realistic.
  • Research your competition – what are they doing? What type of content are they providing? How well is their content performing? What are the types of responses coming in? This can be found through looking at their websites, social media, web searches, google analytics, BuzzSumo or SEMrush.
  • Review studies and industry reports – check out eMarketer or Content Marketing Institute (CMI) for research on your industry.

Lastly, you will want to put a timeframe on your marketing strategies. This is the length of time results will be tracked and how often the information will be shared with anyone relevant who needs to know (Wilson, 2020). You may choose to do this a few different ways:

  • Using the start and end date of a campaign/event (this could be related to a product launch, a holiday, seasonal sale…etc)
  • Ongoing (for things like daily content on Social Media). This doesn’t mean reviewing daily or only once a year, but periodically. Determine what timeframe works best for you. Monthly? Quarterly? Bi-yearly?

How to Calculate Content Marketing ROI

The ROI is a tool to show stakeholders (or yourself) how a specific campaign performed. This is also necessary in most companies to gain approval to continue spending marketing dollars, and for yourself to justify continuing a paid marketing campaign. There is a specific calculation to determine an ROI:

Example:
Net Profits Book Sales ($1,500 – $800) / $800

$700 / $800 = 0.875 or 88% ROI


This formula gives you insight into where to invest dollars, but it can also help you provide a business case for a campaign. It is possible to estimate an ROI, which will help you determine if a campaign will be worth investing in.

There are a few things needed to estimate ROI:

  1. Estimated cost of investment in the campaign (the dollars that will be spent)
  2. Conversion rates (This can be the number of lead + number of sales from a previous campaign)
  3. Revenue

Let’s look at an example of this, as I believe it’s very important for writers to know how to estimate if a campaign will work BEFORE spending the money. The dates for leads and sales are determined from a previous campaign that will be either mirrored or utilized in some way to reflect similar results.

Investment Cost – $1,000

Prospect (or reach) – 200,000

Lead percentage – 4% (This is the percentage of people from the prospect who will take interest in the campaign in some way, determined by your call to action)

Sales percentage – 5% (of that 4% lead, this is the percentage that will follow through and purchase your product or service.)

Lead = 200,000 x 4% = 8,000

Sale = 8,000 x 5% = 400

Revenue = Product cost per unit (for this example it’s $12 per book) x 400 = $4,800

Using our ROI formula we can determine:

($4,800 – $1,000) / $1,000 = 3.8 OR 380% ROI

In the example shown, we can see the estimated ROI is 380%, making this campaign well worth the money spent on it. This formula can help you determine which campaigns to put your money into, and which to avoid. Often we simply look at the profits not taking into consideration the amount spent and if the ROI proved it was worth the spend.

In some cases, you may want to break down each ROI based on the tactic (or how the campaign was see). If you have a total of $1,000 to spend on marketing and you divvy this up over Social Media campaigns, website drives, and print marketing it is important to break down the ROI of each individual tactic, not just the overall ROI, to determine if one is doing better than the other or if you need to adjust or stop one of your campaigns.

Creating Content to Drive Results

In order for your ROI to remain in the positive, there must be content that is relevant to the audience you are trying to reach. I touch on Marketing Copy in a previous blog, and encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already. Wilson suggests you ask yourself (Wilson, 2020):

  1. Who’s the target audience? What will resonate with them most?
  2. What resources do you have? (Time, budget, skills/access)
  3. What will best align with the organizations goals? Certain content will do better depending on the goal.

Stages of Purchase:

There are a few stages that a customer will go through before they purchase your product or service. Each one is important to note and requires a different form of content given to them:

  • Awareness: This is when the buy determines they have a problem and need a solution.
    • They are in the info-gathering mode
    • Seeking answers
    • You want to help the buyer understand their problem
    • Provide light content

What is light content? Infographics, short videos, blogs, social media posts. Don’t be salesy at this point. Be a strong source of information and nurture buyers into the next stage.

  • Consideration: The buyer is now researching products in-depth
    • They are familiar with you and your product
    • Trying to determine who will solve their problem.
    • Provide more in-depth content

Educate buyers with webinars, e-books, analytics on the product.

  • Decision: This is where the buyer is leaning toward your service
    • They’ll be reading reviews
    • They may visit your website
    • Searching out detailed information about you
    • Looking at details on the product
    • Reinforcing credibility

Demons, comparison guides or free trials should be provided at this point.

  • Purchase: The customer then purchases your product!

Where will your content be distributed?

It’s important to consider where to distribute your content. You must determine:

  • Where is your target audience most active?
  • What content performs best where your audience is active?
  • How will your content reach the target audience?
    • Paid distribution
    • Earned (shared) distribution (When others share your content)
    • Owned distribution (ex. Your social media accounts)

Ensure you maintain relevant and fresh content!

Attribution Model:

Wilson defines the Attribution Model as determining the influence of content in driving conversions (Wilson, 2020). Evaluating content that buyers engaged with, and assigning a “credit” to the content that led to a conversion. Essentially, what IS and what ISN’T driving results. 
There are four attribution models:

  1. First-Touch – Assigning 100% credit to the first piece of content a buyer interacted with
  2. Last-Touch – Assigning 100% credit to the last piece of content a buyer interacted with
  3. Linear – Crediting all content the buyer interacted with
  4. Time delay – Gradually assigning more weight to later content in the buyer’s journey

Reporting Campaign Performance

There are many tools to track the progress of a campaign and its effectiveness, and Wilson lays out a number of options based on the specific distribution model or campaign you are utilizing (Wilson, 2020).

  • Social Media  
    • Bugger
    • Sprout Social
    • Hootsuit
  • Online Content
    • SEMrush
    • MOZ
  • Email Marketing
    • Open rates
    • Click through’s
    • Unsubscribes
    • Conversions
    • Performance of subject line
    • Hubspot
    • GetResponse
    • Marketo
  • Website
    • Google Analytics
    • Crazy Egg

Useful vs Relevant Metrics

Before spending a bunch of time gathering metrics, you should know what information is useful vs. relevant, and what metrics you should be tracking based on your marketing strategy goal. Useful metrics tell you the content is making progress. This could be open rates, click-throughs, page views or video views. Whereas relevant metrics speak to the overall effectiveness of the campaign. This could be conversion rates, leads, or sales.

Adjusting campaign variables to optimize performance

It’s important to take note of each campaign and determine what you might want to adjust. Ask yourself:

  • What’s not working?
  • What could be better?
  • What works well?

Things you can change to test out your campaigns and hopefully improve results:

  • Copy (subject line or length of caption)
  • Design/layout (images, font or color)
  • Time of day (test out when your audience is most active)
  • Call to action (change the message in your call to action)

ROI metrics and analytics are ever-evolving, and Wilson suggests to keep learning (Wilson, 2020). Adjust and test our different variables as you go, continue learning through sources like LinkedIn Learning, and check out more on ROI through Content Marketing Institute (CMI) (Content Marketing Institute, n.d.).

Conclusion

Return on investment is one of the number one goals in my industry. Within the book world, there are hundreds of thousands of book options out there, and determining where to spend my hard-earned money is daunting and tricky at times. Through ROI calculations and estimations is much easier to understand what is working. I have spent little time on doing actual conversions of ROI as I’ve often focused on the total sales, not the actual calculations once marketing costs are included. Another thing I hadn’t considered but intend to take a deeper look at is the ROI of different tactics. With Facebook ads tied to Instagram, stories, and messenger now it’s easy to want to include all of these options when creating a new campaign, but determining which is actually leading to conversions can sharpen my marketing focus and improve my ROI. I am excited to test out these new metrics and learn more about what my target audience wants to better serve them.

References

(n.d.). Retrieved from Content Marketing Institute: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/

Wilson, V. (2020, November 4). Content Marketing: ROI. Retrieved from LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/content-marketing-roi/why-calculate-roi-of-content-marketing?u=2109516

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