FutureM BostonAs brands turn to content marketing as a channel for attracting and retaining today’s social consumer, marketers are increasingly interested in understanding the ways in which content impacts the bottom line. It’s clear that the growth of non-promotional content in brands’ marketing mix allows for richer and more meaningful customer interactions. But as Patty Foley Reid, Director of Marketing at Iron Mountain, attested to during our recent FutureM panel discussion “Are Brands Becoming Media Houses?” – connecting the dots between content and revenue is not an easy task. As Reid executes Iron Mountain’s content marketing program, it is crucial for Reid to be able to present her findings around measurement and ROI to the company’s C-Level executives.

We tackled this challenge with our panel of content marketing experts, Leslie Reiser, Program Director WW Digital Marketing, IBM General Business; Heather Molina, Director of Content Marketing, Resolution Media; David Mandell, VP of Global Business Development, Thomson Reuters; and Tom Gerace, CEO and Founder, Skyword.

When defining the ROI of content marketing—Gerace encouraged the crowd to avoid focusing on numbers for numbers’ sake. As Einstein famously said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Marketers who have a strong sense of what matters most to the brand are more likely to build a content strategy that will make a difference.

  1. Worth the wait: When Leslie Reiser launched IBM’s Midsize Insider, an online resource dedicated to small to midsize business owners and IT professionals, she too faced the ROI question. Like most activities—content marketing does not immediately result in cash rewards—but is instead a key medium for customer connection and engagement over the longer term. Reiser believes that solid content can and should accomplish multiple business goals, from brand awareness to lead generation. Marketers who continually monitor and measure how content moves the needle throughout the entire sales funnel will be more equipped to analyze its effect and prove its importance.
  2. Transactional Content v. Strategic Content. Understanding the distinction between these two entities—content that leads directly to a sale, and content that moves consumers further along the information discovery process—is key in illustrating and conveying a content marketing program’s success. Strategic content is like a set of stepping-stones placed along an overgrown, weed-filled path. The easier the company’s stepping-stones are to find and lend support, the more likely customers are to discover and to buy. Gerace recommended that marketers educate upper management on the value of strategic content by providing clear examples and case studies of how content leads to revenue over time.
  3. Don’t lose sight of your competition. In addition to assessing your customer’s response to content, marketers must also keep close tabs on their competitors. Resolution Media’s Heather Molina recommends building a social and search audit that ranks your company with your competitors to better understand your strengths and weaknesses.

Bottom line, brands who excite and inform their customers on a regular basis, much like journalists do, will capture a wide, dedicated audience with long-term staying power.

Thanks again to Iron Mountain for sharing their content challenge and for igniting an important discussion for the future of content marketing. For more content insights, breaking news and evolving trends, check out The Content Standard.

How are you thinking about ROI and content marketing? Will it be an even bigger concern or challenge for you and your team in 2013?

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