Tips to measuring the ROI of your B2B content marketing

Click here to pick up a few tips on determining the return on investment (ROI) you’re getting with your B2B content marketing.

Picture of Dan Hanks Dan Hanks

Published: 06 Jul 2016

5 minutes read

Tips to measuring the ROI of your B2B content marketing

 The Content Marketing Institute recently reported that 66% of respondents to its annual survey intended to spend more on content marketing in 2016. Amazingly, 61% also reported that ROI measurement of that content was their biggest challenge.

Determining the return on investment (ROI) of B2B content marketing can seem like a tricky prospect as there are subtle variables to consider. And while on paper it’s not necessarily hard to measure (thanks to the wide range of data at our fingertips), in reality businesses often have no discernible strategy in place to drive value from their content—making it almost impossible to analyse the return.

Of course, your sales team needs leads not excuses. So you need to find a way of proving the value of your content marketing, and quickly, to keep everyone happy and business ticking over.

So here are a few tips and tricks to measuring the ROI of your content output:

Use content as part of a SMART inbound strategy

A lot of businesses would tell you they have goals. But most probably aren’t being that SMART. In other words, they don’t have goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound—all of which help define realistic business targets.

This more strategic content marketing approach is part of what’s known as inbound marketing. In other words, if content is the tactic, then think of inbound as the measurable strategy behind it. This is the key to measuring the ROI of your content marketing, because without inbound, it’s all guesswork.

Ask yourself what success looks like

Setting those SMART goals up front will highlight what content analytics you need to measure to determine whether the investment is worth it. In other words, what’s more important for your business: website visits, social media shares, eBook downloads, lead generation, or actual sales? How exactly will you be defining success?

With B2C websites selling a fixed-price product, the buyer’s journey can be quite short. In this case success might generally be defined as a sale.

In B2B it can get a little more complicated. Businesses are usually after a solution—you might be offering them specialist advice, or a tailored product or service, all of which necessitates a longer and more considered buyer’s journey. 3-9 months is quite normal for many of our software clients, for example. So you’re more likely to be tracking the lead generation metric, which is important to nurturing them down the content marketing funnel.

You should also be aware that different types of content (eg: blog posts vs forms), aimed at buyers in different stages (eg: attract vs convert), will also need different metrics to be measured. The success of attract stage content will likely be more focused on visitor numbers, while converting content will be looking for those all-important forms to be completed.

Know your measurements

Thankfully, most of these metrics are easily measured if you know where to look. In a lot of cases the information can be found through your website analytics software or, quite possibly, Google Analytics. However, as a HubSpot Diamond Partner, we  can’t stress enough how important it is to have an all-in-one package that allows us to understand every step of a lead’s engagement and interaction with our B2B content marketing.

For example, with HubSpot, we have quick and easy access to measure:

  • where blog traffic comes from
  • how engaged people are with the blogs and whether or not they took an action (which could be a blog subscription or filling out a form to reach gated content)
  • whether that person went onto become a marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, and ultimately generated revenue

All of which allows us to circle back to see how our content’s working—what’s the content that attracts the most visitors, what type of blog post is best at converting visitors to leads, what persona is most engaged with what content and, of course, what content drives the most revenue, etc.

What are you investing?

So now you have an idea of what you’ll be measuring. You just need to figure out how long your content is taking to produce and what it’s costing you.

The former is easy to do manually, simply by getting your content team members to research and write a typical content piece in one session and recording how long it to complete and publish it. The time taken will likely vary between content types and you should also bear in mind just how swiftly procrastination can set in to lead your content writers astray—so to keep more accurate tabs on your work ethic you can always use a popular tools like Toggl.

How you translate your time into money really depends on just how accurate you need it to be. HubSpot has an excellent blog post about measuring ROI which includes an in-depth way of doing this without including your business’ operating expense. However, the quickest and easiest way of finding out how much your time is worth is to simply use your annual salary and calculate your hourly rate—by seeing how many hours you work a week and how many weeks you work a year.

(And remember to hold off on those celebrations if you discover that your content production is cheap as chips. Good ROI usually depends on good quality content properly applied, and cheap rarely means good!)

Measuring your ROI

Now comes the fun part. Because even those businesses who have ticked off all of the above might still only be determining ROI at a base level.

Keeping it simple

If you know the metrics you’re going to be analysing, and the investment your content has needed, it can seem to be straightforward. For example, if you’re calculating sales as the end goal, it’s a case of using your website analytics or a platform like HubSpot to identify those visitors who clicked from the content to the sales page and purchased, then calculating the sales total vs your investment on that piece of content.

And even with lead generation, it should be easy enough to track clicks from the blog post to the landing page and identify those who went on to download the content offer. This lead vs blog post investment result can then be measured against previous benchmarks and/or be used as a benchmark for future ROI analysis.

Other factors

However, this is what’s known as ‘last touch’ attribution. Which means that you’ve identified only the last content viewed (eg: the blog post) as the deciding factor in the customer making the purchase. If this simplified model works for you then great. But the more realistic your ROI measurements are, the better targeted (and more successful) your content marketing campaigns can be.

Which is why it’s good to be aware that in reality there are other factors at play in the buyer’s journey. For example:

  • any social media sharing of the post
  • any likes or RTs you might have received from influencers (who follow you thanks to a previous piece of content)
  • any other simultaneous campaigns that may have played a part in raising the customer’s awareness of you, gained their trust, and brought them to your blog post at this time.

In the case of analysing this ‘multi-touch’ attribution, you need to work out how many steps in the process there seem to be (using your website analytics again to identify what—and who—is bringing people into the blog post), then splitting up the total revenue generated accordingly. So if there are three steps from social media clicking to sale, then the blog post content portion should be attributed with a third of the revenue generated. You can then measure the ROI by basing this against your investment cost. (Note: the steps won’t ever carry equal weight, but this approach at least mitigates the rather more basic calculations of the ‘last touch’.)

Got all that? Great! Except that maybe now you’ve measured the ROI of your content and things aren’t looking good. You could be missing a trick in using your content in a way that makes you be seen as a thought leader, so that others trust and engage with you. Click on the link below to fix that!

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