Content Marketing, Executive's Corner, Owned Media
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They say fashion is cyclical; but if you ask me, marketing is too.

Once upon a time, marketing was purely analog: put up a billboard here, run a radio spot there, and maybe buy some space in a newspaper for good measure. Sure, your sales went up, but was that because of your amazing ad copy or simply because it was sunnier that month?

While larger corporations could pay for some consumer research to monitor the effectiveness of their campaigns, marketers in small-to-midsize companies were stuck with the old song and dance of waving around a report and saying “look at all the shiny things we bought with your money!”

The Internet revolutionized marketing. Suddenly, gathering data that once required tedious research and educated guesses was automated and accurate. You could see that you spent $10,000 on keyword campaign X, got 1000 clicks, of which 200 people put items in their shopping carts and paid a total of $20,000. Boom – a quantifiable success!

But what started as a gold mine quickly became a race to the bottom. Consumers got inundated with terrible ads and stopped clicking. While CPMs dropped, advertisers found it harder and harder to stand out in a crowd of screaming, blinking competitors all poking their hands in customers’ eyes.

The solution, it seemed, was to instead give consumers something they actually wanted; something with real value. Out of that new need, modern content marketing was born.

Content Marketing Takes Off

In just a few years time, it seemed like every brand out there was creating their own content. Sure some were just mindlessly reposting every photo of a fan with their product they could find, but others were creating genuinely valuable, entertaining, and educational content. But lost in this explosion of content was what we had given up: data and accountability.

No, we’re not quite back in the analog world of “How did my billboard do?” but instead many content marketers have been saddled with consumption metrics like pageviews and visitors, or vanity numbers like total shares and comments.

Maybe people are viewing, and even engaging with, your content. But what does that actually mean? You could have a post with 1,000,000 page views driven by explosive social sharing, but what if everyone is actually tweeting “OMG this brand is a bunch of puppy-kickers. Check out how horrible this is…” A little hyperbolic, sure, but the point is that simply counting the pairs of eyes that have fallen upon your content gives you no indication of if it’s actually moving the needle for your brand.

The ROI Dilemma

Smart marketers are starting to wake up to this problem. In fact, the latest CMI data shows that only 21 percent of B2B marketers and 23 percent of B2C marketers consider themselves successful at measuring the ROI of their content marketing efforts. Think about it. That means 78 percent of marketers, including the leaders of enormous, worldwide companies, acknowledge that they could very well be throwing their money out the window.

Clearly that’s not sustainable. Yes, as “content marketing” has continued to be the hottest trend, more and more companies have thrown increasingly large dollars into the fray. But we’re now at a tipping point where the best brands will begin to wise up, and I believe we’ll see some of the lesser players start seriously rethinking their commitments to the format. Those same CMI reports acknowledge the writing on the wall – 82 percent of respondents said that measuring ROI is a priority within the next 12 months.

So, how will brands move beyond lopsided metrics like pageviews and social shares? How can a content marketer truly understand not just the ROI of their overall storytelling, but the relative merits of some of their content as compared to others? That’s the tricky part, but with a little smarts it’s eminently achievable. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at how smart marketers have started to tackle this problem – stay tuned!

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Our publication contributors combine decades of experience with unique insights into the content promotion and distribution industry.
Chad Pollitt Partner, VP of Audience Native Advertising Institute
Pam Didner Global Content Marketing Strategist & Author
Chirag Ahuja Head of Marketing WorkflowMax
Jayson DeMers Founder & CEO AudienceBloom
Erik Deckers Professional Writer Pro Blog Service
Bernie Borges CEO Find and Convert
Jessica Stephenson VP Marketing ExactHire
Michael Ferrari Marketing Consultant Pen Cap Online Marketing
Larry Alton Freelance Writer and Editor
David Tile Founder & Director Nimble Media
Jay Baer Marketing Strategist, Speaker and Author
Kelsey Libert Marketing VP & Partner
Dan Steiner Co-Founder & CEO Elite Legal Marketing
Joydeep Bhattacharya Relevance Contributor
Jonah Bliss Founder CMO ContentIntent
Andrea Lehr Promotions Supervisor Fractl
Fernando Labastida Co-Founder Content Propulsion
Dan Moyle Creative Dir. Marketing AmeriFirst
Dennis Yu Chief Technology Officer BlitzMetrics
Arnaud Roy VP Marketing Augure
John Rugh Copywriter/Content Marketing Specialist
Gini Dietrich CEO Arment Dietrich
Justin Spicer Content Researcher, Producer & Editor
Michael Becker Marketing Support Spec. Teradata
Anna Johansson Freelance Writer
Amanda DiSilvestro Content Editor and Writer HigherVisibility
Sujay Maheshwari Founder & CEO
Kelly Coulter Online Marketing Strategist
Taylor Radey Senior Consultant PR 20/20
Rodger Johnson Public Relations Leader & Consultant
Simon Penson Founder & Managing Dir. Zazzle Media
Danielle Wolter Nolan Co-Owner
Jason Falls Social Media & Public Relations Thought Leader
Joe Beccalori CEO Interact Marketing
Fernando Cuscuela Founder & CEO Everypost
Kelly Smith Content Manager CourseFinder
John McTigue EVP Kuno Creative
Yogita Arora Content Strategist Zoomph
Jordan Teicher Associate Editor Contently
Jonathan Crowl Digital Marketing Writer & Editor
Brian Honigman Marketing Consultant, Writer & Professional Speaker Skyword
Katherine Halek Content Strategist
Amanda Drinker Dooley Community Product Marketing Manager Netline
Anton Rius Digital Marketing Consultant More Than Metrics
Matthew Zajechowski Outreach Manager Digital Third Coast
Kevin Bailey Co-founder DigitalRelevance
Peter Chen Digital Marketing Consultant DigitalRelevance
Luana Spinetti Multi-Specialized Freelancer
Kyle Harper Writer Skyword
Elad Natanson Founder appnext
Maël Roth Content & Inbound Marketer Park7
Quin Woodward Pu Marketing Director Audienti
Greg Shuey Co-Founder Stryde
Douglas Karr Founder & CEO & DK New Media
Jean Bansemer CEO My Web Writers
Owen Andrew Journalist
Luke Kintigh Global Content & Media Strategist Intel
Dan Fahrner Director of Marketing Services SmallBox
Asaf Rothem Marketing VP & Partner BrightInfo
Jonha Richman User Acquisition Manager

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