9 keys to measuring content marketing success

Start by establishing what, precisely, you want to achieve. Then, identify specific KPIs, track your progress, and don’t be afraid to tweak tactics on the fly.

If you want your marketing campaigns to work, you’d better be ready to work.

Brainstorming, content creation, publishing and distribution all take forethought and planning. Success requires resources, commitment and follow-through. That and measuring your campaign’s effectiveness.

Here’s how to define success, track your progress, and tweak tactics on the fly to ensure you hit business targets.

1. Set goals and timelines.

Before doing anything else, ask yourself: What are you trying to achieve, and when do you need to achieve it?

Establish firm objectives you’d like to hit on a monthly, quarterly or even yearly basis. Setting goals and timelines helps you track progress, ensures accountability and helps you prove results.

2. Establish a reporting foundation.

Establish benchmarks to determine:

  • How you’re currently performing.
  • How you’re performing compared with industry benchmarks.

First, set your own general benchmarks, then search for industry benchmarks to see how well you stack up. (For example, here’s a helpful snapshot for social media marketing.)

Try starting with a general KPI doc to update weekly or monthly. Remember: The more you report, the quicker you can identify problems and pivot accordingly.

3. Identify your KPIs (and stick to them).

Every marketing campaign should have a clear goal, along with specific, measurable KPIs to gauge progress.

For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness through a digital marketing campaign, your success may be monitored through a KPI in the form of impressions, engagements or click-throughs.

If you’re not sure what to measure, here are some boilerplate metrics to consider for every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Awareness

  • Reach:
    • Impressions
    • Views
    • Publication pickup
    • Social media content metrics
    • Organic traffic (SEO)
  • Perception:
    • Brand indexes/surveys
    • Social media sentiment

Consideration

  • Engagement:
    • Traffic
    • Time on site
    • Lead generation rate
    • Leads (not yet qualified)

Decision-making

  • Conversions:
    • Leads
    • Qualified leads
      • Marketing-qualified leads
      • Sales-accepted leads

Post-purchase

  • Satisfaction and advocacy:
    • Product use
    • Customer review scores
    • Product registrations
    • Account renewals
    • Product return rate
    • Social media fans/follows

4. Set up your tools.

There are few things worse than losing a trove of valuable data because something wasn’t working correctly. Test all the tracking tools and software you’ll be using before launching your campaign. This might include setting up pixels for conversion tracking or creating UTM codes.

5. Take a test run.

Don’t blow your entire ad campaign in one shot. Start by spending slowly and A/B test a few of your campaign components. You can test designs, ad copy or even audience ad sets to gain a better understanding of what’s clicking.

Slower spending in the beginning will help you spend the bulk of your budget on top-performing assets.

6. Give people a second chance.

Don’t neglect retargeting, which enables you to serve ads to people who’ve already visited your website or a specific landing page.

Sometimes it takes more than one impression for someone to engage with your content, so keep visitors in a retargeting cycle to give them extra opportunities to click.

7. Consider the real ROI.

When measuring the success of a marketing campaign, remember the investment you made to get there. Behind all great campaigns are good teams—and precious resources.

Your marketing campaign might’ve garnered great results, but if it cost millions to produce, was it worth it? You’ve got to spend money to make money, but the numbers must make sense.

8. Turn your data into valuable insights.

Collecting data just to “submit a report” or tick a box is useless.

Savvy marketers—and those who are keen on earning a bigger budget slice—turn data into usable information. After extracting your data, look for patterns, trends and takeaways to uncover the story within.

Visualize your data to make it pop, and present the most compelling bits to your bosses.

Note: If you have no takeaways or lessons learned, that signals a problem. Either you weren’t measuring correctly, or you haven’t taken the time to thoroughly review the results.

9. Be aware of outside influences.

It’s crucial to account for any external factors or outliers that may skew your results. For example, your website may have experienced a bump in traffic during your campaign, but it might have coincided with a major product announcement.

Consistently check your referral links in Google Analytics, and talk to your product marketing or PR teams to glean more robust insights.

Whether you see a positive or negative trend, there is often more than one cause, so investigate all the moving pieces that influence your reporting. You don’t want to shift strategies based on a fluky traffic spike or tweak tactics because of an abnormal event that likely won’t happen again.

Hang in there 

It’s discouraging to not see the results you want right away. However, knowing what doesn’t work is just as valuable as knowing what does. The good news is that you can always tweak and refine going forward, and that’s why measuring closely, consistently and accurately is crucial. Remember that the more you refine your reporting, the more effective you’ll become. So, stick with it.

Katy French is managing editor at Column Five Media. A version of this post first appeared on the Column Five Media blog.

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