Content marketing measurement is impossible without a call to action

B2B marketers have long understood content. But how valuable is the content we’re creating? It’s impossible to know as most content lacks a call to action.

Content marketing. It’s one of the most over-used, misused buzzwords. Despite the term technically being 20 years old, the Dictionary of Marketing, published by Oxford University Press, did not even reference ‘content marketing’ in its 2011 third edition (it does, thankfully, in the fourth, released this week).

No wonder there’s confusion.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”.

The central premise of content marketing is that by giving your customers something of value – ideally, something they seek – you will receive something of value in return – ultimately, sales.

While sales is the end-goal, content marketing is the antithesis of advertising. Here, the objective is to educate and entertain, not sell. To quote branded content expert James O’Brien, “Instead of being the commercial, be the show. Instead of being the banner ad, be the feature story.”

B2B marketers have long understood content. We’re adept at writing, producing, editing, directing, repurposing and disseminating relevant content.

But how valuable to our target audiences is the content we’re creating? It’s impossible to know because most content lacks a call to action.

And how well is the content driving profitable customer action? Few would know as few measure it.

Commonly, marketing departments measure and report on the effectiveness of campaigns. Yet, content marketing is cumulative, rendering it distinct from campaign marketing. It requires a long-term perspective, patience and continuous engagement. These conditions are ideal for business-to-business marketing which typically involves a longer sales cycle, more informed buyers, and multiple decision makers.

Building credibility takes time. Building reputation takes time. Educating a target audience about complex products and services takes time.

Content is moment in time. Content marketing is over time.

3 Actionable Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing

  1. Measure and report on every single piece of content, such as by the number of likes and shares, bounce rates, and viewing times.
  2. Monitor and periodically report on your content marketing over time. What does the trend data reveal? Is engagement with your priority targets trending upwards?
  3. Always include a call to action of some sort so you can assess the value of each piece of content. Here’s my call to action: If you like what I have to say, and how I say it, follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.