three coworkers working on a marketing plan
Your content marketing strategy should relate to and be measured through every step of your sales funnel. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

Today more than ever, marketers are expected to justify the costs of their programs with data. Content marketing is no different. From basic web analytics to platforms that score and track leads throughout the sales process, you can gather tons of metrics on your audience and your programs. The challenge is determining which ones help you assess if your content is successful.

Connecting content goals to the sales funnel

To validate your content marketing, connect your program success with its contribution to the sales funnel with metrics that demonstrate how your content generates, captures and nurtures leads. Set goals for the number or percentage of leads content should impact at each stage, and then review the associated metrics at each stage consistently (i.e., monthly).

Following are the typical stages of a sales funnel, with examples of how content can contribute and determine which metrics help assess success.

Lead generation

This is the stage of the funnel where you capture the right audience, i.e. prospects, who you then move through the funnel to eventually hand off to sales. On the marketing side, this stage starts with building brand awareness before leads even get into the funnel. Content helps establish brand identity so that the right audience begins to consider your brand. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), key metrics to track around brand awareness are traffic, page/video/document views, downloads and “social chatter.”

It’s also important that this audience engages with content, so CMI suggests tracking social interactions, such as likes, retweets, shares, comments, forwarding of content and clicking inbound links. Ideally, you want to gather prospects from this content directly or guide them to a lead generation piece.

It’s now common for prospects to prefer to self-identify. They want to do their own research rather than receive an unsolicited email or a cold call. If they like what they see, they need a clear way to contact the company — essentially turning themselves into an inbound lead. Therefore, content should include trackable links and contact information. This is where you begin to demonstrate that your content is contributing to sales.

Metrics to track lead generation include completed registration pages for events, webinars and gated content, as well as contact forms, inbound calls or emails and email subscriptions.

Lead nurturing

Once in the sales funnel, marketing continues to play an integral role in moving that prospect along. This warming up, or nurturing, should be supported by well-targeted content. At this stage, you want to continue to track engagement to be sure you don’t lose their interest. You can assess this by reviewing metrics on your email campaign reports, such as opens, click-throughs and forwards. Your main focus, however, should be on the prospect’s actions. Are they moving further along the funnel? Registration pages should ask for more information, and documents or videos should be more specific to their industry, role or product need. Track if they are completing registration forms and downloading and viewing content. A very telling measurement is the number of prospects who then contact sales via email, contact form or phone.

Content helps establish brand identity so that the right audience begins to consider your brand.

Conversion

E-commerce leads can be the easiest to tie to marketing if you’re set up to track when a prospect clicks through from content to your website and then makes a purchase. For offline purchases or long sales cycles, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool can track the lead progress, enabling you to see when marketing-generated leads are delivered to sales. If your sales team consistently uses the CRM to record closed deals, you should be able to view the life of a lead from marketing content through to the sale.

[Read: Three Things You Need to Know About CRMs in 2019]

If you don’t have a CRM, you can engage sales a bit more in providing feedback on leads that closed. If they provide a report of closed deals by account name each month, you can connect these to the data gathered in your marketing systems from registrations, email subscriptions or contact forms.

Whichever way you choose, it’s critical to track a lead from consumption of content through to a closed sale. When you can demonstrate these successes, you give your leadership the justification for the marketing spend and your sales team can see how marketing helped them reach their sales quotas.

Ongoing success

Even after a closed deal, content can continue to contribute to the bottom line. Additional metrics can be gathered around customer loyalty and retention as well as up-sell and cross-sell.

In addition to demonstrating value, using metrics to assess success gives you relevant information to adjust your programs as needed. Knowledge is power, so set your goals for each stage. Track your metrics, assess what’s working, adjust what’s not and remain consistent in these steps.

[Read: A Complete Guide to Content Marketing]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published September 16, 2019