written by
Dayana Mayfield

How Top Teams Guarantee Content Marketing Success

Content Marketing 7 min read

Content marketing success can take months or years to achieve. For companies that have a great inbound foundation, new pieces of content aren’t guaranteed to perform well. As marketers, which campaigns and topics perform best can often surprise us.

However, there are important trends that today’s content marketing leaders employ to increase chances of campaign success.

Follow their lead and watch your own content hit home with your target audience.

Table of contents:

  • Why measuring content marketing success is a challenge
  • How top companies measure content marketing success
  • Key ways to increase results from content marketing
  • How content teams are changing in 2021
Views, reads, time on site, shares, etc. are seen as fluffy metrics and are downgraded in importance. Instead, they should be regarded as levers that can be pulled towards the ultimate goal of leads and sales.$

Why measuring content marketing success is a challenge

The statistics about content marketing’s relative superiority to paid ads don’t match the reality of many B2B companies.

We’ve all seen the statistics. Content marketing generates 3x as many leads as traditional marketing and costs less.

But so many companies have a hard time actually getting those results for themselves. The most common issue is not producing content that is quality enough—content that doesn’t educate and excite your audience.

Content marketing can be challenging to measure. That’s because, while 72% of marketers say that content marketing increases engagement, the pathway to sales and leads isn’t often clear or direct.

Too often, business leaders expect direct ROI measurements, but these aren’t always possible.

Views, reads, time on site, shares, etc. are seen as fluffy metrics and are downgraded in importance. Instead, they should be regarded as levers that can be pulled towards the ultimate goal of leads and sales.

How top companies measure content marketing success

Expert inhouse marketers know that a single goal (get more leads and sales from content) needs to be broken down into specific metrics and KPIs.

Here’s an example funnel for measuring demo requests:

content marketing funnel example
Image source: Oribi

This funnel shows how well the entire site drives traffic to the demo request page, and how well the demo request page converts.

You can track individual pages, or content channels as a whole.

Example metrics:

  • Unique views
  • Read time
  • Post views
  • Number of shares
  • Number of engagements
  • Click throughs
  • Sign ups generated
  • Number of optins
  • Core page views after reading a blog

What is being measured:

  • Individual pieces of content
  • Content formats
  • Individual campaigns
  • Content distribution channels

And here’s an example funnel to measure how well the blog as a whole drives free trial sign ups:

content marketing funnel example
Image source: Oribi

You might also want to analyze this on an individual level for all of your SEO blog posts that rank. Maybe you set a minimum conversion rate, such as 1% free trial conversion rate for all blog posts. You can prioritize optimizations on the posts that rank in search and continuously bring in traffic.

Key ways to increase results from content marketing

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to know how successful a company is with their content marketing.

What we can do, however, is analyze the content of companies with strong inbound engines, including engaging social media campaigns and envious search rankings.

From our teardowns on great companies like InVision and Webflow, and our interviews with content marketing leaders, here’s what we know that top companies are doing today:

Use highly specific ideal customer profiles

Content marketers need to partner with sales to continuously improve their understanding of the company’s ideal customer profiles (ICPs). The sales team usually owns the process of updating and maintaining ICPs. They use market research and real data about lead interest to update the criteria of target customers.

Here are a few ways to stay up to date:

  • Set a quarterly meeting between content marketing leaders and sales leaders
  • Request that sales teams send updates to ICPs immediately to the marketing team
  • Sit in on actual sales calls, and even try leading a few calls

Solve customer problems

Take your content to the next level by turning your content into a product. Don’t view it as information or just a top-of-funnel post to get people on your site.

What is the point of your content? Use the Jobs to Be Done Theory to create content that actually solves a problem for your customer.

Consider the functional and emotional aspects of the main job to be done, and the related job to be done.

Image source: Business2Community

For example, in this post, we offer not only ways to increase content marketing success, but also to measure it (which is a related job).

Interview customers (or repurpose existing interviews)

The best content marketing teams regularly find ways to involve customers in their content.

In their post on welcome email series, ActiveCampaign shares a real example of a customer’s welcome sequence and the strategy behind it.

If you struggle to get customers to say “yes” to an interview, or to get buy-in from your team on running interviews, there are still ways you can get these insights.

  • Mine case studies for quotes and content ideas
  • Pull tips from podcasts where your customers are interviewed (even if these are not your company’s podcast episodes)
  • Check to see what your customers are talking about on social media

Streamline and scale content operations

One of the biggest barriers to content marketing success is a bad content process.

As a content writer, I’ve seen some of the messiest and the smoothest content processes you can imagine. From articles stuck in Trello boards for 4 months to content task templates that systematize creation and publication, I’ve seen it all.

Today’s content teams need to streamline their work as much as possible. A simple way to do this is to use content collaboration software that brings your team members, assets, and distribution channels under one roof.

This reduces bottlenecks, increases transparency, and helps you set up clear, repeatable content processes.

How content teams are changing in 2021

Content marketing is changing, especially in the B2B space. More and more, it’s being seen as an alternative to high-cost digital advertising, a way to nurture leads, and a mechanism for highly accurate audience targeting.

Here are some ways that content marketing is continuing to change this year.

Owning more responsibility for lead generation

Content teams are seen more as real contributors to lead generation, rather than generating “nice to have” informational content.

In 2020, 36% of enterprise marketers shifted some of their budget away from paid advertising and towards content marketing. It’s very likely that this year, the shift will be even higher.

Focusing on the full customer lifecycle

Content teams are also contributing content for the entire customer lifecycle, not just those top-of-funnel keyphrases and topics. They are creating content for lead nurturing campaigns, lead re-engagement campaigns, customer onboarding campaigns, and customer retention campaigns.

Integrating content with other campaigns and teams

Because more content is being produced for other phases in the customer lifecycle, this naturally involved integrating other campaigns and teams.

For example, a content marketer might partner with a customer success manager to create a success guide that not only gets into the nitty gritty onboarding steps, but focuses on overall success, including best practices that stretch beyond the use of the platform.

Content marketers can also serve as experts on what content already exists. They might help manage and maintain digital asset libraries and help other teams discover existing content to utilize in their own campaigns.

Prioritizing production over creation

Get your team involved and make it easy for them to contribute. You do the editing, you do the design, you do the storytelling, you do all the teaching as a content marketer. That process is then going to be good for everyone. - Mark Kilens, VP of Content and Community at Drift

Validating content ideas with better criteria

Content marketers today are also getting pickier with their criteria for validating content. It’s not enough for a piece of content to be relevant to the target audience. To establish topical authority, a company needs to hone in on specific content categories.

Content marketers are setting up more advanced checks for validating ideas. Content might need to be relevant to the audience, help establish topical authority, solve a problem, fit in with an important campaign, etc.

The motivation behind this trend? There are several reasons why content validation is increasingly important. Marketers want to stand out online, protect their brand, focus on quality over quantity, and make sure that content is utilized in multiple ways—not just posted and forgotten about.

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