By Joe Chernov published February 7, 2012

4 Hidden Benefits of Content Marketing that Go Beyond ROI

The shift is on. It’s hard to read an article or attend a presentation about social media or content marketing without the subject quickly transitioning from creative or strategy to measurement — and often with an eye on the ultimate prize: ROI (Return On Investment).

Ostensibly, this is a good thing. After all, it suggests that our industry has outgrown its “cottage” status and moved into the big house. But in our rush to “be measured like everyone else,” content marketers are in danger of shortchanging their full value to the organization.

Let’s look at four hidden benefits of content marketing that will never show up on the CMO’s dashboard but can bring immense value to the company and its internal relationships.

Content can give you a recruiting edge

Every quarter, I present Eloqua’s content marketing strategy to recent hires. Without fail, some of these new employees pull me aside to say that our content is what tilted their decision in the company’s favor.

In a competitive industry, recruiting top-caliber talent is a priority of the highest order. In fact, according to venture capitalist (and content marketer extraordinaire) Fred Wilson, recruiting top talent is one of only three priorities for every CEO. Yet despite the importance of recruiting, it would be easy to overlook the impact an engaging content marketing program can have on this business-critical priority.

Here’s the takeaway: Partner with your HR department. When your company on-boards staff, have your recruiter ask new hires to share the reasons why they joined, and share this information with your internal teams. The ability to prove your content efforts have impacted recruiting will help make you — and your content efforts — indispensible to your organization.

Content can help boost company morale

Back when I worked at a PR firm, I recall challenging a client who wanted us to help his company secure coverage in a publication that didn’t necessarily influence its buyers. When I pushed back on the priority, the CEO told me, “The article isn’t for our customers. It’s for our staff. The place lights up when we get covered in the press… and I know a lot of our workers read this magazine.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson, and content marketing can help accomplish this very same goal.

When you publish a popular asset, the cheering it receives on the social web can validate the efforts of the entire company. Your victory lap is everyone’s victory lap,  so make sure you “market” the popularity of your content to your colleagues — not to boast personally, but rather to remind them that as crowded as the social web is, your company managed to stand out.

Content opens up lines of communication

Remarkable content doesn’t just get customers and prospects talking; it also gets your internal clients buzzing. It gives colleagues something to share with one another, something to debate, or something to challenge. It opens doors, rings phones, and makes heads gopher over cubicle walls. It also provides you with an opportunity to recruit advocates and participants.

When your colleagues engage with your content, it creates an opportunity to invite them to contribute to future programs. Because content marketing sits between so many different organizational functions, it is a surprisingly political role. Be sure to marshal your supporters when you have their attention.

Content fosters trust

In a recent FastCompany article, marketing leader Don Peppers convincingly argues that the key to competitive advantage is “being proactively trustworthy.” Creating content that is so valuable that people would pay for it,  yet you give it away for free, is a reliable way to earn the public’s trust. This is precisely why the value transfer in content marketing should be from institution to individual, which is an upside-down model for traditional marketers. In other words, when trust is the goal, companies should strive to sell by not selling.

None of this is to suggest that content marketers shouldn’t aspire to be measured — of course we should. But we also need to find ways to highlight the value we provide — especially if there’s no key performance indicator (KPI) attached to it.

Author: Joe Chernov

Joe Chernov is the VP of Marketing for Kinvey, a mobile backend as a service start-up in Cambridge, MA. Joe joined Kinvey from Eloqua, where, as VP of Content Marketing, he was named “Content Marketer of the Year” by The Content Marketing Institute. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world on content marketing and social media, and contributes to this blog and Mashable. You can follow Joe on Twitter @jchernov.

Other posts by Joe Chernov

  • http://twitter.com/RedRocketMedia Red Rocket Media

    Great article Joe! Really refreshing to read about some of the other benefits that content marketing can bring, other than the more obvious ones. Really enjoyed the post :)

    Michelle

    • http://jchernov.posterous.com Joe Chernov

      Thanks Michelle. I think it’s what makes the “measurement” argument so difficult. To a skeptic, bringing up “soft” benefits like these make it sound like you don’t want to be measured; yet, ignoring them and focusing only on the “usual” data paints an incomplete picture of the value provided. -Joe

      • http://www.compendium.com/ Frank Dale

        I think your point about recruiting is often under appreciated.  We are bringing a some new teammates on-board and our content was mentioned in each interview as a differentiator.

  • http://twitter.com/StephanieTilton Stephanie Tilton

    Agree with Michelle, Joe — thanks for bringing these less-obvious benefits to light. These are precisely the advantages that companies need to keep in mind when trying to establish a culture that embraces content marketing. And thanks also for the pointer to the Urban Dictionary, which I promptly bookmarked ; )

    • http://jchernov.posterous.com Joe Chernov

      The Urban Dictionary comes in handy all too often for me. I think it means I need to bone up on my b-school-sounding speech. ;) Glad you liked the article, Stephanie. -Joe

  • http://kylegport.com Kyle Porter

    Dead on Joe. I really like your work here. Content is at the core of our business. It represents the culture, value and beliefs of our organization and it speaks to the “why” of what we do. A mentor of mine is becoming well know for the quote that as a business owner, “culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage which you have complete control over”. Content helps you shape and communicate this internally as well as to the world.  

  • Ahava Leibtag

    Great post, Joe.  Some good takeaway nuggets and a valuable reminder to remember that a lot of benefits are not always obvious, but are still there.

    In terms of content strategy, I always tell clients that it’s not always the measurable “stuff” that makes a huge difference. For example, having a process in place makes employees feel more efficient, which in turn empowers them to be more creative. Is that really measurable? Not really, but it’s still there.