By DJ Miller published September 26, 2013

Prove Content Marketing ROI to Your CEO: 4 Values to Communicate

This post was co-authored by Raubi Perilli, who is an active manager for the CopyPress Community. You can follow Raubi on Twitter @RaubiMarie. 

finding value-content marketing roiJust about every content marketing company is publishing insanely thorough white papers full of statistics, aiming to prove the monetary value of content marketing.

The problem is that many of these reports label content marketing with stats that don’t provide meaningful insights to higher-level decision makers. Many CEOs and business owners simply don’t understand the lingo and numerical values related to content marketing terminology and analytics.

So for those who don’t speak the language, we have to find a new way to communicate.

We need to stop solely talking about abstract monetary or numerical values and instead focus on two fundamental ways to clearly measure the value of a content marketing effort:

1)    In terms of its ability to provide long-term monetary worth, or

2)    In terms of its ability to provide long-term importance, relevance, and usefulness.

So if you are pitching the importance of content marketing to a decision maker who isn’t quite getting it, don’t lose them in numbers they don’t understand. Approach your presentation by demonstrating the softer values (long-term monetary worth, importance, relevance, and usefulness) alongside the harder values (numerical and content marketing ROI) to help them see the bigger picture.

Value #1: Content is lasting and permanent

Given the real-time nature of the information that’s available across the internet, online content may seem to only provide short-term value. But remember that once you publish content, it’s there forever — even if you take it down, there’s still the possibility that it has been recorded or archived in some way.

Compared to many forms of marketing, where businesses pay each time their messages are communicated, content marketing is an up-front expense that continues bringing value long after it’s been paid for.

Proof of the value potential:

  • study by Kapost and Eloqua found that content marketing ROI outweighed the ROI of paid search (a temporary investment that is widely believed to be the most cost-effective marketing tactic) by more than three times.
  • In the study, only 9 leads were generated by paid search, while 31 leads were generated by content marketing.
  • The cost-per-lead for paid search was $111.11.
  • The cost-per-lead for content marketing was $32.25.
  • In addition, a HubSpot study found that 82 percent of marketers who blog daily reported seeing a positive ROI for their overall inbound marketing efforts.

What to communicate to your CEO: Don’t spend money on results that will run out or decrease in value over the long term. By publishing content, you can continue to realize benefits for months, or even years, to come. Start by creating content that has been found to produce the highest ROI: featured articles, videos, and white papers.

Value #2: Content serves two masters: your customers and search engines

The content that you publish doesn’t just benefit your readers — it can also help you improve your search rankings. Since the Google Panda update, content has been a cornerstone of successful SEO practices. Creating high-quality content sends the signal to search engines that you hold some authority within your industry. The more often you do this, the stronger that signal becomes.

In other words, the more targeted content you produce, the more opportunities you create for potential customers to find you through organic search. This doubles the value of all of the lasting, permanent content you publish and increases your business’ chances of being found by new leads and customers.

Proof of the value potential:

  • A 2012 HubSpot report found that organic search leads have a 14.6 percent close rate, while outbound marketing leads have a 1.7 percent close rate.
  • It also found that search leads are eight times more likely to close over a lead generated through direct marketing.
  • Nielsen research found that 67 percent of consumers were more likely to buy a new product if they found it through an online search.

What to communicate to your CEO: The power of organic search can be enhanced by producing compelling content that naturally increases social shares and traffic. Quality content can be used to open up your sales funnel and pull in more customers, leads, and sales.

Value #3: Content gains trust; trust gains customers

Amazon, Apple, and Coca-Cola are just a few brands that understand how crucial trust is for gaining customer loyalty.

Content is the perfect platform for fueling trust. Content creation that is mapped to each stage of the buying cycle helps educate customers about your company’s industry, products, and/or services, which in turn helps them feel more comfortable about making a purchase from you. Educational and forward-thinking content is an effective way to position your brand as credible, trustworthy, and truly interested in the needs of its customers.

Proof of the value potential:

  • Sales Force Marketing reports on a study by TMG Custom Media that found that 78 percent of consumers believe that organizations that offer custom content are interested in building good relationships with them.
  • Edelman research showed that 64 percent of consumers need to hear information from a company three to five times before they believe the message.
  • A Nielsen report found that 53 percent of consumers said they were somewhat or much more likely to buy a new product when they learned about it through an online article.

What to communicate to your CEO: How many customers are skimming right past your business because you aren’t providing the entry points to your company that they are seeking? Grab their attention, earn their trust, and make the sale using content as your ice breaker.

Value #4: Content speaks to skeptical Millennials better than advertising

Soon, Millennials — the 79 million people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s — are going to take the lead in primary purchasing power in the United States. That purchasing power is expected to be $170 billion per year.

But if you want to reach this massive market, you need to understand an important characteristic about Millennials: “Not only do [Millennials] not necessarily trust traditional advertising anymore, they don’t even see traditional advertising anymore,” said Boston College marketing professor S. Adam Brasel, in a Boston Globe article.

Traditional advertising may not speak to Millennials — but content does.

When content is used as a non-traditional form of advertising, appearing naturally (not forced) in places where Millennials spend the most time, it will help crack into the massive Millennial market.

Proof of the value potential:  

  • Edelman 8095 Insights found that 94 percent of Millennials use at least one outside source to make a brand purchase decision, up from 86 percent in 2010.
  • According to this post by Brian Solis, 66 percent of Millennials will look up a store if they see a friend check in.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce data reports that 80 percent of Millennials sleep next to their phones.

And it’s not just Millennials. In a survey of 1,000 men and women, CrowdTap found that most people don’t trust traditional advertising nearly as much as they trust recommendations.

  • Seventy percent of respondents decided to buy something after a friend or family member suggested it or posted it online.
  • Fifty-nine percent decided to buy something after they read about it online in an article.
  • In addition, Content Plus found that 70 percent of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads.

What to communicate to your CEO: To tap into the potential purchasing power of Millennial audiences, your brand needs to appear where they, and other digital customers, spend the most time. Produce content that encourages engagement and social activity to reach Millennials who are glued to their phones in anticipation of finding the next big thing through natural placements and mentions — not interruption advertising.

In addition, as Brian Solis notes in his 2012 post, Millennials are three times more likely to follow a brand than a family member, so don’t assume skeptical customers don’t want to “friend” or follow your brand.

Bonus value: Platforms will change, but content will always remain

If the above values aren’t sufficient to help you explain the importance of content marketing to a skeptical CEO or decision maker, there is one more important message you must send.

When it comes to the internet, things are always going to change and evolve. Platforms and the popularity of certain social networks will rise and fall. Customers who are glued to Pinterest today may be hooked on Path tomorrow.

The point here is that the real value of content is that it is transferable between platforms and networks. Creating quality content that has longevity will continue to bring value to your brand long after customers have moved on to new platforms or have downloaded newer social apps to engage with.

Create quality content that provides value for your target audience, and you can virtually guarantee that, no matter where your content appears, it will pay dividends in terms of lasting relevance and marketing success.

For additional insight on how to get buy-in for content marketing, read CMI’s eGuide on Building the Business Case for Content Marketing.

Author: DJ Miller

DJ Miller is an active manager for the CopyPress Community – a networking and learning center for bloggers, designers, publishers, and advertisers. Email DJ.

Other posts by DJ Miller

  • Sambarnes90

    Thanks for the post DJ, you’ve definitely hit the nail on the head with number 3:

    “Content gains trust; trust gains customers”

    This is what I’ve found generates the most value.

    If you can create content that is discoverable, readable and above all useful, you’ll find that readers become customers a lot more quickly.

    • Raubi Marie Perilli

      Definitely. I think sometimes people make it more difficult than it really is. Just be yourself, be helpful, build natural relationships, and the customers will come find you when they are ready.

  • http://www.millestanze.it/ Francesco Giubbilini

    Hi, great post!
    But when you say, at the last: “no matter where your content appears”, i think that it’s important that the central focus of the content should be the website!
    thanks, bye!

    • Raubi Marie Perilli

      Thanks Francesco. I believe that content can play an important role on multiple platforms — as long as the reader can easily identify the brand behind the content.

  • http://www.influenceandco.com/ Matt Kamp

    Great article, DJ. While there are many serendipitous benefits of content creation (ex: “I saw your article in ____, I’d love to partner with you.”), it can be very tough to quantify these benefits. If you’re able to tie specific pieces of content to the benefits it provided in lead nurturing (i.e. this article led to this $ conversion in this drip campaign), then you have a sure-fire way to justify your content marketing efforts.

    Thought the Kapost/Eloqua study on content ROI vs. paid search was super interesting too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Raubi Marie Perilli

      Thanks for the extra tip Matt!

  • Reputation Managers

    Very valid points, definitely agree with each one!

  • Sarah Jocson

    Great article! Investing in a quality content is vital for a content marketing strategy to succeed.

  • Phillip Crum

    Good stuff. This article has “infographic” written all over it. I have one client that needs to hear the message right now. So, where’s the slide-deck?

    • Derek Miller

      Hey Phillip- Thanks and I haven’t been able to get a slide-deck put together.. Let me know if you make one, I’d love to see!

  • http://goresult.in/ Prachi Sharma

    Great article, and timely, too. Content is very misunderstood. Last week a prospect told me that my proposal only offered “copy editing” (I pitched a press release, Top 10 Tips download and targeted email campaign after they were featured in a national magazine.

    http://goresult.in/

  • http://www.idioplatform.com/ idio

    One of the best ways to prove content marketing ROI is to actually have an ROI calculator where you can input known values (e.g. cost of content marketing, revenue generated by content marketing, and so forth) and demonstrate conclusively the return on all the content a company is making.

    Here’s our first stab at a CONTENT MARKETING ROI CALCULATOR –> http://www2.idioplatform.com/l/20742/2014-04-07/7pwgy

    Would be interested to know what people make of it!