By Joe Pulizzi published May 26, 2011

Reporting Content Marketing ROI to the C-Level

Listened to a fantastic presentation from my friend and CMI consultant Jason Falls last week on social media measurement. Much of what Jason reviewed is applicable to content marketing measurement and ROI, especially when communicating content creation and distribution to the C-Level.

What the C-Level Wants to Know about Content Marketing

content marketing ROIPlease don’t show an analytics report to your CXO.  They don’t care, and probably will end up asking questions that will simply waste your time.  Your CXO only cares about three things when it comes to your content marketing measurement and ROI:

  1. Is the content driving sales for us?
  2. Is the content saving costs for us?
  3. Is the content making our customers happier, thus helping with retention?

The reports you show to your CXO need to answer these types of questions, or why show them anything at all?  Content marketing is all about developing content that maintains or changes a behavior, so that is the focus.

Return on Objective

All content initiatives need to have a goal, and those goals can be measured in a few ways.

Primary Content Indicators

Primary indicators are the types of measurements that the CXO wants to know about.

  • Sales
  • Cost Savings
  • Customer Retention Rates (i.e., does engagement with the content keep customers longer versus those that don’t engage in the content?)

Secondary Content Indicators

Secondary indicators are the types of measurements that help us make the case for primary indicators.  These can be:

  • Increase in lead quality
  • Increase in lead quantity
  • Shorter sales cycles
  • Increase in customer awareness
  • Market share indicators
  • Increase in cross-selling opportunities
  • Qualitative customer feedback on the content

Our B2B Content Marketing Study reports the following measurements used by corporate marketers.

content marketing measuring User Indicators

These are the types of measurements that the content “doers” need to look at to help drive the secondary indicators.  These are things like:

  • Web traffic increases
  • Increase in page views
  • Decrease in bounce rates
  • Tweets or Facebook shares
  • Search engine rankings

Bringing the Measurement Plan Together

When you are putting your plan together, the best way to go about making sense of all the numbers is to use these three indicators in conjunction.

  1. What is the goal of the content initiative?
  2. What are the user indicators (i.e., web traffic or SEO rankings) that will drive secondary indicators (i.e., leads, shorter sales cycles)?
  3. How can we develop a report for the CXO that shows the content making an impact on sales, cost savings or customer retention?

This, by the way, is not easy and there is no silver bullet, but by using this simplified framework, you can start to show that your content marketing is having an impact on the business.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Joseph Doughty

    With such broad measurement criteria such as “sales”, “cost savings” and “customer retention” do you have any suggestions in the way of tools to measure these criteria from the content producers perspective?

    or another way to ask…

    Any suggestions for the best tools to use to track “The Measurement Criteria For Content Marketing Success” list offered above?

    I can see where the web analytics comes into play with the analysis. But, when there are so many other factors that lead to a sale besides “content” it can be a challenge getting a CXO (or marketing client, in my case) to see the direct benefit to putting a significant part of a web site budget into content creation.

    Its like, “Hey we have this great looking website. Why do I need to “invest” in content?” There is a disconnect between understanding that great content drives interaction which drives sales. Why then do so few understand the long-term value of quality content?

    Thanks for a great post.

  • Reinier Willems

    Hi Joe,
    Thanks for the post. I much agree with your approach of using primary (business) and secondary (process) oriented performance indicators. You might be interested in a -more generic- article I recently posted on the topic:

  • Bruce McDuffee

    Thanks for sharing this post, Joe! I see it’s a couple of years old, but it showed up in my ScoopIt feed this morning and the topic is more germane than ever, so I thought I’d comment anyways:
    I suggest starting even at a higher level for most marketing organizations. Does the CxO even care about a marketing tactic like content marketing? He may or may not, but he certainly cares about his ROI of the millions he spends on the marketing function. I suggest some higher level general metrics that are not content specific; net contribution, marketing contribution to new and won opportunities are both really good ROI results to report. I would avoid ‘cost saving’ metrics and focus on revenue generating metrics to help position marketing as a revenue generator versus a place where money might be saved by cutting here and there. Ultimately, it depends on what the CxO wants or needs to hear about. A CEO who is a former marketer, may want to know more details about the tactics. A CEO from an operations background probably won’t care or understand the details about the results of various tactics.