By Michele Linn published October 17, 2014

A Single Version of Truth: One Key to Content Marketing Measurement Success


Content marketing measurement is something that has received a lot of attention lately, and it’s not hard to understand why. According to our new research, B2B Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America:

  • Forty-nine percent of B2B marketers struggle with measuring content marketing effectiveness (up from 33 percent last year).
  • Only 21 percent of B2B marketers are having success tracking ROI.

In fact, when we had our Executive Forum in the spring, finding the best way to measure was the “big idea” most of the marketing leaders wanted to solve.

That said, to solve this challenge, it’s useful to understand where we are so we can see what makes this so difficult. The second video in our B2B research roundtable series talks about the challenges that marketers are facing and offers one key solution to consider.

A big thanks to Ardath Albee, CEO and Marketing Strategist at Marketing Interactions; Carla Johnson, Principal at Type A Communications and Vice President-Thought Leadership at the Business Marketing Association; Nick Panayi, Head of Global Brand and Digital Marketing at CSC; Gary Van Prooyen, Senior Director, North America Demand Center at Motorola; and Steve Rotter, Vice President, Digital Marketing Solutions at Brightcove, for participating in this conversation.

Let’s walk through where we are and where we are going.

It’s essential to understand your goals for content

Nick Panayi sums up the ideal to which many marketers aspire:

An ROI [for content marketing] from a business standpoint basically says, “Did you move the needle? Did you move the business forward based on what you, as a marketing organization, have committed to do?

At CMI we talk about it far too often, the content you create needs to directly impact your business goal(s). If you don’t know how your content will move the needle for your business, it probably won’t.

But measurement is not as simple as understanding your goals

While understanding your goal(s) is a first step, the real challenge is figuring out how to connect the content you publish to how the business is improving. Content is only one variable. Ardath Albee explains:

At the end of the day it’s about revenues, new customer acquisition, or whatever the business goal is. But marketing by itself does not achieve those things. Marketing plays a particular role, but which levers is it pulling? What are they doing that enables sales to complete the achievement of that KPI? How do you measure that incrementally and connect the dots so that it’s more of a collaborative metric?

It’s easy to get data, but it’s tough to get the truth

Add to this the challenge of too little or too much data. Even when you know what you should be tracking, it can be tough to get this data. Chances are you simply can’t get the data you need (such as attribution data that tracks to what extent each piece of content has an impact.)

Or, on the other end, there are so many different places where you can get the data that you often are left with “multiple views of the truth.” Who hasn’t seen different data in their email tool versus Google Analytics, for instance? How do you know which one is right?

Gary Van Prooyen articulates this issue:

We have reporting coming out of our ears. But to be able to connect all those things into one cohesive view that connects it to business metrics is hard. It really is.

One answer: A single version of the truth

The secret to measurement isn’t something that can be distilled into a single blog post, but my favorite aha moment came from Nick who shared that his company, CSC, has developed a dashboard that both marketing and sales can access. He explains:

We’ve created our analytics almost like a newspaper with a front page. The front page is basically the answers the executives would need to know right away . . . I will tell you more has been done for that relationship between sales and marketing ever since we put together a dashboard that is a single version of the truth. There’s no questioning of the data. It’s linking up marketing land to sales land and there’s no question about that. Then discussion becomes, how can we get more effective versus hey, you are not doing anything with the leads.

Whether you have the means to develop a custom dashboard or simply send regular email updates, the most important thing to do is to try to get to one single version of the truth that includes all of the KPIs that the leadership team agrees on. It’s also key to share it with everyone on the team as well so they know what kind of contribution they are making.

While what you find important may change, having all of the information in one place is a great way to make conversations around measurement much more productive.

As mentioned, measurement is complex topic, and there is no one, easy answer. Over the coming months, we’ll delve into this topic in more depth. If you have specific challenges – or you’re having success – please let me know in the comments so we can address these ideas in future posts.

Want more expert advice on addressing content marketing’s biggest challenges? Check out all the fantastic CMW sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal.

Cover image by PublicDomainPictures via

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • Sean H

    Definitely agree with Gary’s statement that we have reporting coming out of our ears! Especially with data from so many different sources. As simple as it may sound, we’ve been building and implementing a global UTM parameter framework/taxonomy that plugs into our marketing automation platform (and subsequently our CRM) that allows us to drill down at different levels. Each piece of content has a specific utm_campaign name from the start, and we can then build reports for that specific piece of content as it grows – first for high level medium and source performance (which also have static values), and then more detailed reports to understand content performance by lead volume & quality, first/concatenated/last touch for each lead, conversion and campaign extension, pipeline influence/touch/generated, and so on. It definitely takes some patience and challenges us to decide which metrics are most important to the business & stakeholders (not to mention a bit of Excel fun to visualize it), but it sets a standard that can be implemented across all campaigns and content as we move ahead. I’ve also tried a few dashboards (Cyfe, Leftronic, and yes, Tableau) that have pre-created widgets to pull data from various platform APIs, but haven’t yet found the grand master that delivers everything we need. This is a great article & great topic that is sure to see some growth in the coming months.

    • Michele Linn

      Hi Sean — Thank you so much for sharing your approach as well as the dashboards you have tried. Really helpful!

    • SqueezeCMM

      Hey Sean,

      Sorry to jump on the wagon so late but everything you are describing is exactly what we offer here at SqueezeCMM, if you folks are getting all the results you need then I rest my case and all the best. However, if you feel like you can get more out of the taxonomy and want to build a complete buyer’s profile or map a full customer’s journey using your taxonomy, check out what we do:

      – John

  • Andrea Bridges-Smith

    Michele, I would love to see an article on recommended KPIs and the best way to get them. As a producer of content, I’ve got no problem building out a giant library of videos, white papers, infographics, etc. But my background lies in creative production and not analytics, and I don’t think I’m alone in that in the content marketing world. I know how to run a report, I know what to do when I see a bounce rate, but building out the “truth” dashboard you mention across Google Analytics, Salesforce and marketing automation is tough. If an article comes out with a step-by-step process on how to do so, I will bookmark it!

    • Michele Linn

      Really appreciate the suggestion, Andrea. That is a great idea for a post!

  • Jonathan Kranz

    Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but I think the problem is one of having TOO MUCH information, not too little. I think before management imposes a reporting structure that consolidates KPIs into one place, it would be wise for them to make the hard calls about what information–which metrics–they REALLY need. Truth is, when we’re bombarded with info, it all becomes noise.

    • Michele Linn

      For most people, I think this is the case. I love the idea of having that single version of the truth link Nick is doing at CSC.