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Content Marketing ROI: A Formula for Any Type of Organization


Digital, social, and mobile technologies have dramatically changed the world we live in. And no function has been more disrupted than marketing. Executives won’t fund marketing if it doesn’t demonstrate results. That’s why marketing ROI – including content marketing ROI — is one of the top challenges for CMOs and marketers.

But before we dig in to walk you through the formula to do this, here’s a secret: You need to build a content marketing destination, such as a blog or a content hub. It is easier to measure the value of an owned platform  relative to any other form of marketing.

It’s easier to measure the value of an owned platform relative to any other form of marketing. @BrennerMichael Share on X

Content formula for B2B organizations

If you have not done so already, you need to build the business case for content marketing to weary marketing executives.

It starts by looking at your marketing ROI overall. When I hear the question about the ROI of content marketing, I always ask: “Well, what’s the ROI of your marketing overall?” And too often, I hear the answer: “We don’t know.”

Think about this: The majority of content discovered by your audience comes from just three channels: email, search, and social. The best marketers focus their efforts on creating content that can be discovered across all of these.

The majority of #content discovered by your audience comes from email, search, & social. @BrennerMichael Share on X

And what powers those channels? Of course, the answer is customer-focused content marketing.

The Secret to Content Marketing ROI

Identify your potential audience

The business case for content marketing is to reach, engage, convert, and retain buyers you would have never seen if all you did was create promotional content and push it to social channels, publisher sites, or banners and other forms of ads that many of us ignore.

Start quantifying your business case by looking at how much unbranded search traffic you get from organic search. You can do this quickly using SEM Rush’s overview report. Or looking at your website analytics and group the traffic you get from keywords that are branded vs. unbranded.

Then you can quantify the opportunity in the size of that audience you are NOT reaching. You attract unbranded search traffic when you commit to customer-focused content instead of content that is about your company, product and services, which is inherent to most corporate websites.

Explore missed opportunities

If the math doesn’t convince executives, try tapping into fear. “Fear of loss” is considered one of the greatest human motivators. Executives are scared of being left behind their peers, and asking questions like the ones below are a great way to start the conversation:

  • Do you show up first when someone searches for the category of your solution?
  • Do you own the category like L’Oreal does with
  • Do you own the target audience like Adobe does with
  • Are you one of the largest sources of education for your audience like Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials? (Congrats Amanda Todorovich on winning Content Marketer of the Year 2016; you can read how she has grown their website.)
  • And is your content marketing the single largest source of new leads and revenue like American Express’ OPEN forum?
If the math doesn’t convince execs, tap into the fear of being left behind their peers says @BrennerMichael. Share on X

Move budget from programs that aren’t working

You don’t necessarily have to look for additional investment to fund content marketing activities. Instead, ask yourself questions like these:

  • Is the content your team creates effective at reaching your target audience?
  • Which marketing programs that your team has funded drove little or even no measurable results?
  • What do you spend on paid search because you don’t rank organically for those keywords?

Once you’ve identified the content and programs that haven’t worked, shift a portion of those marketing dollars into funding an annual, consistent content marketing program.

Remember that traffic will increase over time

You can also explain to the CMO (and the CFO) that content marketing is an investment that produces a compounding rate of return.

#Contentmarketing is an investment that produces a compounding rate of return says @BrennerMichael. Share on X

Unlike campaigns that only achieve results while you are actively investing in them, content marketing requires a consistent investment over time, but you get increasing rates of return. This should be music to your CFO’s ears.

It’s like a retirement account. Invest a small percentage of your budget over time. The first dollar you invest continues to deliver value to your brand long after the publish date. You compound those returns by continually making that investment.


Image source: Tomasz Tunguz

Show how traffic delivers leads and revenue

While looking at how your investment in content marketing is compounded over time, which leads to increased traffic, you also need to turn that traffic into leads and revenue. What is the best way to do this?

Subscribers. Subscription rates are not only one of the best ways to measure the value and engagement of your content, but they also measure real value. You can quantify email subscribers’ monetary value if your email database has ever been used to nurture leads or present direct offers to sales / revenue.

To calculate the value per email address, take the total revenue from email campaigns and divide by the number of emails in database. To calculate the value of subscribers, multiply the value per email address by total content marketing subscribers and that’s the value of your subscribers.

Email is one of the highest producing ROI tactics marketers employ. And email subscribers are many times more likely to convert to real customers than non-subscribers.

Don’t forget about mid-stage content

Mid-stage content offers that are gated are another opportunity to show the value of content marketing. Once you map content to the buyer journey, you will soon realize that most blog readers don’t immediately convert to customers. But if you offer them deep content to help them navigate their buyer journey, you can generate leads that ultimately convert to sales.

Content marketing can help retain customers

We’ve talked about the value of traffic, subscribers, and leads, but what about customer retention?

If you focus on subscribers, you can match customer email addresses with content subscribers. Then just do some simple math: How much more do subscribed customers spend vs. non-subscribed customers? How much longer do they stay as customers?

This is one of the best ways to demonstrate the value of content marketing. My clients who tracked customers who engage with their content marketing found these customers spend on average two to three times more and stayed three to four times longer than non-subscribed customers.

Prove the value of #contentmarketing by calculating how much more subscribers spend / do says @BrennerMichael. Share on X

There is a formula to success with content marketing. And there are plenty of examples of businesses showing content marketing ROI. In short: Build the business case, find the budget, and measure the results.

Want more assistance to secure the budget and buy-in for a content marketing program that delivers ROI? Read CMI’s e-book on How to Win Your Battle for Content Marketing Buy-In (50 Stats).

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute