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Stop Making These Reporting Mistakes (If You Want To Keep Your Content Budget)

Updated May 24, 2022

If you aren’t getting sufficient ongoing executive support for your content marketing, look at the writing on the wall.

Are you communicating with the C-suite in ways that will get them to sit up and notice what content marketing is doing for the brand? You might be if you’re making any of these six mistakes.

Read on to figure out the problem and how to remedy them fairly easily, so you win the attention and budget from your company’s leadership.

1. Fail to set SMART goals and KPIs

Though an obvious pitfall, content marketers repeatedly fail to appropriately document goals for their strategy. Failing to set goals is a common pitfall. They don’t make them SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

That failure might be prompted by the marketers’ own fear of failure – not hitting a goal is worse than not identifying a goal. But how else are executives going to track your success and decide content marketing is worth funding?

Executives need to know #ContentMarketing's goals and results to decide if it's worth continued funding, says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Share on X

Brand awareness, for example, is often a general fuzzy goal mentioned by marketers. What are your key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring awareness? How much should the content contribute to a revenue boost? In what time frame? Whatever your goals, make them measurable.

Once you detail your SMART goals and clearly define the KPIs, present them to your company’s executive team to get their buy-in. They’re more likely to invest when they have a tangible way to see if the content marketing program succeeded or didn’t quite hit the mark.

2. Don’t align marketing with the business’ road map

To get time-starved executives to take notice, ensure content marketing goals intersect with their priorities, which usually revolve around the bottom line.

Too many marketers assume their content generates revenue. They don’t prove it with data-driven findings.

In HubSpot’s 2021 Not Another State of Marketing Report, 85% of marketers say they are somewhat or very confident in investing in their programs that influence revenue. But that’s not enough. As the report’s authors write: “The disconnect lies — you guessed it — in failing or nonexistent attribution reporting.

That’s a mistake if you want to garner C-suite support. These executives want proof. Whether you’re fortunate enough to have data directly linking content marketing tactics to ROI or must undertake a significant analysis, begin reporting meetings with this headline in mind: How Has Content Marketing Affected the Balance Sheet?

Every report to executives should answer this headline: How has #ContentMarketing affected the balance sheet? says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Share on X

3. Deliver numbers only

Leadership doesn’t necessarily have the time or expertise to delve into each content marketing initiative’s minutiae. You must show them the bigger picture.

Don’t present the result of one time-limited activity – contextualize it. How did it fit into the overall content marketing efforts for the year? How does that compare to last year’s performance? Are there anomalies in the data? Why?

Putting context around the data also works in your favor when the numbers don’t look great. It helps you explain why the less-than-expected results don’t indicate that content marketing activity was a total flop.

For example, a retail brand compares its gifting blog’s first-quarter performance to the previous year’s fourth quarter. At first glance, the numbers indicate the blog significantly underperformed. By adding the context about the impact of the holiday season on fourth-quarter numbers, executives can better recognize that the hit in visitors wasn’t that bad.

If the explanatory context isn’t obvious, drill down by looking at assisted conversions. Say this retail brand conducted a paid social campaign to bring shoppers to the site, but the visitors didn’t convert. Analyzing assisted conversions could explain that the social referral traffic visit is merely the first step in their buying experience. A large percentage eventually return to the website to purchase the products advertised to them on social media.


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4. Lack transparency

When leadership commits budget to content marketing, they need to trust you and the content marketing strategy.

You should never attempt to hide negative figures or bury bad results in your reports. Obfuscating the truth only makes them less likely to trust you with the company’s dollars.

Never hide negative figures or bad results in your #ContentMarketing reports to executives. They are less likely to trust you with company dollars, says @IamAaronAgius via @CMIContent @acrolinx. Share on X

Instead, report exactly what has happened and proactively explain how the approach will be adjusted to ensure the failures won’t be repeated.

5. Report inconsistently

Your content marketing likely will see peaks and troughs in traffic and conversions. Performing random data pulls or only reporting your successes doesn’t give leadership the information they need to make the right decisions.

While it can be tempting to send an email or schedule a meeting with the executives the moment you see a set of outstanding results, resist the urge. It’s vital to be consistent with your reporting – both in format and timing.

Document (and share) your reporting process, including strict timelines. It could look like this:

  • Set SMART goals (month one)
  • Ideate campaign (month one)
  • Set KPIs (month one)
  • Set up tracking for KPIs (month one)
  • Implement initiative (months two, three, four)
  • Gather data (month five)
  • Analyze data and identify trends (month five)
  • Document findings and recommendations for adapting the next campaign (month five)
  • Report to leadership (month five)

6. Ignore the power of storytelling

As content marketers, we know that storytelling is a powerful tool for engaging any audience – so use it for your executives.

While they may not properly engage with a spreadsheet packed with context-free figures or a document full of marketing jargon, they have a natural interest in understanding customer behavior.

Thanks to significant advances in technology, data surrounding search query information, basket size, and click-through activity can help you create powerful stories about your customers’ behaviors.

Turn your reporting meeting into an engaging storytelling session. Narrate stories around each primary customer type, explaining how they behave and engage with your brand. Use visuals and even videos to really help leadership see and buy into the stories.

Then, you can follow up by email with the details – the spreadsheets and documents – supporting the points in the presented stories, thereby ensuring that the transparency box is ticked too.

Not only can storytelling tactics gain their full attention during the presentation, but they are more likely to convince any content marketing skeptics to support your budget requests.

If you can stop making these six mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to convincing leadership to break the vicious content marketing cycle.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute