Measurement Framework: How to Document Content Marketing ROI
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Measurement

Measurement Framework: How to Document Content Marketing ROI

by Liam MoroneySeptember 19, 2017

At NewsCred, we talk about how the goal of content marketing is not to be good a creating content, but to instead be good at business by using content. In this new age of performance content marketing, clearly defining a business outcome is critical to success. 

Yet, even as content marketers improve at identifying that goal – be it lead generation, e-commerce sales, increased brand affinity – understanding that journey in a measurable way is still challenging.

As we work with clients on their content marketing programs, our first course of action is to develop a measurement framework. This framework provides not only a clear road map toward measuring program ROI, but it also helps you define every step of that road map through KPIs, technologies, and dependencies.

In this article, I’m going to make a case for why you need to create a measurement framework for your content marketing program. Then, I’ll provide a detailed walkthrough on how to build it. I’ve also developed a convenient template so you can start creating your own framework now.

Download our editable measurement framework template here.

The Complexity of Content Marketing Attribution 

Content marketing is not like direct marketing. There is rarely, if ever, a clear and immediate path from first content touches to monetized conversions. Especially when you’re starting with new audiences, most users will take a multi-touch journey involving several return visits while building trust through content.

But this multi-touch journey is far from where the real complexity occurs. As we know from our five steps to content marketing ROI, simply creating an engaged and loyal audience isn’t enough – we need to turn that engagement into action. This often happens via lead gen forms or calls to action (CTAs) toward pricing pages, product detail pages, contact forms, or even the “About us” page. This is how we start to connect content engagement to business actions. 

However, these conversion points often occur on other pages, sections, or domains, if you’re using a separate content hub. Even when they occur on-page, such as through pop-ups and lightboxes, the user is entering information on a whole new technology platform.

Right now, you may be thinking, “That’s still not terribly complex.” Well, we’re only getting started. The above examples of conversions are “secondary actions,” i.e. ones that don’t have high-value outcomes but lead a content visitor toward “primary actions” that do. To better illustrate this, let’s look at NewsCred’s own journey.

NewsCred’s Buyer Journey 

Our goal is to turn qualified content visitors into customers. In the ideal journey, people would regularly read content on our Insights hub. Then, they’d click over to our business site, newscred.com, to learn more about our products and services (and in doing so, complete a secondary action). Finally, they’d fill out a contact form and enter the sales funnel as leads (a primary action). 

Note: Secondary actions occur before primary actions. While that may seem confusing, you’ll see how it makes sense when mapped against the funnel.

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 3.22.11 PM.png

The above visual, however, is highly simplistic. Few people ever take this direct path. Most start by becoming anonymous newsletter subscribers and build a relationship with us by regularly reading our content until they find their way to learning about our platform and services.

An even more common path takes them from the newsletter to becoming Insights members by signing up to receive high-value content, thus becoming unqualified leads in our Marketo instance. Then, we move them to learn more about what we offer and toward our contact or solutions pages. And we haven’t even started on the complex sales journey that follows.

In other words, there are many steps and possible routes visitors can take before they ever fulfill the actions we need to start creating customers. Our measurement framework details many of those possibilities.

Here’s a completed example of what we’ll be building together in this article. 

NewsCred Measurement Framework.jpeg

Content Marketing ROI Exists across the Organization 

What the above example hopefully demonstrates is that measurable content marketing ROI does not exist in a vacuum. It takes a village to move a visitor from first touch to monetization – and in between, there are many locations, technologies, and teams that play vital parts in this complex journey. Knowing, understanding, and documenting this landscape is the purpose of a content marketing measurement framework. 

Your organization may be at the early stages of content marketing maturity, but completing the full measurement framework ensures that you know not only how it’s possible, but who you may eventually need to involve to get there. In many cases with our clients, knowing these dependencies early allows us to build those relationships and practices so we’re able to measure ROI quicker.

So, hopefully, now you see the value of a measurement framework. But how do you build one?

Documenting Your Measurement Framework

The measurement framework includes five key stages

  1. Strategy
  2. Traffic
  3. Engagement
  4. Action
  5. Monetization 

We’ll fill out the framework stage by stage. This will ensure that we won’t miss parts of the journey, resulting in unqualified traffic that won’t lead to monetization.

Strategy 

If you’re reading this, there’s a strong chance that you already have a documented content marketing strategy. For this exercise, we’re going to think of the strategy as the north star of our measurement framework. We’ll simplify it into a couple of sentences to solidify the purpose of our program and framework.

There are many cases where we’ll have multiple purposes – brand equity and marketing-influenced revenue, for example. I advise building separate frameworks for each to prevent them from becoming muddled. Keep your framework tightly focused so you’ll be able to measure specific results.

Let’s go back to our NewsCred example: 

NewsCred’s Strategy: To inspire content marketers with thought leadership, trends, advice, and strategies around content marketing to drive awareness of NewsCred as the leading solution for enterprise brands. Success is driving the audience to become qualified leads who will turn into new customers.

The above statement covers what our content should be about and what actions it should drive. Most importantly, we’ve identified a clear, measurable goal: qualified leads that will result in sales. Your strategy may be shorter or longer, but keep it succinct enough to use as a reference point for your entire framework.

With your north star in writing, it’s time to move onto the measurable part of the framework.

Traffic

Pageviews and sessions are standard content marketing metrics, but don’t gloss over the Traffic part of the framework. At this stage, you want to be able to measure whether you’re driving the right traffic.  

Every company has its own definition of qualified traffic. You may be looking to generate a new audience or drive engagement with existing customers. You may want to speak to Fortune 500 CEOs or 18-35-year-old millennials. What matters is that you have identified the audience and, to the best of your ability, thought about how you could show this in the data.

This is what takes our measurement framework to the next level. While we just defined our north star in Strategy, we’re measuring results in Traffic. For this next stage, and all the remaining stages, we’re going break the inputs into 4 views:

  • KPIs: What metrics will we measure?
  • Detail: A clear description of what we’re looking to achieve. Go above metrics and say what success looks like in plain English.
  • Technology: Where does the data that could prove our KPIs exist? Note: It can live on multiple platforms.
  • Dependency: What team or individual reports on these KPIs? This is where we document who we need alignment/help from to get data.

Let’s fill each one using NewsCred as an example:

Traffic: 

KPIs

Detail

Technology

Dependency

– Audience demographics

– New visitor generation

– Returning visitors

Content marketers and C-level marketers from enterprise Fortune 2000 brands

– Google Analytics

– NewsCred Analytics

– Paid media platform campaign parameters

– Analytics team

– Content + Demand generation teams

– Social media team

As you can see, getting the data to just prove that our traffic is coming from the right audience involves multiple platforms. All of that data lives with several people.

This is the value of a documented framework. We know the how, where, and who to prove our results, and it forces us to be intellectually honest and apply analytical scrutiny.

So, now that we know how to prove if we’re building a quality audience, how do we know if our content actually resonates with it?

Engagement

This area should be easiest to complete, but critical to document, nonetheless. What are our engagement goals? How will we measure them? Do we have benchmarks or baselines we’re trying to beat that exist on non-content sections of the site? These types of questions ensure that we’re not just forcing ourselves to answer the question with numbers, but numbers that can be put into context.

Let’s fill in each section using NewsCred as an example: 

Engagement:

 KPIs

Detail

Technology

Dependency

– Content engagement rate

– Content session duration

– Increased session/durations on solutions and company pages

– Lower bounce rates on solution and company pages.

Drive high-quality content engagement and loyalty, improving the quality of visits to high-value sections of the site, as well as content.

– Google Analytics

– NewsCred Analytics

– Analytics team

– Content + Demand generation teams 

You’ll probably notice that some of the KPIs above are not specific to content, but to engagement on other sections of the site. Content marketing engagement is not just a measure of whether the content we’re producing resonates with our audiences, but also whether the interaction with this content impacts engagement with the brand as a whole.

Assume you have no method of measuring anything outside of this category. You can’t show clicks, behavioral conversions, or any kind of behavioral action. The only way to show that content is working through this lens is whether the traffic to business-specific pages has performed with a different level of engagement and perceived intent than traffic that never saw content. This is where we begin to bridge the gap between content engagement and buyer intent.

Luckily, we have many ways to measure the actions audiences take, so we’ll move to that category next.

Actions 

As I mentioned earlier, there are different categories of action that audiences can take, and within those categories, there is any number of actions that a viewer can take. To keep us from building a list that’s too long to be useful, we’ll keep our actions as clean as possible. First, we’ll look at the Primary Actions we want to document.

What we’re looking for here is the most valuable action a person can take that will lead them to a monetizable outcome. This can be as direct as adding a product to the shopping cart or as far removed as filling out a form that provides enough data to become qualified by the sales team. What matters though, is that as an on-site visitor, this is the most valuable action they can take before the monetization journey can begin. Bear in mind, this doesn’t have to occur on content pages, but can happen at the location where we want content to lead them.

Here are NewsCred’s examples of Primary Actions:

Primary Actions:

KPIs

Detail

Technology

Dependency

– Contact Us form fill

– Request for Information

– Product/Case Study request

– Product/Service webinar form fill

– Solution page visits from marketing leads

Submission to a high-value form that requests information or contact with sales or submits information on a business-specific form

– Marketo

– NewsCred Action Analytics

– Analytics Team

– Content + Demand generation teams

NewsCred has many forms that record enough data to score leads. We want to know information like job title and company name so we can be sure they are people who would benefit from NewsCred’s product or services. Leads can submit enough information by becoming an Insights member, but that doesn’t show intent. 

That’s why you’ll notice as a member of Insights that we don’t promote ourselves until you’ve taken an action that shows intent. So, for Primary Action, it’s not enough to submit information; it has to be accompanied by behavioral intent, too. People can take many Secondary Actions to get to this point:

Secondary Actions: 

KPIs

Detail

Technology

Dependency

– Newsletter opt-ins

– Insights sign-ups

– Outbound clicks to NewsCred.com

– Outbound clicks to NewsCred solution/contact pages

Form submissions that bring leads into our marketing database, or actions that lead them towards buyer intent conversion forms and pages.

– Marketo

– NewsCred Action Analytics

– Google Analytics

– Analytics team

– Content + Demand generation teams

Hopefully, you’ll start to see a clear overlap between the Primary and Secondary Actions. Secondary Actions are generally things that happen close to or on content that, while valuable, are only proxy actions on the way to what we really want the visitor to do. Going from an article to read more about our solutions is valuable, but not unless they continue that journey to request information about them. 

However, this exercise ensures that we know not only what we ultimately want our audience to do, but how they can get there in a measurable way. This is how we make sure we don’t have gaps in the attribution journey. Once we’ve gotten those actions, it’s time to connect them to monetization.

Monetization

Just because someone added a product to their cart, doesn’t mean they actually purchased it. Similarly, someone may have filled out a form to contact sales, but wasn’t part of our qualified audience. Also, the add to cart data may exist on a site analytics platform, but sales data often exists in another platform. This is what separates Actions and Monetization, and why they have different sections in the framework. Detailing the end of the journey is as important a step as any.

Here’s the NewsCred version:

KPIs

Detail

Technology

Dependency

– MQL

– SQL

– Meetings

– Opportunities

Leads becoming qualified (MQLs) and leading towards successful sales opportunities in our CRM.

– Marketo

– Salesforce

– Demand generation team

– Sales ops team 

Data at this level separates data that indicates that we drove sales from data that proves it. Through this framework, we can see how and where it occurs, which can give us the runway to work with the necessary teams.

Summary 

Performance content marketing is much more than traffic and engagement. It involves many steps, KPIs, teams, and technologies to follow the data to a monetizable point. Content marketing platforms and site analytics play crucial parts in the measurement of this modern journey. But even the best integrations and APIs still need cooperation across the company.

By building out a framework that follows this journey, concentrating on each step, and giving it the attention and thought it needs, you’ll ensure that you’ve mapped out the journey in a way that truly captures everything you need to know, and may even identify gaps you hadn’t thought of.

No matter how sure you are of your roadmap to success, until you document it, you can’t truly defend it.

To get started, download our editable measurement framework template here.

 

Liam Moroney is NewsCred’s Director of Analytics.