A high-level marketer recently told me that the success of “House of Cards” resulted from Netflix’s analytics — not the story, acting, or writing. While I wholeheartedly agree that big data can help organizations make smarter decisions, discounting the power of storytelling for branding and obsessing over the numbers can get content marketers into trouble.
This point also came up at the GrowthBeat Summit. Mike Troiano, CMO of Actifio, summed up my perspective nicely: “There’s a difference between data and the truth. It’s our job to make sure we see the truth.”
Stories can create an emotional connection between readers and brands and promote loyalty among your audience. Instead of blindly following the numbers, etch your brand’s story through content marketing using these three tips:
1. Build Your Strategy Around Long-Term ROI Metrics
Pressure from the C-suite to deliver immediate results can derail a perfectly good content strategy. By focusing on short-term wins, you fail to see the bigger picture.
For example, two years ago, I wrote a few articles on parenting, helping others, and other topics unrelated to content marketing. These articles didn’t drive an impressive number of leads, but that wasn’t the point. Part of authentic brand building is giving your audience a backstage pass to your company and the faces behind it. And as a result of these articles, we recently signed one of our largest clients.
If we’d measured these articles’ success in terms of sales back then and only stuck to topics that performed well, we would’ve written them off as failures and missed out on this huge sale — not to mention brand awareness, speaking opportunities, and other brand-building opportunities. That being said, being proactive about tracking key ROI metrics is crucial to the longevity of your content. That’s why organizing a spreadsheet or using custom analytics template can be extremely beneficial.
2. Read Between the Numbers
A vice president of a Fortune 1000 company at the GrowthBeat Summit mentioned that she hasn’t tried anything new with her company’s content marketing strategy because she’s been happy with the numbers. However, she also mentioned that being content with these numbers has stifled innovation, and her company is struggling to keep up with the competition.
This shows that data doesn’t tell the whole story. Sometimes numbers can deter you from doing something that could position your brand as a leader or deliver information that will positively shape your audience’s perception of your brand. As Mike mentioned, you have to dig for the truth in the data for it to benefit your company.
3. Account for the Intangible Results
When we initially executed our content marketing campaign, we didn’t see a huge ROI. However, we understood that content marketing is a commitment to brand building that would not only help drive sales conversions, but also differentiate us as an industry leader.
In the past year, we’ve increased our conversion rate by more than 151 percent and experienced other benefits, including PR opportunities from others sourcing our content, brand advocates, and referral partners.
But there are also benefits you can’t always see. For example, I recently referenced American Express’ OPEN Forum in an article for Content Marketing Institute and in a keynote speech. Although Amex might not catch those mentions, having content living on the web will expose your brand to profitable opportunities that will only compound over time.
While ROI metrics might not be destroying your storytelling and branding attempts, it’s far too easy to become preoccupied with data and fall blind to the value behind your long-term content strategy. Harness your brand story, continue to nurture these efforts over time, and don’t rely on the numbers for the whole story. Like Mike said, it’s our job to see the truth.
John Hall is the CEO and co-founder of Influence & Co., a company that specializes in expertise extraction and knowledge management that are used to fuel marketing efforts. The company focuses on creating high-quality content coming from its clients that reaches their target audiences online. Influence & Co.’s clients range from startups to fast-growing companies on the Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 lists.
This article was written by John Hall from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Originally published on Aug 24, 2015 9:59 AM, updated Aug 31, 2016