Marketing software is in vogue. Not only has it fulfilled the tech rite of passage – earning its own jargon word jumble name (Martech) – most marketing teams have added hires devoted solely to managing data surfaced by it.
Content marketing has gained popularity in tandem. Google ranks items that show up in searches based on the value of the content therein, a trend that led marketers to increase content spend to $5.2 billion a year.
What’s remarkable is that amid growth in marketing analytics software and content, content marketing analytics haven’t improved much. We still depend primarily on page views, downloads, bounce rates and social shares to judge content performance. Beyond time on page, it’s hard to measure whether people truly like the stuff marketers spend time and money to create.
It’s time to talk about how we can deepen the data around content marketing.
Moving down the funnel
The above metrics – web visits, content downloads and so on – help gauge top-of-funnel interest and often indicate when a lead is qualified enough to pass to the sales team. That’s great for B2C companies, whose customer engagement happens mostly online.
But the funnel’s got a middle and a bottom, too. The reality in B2B, according to McKinsey & Company, is that personal interactions with sales reps are still the most influential factors in purchasing decisions, even in the online era.
That means B2B marketers are ignoring an entire realm of measurement: content’s role in building relationships between sales reps and prospects, and ultimately closing deals. We track top-of-funnel leads, and then we pass those leads to sales, but we don’t account for how sales continues to use our content in meetings.
It’s not news that marketers want to use the right content at the right time in the funnel. We typically call this personalization, and to be sure, we’ve made headway. For instance, many of us segment leads by buying stage and send different content based on that information (more in-depth stuff when leads are closer to buying, and vice versa).
That’s a great start, but it’s not enough. When salespeople use our content 1:1 with their buyers, we should know when, where, how – and what the result of using it was. Content performance stretches beyond blog visits and email opens to data like “how many times have sales reps used this ebook in a meeting? In which meetings? And did those meetings lead to closed deals more or less often?”
The big question is this: which content helps close the most deals? Imagine being able to answer that.
OK smarty pants, which metrics should we be using then?
Here are a few of the basic data points tied to content that marketers should track as the sales process progresses:
- How much are salespeople using your marketing content to close deals?
- Which pieces do reps share with prospects most, and at which stage of the funnel?
- How are prospects interacting with the content they receive? Are they spending a lot of time reading it? Are they sharing it with colleagues?
- Which pieces are present – or not – in sales meetings that lead to closed deals?
- Are reps using the most appropriate content available at the right time?
- Are reps using old or off-brand content, and can you stop them from doing that?
Most important, how does knowing all of this inform what content you create next?
Up to 70% of marketing content is never touched by sales, according to Content Marketing Institute, an unfortunate fact, considering Gleanster Research found that marketers across the US spend more than $5 billion creating content each year.
Analyzing how content affects sales conversations will help reverse this trend, allowing marketers to create more useful material and ultimately improve customer meetings. Here are a few additional advantages we saw internally:
- We could create more accurate internal sales forecasts, because we could better detect which prospects were most engaged.
- We could help our sales teams nurture them in a more personalized way.
- We shortened some sales cycles because we were able to have the right conversation at the right time.
- We could more accurately attribute ROI to specific content assets and set strategy based on what we learned.
Content can and should tangibly push deals forward, and tracking data around this process is a no brainer. Doing so gives sales more visibility into what prospects want, and it helps marketing set a strategy around content creation based on data that encompasses the entire funnel.
Just measuring content at the top of the funnel means we’re missing a huge chance to understand which material is most useful to our prospects, and demonstrate the value that will nudge them to pick our product instead of a competitor’s.
Most important, we’re missing a chance to collectively improve our analytics around marketing content and thus improve the content itself. Corporate content is never going to win a Pulitzer, but readers deserve to get something out of what they read. Let’s make sure they do.