Measuring Content ROI in B2B: It’s Complicated

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    When you think about a return on investment (ROI) for your business, do you see numbers, percentages and dollar signs? And do you see a direct path from the investment to its return? 

    While this approach works for many business investments and strategies, it doesn’t work when you’re valuing a B2B content program. The B2B purchasing cycle is complex, involving multiple people and touchpoints along varying timelines. If you only analyze direct returns, such as one site visitor converting after reading one blog, you’re only skimming the surface. You’re missing all the indirect, circuitous and often indecipherable paths the benefits of content can take: 

    • The person who read your blog six months ago but only just called today. 
    • The social share that daisy chained its way to a B2B buyer who completed your website’s contact form. 
    • The existing customer who added safety products to their order after seeing them featured in your newsletter. 
    • The existing customer who chooses to stay with your company simply because you provide the most comprehensive resources on your website. 

    How do you know where these leads really came from or why that customer stuck around?  

    Valuing the returns on B2B content isn’t cut and dry. It’s a complicated process of connecting dots, following behaviors, asking questions and ultimately understanding that while your “measurements” aren’t going to follow traditional paths, content is worth it. When you’re strategic and focus on producing quality resources for customers and prospects, more often than not, your content will work in the background to deliver invaluable benefits such as brand awareness, customer satisfaction, credibility and more.  

    We’re here to demystify that process and share how you can set your content up for optimal – and continual – returns. 

    Calculating the ROI on content is about connecting the dots.


    How Much Does It Cost to Produce B2B Content? 

    To calculate ROI, you must first determine how much it costs to produce B2B content. This side of the equation is more cut-and-dry. If you produce content internally, factor in the time spent and employees’ hourly rate. Include all employees who contribute, from content planning to design, publication and outreach. If you work with a freelancer, contractor or agency, calculate based on their rates. But also account for your internal team’s time spent in meetings, editing or being interviewed as subject matter experts (SMEs) for content.  

    How Do You Define a “Return” on B2B Content? 

    The most important truth we want to relay with this blog is this:  

    When it comes to content, the return isn’t just about sales and revenue. 

    In some cases, you can directly correlate content engagement to lead generation. But as we said, that’s only skimming the surface. Content is a long game, and your marketing goals should look more diverse than “increase sales of safety products by 25%” and “acquire 20 new customers per sales cycle.” 

    You need to re-engineer how you define “returns” to set marketing goals for content.  

    Here’s another important truth: Each piece of content you produce should serve a marketing goal that’s aligned with your business objectives.  

    Of course, that’s simple for more traditional business initiatives. For example, if your goal is to increase sales of a product through e-commerce, you simply analyze the number sold through e-commerce by the end of the quarter or period.  

    Marketing goals, or expected returns, for content look different. 

    To demonstrate how you might define a “return” on your content, here are a few real-world examples from our experience: 

    Expanded customers’ knowledge of your offering. At 3 Aspens Media, we posted a custom-designed graphic to LinkedIn and mentioned our design services. Some of our network responded that they’d forgotten or didn’t realize we offered those services. 

     More engaged prospects. Our clients often find that including some of their latest publications in personalized emails to prospects results in a higher response rate. 

    A broader industry network. Guest posts in industry publications give our clients visibility, often leading to new connections, from which opportunities abound. Several of our clients have confirmed sales leads from these types of guest posts. 

     A paid speaking gig. Our clients who are thought leaders and innovators in their industries frequently field offers  for paid speaking gigs after people were intrigued by their ghostwritten content in trade publications 

     A paid consulting opportunity. Even our non-consultant clients get approached by individuals who saw their advice in a trade publication and want more in-depth, one-on-one consulting on the subject. 

    Returns on content could include new industry connections, opportunities and exposure.

    Other examples of returns on content include: 

    • Greater brand awareness, creating more potential to get found by new customers. 
    • Improved customer experience, leading to greater satisfaction and retention. 
    • Better engagement with existing customers on more channels, also leading to greater satisfaction and retention. 
    • Deeper credibility and trust, as you’re positioning yourself as resourceful. 
    • Improved site reputation by producing frequent, quality content, making your site more likely to rank on Google and other search engines. 

    How Do You Measure Content Performance? 

    Once you’ve defined your goals for content, how will you know it’s working? There are three main components of measuring content performance to understand whether you’re getting the returns you want:  

    • Analyzing the numbers 
    • Talking to humans 
    • Making correlations 

    Numbers: What Metrics Tell You About Content ROI 

    You can then identify and track metrics as key performance indicators (KPIs) to indicate “success” toward your marketing goals. The right metrics to track will depend on the content type and your goals. 

    Metrics help you understand how content is performing in relation to your goals.

    For instance, for a blog post or article, Content Marketing Institute suggests choosing from KPIs like: 

    • Website traffic 
    • Unique visitors 
    • New vs. returning visitors 
    • Time on site 
    • Average time on page 
    • And more 

    For email, they suggest choosing from KPIs like: 

    • Open rate 
    • Conversion rate 
    • Opt-out rate 
    • Subscribers 
    • And more 

    As an example, if your goal is to provide more educational content to existing customers, you might look at returning visitors and average time on page. If you’re trying to expand your audience and reach new customers, you might look at website traffic and new visitors.  

    Analyzing these metrics can help you understand where you’re getting traction, where you can improve and where you might want to reduce your focus.  

    Humans: What People Can Tell You About Content ROI 

    Going straight to the source and having conversations about your content helps you discover more about how it’s performing.  

    • Ask new prospects and customers how they found you.  
    • Ask existing customers what resources of yours they use to make decisions.  
    • Ask existing customers about your content’s role  in their experience and satisfaction. 
    • Ask salespeople what they hear from prospects and customers about your content.  
    • Ask salespeople how they use your content themselves. 

    Correlations: What You Can Divine  

    Finally, you can use metrics and human feedback to understand paths to ROI.  

    Customers appreciate your content as part of their experience = Customer Retention 

    Prospect found you through social media share = Brand Awareness and Customer Acquisition 

    More organic traffic going to your website = Brand Awareness 

    Lower bounce rate and longer time on page leads to higher search ranking = Visibility 

    Customers purchase product for first time after seeing social post = Product Awareness 

    There are also technologies available to help you make these deductions and correlations. For instance, in their blog on content ROI, Content Marketing Institute writes about multi-touch attribution  

    Calculating ROI on content is often about making correlations.

    How to Create High-Return Content – that Keeps Giving  

    Influence how much value you get out of content with these best practices: 

    1. Set the content up for success. 

    Well-written and researched content will always perform better. Follow best practices to optimize your outcomes: 

    • Focus on quality 
    • Incorporate SEO research 
    • Speak to your audience’s actual questions and concerns 
    • Align the content to marketing goals and business objectives 
    • Be creative and differentiate your content from the competition 
    • Be resourceful, not salesy  

    Learn more about creating and following a B2B content strategy >> 

    2. Nurture and promote the content once it’s published.  

    If you write a blog, publish it and leave it at that, you’ll probably get the lowest ROI — though it’s still valuable. Nurture and promote your content to maximize ROI: 

    • Post about it on your social media platforms. 
    • Engage with individuals who interact with it on social. 
    • Include the blog in your email newsletter. 
    • Inform team members about the content and encourage them to share it with their networks — whether on social, via email, on sales calls or in person. 

    Each tactic takes incrementally less effort than the original content creation but adds to its value and ROI.  

    3. Repurpose the content into other formats. 

    Repurposing content so it’s reworked for other channels and uses is another way to increase its value without much additional effort. For example, with a blog, you could: 

    • Create a printable/downloadable flyer from information in the blog. 
    • Pull tips and insights from the blog for a social series. 
    • Write a new version of the blog for a trade publication. 

    4. Update and improve it over time.   

    Regularly revisit your content to update it so it’s relevant to current customer issues, new offerings and new SEO research.   

    Are you looking to create content that performs and delivers on your goals? Reach out to us at [email protected] to learn how we help B2B companies produce quality content that differentiates them in their markets. 

    Measuring Content ROI in B2B: It’s Complicated