Is proving content marketing ROI an impossible dream?

Updated: Oct 12, 2021


Joyce Tsang Content Marketing on proving content marketing ROI

Content marketing often gets dismissed by line managers, especially those who are from a traditional marketing background. They know there is value in it, but they don't know how to measure the real effects of content marketing. Hence, they bump it down their priority list.

That usually leads to:

  • Very little or no budget allocated for content marketing

  • Online distribution channels are used in the same way as mass media distribution channels

  • Highly fixated on numbers such as reach, impression, engagement, and followers instead of engagement and conversion rates

Many people have this wrong perception about content marketing, assuming that it is less effective than regular ads and other outbound marketing techniques because it is "subtle". Though yes, content marketing is all about "marketing to people without it feeling like marketing" (this is why products and services are almost never mentioned), content marketing is one of the strongest, or even the only type of marketing left.


There are ways to measure the effects of content marketing, and once one knows how they unlock a long-lasting and cost-saving strategy to attract leads.


Here are the 5 things that a company must have to measure content marketing return on investment:

i) A content funnel


People who struggle to measure success from content marketing are likely to have never started content creation with clear objectives. Ask yourself, why are you posting those kinds of content? Why is it on this particular channel? If you can't answer that, the problem is more than just not being able to measure success; it's about wasting time on doing things that aren't serving a particular purpose.

If you can answer why you are creating those kinds of content on your chosen platform, then it's time for you to develop a content funnel. Each stage in the funnel serves a different purpose and depending on your content execution, you should be including different call-to-actions to move your target audiences down your funnel.


This means your content objective should be based on the stage it is in your funnel. And each stage should have a different objective. You can find all of the benchmarks and objectives for the stages of awareness, interest, and consideration here. With that said, if your awareness content is achieving a reach that is higher than your benchmark number, look at the cost that was used to create that piece of content vs the % of conversion from reach to closing vs the lifetime value of a customer. From this, you can calculate an actual ROI number (For x money, I acquired x amount of reach, and x% of those will become a customer, earning us $x).



ii) The idea of efficiency gains


Though cost is the main thing all companies use to measure their investments, the right metric they should be looking at is the cost of their time. How much time are you using to produce a piece of content? How many desired actions can it potentially drive? If the cost of the time spent exceeds the desired action, may it be an hourly rate or the customer's lifetime value, then it is illogical to create that piece of content anyways.

What I often see is companies falling into this trap. They aren't willing to spend any money for content creation and strategizing content, and they force other staff to uptake a lot of execution work when they can well be doing more profitable tasks.


This idea is the concept of efficiency gains.


  • By doing content marketing, how much time and labor cost is the company saving?

  • Where are the saved time and cost reinvested?

  • Do the new tasks generate leads or revenue?


Those who have a comprehensive content marketing strategy would tell you that by only creating content their target audiences are attracted to, they save a lot of time generating content ideas and finalizing execution. The sales process is also much quicker. Their target audiences have a level of trust in the brand before jumping on a call or arriving at the store. Therefore, the amount of "selling" needed to get a customer on board is much shorter. Their pain points have already been answered with content marketing, way before any sales representatives jump on a call. Therefore, "additional" work hours are available.



iii) Conversion rates


No data is good enough if analyzed by itself. You must be comparing data, particularly from stage to stage in your content funnel, to generate valuable insights.

What I suggest is for you to closely monitor your funnel until it generates one closing. Then, go back to the numbers of reach it took in the top funnel to get to this one closing lead. Travel down the funnel and look at the number of clicks, subscribers/ leads, booked calls, etc. Complete all of the necessary numbers for each stage and calculate the rate between them. What is the % of people who have traveled from being a reach down to clicking your link?


Not only does this give you a full picture of how many reaches it took for your company to close that one lead, but the conversion rates also allows you to back engineer other calculations.


  • You can learn how much reach you need to achieve a certain number of leads and use your CPR to calculate the content marketing budget you need to drive the number of leads you desire.

  • You also start seeing where the gaps are.

  • If the percentage from reach to engagement is high, but the percentage from engagement to closing is low, you know where the leads are lost and which pieces of content require refining or strengthening.



iv) Consistent data review and monitoring


Data are just numbers unless paired with qualitative and actionable insights. If you are experienced in spotting content patterns, this becomes quite natural. You'll be able to see what hooks, text, visual, or format appears to perform better. But if you are not experienced, the way to earn that eye is through consistent data review and monitoring.


Produce a content review every month for each of your channels. Then, mark down all of the statistics you can gather on each piece of content. Look at the posts with the most reach, engagement, and actions. See which content pillar it belongs to and try to replicate the qualities of the best performing posts and review them again the next month.

What you are trying to achieve is growth. Given that you have consistently produced content with a similar amount of time, effort, and money invested, growth in metrics indicates an increase in ROI.

v) Monitoring and prospecting long term growth


Content marketing is not a campaign; it's a lifestyle. It needs time to age, just like a bottle of wine. So, one of the best ways to measure content marketing success is by looking at all the numbers over time. Do not think in a point-to-point way (such as this post attracted this many leads); think of it as an ongoing journey.


Of course, this all goes back to point 1, meaning you can't see long-term growth unless you have a funnel. But once you do, you'll be able to track not only quantitative but also qualitative responses.

One of the problems a lot of companies have is the lack of transparency. Marketers do not know how many sales there are and how many leads did the sales team called. But that shouldn't stop marketers from grading their work on content marketing.

  • Always a good balance between creativity and data when you assess your content marketing initiatives.

  • Use graphs to showcase fluctuations, identify what content was posted during the peaks, and spot the relationship between them.

  • Look out for comments and encourage leads to leave feedbacks through implementing forms and polls in your content.

  • Reach out and ask those who have shown an interest what brought them there.

  • See if the time for a person to go from reach to conversion has shortened.


All of these can be strong measures and indicators of successful content marketing.


In conclusion, it is not an impossible dream to measure content marketing ROI. But yes, it is much more complex than reading your common media buy numbers. Data analysis is the number one thing marketers around the globe struggle with. If you're also having problems justifying your efforts, or letting your line manager understand the importance of adopting content marketing, consider jumping on a free call with me so I can give you professional advice, answers, and support on spot.

27 views0 comments