“Show me the money.” That what your brand’s CEO, board members, and other shareholders are really thinking when you tell them about the benefits and value of content marketing. They might care that 90 percent of people find custom content useful or valuable, or that nearly three-quarters of people prefer to learn about a brand through articles instead of traditional ads. What they really want to know is, how is content marketing affecting the brand’s bottom line? Measuring the content marketing ROI lets you easily see how much your brand earns in comparison to how much it spends on content marketing.

Say your brand spent $5 to start a content marketing program. As a result of its efforts, it made $10. The return on investment is 100 percent — you earned back what you spent, then another $5 on top of that.

Strangely enough, only 43 percent of B2C brands and 35 percent of B2B brands attempt to measure the return on investment (ROI) of their content marketing efforts. Of the reasons given for not measuring their content marketing ROI, the top three were that it was too difficult to do, they didn’t know how to do it, or they had no reason to measure ROI.

How to Calculate Content Marketing ROI

The math needed to figure out ROI is pretty simple. You divide the profit or gain brought in by content marketing (amount earned minus your initial spend) by the amount you spent on a campaign. If all is well and good, your ROI should be positive. If a campaign doesn’t earn much or doesn’t break even, you’re going to have a negative ROI.

The math is simple. Figuring out what numbers to use or what metrics to look at to determine your ROI might not be. In fact, the typical metrics that content marketers look at to see if their marketing efforts are working (such as website traffic, engagement rates, and email signups) might not be worth much when it comes to ROI if you can’t find a way to translate them into concrete dollars and cents.

Ways to Measure Content Marketing ROI

There are two things to look at when you’re measuring content marketing ROI. The first is what you’re spending on content marketing. How much does it cost your brand to hire people to create content? What are the costs to pay the salaries of your in-house content marketing team? How much do you pay for any software or other content marketing tools you use?

The second is the number of conversions that result from your content marketing efforts and the value of those conversions. Lets say you spend $100 on content marketing. If five people end up making $100 purchases from your brand, your brand’s content marketing ROI is four to one (($500-$100)/$100).

It can also be worthwhile to compare content marketing ROI to the ROI you might get from other marketing methods. Lets say your brand spends $500 on a social media ad campaign that results in the same number of new customers making the same purchases (five $100 purchases). Since the spend is the same as the amount you earned, there’s no ROI from the social media ad campaign.

What Can Affect ROI?

A few things can affect ROI from content marketing, both for the good and the bad. One factor is how much of your content you actually use. One survey found that  70 percent of content produced by B2B content marketers never saw the light of day. When you pay for content but don’t use it, you’re pretty much just flushing money away. Spending way more than you need on content marketing and not making the most of what you’ve got is going to pull down your ROI.

Your brand’s promotion efforts can also affect ROI. Publishing a piece of content and then doing nothing to promote it is nearly as bad as paying for content and never posting it. You’re not making the most of the content, and you’re not helping it realize its full potential. Your blog post or video could be a runaway, viral hit. It just needs some help from you to get there.

Some factors can be positive. A major publication or popular influencer could pick up a particular piece of your content to share. This could lead to it reaching a wider audience than you ever anticipated. Exposure of this kind will push the ROI of that content up when a greater number of people end up making a purchase.

How to Improve Your Content Marketing ROI

If you (or the executives at your brand) are concerned that the ROI you’re seeing from content marketing isn’t what it could or should be, there are ways to give it a boost. The first thing to do is to take a look at your content. Do you have content pieces that were created and that never saw the light of day? If you have pieces that you never got around to publishing, what was it about them that made you not want to post? Is there anything you can do to salvage them or get them ready for prime time?

It’s also worthwhile to take a look at the content you have that’s done well. What types of content seem to perform best for your brand? It can be worth it to focus on that sort of content from now on, as it’s proven to provide the best ROI.

Finally, take a close look at how you’re promoting your content. If you’re not doing anything, it’s time to start. Know that it will cost more money. By promoting your content through social media, influencers, or other paid avenues leads to more people taking action. Fear not, for the extra cost will be worth it in the long run.

Money isn’t everything. However when you’re trying to prove the value of content marketing to the higher-ups at your brand, ROI can be the one leg you have to stand on.

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