The Hidden ROI of Content Marketing Platforms

By Richard Sharp March 10th, 2015

It’s 2015, and content marketing is the new norm. Just search “content marketing” on this week’s SXSW schedule—1,220 results.

If you prefer stats, consider that 90 percent of marketers use custom content, and 78 percent of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing.

Or if you want to follow the money, there’s the fact that modern marketers are spending 28 percent of their total marketing budget on content, and they plan to spend 58 percent more in 2015—primarily because they believe it’s a better option than other forms of marketing.

And it is. Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates 3x as many leads.

However, there’s still work to do; content marketing is a hot trend, but it’s also a young one, and most marketers would acknowledge that they are largely still in the learning phase. Only 38 percent of marketers in a recent CMI study classify themselves as effective at content marketing.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The chain of events that are required to take a piece of content from an idea to a properly measured and distributed asset is often incredibly complex and fraught with peril.

Improved Effectiveness

If you’re a content marketer, it’s a sobering fact. On average, 60 to 70 percent of content never reaches its intended target, according to a recent Sirius Decisions study. And recently, we surveyed our content-savvy audience of marketers and found a similar trend: 57 percent of respondents said that at least 10 percent of their content is never even published or seen by fewer than 100 people.

This has big implications when it comes to ROI. If a piece of content is never seen, the investment in that content is utterly wasted.

So, clearly, while content marketing has promise, it also has a problem—but one that can be solved.

If marketing leaders want to reap the full rewards of content marketing, they need to embrace the same organized, professional, results-oriented focus that their colleagues in finance, sales, HR, and operations do.

This is where—self-promotion alert!—content marketing platforms come in. Obviously, as Contently’s head of product and customer marketing, I’m biased. But the results we’ve seen our clients have—and have had ourselves—don’t lie. A powerful content marketing platform makes a big difference.

Honestly, it makes sense. In order to to manage content production at velocity without dropping the ball in the process, brand newsrooms need a platform to get everyone on the same page. They need access to creative talent that will help them stand out in a viciously competitive content world. And they need analytics built to help them make sense of it all and get better everyday.

And that’s what a world-class content marketing system delivers.

Increased Efficiency

Any publisher will tell you that great storytelling involves a lot of moving parts and serious investments in talent and time. Without a system to manage all these parts and people, how can a content marketer be expected to efficiently produce content at scale?

By providing one centralized solution for creating, distributing, and optimizing content, your content marketing platform should eliminate the need for multiple systems and spreadsheets, and actively eliminate confusion, duplicate work, and wasted time. This all results in significant savings in labor, as well as major improvements in production.

Contently clients, for example, typically see over a 20 percent increase in efficiency, saving a minimum of one day a week in content production. In the process, they produce up to 5x the average volume of quality content than they otherwise would have produced.

Then there’s the talent.

It takes time, money, and talent to find talent. Great storytellers are in high demand, and knowing where to find them, what to pay them, and how to manage them is no easy task. In our recent survey of marketers, 77 percent said they spend over 11 percent of their time on administrative tasks associated with managing that talent, and 36 percent spend over 25 percent of their time on those tasks—which a good content marketing platform should essentially eliminate, saving you hard dollars in the process.

Driving Better ROI

ROI is the content marketing topic no one seems to want to talk about, and it’s easy to see why. According to CMI, “Measurement is a key area where B2B marketers are struggling: Only 21 percent say they are successful at tracking ROI.”

As our own Content Strategist research shows, most marketers simply don’t have the tools to help them do this. In our recent study, 47 percent of content marketers said they did not have a tool that measures content effectiveness.

The analytics capabilities built into your content marketing platform should provide the data you need to calculate ROI, providing clear vision into the metrics that matter. But even more important than the metrics are the results themselves.

Leading content marketing platforms like Contently include access to the ideas, talented storytellers and editorial guidance to assure that your content not only gets read and watched by the right folks, but that the quality is high enough to drive the behaviors you want to achieve.

Whatever your goals, it’s not hard to understand that high-quality content written by professional storytellers gets better results than low-quality content sitting in content purgatory, stuffed with keywords in the misguided attempt to appease the SEO gods of 2003.

Contently clients, for example, use our talent network to develop their content, and see 3–8x higher attention time than the average online story, and up to a 4x return on their content investments. They also see their content effectiveness increase by an average of 40 percent, reducing wasted spending in the process.

Continuous Improvement

Investing in a content marketing platform is not a one-time investment aimed at a single campaign. It represents an ongoing commitment to always be focused on improving your efficiency and effectiveness while telling better and better stories.

We talk a lot about an idea called the flywheel, and it simply explains how you can focus on getting better over time.

It goes like this: In order to build and retain an audience, you need a process and a platform that allows you to quickly create content, engage your audience through multiple distribution channels, measure the success of each piece and distribution channel, and then use those measurements to optimize your next round of publishing.

In other words, learn what works, and double down on the results when you know where to place your content bets.

Following this approach, over time our clients see improvement of 4–10x their ROI, a 2–5x growth in their high-value audiences, and a 22 percent decrease in their distribution costs.

Making the Case

As Ryan Skinner from Forrester recently said, “It behooves marketers today to pull together a business-wide story for content marketing, ask for the budget it needs and deserves, and then deliver the transformation that content marketing is meant to unleash.”

With so much money being spent on content marketing, there’s no time like the present to start building the case for a content marketing platform.

By focusing on improving efficiency, effectiveness, and results, you’ll be able to provide a clear-cut justification for an absolute no-brainer investment. And hey, maybe you’ll even be rewarded with the chance to hear “content marketing” said 1,500 times at next year’s SXSW.

Image by Jeff Wasserman
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