The connection between content and revenue has never been easy to discern. But content marketing’s recent rise in importance will likely bring additional scrutiny to every dollar spent.
The ideal is a content strategy that engages an audience and leads many of them to become customers and come to rely on and maybe even evangelize your brand’s services.
But how do you prove that your content does any of that?
Phyllis Davidson, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, shared a process that should help during the recent Content Marketing Institute webinar Show Me the Money: The Role of Content in B2B Revenue Growth (available on demand).
Connecting content, customer experience, and revenue
Organizations create content to help their prospects and customers. Unfortunately, an overly complex customer (and content) experience sometimes gets in the way.
According to Forrester’s research, B2B buyers generally find business content less than helpful. Some of the unique and powerful data points include:
- 55% of respondents call the material they get from businesses “extraneous” and sought content from other sources to confirm its validity.
- 61% say they receive too much material from businesses.
- 63% say the content is more focused on style than substance.
- 67% of respondents say they value competitive comparisons – and they aren’t getting it from vendors.
But Phyllis says one finding underscores content’s role in driving revenue: 69% of respondents say they’re unlikely to expand contracts if the content they receive from a business isn’t valuable or helpful.
“I can think of no better point to make in this discussion about content and revenue growth than that,” she says.
But marketing teams often overlook this revenue opportunity. “No matter what you’re selling, chances are you need to focus on retention. And that means the content journey has to continue,” Phyllis says.
“We find, however, there’s always so much pressure on marketing to sell that the pre-customer stages of content planning get more attention.”
Customers drive revenue. Content influences, attracts, and engages customers.
If your goal is to improve the customer experience, then improving the content that aligns with the entire customer experience should make a significant impact. After all, content is a crucial part of the customer experience that drives dollars to your business.
According to @Forrester research, 69% of #B2B buyers are unlikely to expand contracts with a business if the #content they receive isn’t valuable, says @PhyllisMusings via @GregLevinsky @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
5 building blocks for content intelligence
So, how do you make sure you focus on the content that has the best chance of influencing revenue? As usual, it all comes back to strategy. Without one, you’re just creating assets – not value.
And that content strategy must be based on the needs of your potential buyers and customers. You also need to know where they go for information so you can make sure they find your content there.
But you can’t begin to show content’s connection to revenue without having these process and operational elements to support your strategy:
- Resources and alignment
- Asset management
- Metadata and taxonomy
Here’s how Phyllis explains the importance of each element and how it all ties back to revenue.
1. Resources and alignment
Resources, skills, and culture drive any content plan. That’s why Phyllis recommends that all organizations have these elements (and executive support for each):
- A dedicated content operations team
- Content strategists
- A cross-departmental content council
The content ops team should be multi-skilled. Some of the roles and responsibilities on the team may include:
- Audit and inventory management
- Asset management
- Content data and analytics
- Tagging and taxonomy
- Content technology
If you don’t have a content operations team, make a pitch for a content ops headcount, do a content skills assessment, and create a content council. From there, centralize your content operations and develop the necessary skills. But no matter where you’re starting, the one thing you can’t ignore is the need for content operations.
“Someone has to be responsible … Increasingly, you need operational people who can architect your content journeys,” Phyllis says. “There’s an increasing need for sophistication around that.”
The content ops team should take ownership of the resources and skills for content creation and creating a culture of innovation focused on digital transformation and the customer experience.
2. Asset management
Asset management isn’t the sexiest part of content creation, but the impact of poor management reverberates. Many B2B marketing organizations waste time, effort, and money because they don’t manage their content assets well.
According to the Forrester State of B2B Content 2022 study (gated), 65% of B2B marketing organizations struggle with significant content waste.
More than half of survey respondents report that findability contributes to content waste. Another 30% say a lack of customizability contributes to content waste.
A strong asset management strategy begins with a content inventory, basic tagging, and taxonomy. From there, content teams should analyze gaps in assets, consolidate the asset library, and optimize tagging.
Once you have a solid asset base, you can create a global content library and universal taxonomy strategy. Asset management also translates to sales and, in turn, the business’ bottom line.
“If you want to talk about how content impacts revenue, figuring out what sales uses is key,” Phyllis says. “Winning sales reps use content and use it more than compared to their average colleagues.”
3. Metadata and taxonomy
Understanding content effectiveness is impossible without metadata and taxonomy. Developing them takes time and dedicated effort, and consistent application across all content repositories.
Phyllis gives this example to illustrate their importance. Say your corporate content team created an excellent e-book that gets translated into multiple languages. Local offices across the globe characterize it as different content types. One says it’s a white paper, but another calls it a brochure. Without the proper metadata and global taxonomy, your company can’t accurately measure the impact of this content.
To clear up any confusion around these terms and their roles, Phyllis offers these definitions:
- Taxonomy is a database of standard words or labels you use to tag your content.
- Metadata is structured data that tells systems and users facts about content characteristics (such as intended audience, topic, format, and industry); when provided at the component level, this metadata makes modular content possible
Semantic AI is starting to help with these tasks. This set of technologies includes ontology, knowledge graphs, natural language processing, and machine learning.
Many platforms use AI for auto-tagging. Though these programs aren’t perfect, their development will only grow.
Once your organization develops a universal taxonomy, component-level metadata automation, and AI at scale, content customizations become possible without as much manual work.
Phyllis returns to the e-book example to illustrate the possibilities. Say that e-book was developed around a theme. As you create the general version, you also create industry-specific modules for the piece. AI detects the website’s visitor’s industry and delivers the industry-specific version of the e-book.
Providing that kind of experience requires all three elements: taxonomy, metadata, and AI.
Infrastructure is the technological foundation for the content machine. Unfortunately, many organizations lack the essential elements to support effective content creation, scheduling, scale, workflow, asset management, and measurement.
While some overlap between capabilities exists in certain systems, documenting a process can help streamline adoption across the organization. Integrating existing technology is as important as adding something new into the fold.
Start by taking an inventory of the technology supporting your content and matching it to business requirements. From there, assess any new necessary investments, including piloting and adopting AI to do some of this work.
Achieving 360-degree content reporting allows for intelligent, data-driven content strategy, creation, and insights. But many organizations make the mistake of looking at only at the content’s ability to attract a lead, advance a lead, or close a deal.
That’s a mistake in the Forrester analyst’s view because no single piece of content causes any of those things.
“Content does not sell your solutions, but it can have a significant influence,” Phyllis explains. “Marketers need to teach the organization what influence means and why it’s so important.”
What should content marketing teams measure? Phyllis recommends process and performance metrics. “Process plus performance equals content ROI,” she says.
Just keep in mind who needs to see which data.
Metrics around content activities, production, auditing, and tagging show marketing leaders you have the right elements in place. You also need to track how much content you create and how much gets activated (i.e., how much gets used by sales and other teams).
Creating reporting dashboards with a wide array of content metrics helps tell your content team story. Analytics help inform your content strategy along the way.
For example, if sales uses a content type more than others and that type is linked to closed business, you do more of it (or repurpose other types into that format.)
Phyllis recommends approaching content reporting the same way your organization approaches sales reporting: Make it a quarterly activity comparing the same process and performance metrics.
For performance metrics, the content metrics should align with goals. So, if growth is the goal, the content plan should show how content will help achieve that goal. Then, the quarterly reporting shows what the team tried to fuel more engagement with clients in the growth area and how well those efforts performed.
A hypothesis-based analysis can also help. Phyllis gives the example of a hypothesis in which your contacts who consumed content closed faster and at a higher-dollar figure than deals where content wasn’t consumed. Figure out which metrics will let you know if that hypothesis holds up.
Get strategic about connecting content and revenue
Strategic content is a crucial driver of B2B revenue growth. But connecting those dots involves more than tracking performance metrics. You need each of these five building blocks to develop the content intelligence you need to marry content and cash.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute