The Numbers Game: 8 Content Marketing Accountability Steps

content marketing accountability

I loved Chad Pollit’s post Content Marketing World post on why “Google Ruined Content Marketing”.

Chad puts Google’s long tail in his firing line twice: firstly, for directly creating a search system that rewards content quantity over content quality, and secondly, for indirectly spawning a generation of media buyers obsessed with impressions and clicks.

The end result is a “race to the bottom” for both content and promotion. But there’s a problem. That stuff doesn’t interest the discerning “alpha audience” that drives 80% of your business.

Now, if you made the Cleveland pilgrimage, you’re probably a content purist, and the 80% stat would have been a welcome sight for sore, orange-soaked eyes.

The guys that matter – the buyers – need the quality stuff. But they won’t get it until marketers start fuelling the distribution engine with quality content and working with more commercial engagement metrics.


Content’s language problem
But is it realistic to march into your nearest media buying office and beat them into submission with your arsenal of videos, ebooks and Slideshares? You can try. But you might struggle. They don’t “get” content any more than we “get” the media speak bandied about in Chad’s post.

You need to talk numbers: what these numbers mean, and what your content will do to them. Numbers are the lingua franca of digital marketing.

The lack of a quantitative wrapper contributes to the 80% of content Sirius Decisions tells us goes unused. The surplus content landfill is an eyesore on the content marketing landscape. We need to focus on utility.

Confidence in numbers
In our experience content marketers are frequently marginalized from media buying. But absence from analytics – the key change agent – is largely self-imposed: even a paranoid wreck of an organization won’t deny analytics reports to their own marketers.

But there’s limited evidence of content marketers having the confidence and wherewithal to request, analyze and deploy numbers to smash down silo doors. And we have to swallow the consequences of the confusion.

Here’s a little analogy of how it goes wrong. If you’ve known me for any length of time you’ll know two things: I’m a shaky linguist with a rock-solid antipathy towards raw tomatoes.

On a recent holiday I plucked up courage to tell my Spanish waiter – in nervous, wavering, pidgin Italian (WTF!) – that I wanted lunch without the red devils. Inevitably, he brought me a tomato salad that I was too embarrassed to send back and, of course, had to eat and pretend I enjoyed.

Why? I wasn’t at home. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t clear. I got what I deserved. And it was worse than nothing.

Be accountable for accountability
So how can we improve content marketing accountability? Start with a defined process (each step probably worth a blog post alone) that supports your journey to utility.

1. Step off the production treadmill
Remind yourself we need to look beyond making things. It might feel like you’re skipping school when you’re not overseeing the next piece off the conveyor belt. Set time to work on the goals, metrics, promotion and measurement fundamental to your success.

2. Deal in business goals
Shifting an obsession with traffic and shares means focusing on business goals. Writing a content strategy based on clearly defined business goals is a key step to content marketing accountability.

3. Engage early and often
Demanding last-minute reports and fast answers contributes to a poor understanding between content marketers and analysts. You’ll get more (and better) content insights by sharing problems early than demanding answers late.

4. Understand your systems
Understanding every system (analytics, automation, PPC etc) your content influences is fundamental. There are two reasons for this: you’ll make better content if you know how it’s deployed and you’ll more likely be deployed if you make better content.

5. Fix your baselines
Pull out your current performance levels. You’d need to know how well you’re performing against goals in your analytics, automation and CRM systems against the way you deploy content online and in campaigns.

6. Get SMART on performance indicators
Predict the scale of content transformation of your business goals against specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound numbers. If you talk in these terms, and your audience doesn’t listen, they’re guilty of malpractice.

7. Create a rock-solid business case
Aim for a return on investment figure based on your available data. If you can show the relationship between content consumption and opportunity then you’re in a position to demand resources to reach the right people with the right content.

8. Communicate your results
You’re now ready to make your play. Make sure everybody understands the performance improvements you expect to generate. Showing off your ability to talk numbers can open multiple doors to your prospects.

Be prepared to play
As industries grow and mature, the rules start to change. Content marketing is no different. We’re no longer playing at home. We can mope around. Or we can evolve our skills and discipline to prove the utility of our craft.

And that means learning the language of the Google inspired world. It won’t change by itself. We need to change it by showing how it can be done better. And that we belong in it.


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