I recently saw a comment on LinkedIn that went something like this: “All the brand equity in the world won’t help you make payroll.”
This comment hits at one of the conversations happening among marketers, executives, and entrepreneurs alike.
Brand equity is great and valuable. But you have real business needs right now.
You may need to meet payroll. You may need to hire new team members. You have an aggressive revenue goal to demonstrate the growth potential of your startup.
Whatever the specific, top-priority goal of your startup, it’s predicated on having the revenue to make it into a reality. And when you have limited time and resources, everything you invest in should work toward generating that necessary revenue.
That means when it comes to content marketing, return on investment should be one of the primary metrics of success.
There are specific indicators of content marketing ROI that you can track. And there are specific steps you can take to boost that ROI.
This article will walk you through those steps. That way, if you’re considering investing in content marketing right now, you can set yourself up to have a demonstrable return on that investment sooner rather than later.
1. Start at the bottom and work your way up
Content is, among other things, a powerful lead gen tool.
That’s why many marketers focus on top-of-funnel content: to generate leads that are early in their buyer’s journey. You can position yourself as a trusted resource — from that first interaction all the way to the purchasing decision and throughout the customer relationship.
I don’t want to say you “control” the process, but in a sense there is a measure of control when you approach it this way.
The problem with this approach is that the specific path to purchase varies from buyer to buyer. Some people are ready to make a decision now. But others — and probably the majority of your buyers — realize they have a problem months or years before they start the process of making a purchasing decision.
You can’t wait that long.
I’ve talked before about top vs. bottom of funnel content and the importance of starting at the bottom of the funnel and working your way up. There’s an often unrealized benefit here.
If you’re writing content that speaks to people as they’re about to make a decision, the natural byproduct will be a shorter sales cycle.
That means the people your content attracts will convert and spend faster than if you’re starting at the top of the funnel and working your way down.
But wait — there’s more!
Even if you did start at the top of the funnel with awareness-stage content and attract people at that stage, you still have to create the middle- and bottom-of-funnel content to guide them through the buyer’s journey all the way to a purchasing decision.
Since you have to create all that content anyway, start with the content that’s closer to that purchasing decision. Then create the middle- and, lastly, top-of-funnel content to have a complete funnel of content to guide them every step of the way.
2. Choose highly relevant topics
There’s no shortage of topics to write about. But if you want to boost your content marketing ROI, you must be intentional in which ones you select.
If you focus your topic selection, you’ll not only attract active buyers. You’ll attract highly likely buyers.
As a startup, you have limited bandwidth to create content. While the potential to create and publish on the internet is infinite, the time and money you have to invest in the content puts some real constraints on how many topics you can talk about.
Simply put, you can’t create all things for all people.
If your goal is to maximize and speed up your content ROI, your topic selection has to be highly targeted. You must focus only on the topics that are highly relevant to your buyers.
There are a number of ways that you can select these topics:
- Questions. Which questions are your buyers asking along their path to purchase? Your content can answer these questions at scale, saving your salespeople time in one-to-one outreach.
- Pain. How are your buyers hurting, and what does your product do to help? Your content can speak specifically to their pain, offering solutions to provide much-needed relief.
- Need. Are your buyers aware of their own specific needs right now? If they already know what they’re looking for, you can talk about how you meet those needs.
- Problems. What are the common roadblocks that your buyers encounter along the path to maximizing their revenue? You can present the solutions to those problems, all the way from general solutions to specific ones that drive your buyer to purchase your product.
The great thing about this model is that you can address the top-, middle-, and bottom-of-funnel questions that surround each of these topics.
If you can tailor your content to be highly relevant to your audience, you’ll not only attract the right people, but you’ll provide value as they move along the buyer’s journey, making them more likely to purchase your product.
3. Balance evergreen and time-bound content
When it comes to building your website as a source of information for your buyers, you want as much of your to provide long-term value to your buyers as possible.
In other words, it’s always good to be evergreen.
Kim Scaravelli, founder of Trust Communications, defines evergreen content as:
“Content [that] doesn’t have an expiry date and maintains value over time.”
This short and sweet definition explains it well. And in terms of long-term business value, it’s one of the best things you can invest in. You never know when an article you wrote a few months ago is all of a sudden going to be relevant to a buyer.
But let’s say there’s an event in your industry — whether it’s a breaking news story or notable merger — that draws attention to the problems your potential buyers face. Their attention is on this event, and it will likely be there for a short period of time.
If you position yourself as a potential solution while the problem has their attention, you’ll attract people who are ready to buy now.
By connecting that event to a problem, question, pain point, or need they have, you can gather attention from your ideal buyers that you would not otherwise have.
Increased attention from highly engaged potential buyers is the perfect recipe for revenue success.
While you should be investing in evergreen content with the long game in mind, time-bound content can get you some quicker results. Boosting your content marketing ROI means finding a way to balance the two.
4. Promote the heck out of your content
If you’ve taken the time to create valuable content, it would be a shame if no one saw it.
Don’t just promote your content. Promote the heck out of it!
This involves more than just posting it on social media:
- Sending a targeted email to the segment of your list who would be interested
- Re-posting on Medium & LinkedIn
- Answering a question on Quora with a backlink to your site
- Guest blogging on other sites to drive attention and traffic to your post
But for all of these great options, one of the most powerful promotional tools you have at your disposal is: your sales team.
If your content is speaking to the actual issues your buyers are facing (which it should), your sales team can also use the content to initiate conversations and engage with potential buyers.
.Sometimes this has a more positive result than a “buy now” message.
Make sure your salespeople know what you’re publishing, the value of it, the intent behind it, and what it offers to your audience. So when you send it to them, they automatically start to think of which prospects or customers could be interested in this.
The more visibility you can get, the more likely it is that you’ll attract a potential buyer. This means that the quicker you’ll generate a content marketing ROI.
5. Repurpose and refresh to maximize your content marketing ROI
No group of human beings all consume content in the exact same way.
They’re not just reading blogs. They’re not just searching on Google. They’re not just on social media. They’re not just on YouTube.
Your audience is everywhere.
So you have to make sure your content meets them wherever they are. That means that simply creating a blog — while a wonderful first step — isn’t enough.
You have to create content in a variety of different ways for a number of different channels.
If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. It’s actually a lot easier than you’d think, especially if you repurpose and reuse the content you already have.
There are a number of ways that you can repurpose your content. I like to use the term “smashing and crashing” to describe the two major ways this happens:
- Smashing larger pieces of content into smaller pieces — like taking a blog and turning it into a series of social media posts
- Crashing smaller pieces of content together to make a larger piece — like taking a series of blogs and turning them into a pillar page
Of course, the third option is to change channels, like turning a blog into a video or podcast script.
For some highly practical tips for how to create content to be easily repurposed, click here for this 270-page slide deck from marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk.
Your content has endless potential. The more you can spread it across channels, the quicker you’ll start to see a content marketing ROI.
6. Optimize for conversions
You don’t want people to just view your content. If they’re your ideal buyer, then you want them to take some kind of action.
Whether that’s to download a piece of content, sign up for an email list, make a purchase, or reach out to you for a conversation (especially if it’s a bottom-of-funnel piece), there has to be a clear action that the content drives your reader to take.
Without an intended action, your content serves as a branding piece and does little to help your immediate ROI.
Here’s what your content call-to-action needs to be if you want it to convert:
- A clear value-add to the user
- A logical transition from the problem solved to the next step
- Clearly visible throughout the piece
Over time, analyze your CTAs to see if they’re getting the clicks and conversions that you need. If a particular blog post isn’t converting, then ask yourself:
- Does this post provide clear value to my target buyer? If not, what do I need to do to change it?
- Is the right buyer viewing this piece? If not, how do I get them to look at it?
- Does my call to action provide clear value that users can’t get anywhere else? If not, what can I provide that does?
- Do I need to more overtly drive people to take that action?
There are many more diagnostic questions you could ask, but those should get you going in the right direction and thinking the right way.
With the right combination of great content, the right audience, and a clear path to conversion, generating revenue should happen faster than you’d expect.
And once that happens, the return on investment will be quick, clear, and tangible.