When a business strategy is formulated, there is usually an anticipated outcome that is derived. Similarly, the outcome of a content marketing strategy zeros in on achieving a return on investment (ROI) by setting and accomplishing goals. The success of content marketing comes in the form of goals being reached, with ROI as the byproduct. Something as simple as increasing brand awareness or bumping traffic up by 10% can be a goal and if accomplished, it can be seen as a return from the time and labor invested into the activity. But realistically, there is a larger goal at stake, a monetary goal. The point of having increased awareness or traffic as a goal is to gain leads and, primarily, turn a profit.

FusionSpark Media’s Russell Sparkman sums it up: “At the end of the day, what is the most important ROI that a B2B or B2C entity might seek? Certainly the most important one is, ’Did we make any more money from this?’ How can you make a direct line connection between the marketing spend and revenue generated?”

Each goal, if accurately selected, plays a helping hand in increasing revenue. But how does a Business to Consumer (B2C) company quantify the amount spent on content marketing and the dollars gained? It’s nearly impossible. There are too many touch points and paths of entry for a company to establish an all-encompassing measurement of ROI. There are tools like HubSpot that can measure and store data on consumers who interact with a company’s content, but can they really account for the instances when people make a purchasing decision from non-digital word-of-mouth, view products on different computers without logging on, or the billboard effect of general awareness? Not likely. But companies do have access and the ability to track certain KPIs. Furthermore, they can attach those KPIs to specific actions that are required within the content marketing lifecycle, allowing for processes to be quantifiable and continuously improved. Investing in the lifecycle will be the most feasible way to generate ROI and by focusing on the KPIs for each step within the CM lifecycle, return is inevitable.

Keeping in mind that B2C companies are targeting consumers directly, the buyer’s journey will vary from B2B companies. “The B2B cycle is long, it’s high-touch, it’s a very considered purchase, there’s usually outside sales people, inside sales people, contracting involved, and it’s a different buyer’s journey than the more transactional, typically, B2C customer’s journey which also has its own unique challenges. Things like dealing with the channel, dealing with sales associates who we hope are telling our story correctly. So the goals are very similar, of course—better, more engaged customers, driving more sales—but the process by which we get there can be very, very different.” —Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at CMI.

Primary B2C Goals to Generate ROI

Before KPIs can be analyzed or ROI even mentioned, goals must be created and operational/tactical actions within the content marketing lifecycle must be taken to meet the established goals. The hardest part, besides trying to calculate the ROI, is to choose the right goal for the company. This predicament has prompted multiple B2C studies to rank goals/objectives based on the level of importance. These extensive studies were conducted by industry experts with several participants who are involved in content marketing. Below shows the top three content marketing goals for each study.

Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs

  • Brand awareness
  • Customer acquisition 
  • Customer retention/loyalty 

Webmarketing123

  • Increase awareness
  • Sales
  • Leads 

Ascend2

  • Increasing lead conversion rate
  • Web traffic 
  • ROI 

Econsultancy with Outbrain

  • Increased engagement
  • Traffic
  • Awareness/ Sales tying for third 

After consolidating the studies, the top three goals for all four studies were compiled into primary goals. Awareness was seen within the top three goals for three of the four studies, ranking a cumulative 50% for goal importance. Acquisition/sales were listed in three of the four studies as one of the top three goals at 45%. The last goal that was mentioned more than once in the four studies was traffic, ranking at 46%. Interesting enough, awareness has the higher percentage of importance. This seems to make sense because in order for customer acquisition/sales to climb, traffic will most likely have to increase. For people to visit your site, they have to be aware of you and your service/product. Nicole Munoz, CEO of Start Ranking Now, shares her experience by explaining what B2Cs really want–sales. “When I’m working with our C-level clients, we’re sitting down with them to figure out what are their actual goals? They don’t really care if they have a top ranking in Google, yeah, that’s nice, but that’s not the goals of their organization. The goals of their organization are more traffic and more sales.” But in order for these two areas to improve, it must start with building awareness to drive traffic to B2Cs, resulting in closing more business. All three factors work in tandem and should be included as goals in the CM strategy, with awareness at the forefront, traffic as the median and sales being the outcome.

Claire Axelrad, the fundraising ninja, explains what good goals should be about. “So the goal of content marketing now, is the goal of what social media should always have been about, but few got it right. And that is simply creating great work that engages … in a manner that leads to measurable gains (measurable is important) in awareness, action and eventually loyalty to your cause.”

Primary KPIs to Measure Goals

The last and quite possibly the most important step within the content marketing lifecycle is the measurement of goals. We have read it in blogs and mentioned it in the second part of the ROI series; it pertains to the measuring criteria for content marketing success. One of the biggest misconceptions is that people believe they can bench success solely by using certain measurements. Not to undermine or question the importance of these measurement techniques, but being successful in content marketing is only achieved when the goals of a B2C have been attained. The success of content marketing can’t be claimed based off of a few improved measurements. However, these measurements can play a role as the KPIs that are used to signify if a company is on its way to achieving its goals.

Below shows the top three measurements from three studies that highlight the KPIs that should be used to assess the progress of goal success.

Ascend2

  • Traffic
  • Lead conversion rate 
  • Quantity of sales leads 

Webmarketing123

  • Website traffic
  • Sales
  • Website click through rate 

Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs

  • Traffic
  • Social media sharing 
  • Time spent on website 

Similar to the primary KPI for B2C, traffic is seen as the most important measurement with 75% of participants agreeing. Though helpful, traffic and other KPIs are trivial when analyzed individually. But when aggregated as a whole, the entire content marketing lifecycle can be measured so that structures, processes and ultimately goals can be accomplished. KPIs lead the way for marketers to conceptualize areas of improvement, constantly refining and benchmarking data to improve. Nothing goes right the first time and if you don’t have the ability to go back and look at mistakes, how will you change? Strong KPIs can indicate that content marketing is moving your efforts in the right direction, but it simply can’t imply that content marketing has been a success. The achievement of the company’s goals is the only way to count content marketing as a force to reckon with.

The Conjunction

Distilling these studies have strained out the trivial, bringing clarity to the truly important goals and measurements for B2C companies. We now know that building awareness is the key goal to focus on. We also found that traffic was the leading approach in measuring content marketing, which makes sense. If the majority of B2Cs have awareness as their top goal, then traffic is going to be one of the major indicators of whether the goal is close to being achieved. Engagement, reach, shares and inbound links can all be used to help benchmark awareness growth. Besides traffic and some of the other measurements, it’s really hard to measure something as intangible as awareness and to be able to translate it into a direct ROI. A company can never know the exact instance when a consumer finally makes a purchasing decision based on all the built up exposure. However, chances are, the more you push out, the more awareness you’ll generate.

If there is one thing to take away for your B2C content marketing initiative, create enough content to always be top-of-mind with the customer. Let your message be loud and clear! Develop a strong foundation by investing in the content marketing lifecycle’s steps and KPIs. When a fully comprehensive lifecycle has been implemented, it will enable brand awareness to be conducted most effectively, bringing about true success and ROI.