The True Cost Of Content Marketing Revealed

Businesses Risk Leaving 90% Of Their Content Value On The Table Due To Poor Engagement

In an increasingly saturated digital content landscape, businesses are wasting huge amounts of their content budgets due to lack of engagement. Nick Mason, CEO at Turtl, explains how taking a more scientific approach can ensure this money is used effectively.

The media landscape is more saturated than ever. It’s become much harder for brands to break through and make themselves known, regardless of their size. The result of this is that they’re often spending beyond their means on promotional content that is never read or, worse still, is so unengaging that it actively turns readers off from the brand in future. Creating content for content’s sake is trapping marketing departments in a vicious circle of bad content and worse strategies. 

The unfortunate part of all this is that business decision makers are often blind to just how much of their marketing budget is essentially poured down the drain on bad content. Given that content budgets are typically around 25% of the total marketing spend, this is a significant amount for any business to be frittering away without carefully considering how to optimise ROI. 

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The costs are high, but how much is really at stake? 

Analysis by Gartner shows that the typical enterprise marketing budget is 6% of revenue, and Forbes has demonstrated that 25% of this is spent on content. We can use these figures to demonstrate the potential losses and gains that individual businesses are making on their content strategies.

For example, if we take a $200m revenue business, using Gartner’s measurement, their monthly content spend is likely in the region of $250,000 – not exactly chump change! This money is an investment that’s designed to generate new leads, increase the brand’s profile, and strengthen demand in its offering. But these successes are predicated on people paying attention to your marketing content. Put simply, you need people to be engaged in order to speak to them.

A lot of thought goes into producing content: assessing its design, coding, compliance checking and more, but how much thought goes into maximising attention? This isn’t just a question of creating compelling content, but of delivering it in a format that ensures reader interest. We must help them to retain the maximum amount of information possible, thereby ensuring longer-term interest in a brand’s offering. 

Lumen research has found that by applying some basic psychological principles to content delivery strategies, brands can increase reader attention between 75% and 1,000%. To put this into concrete terms, if a business gets 1 million minutes of reader attention for their $250,000 investment each month but doesn’t optimise the psychological aspect of their content, they’re missing out on anywhere between 187,000 and 2,500,000 additional minutes of reader attention with no additional investment!

This is the equivalent of losing up to 90% of the reader attention they could be achieving, which – to tie back to our original figures – equates to missing out on 22% of ROI: around $220,000 for their entire marketing budget. That’s additional attention which can be leveraged from an already existing budget to drive directly towards those other all-important KPIs such as lead gen, demand gen and more. The bottom line is – we don’t necessarily need to increase spend to get radically more value from our marketing investments, we just need to focus on the right outcomes.

When we speak to brands, there are two things that often surprise us. Firstly, they don’t realise how much of their money is wasted on ineffective marketing strategies, and secondly, they have no insight into the analytics behind their content, and are therefore unable to understand how much of their content (if any at all) is being actively engaged with by users. 

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Prescribing a cure

So, what should businesses and marketing teams do if they want to unlock that additional 22% of ROI from their marketing budgets? The trick is to start taking a more scientific approach to content, and there are three principles we consider key to a successful strategy.

Speaking to brains

If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that following science is the best way to get better outcomes. Yet so few marketers are familiar with the psychology behind human attention spans – a critical oversight in a world where it’s becoming harder to cut through the noise and capture our audience’s imagination. The importance of marketers understanding how and when to talk to their audience cannot be overstated, as these are the deciding factors in whether or not a brand’s content will be read and, just as importantly, remembered.

Capture meaningful metrics

It’s impossible to make progress if we aren’t looking at the right data. If we decide to measure data and metrics which have no tangible impact on business outcomes, we end up gearing our processes towards outcomes we don’t want to achieve.  

In the real world, marketers base their decisions on a handful of near-useless metrics. Whether or not someone clicked on, opened or downloaded something gives you no indication as to how they engaged with or paid attention to a piece of content. And it certainly provides no insight into their retention of the content they’ve read (if they’ve read it at all!).

Proper measurement requires us to be able to see exactly how someone engaged with a piece of content, which bits they skipped over, which messages and items they focused on and which parts they interacted with. This data allows us to make better decisions and achieve better outcomes over time, as outlined below.

Understand what your data is saying

Once we know we’re measuring the right data, we can then piece together the precise story of how different people engaged with a piece of content. This gives us the behavioural insight we need to improve relevance, engagement and results in the next marketing campaign.

This data can also be vital in spotting who is sales ready right now, arming marketers with the ability to fast track leads, directly impacting revenue and shortening sales cycles. People’s “content body language” can be incredibly revealing, so take the time to understand significant buying signals.

Finally, rinse and repeat. Learn from the data, update your approach and then measure and learn again. It’s the surest way to unlock maximum value from your content investments.

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