Don’t believe what they tell you. Marketers can absolutely measure their content’s ROI, according to executives from Dell, L'Oreal, and Target.
Yes, content is about reputation. It’s about positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Metrics such as sharing, recurring and first-time engagement, among others, can show how well content is doing and help guide future content topics, formats, etc. But at the end of the day, marketers are all after the same thing--sales. And marketers say they know how their content is affecting their bottom lines.
Rishi Dave, Dell’s executive director of online marketing, recently spoke at NewsCred’s Content Marketing Summit in New York. Among his discussion points: Dell’s ability to measure the ROI on its content.
Dell is a demand-gen marketer on the enterprise side, where digital has changed the way buyers buy. According to Dave, today’s B2B buyer is completely self-driven; in fact, 57 percent are through their journeys before ever engaging with the brand. To cater to these “self-nurtured” customers, Dell provides the content they need during their buying journeys rather than having them do random research on the Web, Dave said. As a result, Dell is capturing leads on content.
“The velocity of leads from content is faster than any other lead we get,” Dave said at the NewsCred event. “The majority of new contacts in our marketing database come through our content marketing lead machine. People who never knew that Dell does anything but sell end up [with] our content, and all of sudden realize we have all these other products and services. Our thinking is the faster we run this engine, the more leads we will get.”
Another example of a brand measuring content ROI is L'Oreal, which has been creating content since its beginning. After all, TV commercials and print ads are content. Five years ago the company decided to shift strategies: Instead of creating one piece of content aimed at a large number of consumers, L'Oreal began to create more content to cater to different points in the purchase funnel.
“At the time, we realized that we needed to do things differently because of this new path to purchase that has emerged,” said Marc Speichert, CMO of L'Oreal Americas, in an exclusive interview with CMO.com. “First there’s the consideration phase, and that’s where all the traditional stuff, like TV and print, comes into play because they’re building awareness of your product or service. Then there’s the evaluation phase, where the consumer is aware of your product and wants to go much deeper in getting information and getting educated.
“We create a long tail of content for this phase, which is meant to answer any questions that the consumer may have,” he continued. “What we realized is that we shouldn’t create just one piece of content that will be relevant to the majority of people. Instead we’re creating many different assets that address the specific needs of consumers. Let’s say a woman saw an ad for L'Oreal Paris makeup and she is looking for information on how to re-create the makeup look in the ad. We need to have that piece of content available to them. That implies a different content supply chain.”
Today L'Oreal has MakeUp.com, its content marketing site, which includes makeup tutorials, product information (for both L’Oreal’s and competitor’s products), ratings and reviews, and beauty news and trends. According to Speichert, how-to videos are doing really well and are a great complement to print and television. In addition, video, in general, does well for beauty because it’s all so visual. Another noteworthy content play by L'Oreal is Destination Beauty, which is YouTube’s No. 1 beauty channel partner.
And guess what? L'Oreal knows what its content marketing is doing.
“Originally, we would measure our big content platforms by looking at those exposed to the platform vs. not exposed at the POS,” Speichert said. “We also look at what people who are on the platform buy vs. what those who’ve not seen it are buying, and we’re able to re-create an ROI based on all of that. Recently, however, we’ve imbedded our content into a multimix model, and we are able to compare how a platform like Destination Beauty, for example, stands against some of our TV tactics, print campaigns, or even display. We are able to compare tactic by tactic.”
Target is also measuring ROI on content. The retailer's content is driving actual sales, confirmed Dustee Jenkins, VP of public relations and head of A Bullseye View, Target's content marketing play.
A Bullseye View is Target's online magazine for all topics Target-related. The site is run very much like a newsroom, where the PR team has weekly editorial meetings and plans content two to four weeks in advance. A Bullseye View is targeted at the retailer’s superfans, and gives them exclusive content regarding what's happening behind the scenes at Target.
Target has an interesting position on content marketing ROI. Even though the retailer can measure how much the content on the site is driving actual sales, that’s not the primary goal, Jenkins told CMO.com. All of the content on A Bullseye View is editorial--not a hard sell for products. But a piece such as “10 Tips For Flu Season” may have links to products on Target.com. The retailer is able to track when someone clicks on a link and then makes a purchase. According to Jenkins, there will never be an article written on a specific product, but an article with tips about decorating a home with Target’s newest collection would be appropriate.
“We are publicly traded company,” Jenkins told CMO.com. “And, yes, our primary goal overall is to drive traffic to Target.com and into our stores. But we also get that it’s going to benefit us in the long run if we create brand love. We’d be short-sighted to look at just sales. Our aim is to create brand affinity by telling stories that explain what Target is all about and what makes us unique.”
Attribution Modeling Stilll Young
While Dell, L'Oreal, and Target are able to measure the ROI on their content, for many brands doing so is still a lot of guesswork, according to Traction CEO Adam Kleinberg, He said that, yes, he does have clients that are “measuring ROI” on their content, but that it really means how many assumptions you’re willing to make. Attribution modeling is still a very young science, according to Kleinberg, and it is difficult for a brand to really connect the dots, especially when the customer journey is so meandering.
It’s also hard to measure what made someone walk into a store and buy something, Kleinberg explained. Online is different, obviously, because brands can follow the consumer’s trail.
“It’s a murky science, but you can make some assumptions and, if they are correct, they’re going to have a positive impact and, yes, I think you can do that. [But] can you directly correlate content to sales offline?” Kleinberg told CMO.com in an interview. “If I am a business customer and I happen to see a piece of content on Forbes, a native piece, or your blog post somewhere, I’m not in the same mind-set when I am doing a Google search and ready to purchase. You need to have a longer-term plan to gain the full benefit that content marketing can bring to the picture. It’s myopic to look at the short-term benefits."
Alex Jutkowitz, managing partner at Group SJR, a content marketing agency that works with brands including Target and GE, also told CMO.com that measurement of content ROI is both an art and science. With content, you’re not able to have direct measurement. In other words, the content itself can’t drive an immediate sale.
“The gold standard for measurement is obviously conversion–buying something,” Jutkowitz said. “Metrics like engagement, coming back, developing a recurring relationship, sharing–all aspects of what social selling is–won’t lead to a sale immediately, but it can down the line.”
If you’re getting into content marketing to drive immediate sales, then you’re missing the point, Jutkowitz added. Content helps brands build a reputation. The brand is ultimately creating a level of knowledge about its industry and even about the company, he said. It’s about creating an environment where the brand can talk about the things that are most important to it.
“Ultimately, great organizations with great content get great things said about them, and people are buying their products and services,” Jutkowitz said. “But when you look at it in reverse, if you’re a brand that’s not moving the needle in a marketplace of ideas, then you’re failing. Content is a lot like tofu. It’s only as good as what you put into it. Otherwise, tofu has no flavor at all.”