Content Marketing: 3 Tips for Measuring ROI

Pie graph showing 26%
26 is the average % of B2B marketers’ total budgets that are allocated to content marketing efforts

Content marketing is not free by any means. Even if you don’t incur the hard costs of external authoring or paid promotion, you need to account for the internal hours spent creating and managing your content marketing program. That means that tracking and analyzing return from your content marketing initiative is as important as any other marketing campaign.

But there are some challenges to really understanding ROI, as often a prospect is touched in several different ways, one of which may be a content piece. That argument can be made for any marketing initiative these days however, as it is rare that sales or even leads are really a result of only one touch. The effects of viral sharing of content compound the difficulty of coming to a hard ROI number for content marketing. That being said here are some things that you can and should track:

  • Visits and leads by content piece – where you control the landing page and form, you can track Web visits and leads by incoming URL by appending unique campaign codes. Create these unique codes for each placement of the content that you would like to track, including paid search campaigns. These codes can be passed into a lead record database using hidden fields, along with a code for the content piece itself. Setup goal tracking in your Web analytics platform and you’ll be able to see visits and lead conversions by each source you’ve assigned a campaign code to. If your lead form is integrated with your CRM or marketing automation system, then those fields can be passed into that application, and depending on the system you should be able to run a report that gives lead status by campaign.
  • Leads from content syndication – leads from these campaigns are easy to track as they are normally sent from the publisher in a spreadsheet. You just then need to assign unique campaign coding to those leads as they enter your CRM or marketing automation system.
  • Social sharing statistics – adding a ‘share this’ widget to your content will give you insight as to how often your content is being shared, and to which platforms.

Even though in most cases you can’t just attribute a closed sale to one content piece, by following the tips above you at least get a good idea as to which pieces are creating the most interest and leads, and are making a contribution to sales.

Top content marketing metrics measured by B2B marketers (Source: 2011 study from CMI and MarketingProfs)

Marketing metric bar graph

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6 (+ 2 bonus) Tips for Making the Most of Your Retail Email Marketing Program

I just ran across the “Max Out your Retail Email Campaign” marketing guide from Lyris (based on an audit of 75+ top online retailers) and thought I’d share 6 of their tips for retail email marketing programs as they are great reminders:

  1. Opt-in Incentives – Everyone knows that one of the keys to email marketing program success is marketing to opt-in subscribers. Don’t be bashful about using special offers, promotions, contests or exclusive content to get people to opt in to receive emails from you. According to the the Lyris guide, 22% of the retailers they audited offer an incentive just to get people to sign up for their emails!
  2. Discounts & Promotions – Four types of discounts and promotions favored by top online retailers are: free shipping, welcome offers, flash sales, and friends and family promotions. We are big fans of the “flash sales” promotion for creating a sense of excitement and urgency.
  3. Social Media Links - Including links to your social media sites in all of your emails is essential for building out your fan base. More and more retailers are also including a “Share This” link in their emails to make it easy for customers to post the email to their own social media profiles. According to the Lyris guide, Facebook has a slight edge over Twitter as the social media of choice for top retailers, with YouTube now on the rise.
  4. Drive to Retail Offers - Clicks-to-bricks offers cited by top retailers include coupons redeemable in-store only and in-store sample offers. Be sure to include a store locator link in your email.
  5. Preference Centers - Make it easy for your customers to tell you what they want to be emailed about and how often by putting an email preference page in place. A preference center can help you drive more opens, clicks AND purchases.
  6. Mobile Strategies – According to the most recent Nielsen report, almost half (49.7%) of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones, making mobile accessibility an important factor in email marketing design and functionality. Mobile links and mobile apps are two mobile strategies used by top retailers. Be sure to check out our blog post on design tips for mobile friendly email.

The last interesting tidbit from the Lyris guide…when is the best time to send?! Here are 2 bonus tips on this topic:

  1. Email Frequency: Top retailers average 3 times a week (but we all know some that send them every day!).
  2. Most Popular Days: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Ok…now let me get back to planning and executing our clients’ email marketing campaigns!

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One Island, One Community: A Night at IslandWood for BGCBI

The Boys & Girls Club of Bainbridge Island had a great turnout for their annual fundraiser last night at beautiful IslandWood. The Club provides $32,000 in financial aid each year for families in need. One-fifth of the Club’s 342 members need financial aid and in the last year not one child has been turned away because of their family’s financial situation.

Beer & wine tasting featuring Hale's Ales

[Yes, that is our Meet the Future campaign hanging behind the young man from Hale's Ales!}

Guest mingled (and battled) over the silent auction.

The calm before the "silent auction closes" storm!

Into the great hall for dinner and the “fund a kid” fun!

Ben Klasky, IslandWood President & CEO, welcomes guests

The IslandWood chefs served a fabulous meal, family-style.

IslandWood's beautiful dining hall

$1000 in support funds one kid for an entire year at the club!

$30,000 raised in minutes!

The Club raised approximately $40,000!

Pat Murray, the Club's fabulous Executive Director thanks guests!

Looking forward to helping support the Boys & Girls Club of Bainbridge Island’s 2013 event!

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Three Things: When Design is the Opposite of What We Think

As a designer, I carry around with me an internal list of things that constitute bad design and good design. This is a list that designers ignore at their own peril. Most of the time not holding to this list at least results in jeers from the design community. This explains the wince of pain that designers experience when someone says, “Full justify that text,” or “Make it bigger and red,” or “Try it in Comic Sans.”

However, sometimes the rules get broken and we are left scratching our heads when it still works. So here are three things that have surprised me in the past.

1) Annoying Typefaces

The best way to tell if a poster was made by an amateur or professional designer is to count how many typefaces are used. If it’s more than three, chances are not in favor of a professional. We choose serious type for serious subjects. After all, who wants to read a whole textbook set in Curlz MT? The best thing designers can do is not get in the way of the students absorbing the information. A nice clean typeface and good type hierarchy will do the job.

But that might not be completely true. There was a study done at Princeton University that showed the size and styling of the type in textbooks didn’t help the students remember the content (really students? Do you even know how many character styles where made to bring you all that bold, underlined and italic styling?) What did help them remember was – setting the text in Comic Sans.

Apparently, the harder the text is to read, the more time the students have to spend reading it. So designers are right, expressive typefaces decrease the legibility of the text, but their annoying qualities are also what makes student do better on tests. I did write a 26 page report in middle school which I set in Jockerman, I wonder if my teacher still remembers that report to this day?

2) The Color Orange

Orange is an interesting color. It’s good for accents and is a very popular pairing for blue. It provides some brightness, warmth and energy into the color palette. Selling this color is not hard, it’s not like we’re trying to use purple right?

Least favorite colorsWell in this study on color associations, they found that orange might turn out to be the most loaded color you could use. For instance, it tests high for association with the word “Fun” just beating out yellow 28% to 26%, but it also just beats out brown for the coveted title of “Least Favorite Color” 30% to 23%. It also takes the cake for being associated with “Cheap / Inexpensive” at 26% with yellow tailing it at 22%. That’s a bit harsh don’t you think? Don’t worry orange, I still like you.

3) Design for the Majority

Every design should solve a problem. One of the tried and true ways to do that is to first define the problem and the target audience. That might as well be written on stone tablets for the Ten Commandments of Graphic Design. To design well and effectively we need to know your average user. Sometimes we even create profiles on fictional people who represent the typical consumer just to make sure we understand the demographic.

So how is this wrong? Well the designers at OXO like to say, “We don’t want to know about your typical customer. We want to know about the fringe customer.” And they are the people who made the crazy popular potato peeler, the OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler. This was a product designed for arthritics that ended up being extremely popular with everyone. What happened was when the designers looked at the fringe users (elderly with arthritis) they found a design flaw that observing the average user didn’t. The old handle was hard to hold for everyone, but only the fringe group made this impossible to ignore. Once redesigned, the product was easier to use, period.

After all that, maybe we should rethink carving anything in stone.

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