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10 Steps to Optimize Your Content Marketing Program for ROI

Published on Oct 19, 2021

10 Steps to Optimize Your Content Marketing Program for ROI
Anastasia Dyakovskaya
Anastasia Dyakovskaya studioID

Industry legend and CEO of Marketing Insider Group Michael Brenner opened his presentation at this year’s Content Marketing World conference with a warning to marketers: don’t just keep doing what you’ve done before, relying solely on what’s worked for you in the past. 

According to Brenner, that’s the biggest challenge he’s seen when it comes to brands and companies that are struggling to engage their audiences. And content marketing is an integral part of the mix, seeing as websites with some form of it are six times more likely to show a return on investment than those without. 

And yet, a whopping 60-70% of the content we create goes completely unused. Meaning that it doesn’t even get promoted, let alone any sustained audience engagement. So why do all that work? And what’s up with all the waste? 

“Behind every piece of bad content is an executive who asked for it,” Brenner asserts. But even when orders are followed and tasks fulfilled, studies show that 80% of CEOs are not happy with their Chief Marketing Officers. So how can we reverse this?

Empathize for Better ROI

To attract buyers and really succeed, “content marketing needs to live at the intersection of what we want to tell the market, and what our customers want to hear.” 

That’s why it’s important to start any efforts from a place of empathy for your target demographic. Brenner’s prime example? A project at GE Healthcare almost gone awry, if not for invaluable customer listening practices. 

With user feedback, the GE team learned about topics that radiologists actually cared about and terms they were actively searching for, like salary, qualifications, schooling, roles, stressors and the like. So instead of using resources on superfluous content creation about the benefits of MRI technology, marketing came up with a massively successful Radiologist Salary Guide as well as stress reduction-related content — both of which delivered real value to an appreciative audience. 

Reach, Engage, Convert, and Retain

“As content marketers, we need to resist our natural instinct to simply promote the companies and products we work for,” Brenner says.

“We need to stop doing marketing that just doesn’t work.”

Instead, to prove and improve ROI, Brenner suggests building the business case — complete with pre-identified KPIs. Before building out a strategy, he says marketers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Reach: Are we creating content that uses the same keywords that our customers use? (KPI: Organic search traffic) 
  • Engage: Are we creating the content they want? (KPI: Newsletter subscribers)
  • Convert: Are we converting them to sales? (KPI: Leads and revenue)
  • Retain: Are we retaining that engagement? (KPI: Retention rates and upsells) 

Commit to Consistent, Quality Publishing

“Our data shows that leads spend four times as much money or stay four times as long on-site when they’re acquired because we’ve answered their questions, helped them in their job, and converted them through content marketing,” Brenner says.

But it’s consistent publishing that leads to a compounding rate of return. According to Brenner, that’s the simple solution that’s led to a 138% year-over-year increase in traffic and leads for 12 of his clients — along with a seven-fold boost to average ROI figures. And here’s how you can do it, too:

Michael Brenner’s 10 Steps to Optimize Your Program for ROI, Summarized

  1. Generate reach, maintain engagement, and show the new leads, subscribers, and revenue that’s attributable to that engagement.
  2. Focus on keywords and topics using buyer intent with help from tools like SEMRush and Sparktoro to analyze your own company against its competitors. 
  3. Reach and convert with consistent publishing, meaning either one post per day or two to four per week. Even a few updates per week provides an inflection point that really starts to pay off in terms of engagement.
  4. Answer the right questions and always be clear on your buyer personas, customer journey stage, and their questions and concerns as well as keyword volume.   
  5. Create the perfect blog post by answering the searcher’s intent in an easily understandable way and providing key takeaways, image and video examples, two to three internal links, white space and bullet points, an active voice, and a strong CTA.
  6. Create an annual plan with pruning and refresh points to balance out brand new content creation with relevant, refreshed pieces.
  7. Map out content types to the buyer journey to build an audience for your most important material by creating more articles, social content, podcasts, vidoes, and shorts, followed by webinars, whitepapers and how-to guides, and finally newsletters and events. 
  8. Nurture your audiences with email messaging to automatically share new content and, more importantly, get instant data on what kinds of content performs better than others. 
  9. Cross-link high-traffic pages to high-conversion pages to optimize both.
  10. Semi-automate social creation and sharing to build an army of volunteer contributors for your blog as well as employee advocates that are willing to share the content as well as their own expertise. 

Looking for more of the best of CMWorld 2021? Check out our session: Content Marketing Predictions for 2022 (And How to Navigate Them).