If Content Marketing is the Titanic, Could Low Marketer Confidence be the Iceberg?

– We’re pleased to present this guest post by Tom Pisello, also known as The ROI Guy. Read on for Tom’s ideas on how marketers titantic.jpgcan regain confidence in – and prove the value of – their content marketing efforts.

After two economic downturns over the past decade, most executives are scrutinizing budgets much more closely, and marketing is no exception.

According to research from Junta42 and MarketingProfs, in surveys of over 1,100 North American B2B marketers, a significant portion (26%) of total marketing budget is spent on content-marketing initiatives, with 51% of B2B marketers planning to further increase their spend on content marketing over the next 12 months.

Since content marketing is such a significant – and growing – budget line item, the need to prove ROI is high. However, the survey found that many content marketers have doubts about whether content marketing actually delivers measurable ROI, especially newer tactics such as social media, blogs and online videos.

Effectiveness Less Than Expected: The ROI Confidence Gap

According to the Junta42 surveys, the majority of marketers have low confidence in several important content marketing strategies, especially new, high-momentum tactics such as social media, blogs and videos.

Even several mainstay content-marketing tactics – such as articles, white papers, print magazines, case studies and eNewsletters – showed mixed results, with near 50/50 splits between those who felt they were effective and those who felt they were not.


The survey responses as to the effectiveness of specific content marketing tactics, illustrating that most lack confidence in newer tactics like social media, blogs and videos, and even some stall worth tactics such as white papers and case studies.

A confidence gap clearly exists between content-marketing investments and belief in results. Perhaps marketers’ expectations of what content marketing can produce are not realistic. Or the investments, particularly those in new tactics like social media, are currently too high compared to the realized benefits. Perhaps there are inadequate performance measures to prove content-marketing effectiveness.  Or – the worst-case scenario – content-marketing investments are just not worth it.

With marketers’ lack of confidence, credibility is sure to be questioned and marketing budgets negatively affected in return. Can a marketer who lacks confidence weave the proper business case, defending content-marketing budget plans and future growth to frugal executives?

Finding the Confidence in Content Marketing Performance Measurements

To regain confidence in content marketing, marketers will need to measure performance and drive investment decisions based on these results. These measurements should include a balance of usage, quality and financial measurements.

According to Junta42, marketers are currently using a potpourri of performance metrics, but not enough to overcome the confidence issues:

  • Usage metrics such as Increasing Web Traffic (56%) and Driving More Sales Leads (36%)
  • Quality metrics including Improving the Quality of Leads (44%), and Garnering Positive Feedback from Customers (44%)
  • Financial measurements, including Direct Sales Attributable to the Content Marketing Programs (49%)



The most common methods used by respondents to measure the effectiveness of content marketing efforts (multiple responses allowed)

Not surprisingly, those marketers who measure increases in usage, quality and financial impact either have more confidence that their investments are delivering expected returns or fine-tune the investments or expectations to match reality. Those without measurement in place (the majority of content marketers) are guessing at whether programs are effective, which can only add to their lack of confidence.

To gain confidence, marketers should implement a multi-dimensional measurement system to track the increase in connections, engagement quality improvements, and the resulting financial benefits associated with content marketing. Recommended measures include:

More Connections Engagement Quality Resultant Financial Gain
Increased Sales Lead Quantity Sales Lead Quality Direct Sales
Increased Web Traffic Increased Number of 

Executive Connections / Engagements

Increase in Up- Selling and Cross-Selling Rates
Increased Direct Marketing Response Rates Increased Number of Engagements Earlier in 

Buying Lifecycle

Increased Customer Retention / Loyalty
Improved SEO Ranking Increased Positive 

Feedback from Customers / Partners

Reduced Discounting / Increased Deal Size
Increase in Number of Inbound Links Benchmark Lift to 

Company / Brand / Product Affinity

Reduction in Sales Cycle Duration
Benchmark Lift to Company / Brand Awareness Reduced Cost / Cost Avoidance
Benchmark Lift to Product / Service Awareness


The Bottom Line: Prove the ROI of Content Marketing

As executives demand more accountability on investments, marketers need to provide proof that campaigns are delivering tangible returns. The current lack of confidence in content-marketing tactics threatens to sink future programs and investments. This can result in less money spent on new programs including social media, blogs and video, and even threaten mainstay content-marketing investments such as articles, white papers, print magazines and case studies.

Measurement is the missing link in increasing confidence and proving ROI. Those with adequate measurement systems to track usage, quality and financial results can be confident that content-marketing investments are delivering a positive ROI.

The Research: With help from American Business Media and the Business Marketing Association, Junta42 and MarketingProfs surveyed over 1,100 North American B2B marketers from diverse industries and a wide range of company sizes. B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends represents the largest, most comprehensive survey about content marketing in the business-to-business (B2B) space to date.  The full research report can be found at:http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2010/09/b2b-content-marketing/

About the author: Tom Pisello, The ROI Guy, is an ex-Gartner Managing VP, and currently Chairman and Founder of Alinean – developer of research and software that is changing the way B2B sellers rearch frugal buyers with interactive white papers, assessment, ROI, and TCO tools. You can follow Tom on Twitter or via is ROI Guy blog.