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Business Strategy

How to measure operational efficiencies of content production in B2B marketing

Tony Eades

‘What gets measured gets improved’,

Neil Sharma, leadership coach and author

B2B companies are spending more and more money on B2B content marketing these days. A whole lot more. In fact, in the US alone, it has been estimated that B2B companies spend $5.2bn on content creation, which is equivalent to around 55% of their marketing budgets. You would hope that with such a huge amount of expenditure going towards content that marketing executives would have ways to know what was working and what wasn’t, but according to the latest Gleanster report,  ‘The $958m Marketing Problem’, that’s often not the case.

So what is the $958m B2B content marketing problem? It’s the amount of money that’s wasted on ineffective content due mostly to clumsy content management. That’s around $120,000 per year per medium to large company. 

So what’s going on? Are we just creating content for content’s sake? 

Annuitas’s Carlos Hidalgo seems to think so. In an open letter he published on Linked In earlier in the year, he said of B2B content marketers, “Only 22% say they are successful with content marketing and only 35% have a documented strategy (which is most likely why so few are seeing success). Despite these kinds of results, the overwhelming majority of marketers responded to the study saying they will continue to create more and spend more on content marketing.”

Of course, most companies realise they must take content process optimisation seriously, but many of them have trouble getting off the hamster wheel, and measuring where their operational inefficiencies lie.

In 2015, Altimeter published a report called ‘Content Marketing Performance – A Framework For Measuring Real Business Impact’, in which 67% of survey respondents identified the measurement of content marketing efficiency as the number one area for investment.

Despite this, many B2B companies are still churning out content at unprecedented rates, while reporting issues like redundant content creation, content that’s not aligned with the buyer’s journey, and inability to meet deadlines.

The main problem seems to be the fact that the content marketing industry is still on training wheels, and lacks standards by which appropriate benchmarks can be measured. Most marketers struggle with finding the right metrics and tools to measure their efficiency, and opt instead for measuring output, as well as such ‘vanity metrics’ as social media likes, which do little in terms of reporting the real value of the content being produced.

If you do want to measure the efficiency of your content marketing, you should consider the following points: 

Define what you want your B2B content marketing to achieve. 

Don’t limit yourselves to the usual lead conversion and brand awareness outcomes. Content can help with things like cutting down on call centre enquiries by publishing educational content that answers customers’ questions, or encouraging customer feedback. Whatever your goal is, clearly define it, and develop KPI’s to track them. For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you’ll need to create branded content, and measure things like social shares and views.

Make sure your B2B content marketing is aligned with business outcomes

An increase in social shares translates as higher levels of engagement, while an increase in reach can show audience growth. Make sure your metrics show signs that you’re actually reaching your stated business goals.

Document your content marketing strategy and your measurement strategy.

Marketers who document their marketing and measurement strategies are more likely to feel in charge of the whole process, including measuring how efficient their efforts have been. Include your desired business outcomes, KPI’s, and measurement tools, and encourage a culture of content efficiency in your organisation.

Consider using a content marketing platform

One of the most interesting things to come out Gleanster’s report was that organisations who were dubbed ‘efficiency experts’, meaning those who create twice as much content as their less-efficient competitors at a 163% faster rate, were relying heavily on technology to achieve these results. And not just any technology either; they were using content marketing platforms specially designed to systematise B2B content creation workflows by using customised templates, reporting, integration, and content distribution tools.

Tools like HubSpot’s marketing platform include metrics that measure things like Call to Action click-through rates, traffic sourcing, engagement, landing page form fill rates, email effectiveness and much more.

B2B companies who use them report improvements in content effectiveness (60%), reduced costs (50%), and increased content production (90%). So if you’re looking to improve your efficiency, such a platform could be a great place to start. 

It’s a well-known rule of thumb in business that what gets measured gets managed. But so far, measuring the effectiveness of most B2B content has eluded marketing managers. However, measuring the efficiency of your content can be done. It might take some initial work, but do it once, and you’ll have a system that will make measuring efficiency a natural part of your overall B2B content marketing strategy, and will potentially save you a ton in wasted effort. And who doesn’t want that? 

Like to share what you know about measuring the operational efficiencies of content production in B2B marketing, you're invited to write your comments below.

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