Good content strategies complement sales plans

In today's highly interactive social landscape, likes on Facebook, mentions on Twitter, and views on YouTube might look great on paper, but this level of engagement needs to lead to sales and tangible results.

In today's highly interactive social landscape, likes on Facebook, mentions on Twitter, views on YouTube, and downloads of a presentation might look great on paper, but this level of engagement needs to lead to sales and tangible results.

However, few businesses see measurable outcomes despite the amount of valuable content being produced and consumed.

According to a recent report from Gartner, by 2017 CMOs will spend more money on IT than CIOs, resulting in greater accountability for marketers to demonstrate an alignment between marketing spend and revenue goals. This means every effort to create and distribute content will be expected to produce a measurable result.

Research shows marketers are not confident in the effectiveness of their content marketing almost 50% of the time. Today, with online marketing, these odds can be improved. Analytics on the Web and social activity have improved the way we measure and iterate marketing campaigns, so that efforts are more predictable and accountable toward filling the sales pipeline. And while analytics tell you about activity on each channel, it can't tell you who viewed your content or allow you to engage with them.

Fortunately, companies can change their content marketing and measurement strategy so views can translate into meaningful engagement. The key is to put content at the center of your customer acquisition strategy.

Instead of thinking of content as a means to fill channels, where analytics display how each channel is performing, you should measure who viewed your content, no matter what channel it came from. Instead of data about activity, this approach lets you measure intent. By knowing who viewed your content instead of just the channel they viewed it on, you now have the opportunity to begin engaging with them. Intent creates engagement, which is the first step and key to filling your sales pipeline.

Putting content at the center of your customer acquisition also means abandoning the notion of driving people to your website. Instead, get content to where prospects are already consuming content. This includes sites where your peers are sharing content and reside on, such as partner sites. For example, Intel has used this on its alliance site with Oracle, where it can instantly update the site with the latest content about its joint solutions the moment it has published.

Marketers are often stuck on the idea that the way to get credit is by showing traffic generated to their site. But with people browsing less and sharing more, they need to rethink this – content is the new destination.

Many content marketers have bought into an incorrect view that brands should be their own publishers and can replace outbound efforts with inbound-only efforts. Instead, an effective way to get new prospects is to publish content as an ad, generating new viewers and opportunities for engagement. Some companies also balance in-bound and outbound marketing strategies by tailoring content across many channels.

Using a content engagement platform enables companies to not only secure an initial burst of engagement by sharing its content across social channels such as Facebook or Twitter, it also helps sustain views and generate new leads by repurposing its existing quality content as an ad and scheduling multiple messages across networks. Good content is usually evergreen and can last a long time if it's deployed with the right strategy. Again, it's not a channel strategy – it's a content strategy and making sure you're placing the content where potential prospects reside.

All this can be summarized with one question – what is your ROI for your content? Measuring it by the number of site visits or YouTube views may make marketing feel good, but there's no way to directly correlate the investment made to produce and promote content with closed sales. Instead, just as there are tools in other industries to measure ROI, the future of content marketing will allow you to directly calculate the return on efforts with revenue achieved.

The VP of sales, CFO, and CEO can't wait until that day comes, and neither should marketers – there's nothing more satisfying than exceeding business objectives and being able to clearly point to your efforts as an essential part of the success.

David Greschler is CEO of PaperShare, a real-time content engagement platform.

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