Let's start with some numbers that should blow your hair back.
In the B2B content marketing world we like to talk about noise, how much there is, and the need to rise above it. That talk is all wrong, because we shouldn't be worried about noise. Looking at those stats, what we are talking about is something magnitudes beyond noise.
Creating the same kind of content we've always created isn't going to cut through that noise, it's only going to increase the volume. We need to be creating new kinds of content. But along with those new kinds of content, we need to shift the goals we have for that content and the way we determine if we've achieved them.
So, what needs to shift? The KPIs for B2B content marketing.
Awareness. It's the top layer of the traditional marketing funnel, and for good reason. Everything starts there. But awareness isn't where it needs to stop, even though, for many brands, that's exactly where it ends. They spend all of their time creating content that's aimed at getting on a potential client's radar as opposed to making sure they stay there. That's why we can't just worry about getting someone’s attention. We need to also be focused on keeping it. We can’t just be creating awareness. We have to ultimately be creating affinity.
We need fans of our brands. Even before they are customers, we need to be creating content that has people finding out who we are and then choosing to spend more and more time with us.
What's that look like? It can look like anything. Don't focus so much on the type of content but what the experience of engaging with that content is like. Does it have value? Is it something that leaves the audience feeling like the time it took to consume it was time well spent. Are they smarter? Did you give them a story? Did they enjoy it? Was it something they could relate to? Then it's valuable content for building affinity.
If the goal is affinity, then how do we know we've achieved it? What data do we need to be looking at?
Typically, content marketing has been concerned with metrics that focus on the performance of specific pieces of content. So we'd measure things like awareness by the number of impressions a piece of content received. We need to shift that, focusing instead on the audience and measuring their behaviors to determine the effectiveness of our content, looking at the program as a whole as opposed to individual pieces. So to measure affinity we would look at the number of pieces of content that a specific member of our audience engaged with.
No, it's not a stat that can be easily tracked with Google Analytics. It's going to require more sophisticated tools, like Hubspot. But the investment—for many other reasons, not just this one—is worth it.
We don’t just want people to see our content. For it to be effective, we need them spending time with that content. They can’t see a headline and bounce. We need them seeing the headline and diving in. They will only dive in if you give them something that resonates with them. It needs to be content that provides value. It’s teaching them something new. It’s providing a new insight. It’s offering a new take on something tried and true. Or it’s compiling older insights in a new way. That’s content that connects with them in a way that other content can’t or doesn’t. That’s content that resonates, and it needs to be our goal.
Reach is something that we measure in page visits. And if your goal is to increase traffic to your site, it’s not a bad measurement. If you are increasing site visits with smart headlines, it tells you that you are talking about the right things. But if your bounce rate is still high, then it means things still aren’t resonating. You measure resonance by looking at things beyond visits. Instead, look at things that indicate length of visits. So, start measuring time on site. Start measuring the amount of time spent per page. If all of those are up, then it’s an indication that you’re creating content that resonates.
A bit of a trick question. Technically, none should be out. But where you put value and focus should shift as your B2B content marketing program matures. If you’re creating a new program from scratch, getting eyes on your content is important. Focusing on engagement and reach is probably where you should start with an eye to the other more advanced metrics. But as your program matures, you should quickly switch that focus. You still want to be reaching your audience, but, more importantly, you want to be creating content that’s resonating with the right audience. You want to be creating content that’s also building fans of your brand, and there’s no way to know if you’re doing that if you don’t switch your KPIs.