I can’t tell you how many times hard numbers have contradicted a business owner’s “gut” instinct on how their business is doing. “I knew I was selling a lot of widgets, but I didn’t know it was that many.” Or, “You mean all that time and money I’ve spent on postcards has been a waste?”
Putting your time and money in the right direction is the goal of every business owner. But you’ll never know what the right direction is without measuring the results of your efforts – and that includes knowing whether your content marketing is driving results.
What Do You Want?
Do you want to grow your email list? Looking for more sales? Or are you trying to increase your influence online? What you want will determine how you measure progress. But most likely, you will be measuring amounts – number of subscribers, number or value of sales, how much traffic or how broad your social network reach is.
How to Measure
Unless you’re only looking to increase your email list, you’ll definitely need a good analytics tool. Google is the defacto and even though it can be a bear to navigate, you can get the basic numbers you’ll need fairly easily. You’ll certainly be able to determine traffic over time, quantify the progress of landing pages or goal completions (like email sign ups) and see how social networks are contributing to your website traffic.
Measuring sales can be tricky if you’re not selling consumer goods or are offering a service where subscribers register online. There’s often no way to know whether who’s calling or walking into your store did so as a result of your online marketing or not. If you can manage it, make it a habit to always ask knew customer where they heard about you/why they came in. It’s not only a good conversation starter, it’s a way to get valuable information. If you can’t enter the info directly into a contact management system, keep a tally in a spreadsheet.
Compared to What?
Establish a baseline from which you can compare future progress. What is the current size of your mailing list? What’s your average number (or dollar amount) of sales per month? How many followers, friends or likes do you have right now? If you’ve been at content marketing for a while see if you can find figures from before that point. Or make some knowledgeable estimates.
You’re likely doing other types of marketing besides online content marketing. Make sure you have controls in place to measure those that don’t overlap or conflict with your content marketing measurement. If you have a local coupon offer, match any sales for which the coupon was used. If you’re running a print ad, make sure you have a way to track it – “mention this ad for a freebie or to get 10% off your next purchase.”
I’d like to say there’s an inexpensive or free integrated system you could use to keep track of everything. There isn’t. But take another look at tools you already use to see if they integrate with your email system or that have social network management. Many of the bulk email systems do work with Gmail or even Outlook. Insightly turns Gmail into a full-fledged contact management system. And if you’re looking for something new and you’re a retailer, setting up an online storefront on Shopify puts a lot of data and task management in one place.
I know it seems like a lot of work. You’re just trying to run a business and its tough enough to keep up with creating content and promoting it online. But don’t you want to know if the time you’re taking for those activities are worth it? Take it one step at a time. Pick one content related metric to track and see how it goes. Then pick another and keep going until measuring success becomes second nature. Success is, after all, what we all want.