Content marketing: setting a purpose and measuring success

Your content marketing honeymoon has officially ended. In 2015, you can no longer just write content and hope it delivers results.

Great content marketing involves writing about your customer’s problems and providing them with solutions. @WPCurve – CLICK TO TWEET

Lots of marketers will tell you to write, write and write until your hand falls off. While this is a good approach to help you get started, it is not a viable long-term strategy.

I challenge this mentality and will go as far to say that you’re wasting your time.

Content without purpose is useless. According to a recent survey, 86% of businesses are doing some form of content marketing. Think about how much content that amounts to. Think how much of it is saying exactly what you are trying to say.

What makes your content unique, useful and valuable?

By answering this question, you can determine why you are using content marketing. This will help you better integrate your content into your greater marketing plan.

In this article, I will discuss two elements that most content marketers ignore:

  1. A content purpose
  2. A measurement of success

To help explain these elements further, I’ll share insights from five of my favorite content marketers.

1. Setting a clear purpose for your content


In the last couple of months, I’ve read many articles from companies that have updated their content purpose. These companies have changed direction and started creating content that’s more inline with their products.

Content marketers are moving away from writing content that they think their audience enjoys. They are instead writing content that they know will influence their customers’ buying decisions.

You need to be creating content that links with the product you are selling. Great content marketing involves writing about your customer’s problems and providing them with solutions.

But for some beginners, this is often lost. And I don’t blame you for getting your content purpose wrong. You’ve been following the direction of other content marketers who have also been doing it wrong. Let me clarify with some examples:

  • Buffer started out writing about productivity. But they sell a social media tool.
  • Groove started writing about their startup journey. But they sell a help desk tool.
  • Help Scout started writing data-driven articles about a range of topics. But they sell help desk software.

Although these companies produced epic content that garnered hundreds of thousands of visitors and subscribers, they all struggled with converting their respective audiences into paying customers.

Why weren’t they converting? Because they were not attracting readers who were ideal customers.

Their content wasn’t linked and intertwined with the products they were selling. As a result, there was no logical next step for their audience to take. They couldn’t influence their audience’s behavior because they were not talking about the right topics.

The point here is that you need a clear content purpose or you risk writing about content that attracts the wrong audience. If you want to use content to grow your business, you need to write content your ideal customers will love.

Fortunately, all these companies have some smart marketers working for them. In 2014, they realigned their content purpose and started writing content that adds value to their ideal customers:

  • Buffer repositioned their productivity blog into a social media blog, which – by the way – is awesome!
  • Groove spun off a customer support blog, which maintained their great writing style, but focused more on helping customer support managers be great at their jobs.
  • Help Scout moved away from creating data-driven content that focused on a wide range of topics, to creating content that helps businesses provide better customer experiences.

How to set a purpose for your content marketing

Before you start writing content, determine a clear purpose. This will help ensure you write content that your ideal customers will love.

Ask yourself why you are using content marketing.

Determine the end goal for your content and your business:

  • Do you want to attract new visitors, leads and sales?
  • Do you want to build brand awareness and trust?
  • Do you want to increase customer loyalty and grow advocacy?

These are all good reasons for why you are investing in content marketing.

But I challenge you to think one level deeper and go beyond the outcome.

Define your content purpose by answering these three questions:

  • Why are you investing in content marketing?
  • Why does your audience want to read your content?
  • What value does your audience get out of your content?

Let’s break this down by looking at WP Curve’s content purpose.

Why is WP Curve investing in content marketing?

Dan Norris from WP Curve tells me the purpose of their content is to “build the WP Curve brand.” Since they don’t do any paid advertising, they use content to increase awareness of their service.

How do they do this? They create educational material that helps small business owners who want to grow. By building a credible resource that is linked to their brand, WP Curve can reach more ideal customers.

Since most small business owners run a website with WordPress, WP Curve is able to use their content to get in front of the small business market and demonstrate that they are able to help them grow.

Growth can be a challenge for WP Curve’s audience if they have to waste valuable time with their WordPress issues. So this is where WP Curve links their content with their marketing and positioning. Check out their homepage to see what I mean:

wp curve home page

WP Curve positions itself as a solution to a problem. It helps small business owners build their business without worrying about their WordPress website.

Why does WP Curve’s audience read their content?

Small business owners want actionable advice to help them grow. WP Curve offers content marketing tips, hiring and productivity tips and website optimization tips. In all the content, their audience is getting advice targeted to their specific needs with actionable takeaways that they can implement straight away.

What value does WP Curve’s audience get out of their content?

They get valuable, actionable tips to help them grow.

The success of the WP Curve blog can be put down to a clear purpose that drives all the content they publish. WP Curve’s content is so useful to their audience that they attract content advocates.

These advocates share, engage with and promote the blog to their small-business-owner friends. This all works towards WP Curve’s content purpose: to increase brand awareness.

2. Establishing metrics to measure content marketing success


Once you have your purpose narrowed down, you can create goals to determine what you consider will be a success.

For your content marketing, what does success look like?

Success is different for every business. The goals and metrics you need to track your progress will depend on your content purpose.

How to measure content marketing success

Let’s look at the three purposes I mentioned earlier and see which metrics you should be tracking.

Increase leads and sales:

  • Track the number of visitors, subscribers, customer inquires and closed deals.

Build awareness and trust:

  • Track the number of visitors and the visitor-to-customer conversion rate.
  • Measure how many engagements per content piece (shares and comments).
  • Track the sales cycle length (how long it takes from initial contact to closed deal).

Increase loyalty and advocacy:

  • Track the number of return visitors.
  • Track the number of customers who came from referrals.
  • Track the number of positive brand mentions online.
  • Measure your net promoter score.
  • Measure your customer satisfaction score.
  • Measure your customer retention rate.

Tools to help you track metrics

Let’s break this down by looking at how WP Curve measures success

WP Curve measures the success of their business by tracking monthly recurring revenue growth. Dan tells me that content marketing is their only marketing channel. If monthly recurring revenue is going up, then he considers content is doing a good job.

WP Curve uses Baremetrics to track monthly recurring revenue growth and Google Analytics to track the number of visitors. Dan says they look at number of tweets as a “vanity metric” to determine if a content piece is interesting to their audience.

Tips from experts: Learn from the best content marketers

Now let’s learn from some of the best content marketers. I asked five of my favourites to share their insights.

Alex Turnbull, CEO & Founder at Groove (@alexmturnbull)

Groove’s content purpose for 2015 is to turn more content visitors into customers. Alex tells me he is working on attracting more readers that are closer to the bottom of their funnel (i.e., ready to buy).

Working towards his purpose, he has been making some changes.

“One of the big changes we’ve recently made is adding a second blog focused entirely on customer service, as help desk software is our core product,” says Alex.

This links back to what I was saying earlier. Groove is focusing on creating more content around topics related to their core product – help desk software.

To track the success of their content strategy, Alex focuses on one important metric: subscribers. Groove works hard to optimize their subscriber-to-customer conversions. They know if they can keep growing subscribers, they can keep growing revenue.

“Every increase in subscribers means an increase in customers down the line, so that’s what we’re always looking to grow,” says Alex.

Aaron Beashel, Director of Content at Campaign Monitor (@aaronbeashel)

Campaign Monitor has been in the content marketing game since 2004 (before it was called content marketing). In 2015, Aaron is focusing on increasing leads and signups through the company’s content. Although Campaign Monitor attracts a large audience, they have struggled to convert visitors into signups.

“At the moment, we don’t do enough to convert visitors into leads and then into signups and paying customers, so building out that capacity is our number one priority this year.”

Campaign Monitor’s content purpose is to build more trust with customers and nurture them through the sales cycle – from initial contact to sale.

To measure the success, they track content’s contribution to overall customer acquisition. Aaron says they measure two core metrics:

  • Number of people who sign up from content marketing
  • Cost per signup (number of signups/cost of content efforts)

This helps the company compare the effectiveness of their content marketing to other channels like paid search.

Josh Pigford, Founder at Baremetrics (@Shpiford) 

Baremetrics’ primary purpose of their content is to drive new business. “If our content marketing isn’t moving those needles, we have a problem,” says Josh.

Josh says that they place a big emphasis on quality content that “takes time and effort to put together.”

To track their success, they measure the number of customers and total revenue generated by their content marketing.

John Lee Dumas, Founder at EntrepreneurOnFire (@johnleedumas) 

EntrepreneurOnFire uses content to build the company’s brand. John says that one initiative they are focusing on this year is offering more free content. The EntrepreneurOnFire brand has grown over the last 12 months by delivering free, valuable and consistent content. In 2015, John’s team is taking it to the next level with two new courses: a free podcast course and a free webinar course. By offering more free content, John wants to expand the EntrepreneurOnFire brand even further.

John tracks new email signups to measure how effective content marketing is at building their brand.

Gregory Ciotti, Marketing at Help Scout (@gregoryciotti)

Help Scout’s content purpose is to help businesses provide better customer experiences. Gregory says Help Scout doesn’t just build the best help desk, they also provide the best training that goes along with it.

Gregory believes all content is marketing. In 2015, Help Scout is using content to:

  • Put the spotlight on their customers: “Nothing gives clarity to your world before our software, and your world after quite like letting customers share their stories. I talked about how InVision uses Help Scout to support over 700,000+ users. This addresses scale objections and paints a meaningful picture for prospects who want to know what they can do with your product.”
  • Give voice to their team: “Customers don’t just hire the product; they hire the company. Making your team look good makes your company look good.”
  • Get the web talking about their latest features: “When we launched Satisfaction Ratings in Help Scout, I actually did an interview and wrote an article warning against Satisfaction Ratings and their potential pitfalls. Odd. But that got the web talking.”

With over two million visitors to their blog last year, Gregory knows that tracking is important for Help Scout in 2015.

“For now, we pay most attention to trial sign-ups. But there is so much more to be done when it comes to what we track.”

To get even more data-driven, Help Scout has added a growth marketer to their team. They are also looking to hire more talented marketers this year.

Take a step back and think about your purpose

Content marketing with no purpose is a waste of time. You need to be working towards your marketing goals so you can measure whether your content is a success or not.

I challenge you to put some time into setting a clear content purpose. Once you have done that, decide on the metrics you want to track to measure success.

We have a free plugin that that gives you key metrics (conversion rates, visits, social shares and comments) for your content all in one place. Download it below.

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Your turn: What’s your content marketing purpose? How are you measuring whether your content is a success?


Ross Beard is a marketing specialist. He helps companies with their content, SEO and PPC. Connect with him on Twitter @RossBeard.

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