Inbound Content Marketing ROI: Proving ROI for Content Success

Developing a strategy, building an audience and creating engaging content can mean very little if you are unable to measure your inbound content marketing ROI.

Content marketing will only be able to challenge advertising or other specific elements of your marketing budget spending when its effectiveness is measured with the same metrics and context with which other marketing disciplines are measured. In other words, Return On Investment (ROI).


The 3 key elements of content marketing ROI

Content marketing’s return on investment is a basic equation, but this is determined by three key elements:

  1. How much your content costs to make
  2. Your content utilisation. Some content will be more effective than others, with certain channels more beneficial for your commercial aims
  3. The business value of your content marketing outcomes

When measuring content marketing ROI, be realistic. Your content needs to be high-quality, value-led, relevant and easy to share. It needs to add value and build engagement. If it isn’t, , it just isn’t worthwhile.


Developing ‘cut-through’ content

Incisive Edge talk about ‘cut-through content’ as a way of breaking through the clutter and rising above the noise.

To achieve this, you will require measures to be put in place to ensure you are monitoring and undertaking best practice. Checks can include surveying your audience and conducting usability tests.

  • Can the content you are creating really deliver the conversions you are expecting?
  • What are the objectives you really need your content to achieve?

Repeat sales or shorter buying cycles should be a priority, as these reduce the cost of customer acquisition. Once you determine your needs, you can set benchmarks to measure your content marketing efforts.


Calculating the ROI of inbound content marketing

Calculating ROI for qualified lead generation is straight forward when you have the right tracking for origination and attribution in place. However, depending on your market-place and your objectives, in order to validate the true power of your inbound content marketing programme you may need to think beyond revenue creation.

Cost savings and other contributions such as reducing expenditure on recruitment in your business may be just as important to target and measure. Check your cookie pool or database versus a matched sample to calculate impact, as well as your website analytics and sales pipeline.


Quantify the value of your inbound content marketing

There are a number of ways you can look to quantify value creation if you don’t have attributable sales results.

1. Calculate savings versus the equivocal budget that would be required for search engine marketing if your content is improving your natural search results.

2. Organic results are an annuity, especially if self-generated, whereas paid search and display consumes budget every time there is a click.

3. Calculate media savings in terms of CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) if you are running your content across your owned media, rather than across earned social media channels.

4. Calculate your third party savings if you are mining data from your content engagements.

If you are enhancing brand and reputation through Digital PR (DPR) and building your corporate digital footprint, then you will be reducing expenditure that could have been committed elsewhere; PR, advertising, PPC. This applies even in terms of running your own inbound recruitment campaign where you can save on professional fees by attracting the right candidates to you.

Google Trends is a useful tool for measuring your marketing. Rather than measuring engagement, it is better to measure something that directly impacts on your revenue generation.

Google Trends measures search volume over time and can help you measure the size of your market.

Looking at your market size rather than market share can be effective. If your market share remains the same in a niche market but market size is growing, so is your revenue, and vice versa. It is easier and cheaper to get more people to buy your product than to convince consumers to switch to your brand in a limited market place unless you compete on price.


Positioning for content marketing 

Positioning your inbound marketing efforts to focus on creating content that increases the size and appeal of the overall market and your place as a key stakeholder within it, will translate into increased revenues. This is why education and onboarding are such vital components in content marketing for software products.

Calculating ROI for business-to-business (B2B) marketers is more difficult than for business-to-consumer (B2C), given the number of people involved in the decision and length of the sales cycle. There are however two key ways to do so.

Firstly, measuring content relevance.

Knowing which of your resources a prospect uses to make a decision will help you enter into a meaningful dialogue with them.

A good metric for measuring marketing is knowing how many and which content resources prospects engage with during the buying process. Similarly, a strong metric for sales improvement is recording how many less interventions your sales team require to close a deal, on account of prospects having progressed deeper into the funnel and having engaged with your content.

Secondly, the reach and quality of your content.

By engaging more contacts across the prospect account there will be increased opportunities for your salespeople to achieve meaningful conversations.

Content should be tailored to your ‘buyer personas’ which include not just decision makers in the process but also influencers in the sales matrix. 

Appropriate content designed to engage at different levels within the prospect company helps to improve the understanding of what each party is interested in.

A good metric for measuring marketing is the number of new, marketing qualified leads generated, that sales can pursue. 



A new approach to marketing doesn’t mean you need to rip up everything you previously had in place. You don’t have to start re-thinking how you already measure your marketing effort just because you now have an inbound and content marketing approach.

Rather, introduce your calculations of content marketing ROI into what you are already doing. In that way everyone else in the business will also understand what you are trying to achieve.

You have an internal sales job within your company to explain the power of content marketing and how it translates into positive return on investment. Does your programme centre on driving more qualified sales leads, improving retention or saving costs across other traditional areas of marketing expenditure? Does it enhance your brand or reduce your recruitment expenditure?

Set clear objectives and share these across your organisation. Measure outcomes and celebrate your content marketing success.