Companies often pay more attention to the “content” part of content marketing. This is a great thing, since content has to be good in order to succeed.

But for years, marketers have been fighting for legitimacy, trying to prove the worth of that content. The best way to achieve that goal is to make real, tangible contributions to the bottom line.

Revenue means return. Or, more specifically, a return on investment. Here are some points about why content marketers should—and how they can—demonstrate that they’re fulfilling their responsibility to generate marketing revenue.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

Marketers talk a great deal about their goals, and the content side is no different. Often, the goal of a particular push is not to generate money. For instance, a white paper may focus on brand awareness or a video series could explain how to use a new product. Attaining those goals should still be the first priority for any content initiative.

Yet even though the immediate goals say one thing, all companies still have overarching goals to remember. One of these is keeping the bottom line healthy. Marketing efforts both inside and outside of content should be aware of those longer-term needs.

Campaigns need to balance the immediate and future goals of both the marketing department and the company in order to be most effective.

Find the Right Data

Just as marketers have lots of discussions about goals, so too do they covet data. And just as there are long- and short-term goals, data have degrees of usefulness that usually depend on purpose.

Some of the top metrics for content marketing are great for tracking reach and engagement, but they don’t prove that the content has made contributions to the bottom line.

Stats for social shares, comments, and page views are still very useful for the content marketing team, so don’t abandon them. But don’t count on showing those numbers to executives without being able to draw the lines between those figures and more concrete ones.

For reference, 87% of CMOs want more insights into the performance of content. And considering how much inefficiencies can cost, that comes as no surprise.

The data points that go into ROI calculations probably sound similar to what your sales team already tracks: lead quantity, lead quality, and conversion rates are what you’ll want to collect for those long-term goals.

Pick Your Tools

In order to get this information, you’ll need to equip your content marketing team with the right analytics and data tools. That means understanding the paths to data collection.

First off, use a CRM that allows your team to track leads and sync up with your other marketing tools. Getting accurate information about your marketing leads and when or how they interact with your content is the first step to the ROI math. A CRM also provides a central location for keeping that data, which means your whole team will be on the same page.

Second, be sure that the CMS you use for marketing material will also serve your data needs. A powerful content management system will give much-needed transparency for the performance of individual items. Plus, it should be simple for the team that creates content to use it on the back end.

Finally, review the techniques of content scoring. This is a newer approach to understanding how content marketing specifically turns a prospect into a qualified lead. It offers a granular view at each interaction that a lead has with your broader content strategy, and it can help both your marketers and your executives understand the conversion process.

For more reasons why a marketing metrics dashboard is essential, in case you need further convincing, check out these stats. Or, for a deeper dive, take a look at Kapost’s eBook, The Blueprint to B2B Content Metrics.

Do the Math

Once you have a clear understanding of which data points will be most useful to the top brass and which tools you can use to collect them, you can start crunching the numbers for the ROI of your marketing campaign. ROI will no longer be a hazy concept, but a set of strong data.

When your content team can prove their value beyond a shadow of a doubt, you’ll have built a bridge for the rest of the marketing team. You’ll be speaking the same language and working toward the same goals.

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Anna Washenko

About Anna Washenko

Anna is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. She's a generalist, just as excited about marketing and social media as about music and video games. Her very concise thoughts can be found on Twitter: @AnnaGetsPithy.