The most common question we’re asked is ‘how can I measure the success of my content marketing’? Our answer takes many by surprise.

How do you measure the success of content marketing? What return can you show me on my investment? How many new clients will each article bring through the door? When will I start seeing results?

I get asked these questions all the time and my answer often takes people by surprise.

I tell them that content marketing is like a romance from a Jane Austen novel. It’s a long old-fashioned courtship full of subtlety, passion, dedication and consistency.

Getting the result you want can take patience, time and effort. It’s an art.

What content marketing can do

At its core, increasing sales should be the only real measure of whether your content marketing efforts are working. But no one can guarantee how or when that will happen. If they do, don’t believe them.

Instead, the journey often looks like a Jane Austen plot…

Awareness: he knows I exist.

Intrigue: he’s taking an interest in me.

Proposition: a declaration of love.

Engagement: the real relationship begins.

That’s the way marketers would like it to play out. But you will often have a more complicated journey with your reader, full of twists and turns…Like Pride and Prejudice:

Your sister has her eye on Mr Bingley. Your parents think you should just settle for the uninspiring Mr Collins. Meanwhile, you’re out there looking for true love. But you may not even like Mr Darcy when you first meet him.

But doesn’t content marketing give me anything I can measure?

Yes, of course there is. A heroine receives love letters to show that she’s at least in the game. You’ll receive analytics.

Your website and email analytics will tell you both the size of the audience you’re reaching and how engaged they are. Even simple – and often free – software such as Google Analytics and Mailchimp can give you rich insights into key stats.

But don’t get bogged down in these.

Your metrics are evidence that the courtship may be happening. They’re not the end game.

The key thing is to make sure you act on this knowledge – if it’s not working, change it.

If you’re attracting Mr Collins instead of Mr Darcy, don’t settle for it! Find out why, and try something new.

And if something is working find out why – ask your dear readers why they liked it and how it helped them. Then see if you can replicate it and build upon it.

Content marketing requires time

Sometimes – yes, only sometimes – content marketing can instantly go viral and create a huge marketing buzz. It’s what all marketers dream of.

While it is possible to become an overnight success and have the phone ring off the hook with your first ever blog, it’s not likely. Jane Austen sold books but received little fame and fortune in her own lifetime… not that I’m suggesting you’ll have to wait quite that long for your content to take effect.

Becoming an overnight success can, of itself, lead to trouble. Especially when it’s done off-the-cuff – or through luck – and not backed up by a cohesive long-term strategy. Think of the scandal when an impulsive Lydia Bennet and Mr Wickham ran off together.

Embrace the shades of grey in content marketing

Content at its core is a way to tell a story – your story. And by its very nature storytelling relies upon shades of grey and requires the ability to lead your reader on a journey.

There are certainly best practices, but there is no one-sized-fits-all approach. It needs to be targeted, strategic and customised. Even though there are some general rules, what works for one business or audience won’t necessarily appeal to another.

The flipside is that content marketing gives you the advantage of creative freedom and the opportunity to innovate.

Content marketing is a slow burn. Its real value is only seen when it accumulates.

It’s your Mr Darcy.

Contact Antelope Media to find out how we can help your business win more work through quality content marketing. 

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