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Measuring ROI of Industrial Content Marketing is Difficult

Manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies are finding it difficult to accurately measure the ROI of their industrial content marketing efforts. Only 44% of manufacturing content marketers report their organization measures content marketing ROI. (Source: Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs and sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec).

Measuring ROI of industrial content marketing

While the number of leads generated by industrial content marketing is still a very important measure, it is not enough. Marketing is now held accountable for a wider range of metrics compared to previous years. Here’s a chart from the 2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing report published by engineering.com.

Matrix for industrial content marketing

Proficiency and maturity of manufacturing content marketers

It is not that manufacturing content marketers lack analytical tools or don’t know how to use them. Granted, as an industrial company matures in content marketing, it is likely to become better at it and be more successful.

Look at these two key findings from the same research report published by CMI/GlobalSpec. Download the full report for additional details and definitions.

  1. 54% of manufacturing marketers say their teams are somewhat proficient at using the metrics they’ve selected to monitor content marketing success
  2. 41% of the survey respondents in the sophisticated/mature phase say their organization is very successful with content marketing, whereas 52% of those in the young/first steps phase say they are minimally successful

Proficiency in manufacturing content marketing

An industrial organization's maturity in manufacturing content marketing

Industrial content marketing attribution is complicated

It is easy to measure data points such as Sessions, Unique Pageviews and other key statistics from your Google Analytics. However, it is complicated to correctly attribute industrial content marketing’s contributions to sales. Let me give you a real-world example to illustrate my point.

Say you are a manufacturer of industrial components and run pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on Google’s advertising platform. Someone clicks on one of those ads and visits your landing page for a part but doesn’t take any action.

A week or two later you notice another visitor from the same company reading an Application Note you published on your company blog. S/he downloads a whitepaper and reads some of your case studies.

A month later, your Engineering Department receives an email from an Applications Engineer asking about solutions to his specific application. Your sales engineers get involved, and after additional discussions over the next few weeks, finally, you receive an RFQ from the prospect’s Purchasing Department after about 6 to 8 months. That’s how the lead gets entered in your CRM system.

The question then becomes how do you correctly attribute marketing’s contribution to this opportunity – was it the PPC campaign, the blog post, other content or the conversations with your in-house Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)? Do you even care or do you take the easy way out by attributing 100% of your success to the last interaction?

I call this the “last click” syndrome where you may think that Purchasing Agents are your customers since they are the ones in your CRM. That would be a mistake.

I have had the President of a manufacturing company argue with me saying that engineers were not his customers, the purchasing people were. He didn’t understand why his content marketing strategy should target the specifying engineer and/or higher level decision makers who decide which vendors the Purchasing Department should contact for an RFQ. As a result, his entire focus was on SEO and getting the RFQ. Product-centric content was good enough for him. (See Industrial Content Marketing — Goals are Misunderstood and Misaligned .)

You know the rest of the story…

As you can see, it not always easy to correctly attribute industrial content marketing’s contribution to sales when you have long sales cycles with multiple touchpoints and stakeholders involved. Data from Google Analytics alone cannot give you the complete picture. It is crucial that sales and marketing work together to understand the complete sales process from your customer’s perspective in order to develop effective industrial marketing content strategies for lead generation and sales. Otherwise, you may be left wondering if your industrial content marketing dollars are providing a good ROI or not.

Let me leave you with a quote from John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Don’t let this happen to you.

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