When formulating your business plan as a startup, you have a variety of factors to consider. In terms of your company’s digital marketing plan, you account for your PPC and SEM advertising, online sales and more, but sometimes items like content marketing strategies don’t make the cut – and it’s not because they’re not important. Today, 55% of marketers admit to being unsure of how content marketing fits into their overall business plan or what a successful strategy looks like, and only 21% of B2B and 23% of B2C marketers believe that their content marketing programs are successful at tracking a return on investment (ROI). This is only good for a few reasons. First, if you feel this way, you’re not alone. Second, we’re here to help you better understand what a successful content marketing plan looks like and how to measure your content marketing’s ROI if you’re a startup.

What Is Content Marketing?

Before we get started, let’s first define “content marketing”. In a nutshell, content marketing is strategic marketing that is driven by creating valuable content in the form of social media, email marketing, blog posts, website content and more, to create a loyal customer base. Once the trust is built between company and customer, the goal is to convert the customer through sales or other profitable means. Content marketing can serve a variety of purposes for a company, so you’ll first need to consider what you want to accomplish. Do you want to direct a certain amount of visitors to your site? Do you want to increase sales on a product by a certain amount of money over time? Determining your goals is the first step to successfully measuring your content marketing ROI.

Create Your Plan & Know What To Look For

One of the first items you need in order to find yourself on the pathway to success for your company’s content marketing program is a plan and strategy. This not only includes what exactly you’ll be doing, but what to look for and how to measure it. Consider your goals, determine what your long-term and short-term goals should look like and work from there. However, while we’re talking about the connection between ROI and content marketing, it’s important to have a brief understanding of their relationship. Take it from NASDAQ’s VP of Global Marketing, Russell Rubino: “You’re not going to get a quick ROI on content marketing, and if you’re looking for that, you’re probably set up for failure.”

As you’re creating your content marketing strategy, it’s important to determine your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and pay attention to items like overall traffic, SEO rank, subscriber growth and more. There are a variety of ways to improve metrics like these, whether it be through social media promotion, email marketing campaigns and creating “x” amount of content over time. Regardless of how you want to improve, if you don’t have a plan in place to keep you on track, your content marketing program is likely to fail – thus continuing the vicious cycle of what to do with your company’s content marketing in the first place.

It’s A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Don’t let this intimidate you, but successful content marketing strategies are marathons and not sprints. While you could see improvements on certain goals almost immediately, for example, increased fans or subscribers, other metrics could take up to a year to fully understand and control, and that’s okay. It’s the nature of the beast. You also need to set proper expectations while building your plan and content marketing team. One or two excellent blog posts aren’t going to immediately make you the most sought out site for information or bring you hundreds of thousands of fans. It takes time, you must not only create engaging content, but nurture your fans. The more relevant content you produce, the more likely your desired audience is to not only remember you, but engage with your content. After engaging with your content for so long, they will then trust your brand enough to consider purchasing your product. While these relationships take more time, they are often stronger in the long run.

In order to reach these long-term goals, it’s important to set many short-term goals to help keep your eye on the prize. Learn about what your audience wants to see through testing various content on different platforms. Patience is key during this time, however, this testing process will also help you make more informed content marketing decisions. Once you’ve accomplished your initial goals, you can begin to focus on how to measure the ROI of your content marketing, much like The Content Strategist did with their Duck-themed tale.

Building Your Content Marketing Dream Team

Although almost every company would like to be able to reach the point of The Content Strategist in terms of measuring content marketing, it clearly takes a lot of work to get there. This is a unique challenge for any company, but it’s even more of an undertaking if you’re a startup. Remember when we said that 55% of companies are unsure of what a successful content marketing plan looks like? In addition to that, 54% of businesses don’t have an on-site, dedicated content creator. Not having a dedicated person on staff with these responsibilities translates to half-thought out ideas that are poorly executed and more than likely left without any follow-up or attention. This also translates into a waste of time and resources, something any company, especially a startup, has no time for. As a startup, you know that your time and money are among the most valuable assets to your company, so every second and every dollar should be well spent. When establishing your content marketing team structure, make sure these people not only have the time and patience required to implement a content marketing plan, but a concrete plan with defined metrics full of long-term and short-term goals that are aligned with your startup’s goals and core values.

If you don’t have the time or resources to hire a full-time content marketing genius, consider reaching out to a marketing agency and outsourcing your content creation. Not only will these companies have industry experts that know what a strong content marketing plan looks like, but they will also know how to execute it over time. If you need help with your company’s content marketing strategy, contact us today!