Content marketing has one goal: to make your business more profitable. However, there are many different roads to increased profitability. And different types of content marketing have different effects on your business. That’s why it’s really important to know EXACTLY what your goals are with regards to content marketing. Are you looking to generate new leads? Do you want to increase the quality of the leads you are already getting? Maybe you want more free trial signups? Do you want to make your customer service better?

Defining why you are doing content marketing will help you measure the ROI of your efforts.

3 Main Drivers of Content Marketing ROI

We’re going to go through the 3 main drivers of content marketing ROI and what KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you should use for each of them.

You don’t have to exclusively choose one purpose for your content marketing. However, the more goals you have for your content marketing, the harder your content marketing strategy will be to execute. The more goals and priorities you have, the harder it is to accomplish any one of them.

So, it may be wise to focus on different purposes of content marketing at different times. Maybe during each quarter of the year, you have a different focus, and you cycle between them. Or maybe you execute on all of these purposes, but you have different types of content (and different tracking systems) for each one. Whatever you do, make sure your purpose(s) for content marketing are crystal clear before starting.

The three main drivers of content marketing ROI are:

  1. Closing more sales by building trust with your customers
  2. Generating new leads by attracting their attention
  3. Saving payroll money by creating support resources for your customers

Content Marketing ROI #1: Close More Sales By Building Trust With Your Customers

People often think that content marketing is about getting more social shares, or website visits, or email signups. That isn’t necessarily true. Think about the pamphlets and sales brochures that sales based companies have used offline for many years to great effect. It’s doubtful that those sales brochures were sent out in a mass mailing campaign. It’s doubtful that those companies were promoting these brochures in magazines or newspapers. However, the content within them was still very useful, because that content helped the companies’ sales reps close more sales.

Benefits of Sales Focused Content Marketing

Let’s pretend you are a B2B SaaS business offering accounting software. Here are two different scenarios that can happen after one of your sales reps cold emails a lead, depending on if you have valuable content on your site or not.

Scenario 1 (no content): The lead goes to your website, and finds nothing useful there. The lead is having issues with their current accounting software, but they find nothing on your website that suggests you can help them. There is no blog or FAQ or other useful content. They simply leave your website. Two weeks later your sales rep pings them again. The lead ignores the email, as while they DO need a new accounting software solution, they have no reason to pick yours.

Scenario 2 (you have content): The lead goes to your website and finds your blog. Even though a very small number of people have seen your blog, the lead doesn’t know that. Nor do they care… assuming the content is useful of course. They click on a post called 5 Ways Our Accounting Software Can Make Your Life Easier. After reading the post, they read another. The advice in these posts is useful and as a result, your lead has a sticky positive impression of your company. Two weeks later, this lead signs up for a free trial of your software, after your sales rep pings them again.

This is just one way that content marketing can help your sales. It can also help by giving your:

  • Sales reps materials to email leads if they have questions
  • Website and company an air of authority and legitimacy
  • Leads a way to understand your unique solution to their problems

KPIs of Sales Focused Content Marketing

Ultimately, no business runs on trust or authority. A business runs on cold, hard cash. And your KPIs have to reflect that. This is also why you MUST know the purpose of your content marketing. If you really want to close more sales, but you are measuring things like site traffic, LinkedIn views, or even email signups, you won’t be seeing the right picture. Here are the Key Performance Indicators you should track to see your ROI in sales-focused content marketing:

  • Quality of leads / closing %. Put another way, how many tire kickers are getting on calls with your sales reps? How many buyers? When leads read some of your content prior to a sales call, they will be more educated about what your company can and can’t offer. We’ve seen this at Content Pros recently when we rolled out our new FAQs page which addressed a lot of the common questions we hear. If you want a harder KPI than quality of leads, use closing percentage instead. Measure your sales reps’ closing rates before and after you start using content marketing.
  • Length of average sales cycle. If leads are reading your posts and getting value out of them, they will feel more trust towards you. Assuming you are choosing the right leads in the first place, this should cause your average sale to happen more quickly. B2B sales cycles are relatively long, but good content marketing should make those sales happen even more quickly.

ROI Compounds with Sales Focused Content Marketing

If you are closing more sales, you make more money. Plain and simple. If you make more money from those sales than you spend on content marketing, congratulations! You’ve just seen a return on your investment. Similarly, if your average sales cycle becomes shorter, that means your reps have to spend less time on each lead. Your reps can use that regained time to talk to new leads instead. More leads reached out to, all else being equal, leads to more sales and more revenue. This is how you justify sales-focused content marketing.

Content Marketing ROI #2: Generate More Leads By Attracting Customers’ Attention

This is the classic and most talked about purpose of content marketing: to get more leads knocking on your door without having to reach out to them. AKA, inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is different from the other two content marketing purposes because inbound requires A LOT of promotion. We’ll put it this way: if you put a bunch of content on your website, and nobody reads it, how are you going to generate new leads and more revenue? Or as Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency Strategy at BuzzFeed, puts it:

If content is king, distribution is the queen…
and she wears the pants.

So be aware: you won’t magically get a bunch of new leads from content marketing overnight. It takes a long-term commitment and a lot of promotional work. With that being said, inbound marketing is one of the most talked about trends in marketing for good reason. Inbound can be incredibly powerful once you get the engine going.

Benefits of Lead Generation Content Marketing

Lead generation content marketing can give you the holy grail: free, organic leads. If you are creating quality posts that really help your customers out, the results can be astounding. Old posts from years back can rank in Google results and give you leads for years to come. However, in order to see the most benefit from inbound marketing, you need to tie your post copy to some calls to action. Things like:

  • Sign up for a trial
  • Schedule a sales call
  • Join your email list
  • Become a customer

KPIs of Lead Generation Content Marketing

The KPIs of lead generation content marketing are relatively easy to track compared to the other two content marketing purposes. Here they are:

  1. Quantity of Leads: Free Trials and/or Sales Calls. The specific KPI would be either free trial signups or sales calls, depending on your business. But either way, you should clearly be getting more fresh leads in the door after you start doing content marketing.
  2. Email Signups. Going for the email address instead of the sale is a very smart move in online marketing. Once you have someone’s email address, you can continue to build trust with them. So putting content upgrades in your blog posts and creating valuable email magnets can get you more email subscribers, which will lead to more sales down the road.
  3. Webinar Signups. Webinars are starting to be used more and more by savvy marketers. By putting a webinar sign up call to action in your content marketing, you can drive people to them and then make some sales.

ROI Take Home Points of Lead Generation Content Marketing

In ancient times, they would say that all roads lead to Rome. In lead generation focused content marketing, all roads lead to revenue. Think about it: if you’re having more sales calls and more free trial members, all else being equal, you’re going to have more customers and revenue. Same goes for webinar attendees and email subscribers. A percentage of them will definitely become paying customers. And more paying customers equals more money. You just have to track how much money you’re spending on content marketing compared to the revenue you are seeing from new customers.

Content Marketing ROI #3: Saving Payroll Money by Creating Support Resources for Your Customers

Wait a second. How could content marketing lead to better customer service? Aren’t those different departments? Yes and no. Obviously, your marketing team and your customer service team are separate. However, there is a LOT of beneficial overlap between the two teams.

Benefits of Customer Service Focused Content Marketing

The basic idea behind customer service focused content marketing is that content can replace some of the functions of your customer service team. This isn’t a new idea. Companies that have FAQ pages included on their website, or on a sales booklet, have been doing this for years.

Imagine Joe Customer has an issue with your software. He goes to your website, sees the help section, and gives your customer service hotline a call. Let’s say that the question Joe Customer had was one that many of your customers have. What if you had an incredibly useful blog post going over that issue and the solutions to it?

With customer support content marketing, the next Joe Customer might not have to call your team at all. He might go to your website, go to the help section, and see all of the useful blog content there waiting for him. If he’s like most people, Joe Customer would rather not talk to somebody on the phone and wait for the privilege of doing so. He also would rather not have to wait for an email reply. If Joe Customer can read a blog post or watch a short video that will help him, he’d probably rather do that.

Customer service focused content marketing leads to less people contacting your service department, which means:

  • Your service reps have more time to help each customer (since there aren’t as many contacting them)
  • You don’t have to hire as many service reps in the future (saving you money)
  • Your reps have a better work experience, as they aren’t answering the same mundane questions over and over anymore (making your team stronger)

And that’s just scratching the surface. Imagine if you create content that not only solves common issues your customers have, but also proactively teaches them how to use your software better. Blog posts like tutorials, walkthroughs, and case studies. Those will lead to:

  • Better customer retention rates
  • More referrals from your current customers

KPIs of Customer Service Focused Content Marketing

Just as with lead generation content marketing, customer service content marketing takes quite a bit of time and initial effort. With that being said, here are the KPIs that you’ll want to measure:

  • How many customer service tickets/calls are being generated relative to your number of customers. OK, so this KPI was a mouthful. But the logic works: if some of the customers who WOULD have called, emailed, or chatted with one of your service reps find a solution in a blog post instead, you should have less tickets/calls created. This is relative to your amount of customers of course. If your business keeps growing, the overall number of tickets/calls might grow. The number just won’t grow as much as it would have otherwise.
  • Customer retention rates. Happy customers are less likely to leave. Good customer service content marketing can make your customers happy.
  • Referral rates. Happy customers tend to tell their friends and colleagues.

ROI Take Home Points of Customer Service Focused Content Marketing

If content causes your customer service reps to have less work, that means you need to hire less reps in the future. Labor costs a lot. That unhired rep’s salary will go to your company’s bottom line instead, along with paying for the content marketing. And most businesses make the majority of their money from existing customers, not new ones. As a Drift blog post says about renewal customers vs new ones:

The cost of a renewal is 11% of the cost to acquire a new customer.

Finally, referrals are basically free customers, and any way that you can increase referral rates will help your bottom line tremendously.

5 Reasons You Might Not Be Seeing ROI From Your Content Marketing

Now that we’ve established how to measure the ROI of your content marketing, let’s go over some common reasons that you might not be seeing the ROI you want.

1. You’re Not Patient Enough

Content marketing takes quite a bit of time to bear fruit. How long? Figure at least 3 months to see initial results. Even then, don’t expect your results to be ground shattering. Sales focused content marketing will see quicker results than the other two types. Customers will take a while to start using and getting used to customer service focused marketing. Lead generation content marketing can be the toughest to do well and can take the longest to generate results.

Here’s the bottom line: if you are looking at content marketing as a way to make more money this month, you’re looking at it wrong. Content marketing can give you tremendous rewards. But it requires long-term vision, planning, and commitment.

2. The Content Isn’t Useful to Your Customers

You can produce content for 10 years, but if that content isn’t useful to your customers, you probably won’t see any significant results.

According to our comparative guide of good vs. bad blog examples, be sure to avoid:

  • Salesy and self-promotional
  • Not targeted at the pain points of your customers
  • Too short
  • Poorly written or formatted

Then it’s unlikely to help your business. Content marketing is kind of like the Game of Thrones: it takes a long time to win, and only the best have a shot at winning. 

3. Your Content Isn’t Aligned with Your Customers

It’s not that we need more content; we need more relevant content. Jason Miller, Senior Manager, Global Content Marketing & Social Media, LinkedIn

Sometimes your content can be high quality but not be in sync with the needs of your leads and customers. This happens when you are writing about things that your customers don’t really care about. Always remember that people are self-interested. They aren’t going to read your company’s blog because they can’t find new fiction to read after dinner. They read your blog because they want to do their job better, get a promotion, get a raise, or look good in front of their boss. So whenever you are selecting topics for your content marketing, keep this in mind: why would a potential customer want to read this post? What would they get out of it?

4. You Aren’t Promoting Your Content Well

If your goal is lead generation, then promoting your content is just as important as creating high quality, relevant content for your customers. Here’s the short and sweet guide on how to effectively promote your blog:

  • Syndicate your content on LinkedIn and Medium 7 days after you publish it on your site.
  • Reach out to industry influencers to create relationships and ask them to share your content.
  • Speak directly to leads by answering their questions on sites like Quora or Reddit.
  • Consider using paid promotion on Facebook and LinkedIn to show your posts to customers.

5. You Don’t Have a Content Strategy in Place

The difference between a good content marketer and a great content marketer is documented strategy. – Joe Pulizzi

Even if you’re writing great content, promoting it well etc, you won’t see the results you want if you are just randomly writing posts. Ideally, each piece of content should connect both to your company’s mission and to your content marketing purpose. So, for example, if you believe you can get the most ROI by investing in customer service focused content marketing, do that. Create an editorial calendar and a list of blog post topics that your customers would find useful. Then research keywords and study how your competitors do their customer service blog posts.


Content marketing is hard work. But it’s work that can have very tangible results on your business’ profitability and revenue over the long run. To maximize your content marketing ROI, follow these keys to success:

  1. Identify your purpose for content marketing.
  2. Keep track of the Key Performance Indicators we listed.
  3. Create very useful, high-quality content that directly addresses the needs, wants, and pain points of your customers.
  4. Be patient. Content marketing is a long-term game.

If you follow all of these keys, you might just find that content marketing is your holy grail!

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