Audience Audits – Measuring Content Marketing

Today we know business as usual just isn’t. Measuring Content Marketing is top of our list.

Every day it seems a new headline comes out shouting about the end of advertising, or the beginning of personalization and how we need to do something about it. We hear simultaneously that hypertargeting of marketing is working wonders across social media, while companies are pulling back on the number of publications and budget where they are running advertising altogether.

But here’s what we know. There is at least some value to creating owned media that builds audiences.  Whether we use the audience data to make our paid media better, or we utilize it to help inform us of the types of products we should be putting forward, or we use it to simply drive more sales, an active, engaged and trusted audience provides the opportunity for value.

So – we should manage the audience as an asset. And we should audit it. Frequently.

But what does that mean?

The Case For Auditing Audiences

Today, we know that what generates interest, persuades, engages, and creates a sense of customer loyalty is the consistent engagement and unexpected delight in the experience that people have with the brand. In effect, today’s marketers are in the business of being media companies—constantly informing, entertaining, and delighting audiences, while helping them to see that brands offer a differentiated approach to solving any customer need or want.

Marketers shouldn’t be acting more like media companies—they should BECOME media companies. In a world where audiences are increasingly fragmented, the goal can no longer simply be about developing transactional relationships with customers; it must be about continuous engagement, passion, and loyalty. In short, marketers must focus on aggregating a passionate, loyal, and engaged audience, while developing content-driven experiences for long-term success.

Here’s an interesting data point as we start looking at Measuring Content Marketing. Just two weeks ago, a study was released saying only a third of ad executives trust their audience data and measurements. This is a fascinating problem when looking purely from an advertising point of view.  They concluded:

“What we see really is the fact that as we move toward people-based advertising, there’s no question that the need for accurate measurement grows exponentially,” he said, referring to the “people-based” concept that seeks to associate actual people exposed to advertising and media buys by correlating the “first-party” data that brands and agencies can access about them to the media they buy to reach them.”

It’s that last line that really resonates. Where is this “first-party” data and how can we use it as an asset that helps us deliver more trust?

Media companies have recognized this forever. In the publishing industry, BPA Worldwide provides certification of magazine audiences and circulation. In the television and music industries, Nielsen provides third-party measurement of television audiences.

And, to be clear this isn’t the popularity of content (though Nielsen does that as well), but rather the examination of the audiences of the content. They look at the demographics, makeup, value and overall trend of the audience value.

This is a shift we should make as well. This can be at the heart of measuring content marketing

For the most part, as we have built measuring content marketing programs into our business as content popularity contests. We look at the popularity of content as the metric of success.  How many clicks, visitors, conversions did that content receive?  A lot?  Well, if yes, let’s do more of that.

But we too can and should examine who these people are, and how we might deepen our relationship with them, and get to know them more fully.

Measuring Content Marketing: A B2B Technology Company

We recently audited a medium size B2B business, and the audience they had built.

This B2B company sells a technology solution to marketers in other companies. Over the last two and a half years, they have built an audience of just over 8,500 subscribers. Their owned media property is an online resource center of white papers and research, coupled with a blog. They communicate to this audience through an email newsletter.

They spend, on average, $106 dollars to add each subscriber to their email newsletter. So, just the replacement value of their audience alone is just a little less than a million dollars.  This, alone, makes the audience an asset worth caring about.

Measuring Content Marketing By Measuring Audiences
Measuring Content Marketing by auditing the audience and looking at the performance over the last 18 months.

In the audit, we looked at a few things.  The first item we looked at was their targeting capability.  In looking at the data they had for some, but certainly not all, of their audience (email address, title and company name), we could derive some value against their target audiences.

Also, because we had an indication of when the subscriber was added to the audience, we could see how they have fared over time.

It looked a bit like the graphic on the right.

We found that the company has actually been fairly adept at attracting their A and B level audiences. As you can see from the graph above, over the last twelve months they have been increasing their A level audiences nicely.

However, one can argue they have been a little too broad in their audience acquisition strategy. They have not only attracted more A and B level audiences. They have also attracted more C and D level audiences as well. Further, when we examined their ability to gather data from their subscribed audience, an interesting finding came through. We found that they had personal information (name, title and company) from roughly half of their audience, and email address only from the other half.

These data give us insight into how we might improve the asset value of the audiences they are attracting and a baseline for measuring content marketing. After the audit, we examined the goals for content marketing of this company, and came up with a plan to start accomplishing the things that would improve the value of this asset moving forward.

1. Attracting more A level audiences, and opt-in audiences.

2. Look to develop more personal information on all of the audiences to help define the targeting capabilities more. 

3. Look to implement a marketing automation solution to develop some of the media consumption habits of subscribers

Finally, we started to suggest some ways that they could test the value of the audience they had that went beyond just lead generation.  They could:

1. Use the A level audiences to do some look-alike advertising across social media.

2. Create some small “campaigns-in-campaigns” to test the audiences of some of the places where they are spending money on advertising.  

3. Begin polling and surveying the A and B level audiences to ask which content they would like to see (to begin attracting more data about them).4. Segmenting the measurement by A, B, C, and D audiences to understand where they are coming from.

In today’s world, we have pressures on us to show how we are measuring content marketing. If we only look at our owned media efforts as a replacement for advertising, and measure it under a content consumption model, we will ultimately fail at providing a positive return on investment. A successful, long-term, Content Marketing approach is more expensive than advertising. It just is. The goal of content marketing must be to provide multiple lines of integrated value across the business. Thus, our true investment is not in content. It’s in the result of the content – a subscribed audience. That’s an asset we can invest in.

If we can help you look at your audience, or develop your content marketing measurement approach – let us know. We’d be glad to help.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory

As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.


Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.


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Author: Robert Rose
<p>As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.</p> <p>Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.</p>