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Content Marketing ROI: Interview with an Expert

Last month, the Content Marketing Institute hosted ContentTECH, a one day virtual event for marketers featuring webinars, keynotes, and live chats with industry experts. I hosted a live chat* with Ellen Gomes, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Marketo, who shared great insights on what she’s learned as a content marketer on an industry leading marketing team. Read key takeaways from our conversation below.

Tara Robertson: How do you use buyer personas in your role at Marketo?

Ellen Gomes: Today, being personal and relevant is the ONLY way to break through the massive amount of noise that buyers receive. There’s no such thing as a company with an audience that’s too  small, that doesn’t need segmentation. Personas help you segment your audience in a meaningful way and deliver valuable content, messages, and offers to them.

TR: How do buyer personas inform ROI?

EG: At Marketo, we track pipeline by market segment and so our personas fit into that. This helps us understand gaps, pain points, and eventually penetration into those segments. I think that sometimes marketers can fall into the trap of having content be a pure acquisition tool, but it’s so much more than that. We use personas to help us craft content across the entire customer lifecycle, from awareness all the way through to advocacy.

TR: On top of creating content for personas, how do you align your content to the funnel? Do you focus on creating content for certain stages over others?

EG: The key to aligning your content to your funnel is to sit down with your stakeholders and understand the different stages. What does your buyer or customer need? How are their pain points in that stage being addressed? And then a big part of that is to look at the content that you are already using for that stage. How is it doing?

I also find it valuable to talk to sales, customer success and customer support, to understand how they are using content, and identify any gaps or issues that come up. Which once again shows how identifying buyer personas can deliver ROI.

TR: Other than assessing where the overlap is, do you have any other methods or tips for deciding what types of content to create more (or less) of?

EG: Yes. What we’ve landed on at Marketo is a process where all of our stakeholders in content participate in a quarterly briefing call. Then we look at those briefs created and evaluate them based on business objectives, our existing content gaps, and market trends. Because new content can be pretty resource intensive, we make sure that we look at how similar assets have been distributed and their performance.

TR: If you identify an older content piece that has done really well, how do you leverage it to maximize ROI?

EG: Assets like our Definitive Guides tend to be evergreen, with  a longer shelf life. And we really try to make sure that it’s getting linked across our other content, like blogs. We also meet with our demand gen, product marketing and sales teams, to remind them that we have these resources and to use them in their programs and communications.

We’ll also create a large asset like a Definitive Guide with the intention of breaking it up into subsequent pieces of content. That’s part of the planning phase of the outline. In the case of a Definitive Guide, we will break it into about 10 pieces, with content that fits different personas. This would include: a checklist for practitioners, a ”how-to” team resource for a director-level buyer and a strategy chapter for executives.

TR: Larger assets like Definitive Guides are typically gated, but what about smaller assets? How do you decide which content to gate behind a form?

EG: That’s a great question and it will vary from company to company, but for the most part we only gate what we consider a mid-stage asset. Early stage assets we think of as pre-purchase and the customer is pre-purchase. You’re building thought leadership. Middle stage, you have a prospect that is looking for a solution; something product specific–and that’s when we gate. And then late stage, when they are evaluating, like a demo or pricing page, we don’t gate because we want them to have free access to the information and we’ll already be connected to them.

TR: Can you share any lead form best practices that you’ve learned in your time at Marketo?

EG: I think short forms are the way to go. But there is always the pull of wanting as much information as possible. If you have access to a marketing automation platform, implementing a form with progressive profiling is the way to go. People like to be known, so once you gather their basic information, such as name and email, then you can recognize them by name on other gated forms and ask for more information by way of  and additional, new question. I also think that how highly valued the asset is determines how much you can ask for.

TR: How can content marketers prove their ROI to C-level executives?

EG: I think proving your ROI needs to be embedded in everything that you do and how you communicate your success as a content marketer.

At Marketo our executive and sales teams get comments from customers and prospects about how much they love our content and that certainly helps. But it is more of a brand sentiment.We also make sure that we can tie our content to our pipeline by measuring more than early stage metrics. We look specifically at first touch and multi-touch attribution for each of our assets, including the blog, with subscription acting as a conversion point.

[*The transcript from this live chat has been condensed and edited for clarity.]