Does the term ROI make you roll your eyes? It’s okay. You’re definitely not alone. Even with the amazing reports that HubSpot provides, sometimes numbers and stats cause a glazed look – for agencies and clients.
Of course, showing results is an important part of keeping clients continually engaged on a retainer. So, it’s important to tell the best story from your data. Here at Sprout Content, we've uncovered some interesting techniques that we use when reporting to our clients.
These tactics have not only helped us communicate better, but have also opened up marketing opportunities that wouldn't have been discovered otherwise. Here are four steps to get your team thinking less about “stats reports” and more about the nuggets of editorial inspiration that numbers can provide.
1) Determine What Your Client is Attracted To
In other words, how do they want to connect with the data you show them? Do they want an aggressive approach that brings in tons of traffic (which will require aggressive content development)? A more gentle and alluring approach that converts traffic once it’s on the site? An in-your-face approach that pops up every time someone visits their website or opens their email? (Which of course is not the direction we recommend with inbound marketing).
The only way to connect data in a way that resonates with your client is by defining what a successful data reporting "match" means to them. When the definition of success is unclear, marketers begin to “make up” monthly reports or send general overviews and that’s when data becomes uninteresting. Nobody wants to spend time on a topic they aren’t attracted to.
So, how do you determine what your client is attracted to? Look at their buyer persona. Buyer personas set the foundation for the strategy you need implement in your content. From the buyer persona, you can get a sense for the sales cycle, what types of questions to answer and what type of content will resonate with your client’s target market bringing them the match they want.
A buyer persona is an example of the real person you inspire to reach, crafted from research and interviews you conduct with actual buyers. Personas help guide product and service development, provide alignment across your organization, and help you better relate to customers. From general demographics to common behavior patterns to shared pain points, personas give you the information so that you can target your content marketing to the right audience.
2) Use the Right Tools
A good analytics tool is like a psychiatrist for your data. These tools will tell you if your content is:
- Extroverted and quickly networking for you by driving traffic to the site
- Friendly and fun and keeping prospects attention by converting visits to leads
- Introverted and connecting over time by getting email or blog subscribers
- Having a bad day or being stubborn and not providing much value
Choosing the right tool is like deciding which personality test you want your team and your clients to take. Do you need a pricey yet super informative Meyers Briggs or do you want to send everyone a link to a free online version? You have to find the one that works best for your skill level, budget and client needs.
If you’re considering a free version, such as Google Analytics, make sure someone on your team knows how to explain the numbers they are seeing. If your team is new to interpreting data, you might try a tool like Wordsmith for Marketing to get an idea of how to present the results. No matter what tool you use, here is what you want to look out for:
- Ability to track visitors from each source (social media, search engines, etc.)
- Ability to track activity on each page and blog post (visits, click through rates) so you can see what content is working and what needs to be tweaked
- Ability to track keyword rankings so you can make sure the content is connecting to the right people
- Ability to see submissions from all forms
- Ability to monitor ratio of leads to sales (even if that’s a manual practice done each month by physically printing out the leads and asking your client to tell you which ones turned into sales and how much each was worth)
3) Read Between the Lines
Once you define what resonates with your client and what tool to use, it’s time look at how content interacts with search engines and people so you can mix and match to find the right connections.
For example, keyword reports do more than show what phrases are moving up in the ranks, they identify what language connects best with a target market. They let us know what words a target market uses and how they like to be spoken to so the conversation can be adjusted for stronger relationships.
Page views aren’t just a popularity contest for most viewership. They show what topics are interesting – or just as important not interesting – to visitors and search engines. They show what content is working and what needs to be adjusted.
Social media stats are not just about watching Likes or Followers increase. They show marketers where a target audience hangs out. They provide insight into what channels are driving traffic to know where to spend the most efforts in a distribution strategy. This data helps determine what outfits to put on the content and how to present it, so it doesn’t mistakenly wear a t-shirt for LinkedIn and a suit to Twitter.
Number of leads doesn’t just show people who have expressed interest in learning more; it lets your client decide whom they want to take to dinner. This data point also shows your editorial team a direct relationship between the content they develop and your client’s success.
By looking at the actions that underlie the stats, you’ll get a sense for what resonates with visitors and find fodder for great storytelling.
4) Leverage Your Data to Create Value
A few months ago our editorial team noticed that more than 100 people read a blog post about a new paper product from one of our clients. We could have stopped the analysis there and said, ”Check out these great results!” But, we wanted to do more and really take advantage of the positive trend.
The data showed that this content was a "popular kid", getting the word out there. It wasn’t shy about telling its story and had enough personality to pique interest. To capitalize on his success, we created more blog posts to keep that engagement going, so much so that the traffic warranted a new web page. Interest in the web page was high enough to create a press release, which then turned into media coverage for our client:
If we hadn’t noticed the "popular kid" in our data that month, his light would have just burned out. Instead, he has brought in over 1,000 visitors and even inspired a page on Amazon.
In fact, in our example here, by tracking their data we can actually show that the company made $99,000 in the first two years of their content marketing efforts. Their marketing director can confidently show exact numbers to prove her return on investment. Plus, we can confidently continue to charge for our services knowing it’s working for them. And nobody is rolling their eyes at these data points.
Bear in mind that every client has different goals, so the way to keep stats or monthly reporting interesting to them is to create a snapshot view that monitors success. This will also keep your team engaged.
We actually set up small bonuses that we give to our internal team when we help our clients reach the goals outlined on these reports just to add some extra incentive for success. Even our creatives lose the glazed look when they review this each month and when something starts going in the right direction, they are typically the first to notice.
With the right mindset, you can keep stats human. Knowing that data can have a personality that ties back to an editorial strategy makes analytics much more fun. Remembering that there are actually real people behind those statistics will help your company move into a new way of doing business: person-to-person.