I’ve never been much of a numbers guy. In the world of content marketing, the actual content creation part has always been the most interesting to me. But as much as I prefer writing to number crunching, I appreciate the importance of tracking the ROI of content teams and proving growth.
I’m starting to see this small mental battle between the creative side and the analytical side play out in the real world more and more. The age of “unmeasurable” brand activities is upon us. And in many cases, your content fits squarely in that category.
But let’s not get carried away. Every content marketing manager has someone to answer to and a business to fuel. We’re on a never-ending quest to balance the creative with the measurable.
Phase 1: The Limits of a One-Person Content Team
There’s a common trap that people like me (who lean toward the writing/creative side of content marketing) fall into—trying to be a one-(wo)man-army content team.
Maybe you rose to a content marketing role on the back of your writing skills. Naturally, you step in on day one and start building out a few months of ideas on your content calendar. And you put your name down to author every post. I know; I’ve been there.
It feels like a productive plan. You’re filling every minute of the day with work, and you’re showing the higher-ups that you’re getting things done.
But if we’re talking about ROI, there are serious limitations to the one-person content team.
Let’s face it, most of us aren’t Seth Godin. We can’t all publish 7,000+ blog posts, one per day, and expect all of them to hit home for readers. If you’re a one-person content team, you might go a month or two (or even more) consistently publishing a couple of posts per week. But eventually, you run out of ideas. Or, you have to attend a conference for a week, and you don’t have time to create. Or, you’re wearing a few different hats at your company, and other responsibilities take priority over content creation.
Whatever the reason, most one-person content teams hit a wall at some point.
Hitting a wall can hurt ROI, but it’s not just that. It’s also the fact that as a content marketing manager, you have so many responsibilities outside of content creation. You’re supposed to be setting the strategy, measuring success, aligning with sales, working on email campaigns, and more.
If content creation is consuming all of your time, you aren’t giving other tasks the attention they need. And that’s what really limits ROI for one-person content teams.
When you come to that realization, you move on to Phase 2—experimenting with outsourcing.
Phase 2: Editor as (Slight) Control Freak
When one of your greatest strengths is writing, it can be a bit uncomfortable to outsource content creation.
You have an idea in your head of how a piece of content should look and feel. But as much as you want to write it yourself, you know you can improve ROI by working with a freelancer. All of a sudden, you’ve become the editor-in-chief.
That mindset shift is often easier said than done. Let’s say you’ve found a freelancer you want to work with. You send them a rough description of a content idea and provide some key guidelines for your brand. They return a draft for review, and suddenly you’re faced with a problem—it doesn’t look exactly how you expected on the first draft.
As an editor, you might mark up the draft with some key comments and start to build this relationship with your freelancer. But if you were afraid to give up control in the first place, you might fall into another ROI trap—doing all the edits yourself.
It might feel harmless to take the work a freelancer did and get it over the finish line yourself. However, if there are extensive edits to make or even sections to rewrite, all the time you saved using a freelancer could be lost.
To get the most ROI from your freelancer relationships, you need to trust your writers. At first, that might be frustrating. But over time, they’ll become more comfortable with your expectations, and that process will get smoother.
And that brings us to Phase 3—building a well-oiled content community.
Phase 3: The Compound ROI of a Content Community
“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.”—Albert Einstein
As a non-numbers guy, I’ve always resonated with the belief that compound interest is magic. You invest money, and without any additional work, your account just starts growing faster.
That’s exactly how a content community should work for you.
When you find your perfect mix of in-house contributors, freelance writers, and influencers, you can turn your editorial calendar into a self-driven engine. Ideas are constantly generated, fresh content is created, and your library of articles/eBooks/etc. grows.
As a result, you can spend time on more strategic tasks and forge a path that’s more likely to drive business results. You don’t have to worry about creating that one blog post that goes viral to get attention. Instead, you have a content team that propels you to steady growth. And the longer you keep it up, the more you’ll see the magic of compound ROI.
Just like compound interest, you won’t see the compound ROI of your content community overnight. It takes time to build the perfect content creation team.
But rest assured. If you have the patience to build your content community and manage it properly, you’ll be well on your path to real, measurable business returns.