4 Content Marketing Goals That Really Matter to the Business

We’re just one month into 2020, and you probably know people who have given up on their personal goals or resolutions.

In our work lives, giving up on goals after a few weeks isn’t an option. Since you’re going to be working on them all year, double check that you’re working toward the right goals – goals that matter to business leaders.

Here’s the truth. Brand awareness ­– everybody’s favorite­ – isn’t going to cut it.

Brand awareness doesn’t cut it as THE #contentmarketing goal, says @Kmoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing’s business purpose

Have you ever heard a sales leader or business exec disparage content marketing as “arts and crafts” or wonder about its business value? You wouldn’t be the first.

The myth that content marketing is some nebulous, feel-good, unmeasurable thing gets told from time to time.

Yet the business purpose of content marketing is literally written into the definition:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

So why does that myth of unmeasurable, nebulous content marketing benefits exist? We content marketers might have ourselves to blame. Look at this chart from CMI’s 2020 B2B research, which shows the goals content marketers say they achieved in the past year.

Check out the one goal nearly everyone claims to have achieved. Yep, brand awareness (86%). (For B2C marketers, the response rate was similar at 84%.)

Brand awareness is a fine and worthy endeavor. But if that’s your only goal, you may be pushed to explain how awareness ties into an outcome that business leaders care about.


How to tie content to business goals and outcomes

Instead of setting awareness as THE goal, think of awareness as one step on the path toward a business goal. And what’s the business goal of content marketing? To drive profitable action.

Boom. Goal defined. My job here is done.

Except … you probably have questions. What counts as a profitable action? Let’s explore.

To be useful (and measurable), content marketing goals must be more specific – and match a meaningful business goal your company is working toward.

#Contentmarketing goals must match a meaningful business goal, says @Kmoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

CMI founder Joe Pulizzi likes to say businesses care about three things:

  • Sales
  • Savings
  • Sunshine (his parlance for customer loyalty, retention, cross-sales, and evangelism)

Choose goals that support one of those three things and you’ll have no problem communicating how your content marketing team contributed to the business goals. Here are several to consider.



Building a subscribed audience is the basis of content marketing. Subscribers give you permission to communicate with them regularly. And that gives you permission to subtly market to them while giving them value outside of a product or service. In fact, Joe and CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor Robert Rose argue that the asset created by content marketing isn’t content at all, it’s the audience itself.

Building a subscribed audience is the basis of #contentmarketing, says @KMoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
When it makes sense: Set building a subscriber base as the goal when your business wants to penetrate a new market, compete with a high-profile market leader, or begin the content marketing journey.

Profitable actions to track: Measure your progress by the number of subscribers to an owned channel (email newsletter, blog alerts, magazine, podcast, etc.) or the subscriber conversion rate compared with general audience conversion rate.

To go deeper into subscribed audience as a goal, check out:


Great content can encourage prospects to sign up for a demo, register for an event, or request access to a resource center. (A lead could be defined as a contact in some organizations.) Unlike subscribers, leads provide more than an email address. They trade more information about themselves because they see a value in the content offer.

Caveat: Some leads really aren’t leads. These contacts might have wanted the particular piece of content, but they may not want to hear from your brand again or aren’t that interested in your product or service now. Consider getting these not-really leads to opt in as subscribers because they eventually may be more valuable over time.

When it makes sense: Focus on leads if your business sees content marketing as a tool for the sales team – to help find or qualify new prospects or to help nurture leads through the funnel.

Profitable actions to track: Measure your impact with form/landing page conversion rates, downloads, and percentage of marketing- and sales-qualified leads.

To go deeper on tracking lead generation, check out:

Sales support/enablement

Supporting sales with content typically involves creating pieces that offer proof points to help customers decide to choose (or justify choosing) your product or service. Think testimonials and case studies that show how similar companies have solved their problems.

When it makes sense: Focus your content efforts here when your company needs to grow sales or open up new revenue streams.

Profitable actions to track: Measure your sales support through lead-to-customer conversion rates, effect on time to close new customers, and revenue generated.

To go deeper on aligning content with sales, check out:

Customer support and loyalty

Though many think of content marketing as a top-of-the-funnel play, content can work to reinforce the customer’s decision after the sale. How-to and activation content can help make sure the customer gets value from the purchase – and is likely to buy again.

How-to & activation #content can help make sure the customer gets value from the purchase, says @Kmoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

When it makes sense: Focus on customer support content when reducing support costs is a priority (i.e., high volumes of support calls), when the business is struggling to secure repeat business, or when upselling product options and add-ons is a priority.

Profitable actions to track: Measure the impact by the percentage of existing customers who consume content, reduction in the number of support calls, number of repeat customers, revenue from upsell, customer-retention rate, change-in-churn rate.

Don’t hide your goals under a barrel (or in a PowerPoint slide)

Most of us know the SMART framework (specific, measurable, actionable/achievable, realistic, and time-bound) for goal setting. Authors of an article from MIT Sloan argue the SMART framework leaves out important elements that can help eliminate quarter or year-end surprises: frequent discussions and transparency.

The article suggests FAST as a better acronym and framework:

  • Frequently discussed so the team stays focused on the right things and can change/correct course as needed
  • Ambitious so they promote innovative ideas
  • Specific so they include milestones and metrics
  • Transparent so teams understand and coordinate on each other’s needs and goals

The frameworks are seemingly complementary and could easily be a blended mix (SMART-FAST? FARMS-STAT?) for your content marketing goal-achieving plan.

Whichever framework you choose, do your content marketing program a favor. Set ambitious goals tied to a business outcome. And then talk about those goals in ways that make your business leaders care.

Talk about your #contentmarketing goals in ways that make business leaders care, says @Kmoutsos via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

As usual, Joe nails what’s at stake:

Most content marketing programs don’t stop because of lack of results. They don’t stop because they aren’t working … They stop because the people with the purse strings – the ones who control the budget – don’t understand content marketing, why you are doing it, and what impact it could and should make on the organization.

Most #contentmarketing programs stop because the people who control the purse strings don’t understand content marketing & the impact it makes on the org, says @joepulizzi via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

What goals are you working toward this year? How are you making sure the purse-string holders understand what content marketing is contributing to the business? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


There’s still time to set growing your content marketing skills as a professional goal for 2020. Then join us at ContentTECH Summit in San Diego this April and Content Marketing World in Cleveland this October.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Under Pressure? Don’t Worry, Stop Overthinking [The Weekly Wrap]

Listen to the Weekly Wrap here or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to rate it or post a review.

And that’s a wrap of the week ending February 7, 2020

This week I’m ruminating on rumination (and suggesting an alternative to overthinking things). I offer my fresh take on the role of content marketing in brand activism. Julia McCoy joins me to talk about how following her gut instinct – even when it scared her – helped her build a profitable content marketing business that ended up being a true lifeline. Finally, I share an article that will help you quit worrying and find and fix the inefficiencies in your content pipeline.

Listen to the Weekly Wrap

Our theme this week is “What, me worry?” Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: Making decisions under pressure (2:30)

Are you overthinking things? Many people believe rehashing problems in our heads helps us figure out the answer. We become so focused on making the right decision, we lose the ability to make one at all.

Overthinking often rears its head as we plan a complex change. I recently worked with a director of content strategy at a large B2C company to map 12 weeks of tasks related to a major content initiative. Worry over whether the e-commerce team would meet the deadlines of a tech project in time to line up with the content efforts weighed on him – especially since he didn’t control that part of the project.

Overthinking often rears its head as we plan a complex change, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

I share the advice I gave this client about planning for the future but living (and working) in the moment:


A fresh take on content activism in a ‘post-truth’ world (10:15)

Commentary from PublishersDaily/MediaPost caught my eye this week. The article, Content Activism Can Help Brands Shape A Positive Future, covers a topic on my mind right now.

The article starts by covering ground most of us are familiar with – brands are using content “to align themselves with the key issues of our time.” It goes on to talk about content’s role:

(C)ontent marketing is simply a bigger canvas for brands to develop a narrative, but more recently, the narrative has changed from just product or services to include ethics and principles. We’re asking ‘how’ more than ever. As conversations develop around profit vs. purpose or inclusive capitalism, what they do creates brand value, preference, and differentiation.

The author points to the example of the Food Sustainability Index developed by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition and the Economist Intelligence Unit to promote knowledge around food sustainability. As the article notes, “In a post-truth world, content surfaced within quality editorial environments allows audiences to feel confident that a similar level of diligence and attention has been applied to the facts.”

I share my take on this interesting trend, including another example of how corporate social responsibility (CSR) content is no longer just about what the company is doing (getting rid of paper cups in the office or having the team run a 5K for charity), but where media is the CSR program. Interesting stuff, and I’ll be watching and writing about this more in the future.

#CorporateSocialResponsibility content is no longer just about what the company is doing, but where media is the #CSR program, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet


This week’s person making a difference in content: Julia McCoy (14:44)

I often talk about how my guests are making meaning in content. And this week’s guest is the living standard of that.

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and author. She founded a multimillion-dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, Julia has been named an industry thought leader in content marketing by Forbes and is the author of two best-selling books, founder of The Content Hacker, and educator. Julia has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online courses. Her latest book, Woman Rising, is a memoir that chronicles how she escaped from a religious cult and rebuilt her life.

Julia is somebody who definitely doesn’t let worry stop her from making (and meeting) ambitious goals. We talk at length about her unique path to building a content marketing business. Here’s a preview:

Three months into it, I had more work than I could handle. It was a breaking point for me. Do I continue solo and turn down all these gigs or do I build a business? Naturally, because I am that type of persona, I wanted to build a business. That’s where Express Writers came from. It was a five-minute idea I honestly thought wouldn’t last a year. Eight years later, 90 people on the staff, it’s like “pinch me.” But at the same time, it’s that equation of working hard really does equal success. It does come down to how hard are you willing to work?”

It all comes down to how hard are you willing to work, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Listen in to our discussion, then learn more about Julia:

One content marketing idea you can use (31:45)

The post I’d love for you to look at this week is right in line with what I’ve been talking about – figuring out how to make worry-free plans.

In Fix These Big Inefficiencies in Your Content Pipeline, Kimberly Zhang offers really good tips on avoiding content marketing waste. She points out really smart areas to address, including writing for multiple personas, lacking in accountability, expertise on too many topics, creative teams that lack support. Fixing these areas will help you worry a little less.

An overloaded or overwhelmed #content team can lead to #contentmarketing waste, says @KimZhangCEO via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Love for this week’s sponsor: ContentTECH Summit

Here’s something you don’t have to worry about – where to find education on content and technology – and a healthy dose of sunshine. I’m talking about ContentTECH Summit April 20 to 22 in San Diego.

We’ve got amazing speakers like Meg Walsh, who runs content services at Hilton Hotels; Cleve Gibbon, chief technology officer at Wunderman Thompson; and Wendy Richardson, senior vice president of global technical services for Mastercard.

These brand-level folks are ready to teach you the effective use of technology and better processes that can help your strategic efforts to create, manage, deliver, and scale your enterprise content and provide your customers with better digital experiences.

And I’ve got a discount for you. Just use the code ROSE100 and you’ll save $100 on registration.

Check out the agenda and register today.

The wrap-up

Join me next week as we look for the sharpest tools in our shed. (Don’t worry, we’ll nail it.) This is not a drill – and we aren’t nuts. But we will wrench one thought to level your head, pick one news item to hammer our point home, and share one content marketing rule that will help you measure up. And it’s all delivered in a little less time than it takes to learn that Kansas City is actually in Missouri.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

To listen to past Weekly Wrap shows, go to the main Weekly Wrap page

How to subscribe

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Content Marketing and Your Budget: Here’s What to Expect

content marketing budget

We all want to know: how much does it cost? 

That’s usually the first question I have whenever I’m shopping around for a service or product.  Most of us are thrifty buyers, and we’re looking for someone or something who can help us solve a problem we’re having.

Because of that, I don’t give two hoots about you and your story.  I’m a buyer, and I need something.  Lead, follow, or get out of my way.  Stop throwing how great you are down my throat! 

Businesses are adding too much extra noise to our digital world, and I’ve made it a goal to find more ways to help more businesses make better content marketing choices and stop contributing to the noise. 

That goal usually starts with the right price.  Most agencies and freelancers will NOT put their price on their website or anywhere in public.  We don’t have what would be considered “standard pricing” either.  There are a few reasons for this:

1.      There’s no telling what you need or want in a content marketing plan.  Once we have an idea of what you’re trying to do and the timeline for your goals, we’ll be able to tell you how much time and effort it’ll take us to help you. 

2.      There’s a bit of a price tag because of the time and materials required to perform the work.  Further, the industry is highly competitive, and certain competitors will do a half-assed job for you at half the price.  We’re not going to help them prey on you.  It’ll end up costing you more in the long run.

3.      Would you hire an employee without meeting them first?  Probably not.  And you shouldn’t hire a marketing consultant without meeting them first.  I act as an extension to your team, and I want to meet you before we do anything.  I don’t do hard sales – that defeats the purpose of my goal to minimize irrelevant noise and build B2B partnerships. 

What should you expect in terms of content marketing costs?

If someone is offering content marketing for under $1,000/mo, you should be wary.  Here’s why:

  • Unless they’re working for minimum wage, it’ll be difficult to create and implement a content strategy on that budget. 
  • The best people in the industry who can use content marketing to grow your business start in around $80/hour and can go up to $250/hour.
  • Expect a good content marketer to need a minimum of 20 hours per month to do this work. 

I’ve been in the content marketing niche for more than a decade, and I’m still surprised by the drastic differences in prices from freelancers and agencies.  It’s important to know what to expect.  Never hesitate to ask questions of someone trying to sell you marketing services.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. How will you track my return on investment? 
  2. Who will be responsible for what? 
  3. Who owns all the assets?
  4. Are there long-term or short-term contracts?

Helpful Tips

When looking for content marketing support, keep the following in mind: 

  • Small and medium businesses can benefit from a small, yet powerful content marketing team with a diverse skill set.  Don’t overspend at bigger agencies where you’re paying for skills you may not need, and don’t under-spend by hiring a single freelancer without the appropriate skill set.
  • Outsourcing is usually better than bringing someone in-house because you don’t have to worry about management, spacing, or overhead. 
  • Don’t try to put the tasks on a current employee.  Content marketing is a skilled trade, and one of the biggest, glaring holes in small and medium business marketing plans is a lack of qualified talent. 
    • For example, your secretary or cashier may know how to use social media, but she is not a social media expert who sells online. 

Reality Check

Respect your brand, respect your customers, and respect the industry.  Don’t insult your customers with cheap marketing ploys and ugly branding efforts.  They notice.  Marketing should be all about giving customers what they want and need in a way that benefits your business.

If you don’t know what that means, I’ll put it another way – if you have someone who has never been formally trained in the marketing industry in some way, you are cutting corners, your audience can see that, and they respond by giving their business to someone else and forgetting all about you. 

Let’s talk more.