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Basic accounting rules require marketing costs to be listed as expenses on a company’s P&L. However, today’s marketers and smart executives consider marketing an investment in driving revenue rather than a cost. This is where an overall mind shift is needed. Marketing needs to be considered an investment, and your content an asset.

We invest in technology, equipment and people to grow our businesses without hesitation. So, why wouldn’t we do the same with our content? It’s time to finally categorize content as an asset and treat it like you would any other company asset. After all, your brand, unlike a building or inventory, never depreciates. Your brand is your greatest asset, and your content tells the story of your brand.

Marketing vs. Sales: Working Together but Often Against

When your company lands a sale, who takes credit? Likely the salesperson. That person may even claim marketing does nothing to drive leads. But what tools are being used by that salesperson to close the deal? He used the company’s website content, blog posts, ebooks, social media channels, videos, email newsletters, events, collateral material and lead generation campaigns, all of which is produced by the marketing team.

Without those content marketing assets, the lead would probably not have been converted to a sale. But while all of the credit goes to the sales team, the full responsibility of those content marketing assets lies in the marketing budget line item.

Treating Marketing as a Cost... Could be Costly

If you consider marketing as an expense in your budget that needs to be kept under control, you are likely treating it just as any other cost, and striving to keep it down. Being concerned about cost reduction adds pressure to your marketing efforts to perform quickly, which is certainly not a quality of an inbound marketing strategy.

Worrying about costs would also mean you would be less likely to test and optimize your marketing efforts, which could directly relate to stagnant online results, and ultimately a decline in revenue.

Proving Return on Investment

The Return on Investment or “ROI” of marketing has been buzzed about and debated for decades. Since the heyday of Madison Avenue in the 1950s, even up to the early 2000s, there were few tools that marketers used to measure their impact on the company’s bottom line. Magazines used “pass-along rates” to inflate impressions.

Direct mail introduced coupons and tracking codes as a way to measure effectiveness. But the lack of precise measurement actually helped promote the perception that marketing was a cost center. The hope was that all of that money being invested in marketing would eventually result in positive brand awareness.

Luckily, things have changed.

Explosion of Data

Instead of trying to prove success from inflated numbers, marketers can now track everything on the digital landscape. No longer lacking for metrics, we are dealing with a constant explosion of data. But now that every click a user makes on your website is trackable, what is being done with that information?

Today’s marketers have access to more data than ever before, but may fall short in understanding that data, or become overwhelmed and fall victim to “Analysis Paralysis.” Even worse, many businesses still don’t track or measure effectively.

In order to be able to gauge the success of your content marketing efforts, you should have tools in place to track:

  • Visitors from every source
  • Activity on each page and blog post
  • Keyword rankings
  • Submissions from all forms
  • Ratio of leads to sales
  • Sales

Using a program like HubSpot’s inbound marketing platform offers access to integrated metrics across the board from contacts to content and analytics, housing all of your marketing data in one central place.

Content as a Business Asset 

Having the metrics to show results is essential to prove your content is a business asset. Your content is a tangible, living thing that is the voice of your business. It’s the best thinking of the entire organization. Companies who believe this foster an environment where all departments work together, instead of against each other, to ensure a consistent and cohesive message is being communicated with the world.

In order to look at content as an investment line item, it has to tie into your business goals. That means you need to think long and hard about why you are creating content in the first place. If you don’t have a clearly mapped out strategy for your content, you are just throwing it out there in hopes that the right people find it. You wouldn’t treat your other financial investments like this, so don’t do it with your content.

For more on proving the value of your content investment, download SPROUT Content's free ebook: What Gets Measured, Gets Improved.

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Originally published Apr 16, 2015 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Content Marketing