These days, if you're a business, content is among your greatest assets. Regardless of what vertical you're in, you're in the business of solving problems. Content serves as a key resource to communicate value, demonstrate your expertise, and build relationships with prospective or existing customers.

Businesses are recognizing the value content can bring to their organizations, and they're spending increased amounts of their budgets on content production.

Though marketing departments understand the benefits of content marketing, they struggle to articulate content's return on investment (ROI) to internal stakeholders or to apply any strategic lessons learned.

Content should never be for content's sake

All content produced should be through the lens of strategic objectives. All content should serve business goals. Ryan Skinner, senior analyst at Forrester Research emphasizes this when pointing out the differences between brands and publishers. Publishers' "attention as a product" does not apply to content marketing, he states. Likes and shares, he points out, are not sufficient on their own. They must contribute to ROI.

"In many instances, that 'make content worth reading' commandment becomes an excuse for confused marketers and greedy agencies to play media magnate and accumulate 'likes' to no purpose," Skinner writes. Rather than thinking like publishers, for whom readership is the end goal, Skinner advises the modern marketer to remember that "[she or he] has to earn the interest of her market, and has a tremendous new arsenal of insights, channels and resources to do that."

Content marketing strategy needs to be measured by how well content serves business goals. Those goals might vary by department, target audience, or marketing initiative—but should nevertheless provide actionable insights on content effectiveness.

As content becomes increasingly central to business processes, Web content management software should be more than a productivity tool publishing content to channels. It should be an ROI machine, communicating content's performance and contributing to the overall goals of the business.

It's not a strategy if you can't learn from it

Among the biggest threats to content marketing effectively (and budget) is the inability to learn from successes and failures. Without metrics on engagement, conversions, missing search terms, or content gaps, content marketers struggle to replicate successes and articulate why they were effective. Even more dangerously, they lack the information to understand failures.

A consistent feedback loop, providing granular insight on content effectiveness, is essential to a continuously improving and data-driven content strategy. Software is crucial to providing these insights and making them actionable in short time periods.

One-size-fits-all content doesn't cut it

The average B2C company targets four personas, but that number can be much greater for the B2B market. To serve the underlying need of their visitors, brands need to understand the underlying challenge, interest, and intent of their audiences—and generate content accordingly. With a combination of personalization and a feedback loop on content performance, Web content management software can enable marketers to develop sophisticated content strategy to serve segmented personas in the various stages of the customer lifecycle.

From awareness to customer service, brands are using the immense data available to them on customer behavior and context (like location, local weather, or even analysis of local Twitter sentiment) to tailor content production, even to the anonymous individual. Relevant, personalized content that resonates with audiences establishes stronger relationships with customers. Well-performing content affects a business's bottom line. Though most businesses have yet to implement onsite content targeting, those that delivered relevant and targeted onsite content saw a 14% increase in conversion, and an 8% increase in revenue, according to a recent Hippo study.

Personalization should not be implemented in a vacuum. To deliver on ROI, personalization needs that constant feedback mechanism.

Agile strategies make agile cultures

An editorial calendar should not be a one-way street. The days of "push marketing" are over. In the digital era, marketing needs to listen to online visitors and craft strategy in response. A content marketing editorial calendar should be a living, breathing document—agile and responsive to feedback on content performance. It's here that software offers a critical advantage: as a strategic partner augmenting content strategy, and enabling constant adaptation.

By making content strategy data-driven, a Web content management system does more than provide metrics and increase content ROI; it helps transform organizations.

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image of Joanna Madej

Joanna Madej is content marketing manager at Hippo CMS, a content performance platform .

LinkedIn: Joanna Madej