The 5 Stages and Time-frames of Content Marketing Success
“So, if we embrace content marketing as a company, and truly do it how you’re telling us, what does success look like? And how long would you expect this to take?”
This, quite possibly, is the #1 question businesses have when they’re looking to embrace this thing we call “content marketing.”
But the question makes sense. Creating a culture of content marketing success isn’t easy. It takes time, tools, resources, and major dedication.
It’s also quite worth it when done right.
That’s why I decided to write this little post. If you’re company is going to do content marketing—or if you’re trying to sell management on the idea—some parameters of time and success can make all the difference.
Doing Content Marketing the “Right” Way
As you might imagine, the following is a major “guideline” that can vary dramatically from company to company, industry to industry. Also, what you’re reading here is purely contingent on doing content marketing the “right” way. Specifically, the following assumes that your company is:
- Producing at an absolute minimum 2-3 new pieces of content each week (videos, articles, etc.)
- Following the philosophies of “They Ask, You Answer” (a willingness to truly address the most common buying questions a prospect or customer is going to ask, i.e.: cost, problems, comparisons, reviews, etc.)
- The company is fully participating. From Management to Sales to Marketing, everyone is involved, and a mission statement has been established.
Assuming you’re willing to do these 3 things, here is a realistic timeframe and measuring stick of success:
5 Stages of Content Marketing Success:
Stage 1, Months 1-3: Hitting Publish…Religiously
Rarely do amazing things happen in content marketing without an incredibly consistent production/editorial calendar. For many companies, this, for whatever reason, is a hurdle they’re never able to overcome. But for the successful organizations, this means they have defined someone on staff that owns the content production process (content manager), their employees from other departments are involved (Sales, Management, etc.), and the content “machine” is starting to run nicely. Although this process won’t happen overnight, it is realistic to expect it to take place within the first 30-90 days after launch.
Stage 2, Months 2-5: Google Realizes You Exist
The majority of business websites, at least before they embrace content marketing, are relatively static (same old information, few changes). Because of this, they get little respect from searchers and search engines alike. Furthermore, if a website’s age is new (or very young), it gets even less respect from search engines (a flawed part of Google’s algorithm, but I digress 🙂 .
But once a company shows a true dedication to content production and they’re sticking with their editorial calendar, respect occurs. Not only are viewers impressed, but search engines are as well. What does this mean? A few things: Your website’s SEO will improve (more keyword phrases will start to rank well), Google will index your site more often, and the speed at which your content starts to produce results will increase. Sure, this usually doesn’t happen until the 60-150 day mark, but when it does occur it’s the first sign that traffic, leads, and sales are on the cusp of a continual increase for months to come.
Stage 3, Months 3-6: Finally…Leads
Now that traffic is really starting to pick up, it’s time for leads. And the whole purpose of content marketing, aside from engaging prospects/customers and building trust—is to increase leads and ultimately generate sales.
Beyond the blog articles/videos themselves, an effective content marketing campaign will include calls-to-action on the site, premium pieces of content (like eBooks, whitepapers, etc.), and other components.
Also, now that leads are starting to come in, keep in mind it’s critical to measure where they are actually coming from. Specifically, you want to always look at your leads and the piece of content that brought them to the site. If that lead becomes a customer at some point, and you know their originating piece of content, you can now track value back to that one single article, video, tweet, etc. As you might imagine, your ability to do this is critical for the long term success and buy-in of your content marketing efforts.
Stage 4, Months 4-12: Sales and Revenue
Finally, the day has come—you were able to track an actual sale back to your content marketing efforts. The importance of this transaction, and every single one after this, is critical to the long-term success of the content.
Depending on your company’s sales cycles, along with a variety of other factors, the speed at which sales actually occur from your content marketing efforts can vary tremendously. That being said, it should certainly happen before the first year mark. Furthermore, Sales Teams should be using the content that has been produced and injecting it throughout the prospect’s sales experience.
Stage 5, Months 18-36: The Snowball is Rolling Down the Hill
For the first year or so, establishing an ultra-successful content marketing program can almost feel like you’re rolling a snowball up a mountain. Frankly, it’s no easy task.
But there does come a point, especially if you do it the right way, focusing on the right content, consistently over time, that the snowball will not only reach the top of the mountain, but it will start rolling down the other side, growing bigger than your wildest expectations.
River Pools is certainly an example of this.
But it took time. It took people willing to own the program and management teams that made it clear to the team just how serious the content marketing efforts were.
Regardless of your industry or the size of your company, I truly believe these types of results are available for you. As you have already surmised, these numbers are all estimates. There are too many factors to list and too many variables in every company and industry to come up with hard numbers.
That being said, these parameters will hopefully guide you along your content marketing journey and help you have a clearer vision of what to expect ahead.