Measuring Custom Publications: Challenge Your Clients and ROI Is Possible
I’ve been on hundreds of calls with marketers regarding the creation of a custom print magazine or content-based Web site. In each of those cases, there was always someone in the organization who championed the effort. For whatever real reason (and there were many), this person thought a content marketing initiative was important for the business to consider.
At some point on each of these calls we came to measurement. Marketers would frequently ask how we could help them measure a custom magazine. To that, we began to dive into their marketing communications strategy. Frankly, what we learned was never pretty.
Rarely, if ever, did the marketing team have a solid idea of how the custom magazine fit into their overall marketing strategy. Even to the following strategically important questions, we would receive blank stares:
• What do you want the reader to do?
• What ultimate behavior are you looking to invoke from the custom publication after they read it?
These questions are very strategic in nature and would require a bit of thinking in figuring them out. The messages that we construct as part of the custom publication would have to reflect that thinking.
Without a clear purpose to the custom publishing project, true measurement is virtually impossible. Without an understanding of where the custom publication fits within the overall marketing communications strategy, how would the business know it is working? What was it working to do?
This always left us as custom publishers in a pickle. If we did our homework correctly, we wanted the business. But if we proceeded with the project without really extracting the purpose of the publication, we positioned ourselves as short-timers. Measurements then tend to be based upon an emotional connection to the publication, qualitative feedback from key customers or management, or price—none of which can be tied back to larger marketing objectives.
It’s almost laughable that the custom publication, which has been around since the dawn of time and formalized in the late 1800’s, is still a struggle to measure by both marketers and custom publishers.
There Is a Solution
The solution seems easy enough—define the purpose, define the objective. If you can define the purpose, you can most likely find a way to measure it. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. Most marketers still have only a basic understanding of the content marketing or custom publishing process. Most pure custom publishers or traditional publishers with custom divisions are more concerned with landing the job now and only worry about the consequences later. Frankly, in today’s technological age, both are unacceptable.
To publishers: Challenge your partners to determine that purpose. Get it on paper and put it in the agreement that you both sign. I am both saddened and amazed by the number of custom projects out there that have NO measurement to them at all. The solution is evident, and both sides must take responsibility to make it happen. Now that’s what I call a partnership.
Joe Pulizzi is chief content officer for Junta42, a content marketing/custom publishing search portal, as well as founder and president of Z Squared Media, LLC, a content marketing consulting firm. For more insight from Joe, check out his blog.