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Going Beyond Clicks – The Return You Get From Content Leadership

The return on your content creation efforts is based not only on what you can see, but also on what is out of sight yet still having an impact on you and your audience.

Sales made as a result of your content can often be measured but the place that you’re creating from, the reputation, profile and authority you build up, play their part too. 

This article looks at the rewards you can benefit from when you develop a content leadership position.  

Both Sides Now 

One of the best arguments for taking an owned media/content marketing approach is that the return on investment (ROI) all flows back to you. You’re building from a place you have complete control and ownership of. Getting returns from creating marketing content for other people’s spaces or platforms is never as straightforward. 

Naturally, the owned media approach takes patience, time and dedication but the return is based on the effort you put in and what people take out. It can be tangible or intangible:

Tangible – what you can monitor, over time, based on your actions

Intangible – the actions you take, that encourage a change in others

One side is what everyone is accustomed to (traffic, clicks, reach) but the other focuses on becoming a recognised voice in the space you want to dominate. This means you direct the message to an audience that has already subscribed and indicated that they’re willing to buy.

Let’s look at both.

The Tangible Return

It’s natural to expect a return your content effort and there are many resources that cover specific metrics you might want to be thinking about as far content performance is concerned. This is a good read, from the Content Marketing Institute read here.

When you focus on too many performance indicators however, it can become confusing and disheartening especially, if you’re hoping to generate a sizeable return in the shortest possible time. 

Let’s highlight some simple tangible returns based on some common goals.

You want a bigger audience – web traffic presents an indicator that what you create or spend, brings people to you.

This could be progressed to wanting an increase in email subscribers where you have a dedicated page to draw people in to, where they leave their name. If you have an objective of increasing awareness, bounce rates and time spent on your site becomes a useful barometer. 

You want leads – look at what motivates people to step forward and be seen.

A return here is when the narrative you create moves people from being just numbers (via analytics) who are aware of your content to those who then leave their details, opting in to receiving communication from you. You obtain this via promising something in return, namely your newsletter. Whether weekly or monthly, the newsletter you produce and send regularly is the silent contract you have with someone else (they give you their email address, you keep on supplying what they signed up for).

Look also at the number of people you can draw away from social channels to you. For instance, invite every new LinkedIn connection to your subscription page. Monitoring the leads you generate helps you discover how long it takes to convert, as well as then retain, customers. 

You want customers/subscribers to stay with you – loyalty reaps dividends.

You need to keep customers and those who enjoy your work with you. They are the people who are happy to effectively help out with your marketing. What percentage of people who subscribe, help you out? These are the people who share (and tag you in) and these are the people who recommend you to others. You need to retain those who help you extend the reach of your work in this way as they’re integral to your future success.

The tangible returns are your number barometer – the boost in traffic, the conversion of leads and the reach you can achieve. Google Analytics provides great insights when it comes to looking at the return for your efforts (the time people spend with you, bounce rates, which pages are the most popular).

The Intangible Return

Credit to Richard Glynn for mentioning this quote.

The intangible return is when your narrative looks to tap into carving out something of a content leadership niche, where your intention is to get others thinking and changing their behaviour. Less measurable by conventional metrics it goes a long way to creating loyal customers and a committed audience. A previous article looked at the importance of what you can’t see (read it here on what you can’t measure, still makes an impact).

By leadership, I mean saying something that others haven’t said before, or taking a specific perspective and putting your own stamp on a sector or industry you’re a part of. It’s about being brave and saying what can make you feel uneasy. For instance, I have shared topics on nearly going out of business, burnout and hardly anyone showing up for events. Tough for me, as it shows vulnerability.

An intangible return where you’re carving out a leadership position comes from:

💥 Persistence and sticking with what works. A return for getting into the habit of content creation and building your confidence alongside building an audience

💥 Stepping up to lead the way. A return for the connections you make and the trust you build 

💥 Being recognised for having taken a particular stance. The return for the value you create, the insight you give and the perspective you share.

By taking a leadership position, the intangible sits alongside the tangible (the views, the clicks and the shares), but offers up so much more to work with than data and figures. 

Here are some of the returns you can expect from content leadership:

You create rhythm from showing up regularly

Committing to writing and/or recording regularly is not easy, but over time, the more you practice you put in, the more you improve. Read this article on the importance of doing the work (it’s here) The more you invest your time in sitting down and not being led astray by a fear of being judged, or striving for perfection, the greater the opportunity to distribute your narrative and get people to join you. To make this work, you have to be tuned in and ok with continually adjusting your output.  

You find what works 

Being in it for the long haul, you recognise the work that your audience enjoys. For instance, my quest is not telling the world about marketing, but about what it takes for small businesses (and people) to build their own audience by creating and contributing to an ongoing narrative. Gathering an audience around you, on- and offline, makes it easier to introduce new products or initiatives such as online courses or events.

You drive towards establishing an authority position 

This is where you focus on becoming recognised as a trusted person in your industry, based on your insight, frequency of content output and the drive that ignites a change in others. What you are doing, over time, is resonating with others so they trust you and know what to expect when your content arrives in their inbox, social feed, or podcast browser. This is far more powerful than a Google Adwords campaign.

You move away from being merely campaign or sales focused 

People come to expect a particular perspective from you, one that goes beyond a single week or month’s worth of content, and your approach becomes something that identifies and differentiates you. This return can only happen when your dedication leads to your building momentum. 

You build an asset base

Every week/month that you’re making those regular deposits into your content bank, your return on investment grows. For instance, you can make your content deposits go further, by one piece of work contributing to so much more. For instance, the return for one main article each week (which you are reading here) is that it also becomes part of a talk, a podcast, email, social posts and part of the library of work that sits in the blog section of the YATM website. The return for one piece of work should always be to drive engagement and look to find other routes for your work to have a new life. 

You provide value over time as a long term strategy for relevance, not just numbers 

The investment you make means that over time, people know who you are, what your business does and the role that you could fulfil for them. It works best when you find your niche and continue to deliver value within it. This happens when you let go of a focus on accumulating mass driven by views and clicks and choose relevance instead. In this way you build your authority even if at the start and without a track record, subscriber numbers are small. What starts as a gradual process ends up generating its own momentum. In the recent Edelman Trust Barometer, the conclusion was that what was important was to do the right thing, to partner and to lead (read the article here).

Lets Round-Up

Benchmarking what can be seen offers up a useful and tangible way of understanding the return on the work you put in. For instance, if your goal is traffic to your website, then paying for ads is a sensible choice and a good way of measuring and understanding the return on spend. 

Another way to look for return is to focus on the more intangible returns offered up by content leadership.

You may not necessarily be able to make an immediate judgment of success or otherwise but can be assured that change is bubbling away under the surface. This is down to the reader / listener / viewer who is on the sidelines, seeing your work and then deciding to commit when the time is right for them to buy or subscribe.

This is the work that acts as an evergreen resource on your website that works hard for you long after you created it.  

Carving out a position of content leadership means you become known for what you stand for and gain longevity and relevance in your marketplace as trusted source. 


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