When it comes to most forms of content marketing and storytelling, ROI should be your last concern.
Just about every marketing communication project – press releases, ads, brochures, blog posts, social media campaigns – is aimed at creating some sort of outcome. They are intended to create a result, to get the audience to take some sort of action to buy or to consider buying or to be persuaded to do something.
In other words, generate ROI.
It costs money to produce and distribute content, so having a concern for ROI is only natural.
But there are three main problems with focusing on ROI in content marketing and storytelling.
When you start with an end goal in mind, you will naturally draw kind of a straight line to get there. You're thinking through strategically how you're going to get from point A to point B.
If you want your audiences to learn and to understand the benefits of working with your company, of purchasing your product, of using your service, you clearly and concisely lay out that case. You take your audience from awareness to understanding, to consideration to action, following a linear path.
The problem is people don’t think that way. They don’t receive and process messages that way, either. People aren’t rational, they’re emotional, and they make decisions based on those emotions, justifying them with logic and data and facts later.
So having an ROI approach is doomed from the beginning.
No Captive Audience
When you start with an end goal of some kind of customer action, you are selling. You're laying out the features and benefits and building a case for why people should buy your product or sign up for your service.
But people don't like to be sold to. They're naturally skeptical, especially when they see a sales-oriented message or claim. Or they just tune it out.
You don’t have a captive audience anymore. People have lots of choices and they certainly aren't going to spend any time with sales-oriented messages that don't really resonate with them.
It Puts You First
When you think about the ROI if a piece of content, you naturally put your company’s needs first. The tendency is to give the audience's needs, the customer's needs, short shrift.
When you look at everything through this lens of generating a return on investment for yourself and for your company, there's this gravitational pull that happens of meeting your needs and it can be too much for your audience's needs to overcome.
And as a result, the content doesn’t resonate with them.
Audience Focus = ROI
When it comes to content marketing or even marketing in general, in most of its forms, the focus should not be on you or your ROI, but on your audience and what they need first.
And when you take that approach, a funny thing happens.
When you focus on the audience's needs first, you generate content that they want to consume, that they're interested in, that they engage with, that they share.
You can get better ROI by not focusing on your ROI.
Of course, there is a time and a place for more hard-hitting, sales-driven content. Sooner or later you have to sell your product. You have to show people how to buy it, where to buy it, how to use it, what kinds of benefits they can get from it.
But when you're talking about reaching a new audience, building your brand, building your reputation through content, generating interest in your brand and in your company, you need to focus solely on what your audience needs, what they need to hear, what they want to hear, read and see.
ROI should be the farthest thing from your mind.