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Content Marketing ROI Is Not Immediate But Here’s Why That’s Okay

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I met a small business owner at a networking event recently. We’ll call him “Bob.”

Bob and I started chatting and he told me about the startup he launched about 18 months ago. The product is pretty awesome. I could tell right away what he’s building was something special. I was excited for him!

It was strange, though. Bob knew what he was building was special too, but I still sensed some gloom in his tone.

He went on to ask me what I did and I said “I’m a content guy. Helping brands tell their story through blog and social content.”

“Oh, really? That’s cool, that’s important for businesses,” he said. He took a sip of his drink and let out a dry chuckle. “Can I be honest with you though? Writing a blog post is like the last thing on my mind right now.”

See, Bob’s days aren’t all rainbows and butterflies. Just because he has a great product, doesn’t mean it sells itself.

For the last 18 months, his hustle has been smiling and dialing for new sales so that he can afford to pay his two developers, server bills, and enough salary left over to, oh yeah… pay himself.

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So the last thing on Bob’s mind? Writing a blog post.

Why? Because Bob knows a phone call today could result in much-needed cash in the bank tomorrow.

But a blog post today? Who knows when he’ll see an ROI on that!

Bob’s not alone in this way of thinking.

Business owners, entrepreneurs, and startups put their time, effort, and energy into the areas where they can see more immediate signs of life. You have to keep the lights on, and if you have employees, payroll needs to be met.

“You’re right, Bob,” I said. “But what if being right is what kills your business?”

Content Marketing ROI

Marketing is a big, time-consuming, but necessary job, and if you’re a small team or solopreneur, then you’re responsible for 100% of it.

It’s actually more accurate to think of marketing as two jobs:

1. Outbound Marketing: Advertising, scraping for leads, “cold calls,” etc.

2. Inbound Marketing: That catch-all term for “everything content.” Where content marketing fits.

Outbound is expensive but effective. It gives you leads to work this week. This is the style of marketing Bob is focused on for that reason.

Inbound is inexpensive, but it’s a long-term game and, unfortunately, there are no shortcuts in that game. This is the style of marketing Bob is not focused on for that reason.

Most businesses know how important inbound/content marketing is. Some wildly successful SaaS business owners say that all it took to succeed and build a healthy book of business was regular posting to the blog.

So if content marketing is an incredibly strong lead generator (more effective than outbound, in fact) then why do we give it the least of our attention, if any?

It’s not because we’re lazy, ignorant, or afraid. It’s because of what we said about Bob earlier.

Business owners like Bob put their time, effort, and energy into the areas where they can see more immediate signs of life.

We get it. We go through the exact same thing at Zenpost.

In the heat of the moment, or at 4:30 pm on a Friday afternoon, it’s easy to skip the blog for another week, to promise yourself you’ll hammer out a strategy Monday, or that you’ll start some discussions to get something off the ground.

But these are all stall tactics.

As we’ve discussed before in our post about treating content marketing like exercise, blogging and social media activity is crucial to your business’s success and growth over the long-term.

Unfortunately, the “long-term” feels too far away so many business owners never take those first steps without being guaranteed immediate ROI or even just knowing when they can expect some content marketing ROI.

If I can get us to agree that outbound marketing results in more immediate ROI, then that begs the question — what kind of ROI can we expect to see from inbound marketing?

At Zenpost, we call it compound ROI.

Immediate ROI vs. Compound ROI

Compound ROI is not immediate ROI. You might not see any traction on your blog after the first month or two or even three of publishing.

But then you start getting a few hits.

Then a few subscribers to your newsletter.

Then you make your first sale, and the prospect says to you “yeah, my colleague forwarded one of your blog posts to me,” and before you know it, your sales team goes from just you to an inbound content sales team of dozens. Hundreds.

It’s a snowball effect. That’s how compound ROI works.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Compound ROI in content marketing is the steady growth of website traffic, lead generation, and/or revenue from consistent, long-term content marketing efforts.” quote=”Compound ROI in content marketing is the steady growth of website traffic, lead generation, and/or revenue from consistent, long-term content marketing efforts.”]

We’re not saying you should give up on outbound marketing. For most small businesses, including Zenpost, it’s a lifeline.

What we’re saying is you can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Here’s the deal…

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this blog post, one way I can encourage you, it’s this:

Content marketing ROI is not immediate. And that’s okay.

Wow, what a relief! There’s no pressure on you any more to say something unbelievably profound in your first blog post in months.

Don’t worry about spending hours finding something no one else has seen yet to share on Twitter.

Don’t bellyache over the thousands of dollars you’d need to pay a traditional agency to create one good visual asset or short video.

At the same time, don’t give up if you only get two likes on a blog post you just put on LinkedIn.

Don’t decide content marketing isn’t worth it if a tweet doesn’t lead to 5 new leads in your inbox the next day.

Don’t panic if your website analytics don’t show a bump for the first month.

This should be a huge relief. A weight off your shoulders. You already know you have to get your content marketing game in gear. Now you know that you don’t have to feel like you’re failing just because you’re not seeing immediate signs of life.

Stick with it.

Keep putting content out there. It will find an audience.

And as marketing gurus have pointed out time and time again (and one more for good measure), the compound ROI of good content will start growing your business.

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