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Martin van der Roest: Welcome to the Content Marketing Examiner where we explore the content marketing lifecycle together with industry experts and practitioners. Warren Whitlock: I started off back in 2003 I was involved in writing a book and it was a new idea to get people to buy it at Amazon and make it a best seller there, so we got involved and did that, so I’ve been a best-selling author since January, 2004, as a contributor to that book.
Martin van der Roest: Well, you’re doing something right and I’m looking forward to your input on this topic. Warren Whitlock: I can’t remember if I mentioned in that blog post, but usually when I bring that up the discussion is over whether or not somebody should try something or change something. Warren Whitlock: By the way, it’s a lot easier for me to say because I don’t have a cash cow bringing in a couple billion dollars a year. Warren Whitlock: Leads generated, visitors to an event, registration page, walking in your store—however you’re counting them—response to filling out a form, anything where somebody takes action on the other side. Martin van der Roest: I want to step into this a little further because I think there are some nuances here that are worth exploring.
The subject we want to explore is the topic of return on investment, or ROI, in the context of content marketing.
I’ve been creating content for many years, and back when I learned to do it we called it broadcasting or newspapers—what we today call “media.” My basic philosophy on everything is that you can get anything you want out of life if you help other people get what they want. So, of course, ROI isn’t really new, it’s typically raised during the goals development activities of any significant initiative with an organization.
The study found that 57% do not use ROI.” What’s your reaction to that and how would you respond? But there are also some goals that an organization can set around ROI even if ROI is not a budgeted item or based on a budgeted item, there are some goals.
Today we’re getting down to being able to get some micro actions like, for instance, if someone responds to my tweet, I know that that is somebody at some level of engagement. But before we start, tell us a little more about yourself, Warren, and highlight some of the things that you’re involved in related to content marketing and social media.
That’s actually a quote from Zig Ziglar that I learned while I was doing sales training, and I found out that my sales tripled when I started looking to help the other person rather than to talk them into buying what I had.
The only time I wasn’t an entrepreneur I was a commissioned sales person, so ROI was very important to me back then too. Give us your thoughts on what kind of relevant goals might be something marketers would want to consider related to ROI. I’m not going to go to the bank and take a loan on the fact that 14 people responded to my tweet. Warren wrote the first book about Twitter and mobile marketing, entitled Profitable Social Media: Business Results without Playing Games.
It’s a subtle shift, I think it’s very common today, but back in the early 80s when I learned to do that, it fundamentally changed the way I look at everything and it’s a lot more fun, too. I was running my company where we were selling products and found out that online was a great way to communicate with people buying what we were selling. So let’s start with the bigger picture of ROI in the context of content marketing, without necessarily getting into the actual mechanics of how we do ROI.
It’s so old I can’t remember what the numbers are to tell you it’s exactly the same, but the gist of it was the same.

Join us for an interactive webinar covering the state of the market, its response to economic and global changes, and ways to align your investment strategy with your financial goals and risk tolerance. He is the host of Social Media Radio and speaks frequently about social media marketing, online publicity, and marketing social networking and building lifetime value for rapid growth. Quite commonly, I’d talk to somebody once for life, for 20 minutes, build up a rapport, they knew I understood business and at the end of that we were done.
The majority of people in planning a budget, plan a budget to do what they did the last year. And better yet, I know what they responded with, what they said and that context is something. So when I got a chance to work with these authors and doing things in publishing, it was a great relief to me that I was going to be able to talk to people again and again and work with projects that were longer term than just sell a product and be done with it. I think we make a mistake when we get into larger organizations where your job is not to actually close the contract and collect the check, of thinking that we have to tie it into how do we make money or we don’t, and it becomes a conflict there, which way are we going to go? Back in the day, I sold local radio advertising and had to go up against people who wouldn’t buy in my market because they bought X number of markets in the state and we were just below that. On my radio show that we did earlier today, I had on somebody that’s creating some software, it’s in private beta right now and I’ve been using it for a few months and we’re able to go in and see things in the relationship…we can speculate where it was going. So I’ve been doing a lot of things with publishing and authors there, moved to where I wanted to live, set myself up in a home office and work when I want and my philosophy is that if you can tell the difference between work and play, you’re not doing one of them right. I like to think of return on investment as meaning getting the most out of everything you do. We had a pitch that we were in an area that they weren’t covering and they needed to buy our station, but we weren’t one of the markets they were used to buying. Every tweet that’s happened –I talk a lot about Twitter because it’s so easy to get down to, very finite, 140 characters you don’t have to worry about the length or anything like that.
I’m finding a lot of people are afraid of the content, they don’t know what to create, they’re afraid they’re going to make a mistake on it, they spend all their time preparing and talking about doing it instead of doing it. For me, if I’m going to invest in the landscaping in my yard, I’d look where I could buy for the best deal and put my money to the best use and get the most bang for my buck. I went up against this every day with people telling me, “It’s just not in our budget.” Well, where did the budget come from?
But Facebook, any other connection, how many emails you get responded to, whether or not somebody phones when you send them a postcard, it’s the same basic math.
We got talking about where this is going and I said, “You guys have the fire hose of the Twitter API, the API being the application programming interface, how they get the data from Twitter to react with it, sent tweets and display tweets. I can imagine if you’re in a corporation and you have to answer to people, especially about ROI, that becomes something else. I’ve spent a lot of time working with people who sell content, the books and quite often an author has other things where they’d sell, either their speaking or their seminar or consulting gig behind the book.
The funny thing is that when I started, it was about using broadcasting to print, and today I find the same justification for why somebody is going to continue buying banner ads instead of moving forward with buying social media.
Right now they’re focusing on hashtags and some different things, but I said, “When you start getting this, let’s say we have a relationship and we talk to each other and over a two to three year period of time, I find that I was talking to you every day for a week back in 2010. All the time I take a look at what works—I don’t want to work anymore than I have to, so I find out what works and I do that, and more and more, over the years, I just keep finding out that the more I give, the better job I do at things like this–free content—and the more somebody is going to want to come to me and use me for the things that I can do, consulting on their individual project or whatever else they need.

So what we’ve found is that no matter where you get it, you want to get the money at some point.
After that we went a few months, but every once in a while I’d retweet something you had or you’d reply to something I’d posted, or we both were involved in conversation.
To us, in viewing information, products and selling those kinds of things and in publishing, it very much is how many dollars you can take in. It’s definitely changed a lot since you and I got into business, but today it’s changing faster and faster and I’ve never met anybody who thinks that rate of change is going to slow down.
Then I see that we found out we had a common interest in something so we talked about once a week for two to three weeks and set up a meeting and you bought something.
I think in a larger context we have to keep in mind that you have to set some kind of goal and measure against it.
Think back to how the world’s different from 10 years, 20 years, 30 years ago—however long you’ve been in business—and then look forward, imagining you’re planning on being alive and being in business 10 years from now, you’ve got to deal with the fact that it’s going to change.
There’s a trend there, it’s recorded, we just don’t have a way to measure that right now and find out that it was happening. It may be that for every reader that you can only track, that you can only make a penny off of a reader, and if you don’t get enough readers to measure what it costs to create the content, then you’ve got to figure out how do you make that two cents?
My favorite metaphor for this is Moore’s Law, which is Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel said, “The speed of processors and micro-processors (and that was in 1975) was going to double every 18 months and the price of memory was going to drop by about half, they found out it works on hard drives and all sorts of different things, and the last calculation (I check on this on a regular basis) is that they feel very positive about that trend continuing until 2025. If you already know that every person walking into a store or every person calling for a new contract is on average going to be worth a certain amount of money, you can measure against any number in the value chain, and really should. Which means that as far forward as I can project, I can count on the computer that I use being twice as good as the computer that was a couple of years old.
The world is changing faster and faster and I think the reason why we don’t change even faster than we do today, is because people want to hang on to what they know works.
If I send out three different tweets and one of them gets people talking and the other one nobody does anything, and the third one, one person, a troll, comes up and wants to get into an argument, well that first one is the one I’m going to use.
That’s only natural, we want to go back and if the factory closed and it cost some jobs, we want to figure out where can we find jobs to put those people to work where we need manufacturing jobs? And that’s for 140 characters; you always want to be measuring something and if you continually improve those types of things it will add up to being the ROI that we talk about as being a bottom line or cash in the bank. Looking at the studies that say that manufacturing is making more money than it ever has before, but there are far fewer people employed in manufacturing than there were 10 years ago. We’re not talking about manufacturing stuff overseas and bringing it here, we’re talking about the base manufacturing. The world changes that fast, but we’re so used to talking about it in a certain way we get stuck in that. If your job hasn’t changed and the product you’re working on is a cash cow, if you’re in a profitable division and everything’s fine, just count on it not being that way in five years and start planning for it.

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