We received a number of great questions for our Content Masterclass competition... but we had to go with the fantastic submission from Nick Pateman - "What are the best ways to test a content marketing strategy before fully commiting time and resources?".

Who better to ask for advice and top tips than our line up of expert speakers! 

Here's what some of them had to say


Nick Garner, CEO & Founder of 90digital

Benchmark against your competitors.

Look at publicly available engagement metrics your competition have from Twitter, Facebook and G+ i.e. likes, follows, shares. From that you will get a feel for what content is working best for your audience, then see if your content creators can match these standards set by your competition. If so, you can get on with your 1st round of testing.


Oliver Russell, Client Services Director at The Big Shot:

Set clear metrics that show benefit to your business with deliverable results.Take your creative and sound out influencers of the target audience whether they be social talent, industry leaders or media partners.

There is nothing wrong with testing the water but in order to build on a successful trial make sure the campaign is scalable so that you can build momentum and develop a full blown executable strategy rather than having to start again…content marketing, especially in social channels has to be a consistent communication rather than purely a tactical deployment.


Nichola Stott, Founder of theMediaFlow

Whilst a content marketing strategy accumulates greatest value and return through commitment and audience growth; it is actually easier than one might think to demonstrate potential value and return-on-investment. The tricky part is being able to define meaningful yet realistic KPIs for what is likely to be a short-term, low-budget test.

Over time a great content strategy should have positive impact on every aspect of your digital marketing strategy, but for a test look at the most tangible immediate impacts such as:

- Traffic (look at Entry page visits to the content landing pages)
- Referral traffic (which will help you see how and where the content is
working well on social media or other sites that may have shared or
referenced the content via links.)
- Conversions

Depending on your product and sales cycle conversions may be unrealistic, say for example if you're selling bespoke CRM solutions to business. With shorter sales cycles it is perfectly possible to see immediate sales or sign-ups for services as a direct result of a great content-piece bringing in the right person at the right time.

Remember that your KPIs should include SMART objectives so be sure to take accurate "before" measurements and set a deadline to measure the effectiveness both a week and a month after all component pieces are published.

To get the best use of minimal budget you don't need to re-invent the wheel. Whilst there might be a great case for a super-addictive augmented reality game in your content-future, start by visiting your existing marketing assets. Get the whole marketing team together and find out what everyone has been working on and what content already exists within the business; thinking about:

- Do we have a PDF guide that could be re-designed into a pretty shareworthy infographic?
- Do we have a membership, VIP programme or similar email community with stories that can be re-purposed?
- Can we make use of social media tools to produce some really quick and simple content pieces E.g. a Vine series with your key people that shows a one-sentence snapshot of each stage from purchase to postage.

Commit a set budget and a set period of time, e.g. £1000 and five days of my time over one month, or £3000 and eight days of my time over two months so that you can see if no immediate ROI, then certainly an indication of time-to-ROI against that input. If your time is very valuable you should consider engaging a good content marketing agency on a project-only basis and this may even be a more cost-effective use of budget.


Adam Cranfield, Head of Marketing at Mynewsdesk.com:

If your organisation is unsure about investing in content marketing you will want to give a pilot project the best possible chance of delivering results, to make the case for future investment.

Be clear about the objectives: is this about lead generation, awareness, engagement, PR or something else? Base your test campaign on a solid hypothesis about what your audience wants. This applies whether you are providing content to educate or to entertain. Make sure the content itself is well executed: use expert writers and skilled creatives.

Most importantly: don't skimp on promotion. So many great content pieces never get the attention they deserve because they aren't promoted or "sold in" effectively.


Kevin Gibbons, Managing Director of BlueGlass:

I think the key word here is strategy. Often where it goes wrong is that it's content marketing - that might work very well, but this first thing I would suggest before committing time and resources would be to ensure your strategy is well aligned with your overall marketing goals and objectives.

Whether your goals are based on engagement, links, comments, shares, leads, sales - once you've got that in place it's much easier to start measuring and prove it's a success. Then you can commit time and resources, and scale it up once you've proven it's a model that works.


Neil Davidson, Founder of MWP Digital Media

1. Know Your Objectives -

What are you trying to achieve with your content marketing? Be very clear about the goals and the KPI's (data measurements) that you will use to define success. Consider testing:

i. Layout & design - of content on your key funnel pages
ii. Language - for headings, titles, buttons and calls to action
iii. Content types - white papers vs videos vs webinars etc
iv. Content location in the funnel - on a landing page, sign up page, conversion/buy page etc

2. Use the Measurement Tools at Your Disposal

- Google Analytics collects a wealth of data that you can use to answer almost any question about how your online users are interacting with your website and content. Spend time understanding how you can use GA to get the KPI information you defined in your objectives.

- A/B or "split" testing is key for content testing. Without split testing it is very difficult to prove which content works best. Take a look at Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, and Unbounce, or you can use Content Experiments in Google Analytics.

3. Test and Learn before Full Implementation

- Take the three or five best content ideas from your new content strategy and implement basic, cut down versions of them in a test and learn environment. E.g. you believe that creating a series of How To videos will help you better engage your audience and increase the conversion rate on your site. Instead of spending x3 days filming x20 videos and incurring that cost, pick two of your products and film just two sample videos on a lower budget, that use two different approaches/styles. So then you can test style A vs style B vs no video. The key here is to set up the test properly, ensure you track the data to get a statistical significance and then scale up the winning content.

By taking this simple Test and Learn approach to implementing your content strategy you will quickly find out which content resonates with your audiences in which channels - and so you will then know where you should be spending your content marketing efforts and budget.


James Carson, Founder of Digital Factoid

Content marketing is a long term strategy (think a bonfire) in contrast to a lot of campaign based paid activity (think fireworks), so it's better to take a long term view. A strategy, by its nature, should contain lots of tactics for it to work, thus while you might have a big long term goal for your strategy, you need to break these up into a series of 'little bets'
(good book by the way) or tactical milestones. For instance, you could look to impress an influential group with some content, which could be quite low cost, but then get strong reach because these influential people share it.

If enough of the little bets work, then you should be able to build up your efforts. I'm also keen on considering all of your different formats as their own entity (like Facebook / blog / email etc), but then using one piece of content and slightly altering it to suit the particular channel - following this certainly gives you more bang for your buck when it comes to content.


Warren Knight, Social Media and Digital Commerce expert:

Start small, maybe with a blog based on a part of your overall marketing strategy. 2 simple metrics can be website traffic, measured by Google Analytics and the 2nd using a plugin like ShareThis, to see how many people have retweeted, liked, email or shared. 

Using the same message, send it to you current email database and ask for feedback and the good old telephone is always a fantastic way to ask if they read/commented/retweeted etc.


Learn more from the speakers at the Content Masterclass! 

The Digital Marketing Show Content Masterclass will offer deep insight and solutions that will enable attendees to understand how the world of content can help deliver their marketing objectives. This one day intensive masterclass will provide you with all the knowledge necessary to confidently implement a new content strategy for your business.

Book your ticket now!

Digital Marketing Show Content Masterlcass, 2nd May, Ravensbourne College, London.


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