Marketers in the life sciences industries will tell you, creating promotional content in their world isn’t a job for wimps. Start with the straight jacket that is regulatory compliance, then add aggressive deadlines, input from umpteen departments, and skintight budgets, and you start seeing a racetrack filled with hurdles that would make Edwin Moses cry.

If you’re one of those marketers, your ongoing challenge is this: how can you efficiently integrate a variety of cross-functional work processes and keep feeding the content marketing machine at the speed of business? One obvious answer is measurement. But measure what, exactly?

When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of their content marketing efforts, most teams focus on fairly evident user engagement metrics that answer questions like:

  • What content attracted the most attention (longest reading time)?
  • Of those top pieces, who was more engaged—new or loyal visitors?
  • Which referrers drove the most traffic? Which devices?
  • Which content led to the most conversions?

The answers to those questions are important, but they only add up to one part of the how-are-we-doing equation. Equally important are metrics that gauge the operational effectiveness of content production. After all, a more efficient marketing operation translates into serious cost savings, accelerated speed to market, elevated brand and regulatory compliance, and the holy grail of marketing—better content quality.

Here are five metrics that demonstrate your marketing operation’s degree of content production efficiency.

1. Time to publish.

On average, how long does it take to move a piece from ideation to publication? What draft completion date ensures a piece gets through the approval process in time for the launch date?To spot specific pain points that affect publishing times, consider analyzing the following metrics. (Keep in mind overall system averages rather than piece-specific performance.)

  • Total workflow duration – Hours/days/weeks from initiation to completion. Identify patterns in outliers—both longer and shorter durations—to find best practices and boost performance improvement.
  • Content revisions – Number of iterations needed to complete the piece. A high number could mean a variety of things—challenging topics, indecisive teams, weak ideas, etc. Generally, high numbers here result in higher costs and longer timelines. Look for patterns that point to consistent problems, and find a way to mitigate them.
  • Approver performance – The average amount of time it takes a specific person (or group) to review a piece. Analyzing this metric can help identify pain points—bottlenecks have names—and lead to ideas about how to improve performance. Tread lightly here, but don’t avoid the issue.

2. Time to distribute.

Once the piece is approved, how long does it take to get it in the hands of the intended audience(s)? Are separate, channel-specific reviews required? How many   independent systems are involved to get from point A to point B? Consider all digital properties and all channels (e.g., global website portfolios, sales apps, customer portals).

3. Withdrawal time.

When an error is identified in a published piece, how quickly can it be taken down so it’s no longer accessible to anyone? In regulated markets like life sciences, this measurement is vital. Scheduled withdrawal times—also known as content expiration—are an effective way to ensure outdated content comes down for review.

4. Production cost.

How much did it cost to create the piece? Which pieces were expensive but garnered very little traffic? Which pieces were inexpensive but received heavy traffic and exceeded conversion goals. This metric tells an important story when juxtaposed with user engagement metrics.

5. Distribution cost.

How much did it cost to publish the piece to each targeted channel? Did some channels have a high cost but deliver low value, and vice versa? Which channels drove the most traffic and qualified leads, based on the investment? Tracking this cost along with the production cost helps determine a piece’s ROI.

Many promotional review systems out there support this kind of tracking. If yours doesn’t have the power to deliver the kinds of metrics discussed here, you may want to consider upgrading to a system with more robust reporting capabilities. You’ve heard the “measure twice, cut once” saying; in marketing, it’s “never stop measuring.”

Once you collect a statistically significant number of data points from these metrics, you can create a performance baseline for future comparison and a plan for ongoing measurement. “Continuous improvement” is an overworked phrase, but it really is the name of the game when it comes to creating a lean content marketing and content production performance strategy.

Next post in this series: 5 Metrics Measuring Content Engagement Performance

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