It’s not easy to calculate the true ROI of content marketing. 

Much like an elderly dachshund exploring a dog park, your customer’s journey isn’t always linear and can be very slow. Someone might interact with your content sporadically over the course of years before converting. 

(That happens to us all the time! Speaking of which, sign up for our newsletter.)

On top of that, ROI goes beyond acquisitions and conversions. It’s tough to measure things like awareness, understanding, or general affinity, but these are all positive (and valuable!) outcomes of content marketing. It’s the kind of stuff that helps you onboard new clients faster, build audiences’ affinity with your brand, attract new employees, and more. 

To understand the true value of content marketing efforts, rather than thinking solely of the ROI, consider the opposite: What’s the cost of confusion? 

How does confusion hinder your business, and where can effective content help fill in those gaps? From building awareness with the right audiences to maintaining loyalty with existing customers, you have opportunities to crush confusion and avoid these costs. 

The cost: Lack of attention.

Awareness-level content marketing is tricky but undoubtedly important. If your blog posts, infographics, webinars, and other top-of-funnel resources are confusing or unclear to your audience, even at first glance, you’re going to lose them before you really get a chance to make your case. 

Introduce yourself by giving your audience clear, valuable, relevant insights. If Lemonly wrote top-of-funnel blog posts like “5 Ways to Earn a Wild Raccoon’s Trust & Respect,” it would be pretty tough to effectively attract infographic-interested audiences and provide them with clear value. 

You want to show your expertise, but don’t make it so salesy that your audience tunes you out. In Lemonly’s case, a blog post (or better yet, an infographic) titled “5 Reasons to Use Infographics in Your Marketing Mix” would probably attract a more relevant audience and more clearly position Lemonly’s expertise. 

From a reader’s first glance, relevant, polished content (with top-notch visuals for clarity) shows you’ve put time and consideration into its production, and it helps build trust and rapport for top-of-funnel audiences. 

Talk about what you know, and do it with flair. 

The cost: Lost leads.

Questions and misunderstanding can stop the sales process in its tracks. 

Many of the same content marketing tactics that support faster closes could also keep qualified potential customers from dropping off due to confusion. Without effective content to direct their customer journey, a prospect is more likely to get burnt out and decide it’s not worth their time to continue considering you as an option. 

You have clear opportunities for content in the comparison stage especially. If a prospect doesn’t clearly understand what makes you different from a competitor, they might choose that competitor without realizing what they’re missing out on (you). You know what could help with that? A multi-column infographic that shows your product or service’s features compared to competitors’. 

The cost: Slower closes.

Confusion makes the sales process longer. The more time your team has to spend answering questions or making clarifications, the less time you’re able to spend getting to know the prospect and their particular situation. 

Having effective and engaging whitepapers, sales sheets, explainer videos, and other collateral gives your prospects plenty of avenues for self-directed discovery. These pieces of content are sources of go-to language that allow your sales and marketing teams to communicate clearly across platforms and touchpoints, building relationships with prospects instead of repeatedly answering FAQs. 

The cost: Unmet expectations.

As important as it is for customers to know what you do, they should also know what you don’t do. Confusing content can lead your audience to develop incorrect expectations, which can result in disappointment and frustration later on. Not great feelings for a customer to associate with your brand. 

Let’s use Lemonly as a hypothetical example for how unmet expectations can come back to bite your business. Our mission is “We design clarity.” Say we went with a different mission/tagline in our marketing materials: “We get rid of headaches.” To our internal team, it might seem fairly straightforward: We make things more clear, which helps get rid of the metaphorical headaches caused by frustration and confusion.

However, what would happen if we had a very literal client who wanted exceptional infographic-style marketing materials and also had frequent (literal) headaches? We could definitely deliver on the great marketing materials, but if that person believed we could also rid them of their (physical) headaches, we’d fail to meet those expectations. And we’d feel really bad about the misunderstanding. 

Set correct expectations and set your customer relationships up for success with clear visual content—demo webinars, competitor comparison 1-pagers, landing pages with digestible breakdowns of your capabilities, all that good stuff. 

The cost: Lost loyalty, lack of returning customers.

If your customers aren’t fully taking advantage of your product or service, they’re less likely to continue being customers, because they feel like they’re not getting their money’s worth. They might be confused about features, unaware of capabilities, or struggling to troubleshoot issues.

The second-to-last thing you want to hear from an established customer is “I didn’t know it did that!” (The last thing you want to hear from an established customer is “I don’t want to use your [product/service] anymore, and I wish we’d never met.”)

Blog posts, FAQs, explainer videos, email series/newsletters, recorded demos, and other content marketing materials help your customers realize the full value of their investment with your company and nurture an ongoing relationship. 

Use these informative materials as an opportunity not only to inform (duh) but also to show off your brand personality. Help your customers feel a connection to the brand and remember why they choose you and your offerings in the first place. 

The cost for teams: Internal communication issues.

In one way or another, any of the above scenarios can be true for your internal audiences (your team) as well as your external ones (your customers).

In the same way you might lose a sales lead due to confusion, unclear communication can lead to losing qualified job candidates or increasing employee turnover.

People like to know what’s expected of them and what they can expect from their employer. If your internal communication practices leave your potential or current team members confused and frustrated, you’ll have a harder time convincing them to bring their talent to your organization.

Above all, bad internal communications lead to wasted time — time spent asking and answering questions, replacing employees who get burnt out and leave, reading through dense policies, struggling with inefficient change management, and/or rubbing one’s temples to relieve frustration headaches.

The informational content strategies that work for sales can also work for your internal comms. Your communication should be efficient, engaging, and easy to understand, no matter your audience. Using visual content (icons, charts, bullet points, models, etc.) and a variety of communication mediums (videos, email newsletters, microcontent) can cut confusion and power productivity for your team. 

We talk about internal comms a lot (we’re big fans). Check out some more of our favorite internal communication resources.

ROI = Rely on Infographics

Okay, so it’s not as simple as using infographics for absolutely everything in your content marketing mix, but visual content is definitely your friend when it comes to cutting confusion and creating value through content marketing.

With solid visual content, you attract and retain relevant audiences, enjoy a smoother (and more successful) sales process, set clear expectations with customers, and continue building on those relationships for lasting loyalty. And, of course, your internal team will love it, too. 

Ready to dive even deeper into visual content? Download our ebook or borrow some Lemonly brainpower with a friendly call to talk about your communication challenges (and how sweet visuals can help).