How Does Content Marketing Actually Get You More Sales?

blog sales

There is a big misconception that content marketing doesn’t drive sales. But if it didn’t work well, none of my companies would exist.

From KISSmetrics to Crazy Egg, I’ve grown each of my businesses through content marketing.

To prove to you that content marketing drives sales, I’m going to share with you stats and data points from KISSmetrics to show just how effective content marketing is.

Are you willing to get more sales through content marketing? Check out this case study from my own business.

How we generate traffic at KISSmetrics

Ninety-nine percent of our marketing dollars go toward two channels: content marketing and email marketing.

Before I dive into the content side, let me first tell you what we do with email. We don’t spend any money to acquire emails… our only cost is for Pardot, which allows us to send out emails.

We spend a bit under $2,000 a month for Pardot. It allows us to send out an email blast every time we release a blog post. We also use it to announce webinars and send out email drip sequences to users who sign up for a free trial of KISSmetrics.

If you are going to leverage content marketing, you need an email solution. Without it, you won’t see a big ROI. I’ll share the numbers below, which will help you understand why you need to sign up for an email service provider…and you don’t have to pick one that is expensive either.

I use Maropost for Quick Sprout and NeilPatel.com, and it costs me a few thousand a month. But if you are strapped for money, you can use MailChimp, which is free.

From a blog perspective, we spent $5,380 for the month of January. That number usually hovers around $5,000 a month on the low end and $6,000 on the high end. It includes:

  • Infographics – the cost to do the research and design of infographics. We typically use Odesk to do our research.
  • Content writers – most of our writers don’t charge us as they are also gaining publicity from the blog. But there are a few writers whose posts do exceptionally well from a social sharing perspective, and we compensate those writers anywhere from $150 to $400 a post. When we started the blog, we used to pay $100 to $200 per blog post to help get things going.
  • Part-time helper – our editor, Sean Work, gets backlogged every once in a while, so he has a part-time helper who may help him moderate blog comments, correct posts for grammar issues, etc.

What the number above doesn’t include is Sean’s salary as it wouldn’t be nice for me to share that number with the world. He runs our blog and is the only person at KISSmetrics who has to deal with it. That’s right… we have only one person dedicated to the blog. He rarely writes posts as managing, editing, and promoting the blog is more than a full time job.

On average, we post one to two articles a day, and we try to publish a few infographics each month.

The end result for January was 727,984 visitors and 921,577 pageviews. 

kissmetrics blog traffic

Does the blog convert?

Like most B2B enterprise companies, we don’t just let people buy our product from our website. They have to talk to a sales representative.

The pricing for our product starts at $200 a month and goes up into the thousand range pretty fast. Assuming a sales rep is getting qualified leads, each one is worth a lot as companies will use our product for many years.

For the month of January, we generated 8,144 leads. Can you guess how many of the leads came from the blog?

We received 85 demo requests from the blog. Which isn’t too bad. And we also generated 1,948 webinar leads, which I count under the blog because webinars are promoted through the blog and to the blog email list.

So far, we are at 2,033 leads from the blog.

In addition to that, we let people sign up for a free trial of KISSmetrics from almost every page on the blog.

kissmetrics blog trial

From that, we generated another 3,024 leads. In total, we generated 5,057 leads in January—all from the blog. That’s not too shabby, considering that the total lead count for the month was 8,144.

That means the blog drove 62% of the leads for that month. Sometimes that percentage is a bit lower, and a few times I’ve seen it in the 80s.

Now, revenue is a bit tricky to map out as it takes longer than 30 days for our sales guys to close a lead. But because I have data from previous months, I know that on a bad month, new sales are always in the 6-figure range.

The leads coming from our blog are almost as qualified as the leads coming from our homepage. What we found is that a reader becomes a lead after reading at least 3 blog posts. Which is why we try to collect emails of our blog readers—by sending our content to their inboxes, we entice them to come back.

We know that if we can get them to read 3 posts, the probability of converting them into leads is over 46%. Hence, we are willing to pay $2,000 a month for email software.

From a financial perspective, when I look back at our 2014 numbers, leads from the blog easily generate 6 figures in new income for us each month, which isn’t bad, considering we only spend $5,000 to $6,000 a month on content plus Sean’s salary for running the blog.

Will blogging help you make sales?

Although blogging does drive sales, it wasn’t always the case for KISSmetrics. When we first started out, we didn’t make a penny from our blog over a course of 12 months.

Why?

Well, we didn’t have enough traffic, and we didn’t set up the blog to convert visitors into customers.

So before you go off to the races and start building a blog, make sure you focus on creating exceptionally good content. And once you do that, focus on marketing the content. Once you hit anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 visitors a month, you have enough traffic to start running a few A/B tests to figure out how you can convert visitors into customers.

Here are a few techniques that I’ve found to work almost all of the time:

  • Hellobar – it’s a free tool that lets you place a bar at the top of your blog. I use it on Quick Sprout, and it’s a great way to drive visitors to a page that collects leads or signups.
  • Banners – by having nicely designed ads that promote your product or service, you’ll also generate more signups. You should be placing these ads within your blog side bar and in-between your blog post and the comments section.
  • Collect leads – from services like Bounce Exchange (assuming you have a decent size budget) to Optin Monster, you can collect leads and generate sales when someone is about to leave your blog. You may feel this tactic is tacky, but it works well for almost every industry I have tested it on.
  • Email your readers – by offering a free ebook in exchange for your readers’ email addresses, you can increase the number of emails you are collecting. You can then email your subscribers every time you publish a post to get them to come back to your blog. We’ve found this works well to get people to read at least 3 blog posts… which is what we need before a blog reader is willing to convert into a lead.
  • Webinars – the best way to build a connection with your readers is to have a face-to-face interaction with them. Offering webinars gives you an opportunity to educate your readers, softly pitch your product, and more importantly help them out with their problems. Just make sure you leave a lot of room for Q&A at the end.
  • Respond to comments – if you don’t respond to comments, it will be hard for you to build a bond with your readers. It doesn’t take much time to respond to each comment, so give it a try. If you show your readers that you care about them, they will become your evangelists.

Conclusion

Most people don’t find blogging a profitable channel because they don’t know how to grow their traffic or convert their visitors into customers.

But if you can do the two things above, you’ll find that your blog will not only drive sales but it may also be your most profitable channel.

Why do you think I blog so much? Sure, I’m strapped for time, but blogging is what makes me the majority of my income. It drives leads and sales to my software companies.

Has your blog generated any sales for you yet?

P.S. If you want to replicate what I’ve created with my businesses click here.

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Comments

  1. Tyler, Easy Agent Pro :

    I’ve found that a solid Leadbox after the 4th sentence with a great offer for a free course converts over 5% of my visitors into leads.

    I then use this free course as a “Launch Sequence” Jeff Walker Style and see pretty good results. This lets me quantify sales directly related to blogging a bit easier. But like Neil says, it’s never 100% crystal clear where those sales are coming from.

    Great read!
    -Tyler

    • The “free course” IS the launch sequence! Great googly moogly!
      That’s an A-HA moment, Tyler. I’ve been wracking my brain to tie the two together without having to duplicate content.

      Why didn’t I think of that? Thank you thank you for posting your comment. (And thanks Neil for another great blog post -as usual!!)

    • Tyler, thanks for sharing. As long as you have a rough estimation of where the leads and sales are coming from that should work. Keep up the great work!

  2. Every month, content marketing drives the majority of my sales on my music website and my music education website.

    Content is king!
    Thanks,
    Vi

  3. Neil, I always appreciate the quality of your posts. Thank you for always providing value and being considerate of our time.

  4. Content leads to a question being answered. Thanks Mr. Patel. I have learned many great techniques on blogging and one of the great methods of capturing readers through a question headline.

  5. Tom ~ Raise Your Garden :

    As the Teenage Mutant Turtles would say “Cowabunga Dude!) This post was awesome.

    Can’t believe you spend $5,000-$6,000 a month on your website ~ but the way you explained it with the writers and all, that totally makes sense. Infographics are really challenging and time consuming to make! That’s why we decided overall, if a company contacts us and wants to offer us a free (and completely awesome) infographic, we do so for free typically and to the benefit of us both =) Win win. Working in collaboration. Other posts, we charge for but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

    Thanks Neil! Maybe we’ll visit India some day and visit!!!!!

    • Tom, I have always been a firm believer that to make money you have to spend money. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I am actually located in the States 😉

      • Quality post Neil, have learnt a lot from you… Having so much information on one site, do you ever find organisation an issue?

        • Chris, I am very focused on processes and documenting them so rarely do I have major issues.

          • Hi Neil,

            Do you plan to share how you document processes in your business that removes hassles and allows energy to be focused on growing the business? Man I’d love to read that!

  6. Randy Kauffman :

    I have got to start using email with my blogs. Thanks for the numbers and links. Your the best!

  7. Lot of useful and actionable information in one go.
    Also your blog is an repository of thought leadership.
    I have never seen any blog that has useful guides in sidebar :-).
    regards
    vinodh

    • Vinodh, glad you found it helpful. Thanks for the feedback. Looking forward to hearing much more from you!

      • I found that(after reading this writeup) long form content brings sales even for offline businesses. not just online businesses. my family owns an offline biz(I am a web developer) . we used hello bar and responding for comments to our blog posts related to the industry. we were surprised to have increase in sales. thanks

        • Vinodh, glad to help. Long form content, when done right, can you help you achieve some great results.

          Keep up the great work!

  8. Having a Blog section for any online business is a great idea. I realized it when i got a $150 project through my new Blog. The project had nothing to do with my blog topic but still i got an opportunity.
    Thanks to my Blog.

    Awesome Post Bro.

    • Kaushik, that’s great to hear that you got an opportunity like that. It’s all about selling your thoughts and ideas with all.

  9. Yes bro you respond to the comments 🙂 and thank you very much for the inspirational post. It means a lot to me

  10. Interesting and honest blog Neil, but really surprised with the average time on the site site, bounce rate and average no. of page views, these all seem very low (or high for BR)

    • Guy, it’s actually quite high considering our audience is very niche and narrowed down. Thanks for the feedback.

      • Hey Neil,

        Thanks as usual – informative and interesting.

        Quick question – do you know of a resource that outlines baseline metrics, which can be used for comparison (like time on site, page views etc.) broken down by industry? (I’m specifically looking for non-profit professional related metrics).

  11. Susan @ So Susan Cosmetics :

    Thanks Neil, been following your blog almost religiously for about 6 months now, always compelling reading and love that you open everything up about your business including all the figures most blogs never share (well, except for Sean’s salary!).

    We find Bounce Exchange a bit too costly for us, but Picreel does the job really well. Thanks again for all your insights! xx Susan

    • Susan, glad I could help. I am a firm believer that transparency matters. It’s all about sharing the right things so you can help other people along their path.

  12. Great information shared..Thank you

  13. Hi Neil.

    Thanks for the data-driven post and actual advice on blogging success components.

    A good thing in blogging that it has (seemingly) low-entry costs. And even without your own product you can generate income by affiliate sales or by getting clients for your freelance services (and the latter option is easier for beginners I guess).

    Also, I think that quality content is essential of course, but may be the hardest thing for a beginner blogger to do (and will be even harder as the competence in blogging increases).

    Anyway, I believe that blog and quality content can be treated as sort of investment which needs to reach some level to start paying back really well.

    I have no doubt that those bloggers who keep on doing the things you described finally will see very good results.

    • Michael, thanks for the valuable feedback. You always provide great tidbits of information. I think the point about a blog being an investment is right on the money — literally 😉 . You have to pay to play sometimes.

  14. Another great post Niel, Thanks! 🙂

  15. Manish Rauthan :

    Hi Neil,

    First of thanks for this valuable information. I agree with you that content can improve or we can say accelerate any blog or business.

    I have a query this time, I hope you will give you answer.

    How you use Odesk for a infographic research.

    Thanks
    Manish

    • Manish, you can use Odesk to find freelancers who can design infographics. I used to use it often. Make sure you focus on their ratings.

  16. I love posts like this–filled with actual data and statistics. This is one of only a handful of blogs I subscribe to, and I have two reasons for that:

    1- Actionable tips.
    2- Actual data.

    Thanks for another “greatest hit”, Neil. 🙂

  17. Neil, I learned a ton from you this last month in Vegas on content marketing. I’ve been putting it to use. With blogging and content it takes time, but I’m confident in your tips. Thanks so much.

  18. Hi Neil,

    I don’t see the comment I posted before…basically asking some simple questions in regard to your post. Hmmm…apparently deleted? Seems like the opposite way to value readers and potential customers? I assume you don’t make a habit of this? 😉

  19. As usual, great post, Neil!!

    I’m glad I subscribed to your blog, and I never miss any new blog you posted!!! Thanks again!

  20. Hi Neil

    These are great tips! I’m going to try Hello Bar a soon.

    Thanks.

  21. Great post Neil, Thanks again for sharing some informative points that not only generate the traffic but increasing sales too.

    I always try to do something different with content marketing following your innovative tips and ideas.

    Thanks again

  22. Hi Neil,
    I was wondering how you are able to measure and verify the number of people who purchase your software after reading a blog article. Or — how were you able to calculate that the chance of them buying after 2 or 3 posts increases?

  23. Hi Neil,

    I read through this post 3 times and be inspired a lot. Thanks a lot for your sharing. However, I am very curious about what did you do to draw conclusion like “a reader becomes a lead after reading at least 3 blog posts” & “possibilty of converting them is 46%”. Hope to receive your feedback soon 😉

    Thanks a lot

    Jasmine

    • Jasmine, I just went off the data and numbers I’ve come across in my own work.

      • Hi Neil

        Great post as always – thanks.

        I’m also interested in Jasmine’s question. What tools are you using to get to the magic 3 blog –> 46% conversion?

        Assume KISS cannot track visitors who hasn’t signed in. How do you know it is that visitor’s 3rd time? From there, how do you do cohort analysis to get to the 46%?

        Thanks

  24. Michael Ruwald :

    Great advice, Neil. As always. But I recall a marketing tactic I saw that some bloggers and writers are doing: they’re acquiring market first, and then they create content based on what they have observed. It’s actually pretty neat. But those stats are good. Thanks for sharing!

    • Michael, glad you found the tips helpful. I think people should do whatever works best in regards to getting and maintaining a market for their product or service.

  25. Hi Neil

    Your posts like this are so great because you make the answer posed in your title unequivocal with some fantastic stats to back the whole thing up.

    There’s no arguing with the old ‘does content marketing actually work?’ question when you see figures like this.

    I’m going to send everyone who asks me this question to read this post – great stuff!

    Cheers

    Loz

    • Loz, thanks for all the support. I think having data really supplies the reader with valuable insights and information that they can’t get otherwise.

  26. Great tips, Neil, and I appreciate you sharing the stats from KISSmetrics! As a content writer, understanding how content marketing works is important to me.

    It’s super useful that you’ve shared how to use content and convert your traffic into leads. I particularly love your tip about responding to comments. That’s one thing that I’ve noticed is unique about you. Most businesses don’t take the time, but it really shows that you care.

    Alicia Rades

    • Alicia, I think a lot of businesses forget that a blog is essentially customer service. In a store you would respond to people’s questions so why not a blog — that’s my mentality.

  27. Great post as usual, thanks Neil. I’ll definitely be checking out the Hello bar, great tip!

  28. Fantastic post Neil. Really enjoyed reading it.

  29. Neil, could you elaborate on how you use odesk for research?

  30. Wyatt, Neil actually uses Odesk to source for people who will do infographics. Just like people use fiverr. So he pays them for their service. One thing he has said is that in sourcing for client you should use rating as a guide to get the best.

  31. Hi Neil,

    Great article as usual.

    I love content marketing, content marketing is very effective not just for sales but also branding.
    We can easily measure the content performance from comment, share, pageviews, bounce, time on page etc…

    Best,
    Tommy

  32. Neil, this article made me cry – with joy. In October I took the “Entrepreneurial stenghts finder test” and found out that I am lousy in promotion. Since then I spent endless hours of reading, asking and so on to find a way of how I could do it better – but had no real clue where to start. Just trying doing some promotion here or there without knowing what I was doing led to a 10% increase in sales (not bad), but I hated not having a clear strategy.
    Reading your article it made “click” and I realized this would totally fit us – i. e. my company.
    It is my dream to help people live their lives more strongly and assist them in a beautiful, clear and very down to earth way. My team and I have developed books and personal training materials – we do ebooks, but still also publish in print. So I can say that i very literally have TONS of content. (about 10 tons I guess – between 100 titles). Most of it in German (sorry!)
    So learning from you how to blog very consciously and collect email addresses was the clear strategy I had been longing and looking for.
    I could have kissed you after I read what you wrote and it made click in my brain.
    I will be on a killing steep learning curve now! Thanks for setting me on course! You gave a huge gift to me!

  33. kool cigarette coupons by mail :

    Fixed amount and percentage coupons, corrresponding to “Save $2.00 on”, “$5.00 off” and “50% off”, are maybe the most common varieties of discount cigarettes coupons.

  34. I do admire your strength and courage for your assistance so far,
    please do help me send an article on; ( 25 things you need to know on SEO before you make your post).Thank you sir….

  35. I absolutely loved this post Neil. Content marketing is the new SEO.

    If you want to make profits online, gain trust first. That’s only possible with your content.

    One question though – why do you often change your email autoresponders from AWeber to GetResponse to Pardot (currently)? Is it because you want to try all the current trending email autoresponder services or you’re endorsing them?

  36. Hi Neil,

    You just made my day . I have been surfing the web for over four hours today until i finally came across your article. You are definately right content marketing is a must if we want to experience increase in sales.

    But the truth is not all marketers/bloggers know how to create epic content.

    I admire the time and effort you put into creating this article.
    Keep up the good work and i hope to get more of your articles .

    Cheers!

  37. Great post Neil, every thing in one article really interesting. Thanks for this post.

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    Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It actually was a amusement account it.

    Glance complex to more introduced agreeable from you! However, how can we keep up a correspondence?

  42. After i do all in this post my website now get more sales
    thank you neil

  43. Gordon White :

    Hi Neil, great post.

    I especially liked the email marketing strategy. I’ve been building my list for the past 5 months now and I managed to get a decent amount of subscribers. The main problem I have at the moment with my list is the open rate. Do you have any advice on how to increase the open rate?

    Thanks again for the blog post. @BluenibDesigns

    • Neil Patel :

      Gordon, work on the headlines. That is the biggest indicator of whether someone will open your content or not. Try some different ones out and let me know how it works out!

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  45. Constructive Roots :

    Great post!

    There is definitely a huge industry shift, in terms of awareness, when talking about content marketing. I was reading an Inc. Magazine article not too long ago and this particular article was talking about the importance of content marketing for entrepreneurs.

    In the article, the author was saying that all business owners should think of themselves as being involved in the publishing business regardless of industry. The reason behind this was obviously content marketing. If search engines like Google can only search content, then content marketing is one of the best free mediums that a business owner can directly reach out to their target audience.

    Plus, content marketing is considered Inbound Marketing. Therefore any leads from Inbound Marketing have a much higher Conversion Rate. This is directly due to the fact that your customers are looking for you rather than you looking for customers. These type of leads are much stronger leads in the grand scheme of things.

    • Thanks for the great insights — Next time make sure you put a name on your WordPress login. You might get caught in the spam filter.

      Looking forward to hearing much more from you!

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  47. Humayun Rashid :

    Neil,

    Solid post on the value of content marketing. I’d like to get your perspective on a few things. I run a digital agency, specializing in building eCommerce stores for fashion& retail brands and we have just started content marketing as a potential traffic source.

    1) All of these tools you recommend are great but do you feel that managing multiple tools/services for email collection and analytics can be overwhelming? Have you used or would recommend an all in one marketing platform solution like Hubspot?

    2) How do you see content marketing applying to an agency that provides professional services instead of a product?

    3) How much initial content did you have to come up with before you ramped up w/ freelance writers and staff? Often times the idea of gathering content/data before writing can overwhelm first timers.

    Thanks Neil!

    Humayun Rashid
    DBNY

    • 1. It is overwhelming, but it typically works better than the all in one solutions. Hence I piece meal things.

      2. It works just as well. Look at me… I can generate 4000 to 5000 consulting leads in a given month due to content marketing.

      3. With KISSmetrics we started with freelance bloggers from day one. With personal blogs you would just write yourself.

      • Humayun Rashid :

        Neil,

        Thanks. To follow up on point three, do you feel that may dilute the overall messaging and tone of our expertise if we use ghost writers/freelance writers? I’m trying to weigh the cost/benefit of using a freelance writer to write about digital, web design, ecommerce trends and such and how that may impact our messaging/branding.

        Lastly, since you use multiple tools for content marketing, what did your tool stack look like when you first started out?

        Thanks!

        • Humayan, when I first started off it was pretty small — now I have a ton of tools to work with.

          I would test it out — sometimes ghostwriters can help a brand. I prefer to write things on my own, but it’s different for others.

  48. Meenakshi Jhunjhunwala :

    Hi Neil…. Anything related to content, say writing or marketing, and your name has become synonyms… loved this article by you.. We at http://www.saleshandy.com have also grabbed many points from your article and its implementation have done wonders.

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