Content marketing has earned its seat at the “big table.” If LinkedIn is any indication, a simple search shows nearly 2 million professionals working in the field today — almost 200,000 of whom are in the United Kingdom alone. Until recently, “content marketing” and “content machine” were two terms that were almost interchangeable, but this no longer holds true. We are now entering the next phase of content marketing, and to rise above the noise, brands will have to harness big data, social, mobile and search insights to develop content based on performance.

So what exactly does this loaded word, “performance,” mean? When in the context of content marketing, it refers to quantifiable metrics that measure hard business results such as revenue, traffic and ROI. As content marketers, we are familiar with how to create and disperse content, but are often challenged with the question of what kinds of content actually deliver ROI. According to an Altimeter report, 70% of marketers feel that they lack a cohesive, strategic approach to content. Despite the vast number of marketers who are involved in the content creation process, very few feel equipped to connect the dots between what they are putting out into the marketplace and how it is driving measurable results for their companies, if at all.

The fact of the matter is that there is no need for marketers to feel left in the dark, primarily due to the unimaginable amount of data we have at our fingertips. According to IBM, 90% of the data existing in the world today has been created in the past two years alone. Marketers need to switch gears and focus their strategy on the ecosystem that surrounds their content — demand, social, pages, seasonal trends and beyond — to create and deliver a results-oriented content marketing program that performs.

Performance and demand go hand-in-hand

Today, content is being shared at an astounding rate of 27 million pieces every day. As the volume of content continues to skyrocket, it is effectiveness will inevitably decline. This means marketers must face the challenge of creating content that drives performance in an over saturated market.

Before creating a single piece of content, marketers’ first priority should be to understand existing demand. In the past, brands could pacify consumers with basic product content. This no longer holds true: consumers’ content consumption can no longer be satisfied by basic information. Nowadays, consumers expect to receive the right content, for the right topic, at the right time. That is a tall order for content marketers to satisfy.

However, by harnessing the billions of pieces of data available, marketers can get a much clearer handle on what consumers want in order to inform their content strategy. Rather than wasting time, energy and money churning out content that ultimately may or may not grab consumers’ attention, having a pulse on consumer demand and the channels that drive traffic will streamline the entire content process, from ideation to creation and publication. Leveraging both historical and real-time data to measure the reach and the effectiveness of content, will in turn help marketers to connect the dots between content and ROI.

Know what surrounds your content

When developing content, the ecosystem that surrounds it is almost as important to its success as the content itself — if not more. Marketers need to understand how factors such as search, social, mobile, paid and beyond impact the performance of content to drive real measurable results. If they do not, it will be all too easy for their content to get swallowed up by the content-noise in the marketplace.

The first step is to identify the channels that are most likely to drive visitors to a company’s web content, like social media or mobile search. After all, if no one sees your content, does it matter how exceptional that content is? It simply does not make sense for marketers to spread themselves thin trying to engage with consumers at every point of entry. Instead, they should funnel their resources into the digital marketing channels that will offer them the most bang for their buck. Again, this is where measurement is key.

Next, think about the type of content you are creating. Traditional written content is effective, but diversifying content with images and video can be a massive boon for your bottom line. Marketers do not all have the same resources, or budgets, but every marketer can and should leverage rich media. What is more, utilising multiple mediums of content increases the likelihood of being ranked higher, which ultimately boosts the amount of traffic driven to a website.

It is time to ditch costly trial-and-error practices that produce mediocre results. Performance is the future of content marketing —and the future is here. Understanding the channels and types of content that perform the best in terms of traffic, conversions and revenue is the first step to driving more customers to content and fostering engagement that delivers results. Target demand, optimise content, and measure results: that is all there is to content performance marketing.