Content marketing is especially important for B2B marketers because transactions tend to be based on credibility, expertise, and relationships. The fact that content marketing allows you to build upon these three areas is a big reason why it's grown in popularity as an effective marketing strategy. After all, it can lead to powerful results, including inbound leads that come knocking on your door because they're already convinced of the value you bring.

So it's understandable that when B2B marketers start building a content strategy, they focus on content creation. That is, they try to churn out as many pieces of content as possible in the form of blog posts, white papers, eBooks, webinars. But are customers really finding value in all of it? Since creating quality content on a regular basis is a big investment of resources, it's important to confidently answer "yes" to that question.

Below are tell-tale metrics that should increase if customers and prospects actually like your content. 

Increased engagement across the board: higher email open rates, video completion rates, subscription rates

It's one thing if a customer clicks on your video. It's another thing if they actually watch it. It's yet another if they watch it to the 30 second mark — or all the way to completion.

When it comes to measuring engagement, the answer isn't necessarily binary, meaning that you need to look beyond whether someone clicked to truly understand how engaged they are.

Did they read your articles until the bottom of the page? Are they clicking on embedded links? When they finish an article, are they checking out recommended pieces that lead them to more content? This all influences how much time a user spends on your site and how interested they are in your content (and eventually your business). After poking around your site, if they subscribe to your newsletter or email blasts, it's an even better sign that they liked what they saw.

Another way to tell if your content is engaging is if your customer comes back for more. For example, if a user finds your email useful, chances are that the next time you send one, you'll get the benefit of the doubt and they'll be more likely to open it. While email open rates can't necessarily measure how high-quality the lead is, it's a good sign if your headlines are generating clicks and consistently driving traffic back to your site.

Increased sharing on social media

People share what they find useful. When someone shares your content, they're attaching their name to your piece of content, so in a small way, it's a reflection of their sense of judgment and their affiliations. So a good indication of quality is if someone is willing to share your content because they think it will be valuable to their network. If you can break through the clutter of social media, it's a clue that your content could be striking a chord with the right audience in the right space.

If your content sparks debate and broader discussions across social media, it positions you as a thought-leader in the industry and draws attention to your brand without being overly promotional.

A good example is the Lumascape infographic about how fragmented and complex the display advertising landscape is. The chart has been shared all across the web and is cited frequently by those in advertising technology. The topic doesn't necessarily have to be controversial either. The Lumascape chart is fairly straightforward, but it still got people talking about why the display industry is so complex, where certain players fit, and what the future holds.

Increased inbound sales pipeline and higher quality leads

If your content is effective, it should position you as an expert in your industry and demonstrate that you understand what your customers' pain points are. After all, your content should answer questions and solve problems that they're encountering.

When you give away useful content like this for free, the good deed comes around twofold, often in the form of prospects coming to you for further guidance. And an inbound lead is much likelier to be interested in hearing what you have to say than a cold one.

Measuring the performance of your content helps you understand what content drove the highest quality leads and the highest number of leads. This helps you figure out where to put your effort when creating future content, so that your sales pipeline is continually improving both in terms of quality and volume.