When people think of content, they often picture the creative side of marketing, strategies that use words rather than numbers to generate leads. To use content marketing effectively, however, collecting and interpreting data is crucial. Clickz reports that in the age of the Internet of Things, when engagement depends on connecting to specific audiences in specific contexts, “fluency in data and analytics may well become a required skill for content marketers.”
In Business 2 Community, Ashley Poynter defines data-driven content marketing as “the utilization of statistics, surveys, market research and public data to inform and create a content strategy.” Most marketing strategies use buyer personas to represent different segments of the target audience, but without actual customer data, these are merely fictional characters based on guesses. “An analysis of the available data can help marketers draft more relevant personas, which helps in tailoring content to the target audience,” says Teresa Litsa on Search Engine Watch.
The same data that helps flesh out buyer personas can also help you tailor your content to your audience. Joe Lazauskas of The Content Strategist says, “Data itself is just one part of a larger machine. It may be the fuel, but you need a working engine that turns data into something that actually drives results.”
The author gives an example of how to turn raw data about income, location, media consumption, and other preferences into customer insights: “High-income millennials in the northeast are more likely to watch financial advice videos on Facebook than any other network, and engage disproportionally with content that triggers nostalgia.” Your audience insights then inform your creative content. For example, you might do “a series of 90-second explainers animated in the style of iconic video games from the 1990s optimized for Facebook native video.”
When facing the seemingly daunting task of collecting data, the best place to start is by analyzing the response to content you’ve already produced. Litsa recommends identifying your most popular posts and considering their content, length, formatting, visuals, and overall experience, so you can offer more posts like them in the future.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have much data of your own, Poynter suggests researching industry averages and benchmarks. For example, long-form blog posts generate more views, shares, and leads than short-form posts, so it makes sense to start with longer blog posts until you get a sense of the length that’s right for your audience.
One approach to data-driven content marketing is getting to know your current customers better, so your content can serve their needs and target more people like them. Smart Insights recommends creating a survey with Survey Monkey or Google Forms and posting the link to social media. Ask your customers about their biggest struggles, or “pain points,” so you can provide content that offers solutions and establishes trust. Find out what content format customers engage with; if, for example, your customers tell you they never listen to podcasts, don’t waste your time recording them.
If survey response rates are low, try including the link in confirmation emails and even in cart abandonment emails, so you get feedback from both satisfied and dissatisfied customers. Consider incentivizing your customers’ participation with a discount, coupon, or chance to win something, which can triple response rates.
While surveys are helpful, nothing beats a personalized interview. The opportunity to have a two-way conversation and ask follow up questions provides information a static survey can’t. We’ve all been annoyed by a telemarketer calling in the middle of dinner, so don’t make that mistake. Email your best customers with a request to schedule a phone interview when it’s convenient for them.
Lazauskas points out your sales and accounting teams interact with leads and clients every day, so bring them in for a meeting or at least ask them to fill out a survey to get their insights. Find out what questions or concerns they hear most.
Another approach to data-driven content marketing is focusing on supply and demand. By identifying what information your target audience is searching for, you can then provide that information in your content. Although basic keyword research and Google autosuggest are good starting points, more refined metrics are more useful.
On Target Marketing, Patrick Kuehn and Lou Amodeo describe just a few of the analytical tools available. Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner identifies information consumers are seeking but also the search volume for each term. Google Trends measures interest in topics over time to help you identify rising trends or seasonal peaks. Buzzsumo pinpoints what specific terms within a popular topic are performing best, and it can also help identify influencers, who could become your guest bloggers.
Writing about a topic that is popular isn’t always the best strategy, as your content can get lost in the crowd. Instead, focus on the gaps you can fill. If your customers are posting questions that no one else is answering, your answer will be uniquely valuable and your content uniquely engaging.
Smart Insights suggests browsing niche forums on sites like Reddit, which tend to have dedicated followings and strong engagement rates, and checking out Q&A sites like Quora. Lazauskas also peruses questions posted on inbound.org and LinkedIn because users include professional information in their profiles, so it’s easier to connect specific questions with certain demographics.
Once you are producing content that is getting results, data analysis is more important than ever. ReachForce emphasizes the importance of setting up a content calendar, so all members of your team, including any freelancers and outside agencies, have a clear timeline. Look into automation tools that allow you to set up triggers; as soon as your target customers take a certain action, you release just the right content for the next stage of their journey.
What data do you find useful for your content? Let us know in the comments how data drives your content marketing strategies.
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