The Content Marketing Institute’s yearly research has consistently found that one of the steps that makes the biggest impact on a successful outcome is the creation of a content strategy. This should come as no surprise, since marketing planning is important to marketing success across the board. Having a plan or strategy in place is a key exercise you can’t afford to overlook.
In order to produce a strategy that meets your goals, you need data. Your data has a lot to tell you that can make your overall approach stronger. Here are a few particular ways a data-driven content strategy pays off.
- Data shows you what topics your audience responds to most.
At its most basic level, data shows you what’s working – which ads and CTAs are earning clicks, which blog posts get the most traffic and shares, and which eBooks and webinars drive the most leads. When you know what’s working, you know what to keep doing.
Data enables you to identify which topics and language resonate the most with your audience so you can focus your efforts more effectively on what they care about.
- Data can show you the larger conversation happening in your industry.
Your content doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You need to constantly work to monitor what people in your industry are talking about and who they’re following. In addition to learning from your own data, the conversations happening on your competitor’s social media feeds and websites have something to teach you as well.
A number of tools exist that are devoted to helping businesses gain data on their competitors and the influencers in their industry. When you add what you learn from outside data to the internal data you’ve been collecting, you’ll come away with a much clearer idea of what the people in your industry are thinking about and responding to.
- Data helps you better understand who your audience is.
“Know your audience” is one of the most repeated mantras in content marketing. Marketers have a number of tools and techniques they can put toward learning more about their customers and target audience, but data is one of the most consistently useful.
You can use outside data, like the demographic data available from Pew Research or research from industry surveys as a starting point. As you collect data on prospect behavior over time through sources like Google Analytics and your social media analytics, your insights into your particular audience will grow. That data enables you to continually refine your marketing planning to better suit the audience you have.
- Data shows you what types of content are paying off the most.
Now and then you’ll encounter marketing articles insisting that video is the future and you should shift your focus away from written content. Or you’ll come across a piece of content claiming that podcasts are the next big thing and every marketing organization should be investing in them.
Anytime marketers fall on superlatives or insist there’s one right path for everyone, they’re preaching a fallacy. The way to find out which content formats your customers respond to is – well, you can guess the answer by this point in the post – data. If your investment in video just doesn’t seem to pay off, but your eBooks get loads of downloads in comparison, then you know which format works best for your audience. There’s no one right answer for this kind of thing, it’s all about what works for your potential customers.
- Data reveals what content promotion tactics work best.
A big part of content marketing is content promotion. No one will ever see or care about your content if you’re not doing the work to get it in front of them. Content promotion can be tricky to get right though and often involves some trial and error before businesses start to see real traction.
You have to pay attention to your data as you go to determine what promotion tactics are and are not working. If your data shows you that a particular social media channel isn’t paying off, you can cut it from your promotion efforts and focus more on the PPC ads or PR efforts that actually are driving people to your content.
- Data can show you the path your prospects take with your content.
If a prospect reads one blog post and stops there, your content isn’t doing its full job. B2B organizations in particular need each customer to take a series of steps – moving from one piece of content to another – before they’ll really reach the point of becoming a qualified lead.
As such, you don’t just need your data to tell you how well individual pieces of content are performing; you need to be able to see how well they move your prospects toward the next step in the process. The sequence of actions they take is nearly as important as which actions they take. If your marketing analytics are sophisticated enough, you should be able to follow the full customer’s journey in order to understand the best path to lead your prospects down, as well as the specific types of content and topics to cover along the way.
- Data shows you how different personas respond differently to your content.
The next big step many businesses aim to take with their content marketing is marketing personalization. The more relevant and personal your marketing can get, the more likely your customers are to respond.
Effective marketing personalization requires having data on how your marketing performs with specific personas – even better if you can see how each persona responds at different points in the buyer’s journey. As your data helps you understand each of your unique personas better and enables you to more accurately guess at their behavior, you can make changes to your content strategy based on your increased knowledge.
All of these ways of using data amount to the same main point: data leads to more knowledge, which empowers you to create an increasingly effective content strategy over time. If you haven’t yet, treat creating a documented content strategy as a top priority, but don’t stop there. Hold yourself to the expectation of updating regularly based on the data you collect and analyze. With each year and quarter, you can achieve better results based on improved knowledge.Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0