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Data Is Vital Ingredient In Content Marketing Success

Driven by trends in lower-performing advertising and changing consumer behaviours, many marketers have embraced content, with 87% of companies in the U.K. adopting the practice, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 report.

According to the study, U.K. marketers spend an average of 36% of their marketing budget on content marketing, and 53% plan on increasing spending in 2017, implying a growing optimism.

However, even with the promise of greater marketing performance through content, there are a few key reasons why organisations are challenged to produce engaging content on a consistent basis:

  • 74% say a small or one-person content team serves the entire organisation;
  • 52% are not sure or do not know what content marketing success looks like;
  • 60% do not have a documented content marketing strategy.

So what’s missing in the content marketing success equation where resources are limited, strategy is largely undocumented, and measurement of success is ambiguous?

Data.

Forrester reports that companies only analyse 12% of the data they have available. Furthermore, a 2016 study by Conductor found that 38% of content marketers rarely use data, and 45% of B2C content marketers don’t target their content.

Using data to guide editorial planning is still not an advanced skill for many companies and, in many cases, content creators don’t have access to analysts to interpret data in a meaningful way or the tools and training to do it themselves.

Yet an international study by GDMA and the Winterberry Group found that 80% of respondents believe customer data is critical to their marketing and advertising efforts.

European marketers agree. “We need to understand data better,” said Russell O’Sullivan, senior digital performance marketing manager at Lloyds Banking Group. “And be able to translate that into something that can change our way of planning, creating, executing, and optimising any digital marketing activity.”

For some companies, most of the data available to direct content creation comes from SEO, and is, therefore, driven by keywords as a reflection of audience demand. While there is value in understanding keyword popularity, that data alone is not enough to connect with customers in the most meaningful way.

It can also be tempting for marketers to over-rely on data to drive content planning based on topic popularity and distribution channels. The reality is, customers offer the most important insight.

“Using data to improve our marketing and customer experience is a big focus,” said Jeremy Thompson, CEO (EMEA and India), Cision/PR Newswire. “With billions of people worldwide engaging with smartphone devices, machine-to-machine connected solutions, wearables, and the internet—we need to work out what all of this means for our customers…. and we need to gain actionable insight from the data to achieve our marketing goals.”

Many companies still take a brand-centric view of content. When empathy with the customer information journey is not front and centre of content marketing planning, there is no motivation to collect, interpret, and apply data. Senior marketing executives must make an effort to understand this disconnect and implement change and resources to leverage insights from data to create better customer experiences.

The role data plays in informing more effective content should focus on goals and measurement, successes and failures. It is the age-old approach of scaling what’s working and discontinuing what’s not, and it starts with clear objectives and the key metrics used to track performance.

Three Areas Of Focus
For senior marketing executives leading their organisations to more substantial returns from content marketing investments, there are key areas of focus when it comes to content and experience:

1. Discovery
Understand how the intended audience finds solutions. What do they search for? What social channels do they engage? What publications do they read? What information sources do they subscribe to? What are their influences?

For most companies, data is available to answer all of these questions and, when mapped to a content marketing strategy, solves one of the most problematic issues marketers face—reach and engagement.

2. Consumption
Delivering content to customers in the formats and channels they prefer is as essential as the topics and utility provided. Do your customers prefer video or long-form text? Are they using mobile devices, tablets, or computers? Which questions will you answer for buyers at each stage of their journey to find a solution?

Marketers must tap into the data needed to identify these content format and topic preferences. It is not enough to be found, marketers must use data to understand how to inform and create a great experience for customers with content.

3. Action
Findable content that satisfies customer information needs isn’t effective for the brand unless it inspires action. According to the goals of the content for the intended audience, marketers should use data insights to understand the triggers that motivate desired actions whether a sale, a share, or a referral.

Beyond inquiries and sales transactions, there are many other actions marketers can motivate in customers through content, ranging from registrations, downloads, demos, to social sharing and even advocacy to their peers.

Each of these areas can be informed with data. From web analytics to customer surveys, to machine learning systems and artificial intelligence, there are numerous tools and resources that chief marketing officers have at their disposal to leverage data for insights that can more effectively inform content marketing.

Building A Framework
Of course, to implement a data-informed approach to content requires a framework. Here are three sources of data to consider:

1. Search And Social Data
Google Analytics and Search Console, Moz, Brandwatch, BuzzSumo and many other specialty tools can provide marketers with actionable data insights for their content planning.

According to CMI’s 2017 Content Marketing in the U.K. report, 61% of U.K. marketers use keyword research, 58% use website analytics, 54% use social listening, 43% use competitive analysis, 41% use customer feedback, 39% use employee feedback, and 38% use secondary data to inform their content.

2. Content Platform Analytics
Content marketing platforms are increasingly integrating an analytics and insight component to better inform marketers about what kind of content is performing.

For example, Curata’s Content Marketing Platform (CMP) blends analytics with an editorial calendar, integrating with technologies such as Google Analytics, Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, and Salesforce, enabling users to gain insight into the revenue generated by individual pieces of content.

3. Predictive, Cognitive, And AI
Predictive marketing solutions such as EverString, and cognitive solutions that leverage machine learning and AI such as IBM Watson are exploding on to the market to provide companies that have vast amounts of structured and unstructured data to work with a way to understand patterns, trends, and even predict what kind of content or promotions will work best.

A solid content marketing framework that leverages data insights must focus on understanding customers in their journey to discover, consume, and engage with content. Brands that master their ability to document a data-informed content marketing strategy with clear measurement will be in a much better position to achieve goals in 2017 and beyond.

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