Content marketing is the art of creating and distributing relevant and valuable information to drive more engagement, traffic, leads and closes. Content may include email, blogs, direct mail, visual (e.g. infographics, tables, graphics), conference presentations, webinars, and gated content (e.g. eBooks, case studies, white papers). Typically, the target audience is clearly defined and well understood. Many successful content marketers have personas for the target market segments as well as a content marketing strategy.
Taking these channels, personas and segments into consideration, the marketer must create fresh, relevant and valuable content that is not simply a repackaging of what others have said and, deploy the content on an ongoing basis and according to a marketing calendar. Herein lies the stumbling block for some – creating the content, especially content that is fresh, relevant and valuable to the target.
RESEARCH FINDINGS CAN FUEL THE MARKETING CONTENT DEVELOPMENT FUNNEL
Research findings (data and insights) are an excellent source of fodder for marketing content. They are also very useful in positioning the publisher as a thought leader in the particular topic area. Furthermore, research can be the gift that keeps giving in terms of fueling the marketing content development funnel. This said, it is important to let the marketing calendar drive the research conducted and not let the research drive the calendar.
There are a variety of sources that you might consider as you work on data-driven content development:
Previously Completed Research
Past research reports are a treasure trove of material for content development. While these studies were not purposefully built as input for marketing content, many can be repurposed. The key, of course, is not to give away anything that would compromise your business in any way. And it is important to keep the target audience in mind ensuring that anything you share is relevant and engaging.
Custom Designed Qualitative Research
There are many ways to conduct qualitative research that are not expensive and can fuel the content pipeline. Formal or informal Focus Groups and Depth Interviews are one way to gather qualitative data and insight. Other simple ways might include posing questions to your brand’s Facebook followers, inviting some to engage in digital journaling about a specific topic, or posing questions via email to senior executives at your brand. The line of questioning should be based on the content you require for your marketing content calendar. And, be careful not to lead the witness. Your customers will notice if differing perspectives are not presented.
Custom Designed Quantitative Research
SurveyMonkey and similar applications provide an inexpensive way for brands to conduct surveys that are custom designed with content development in mind. These days, many of these platforms provide access to consumers and business representatives (referred to as respondents) who are willing to participate in your survey. Alternatively, you can use your own customers as study participants. Pose questions in a straight forward, unbiased manner and avoid double or multi-barreled questions. Include a series of demographic (e.g. age, gender) and psychographic (e.g. behavior, lifestyle characteristics) questions so you can slice and dice the findings in different ways.
If you have statistical bench strength at your organization, you might consider using statistical modeling techniques to extract new and reportable patterns in existing data (e.g. past quantitative research, transaction data) or data that you purchase from a data purveyor such as Acxiom, Claritas or Experian.
Social Media Monitoring and Aggregation
Social media can also be a rich source of new and interesting content. Sharing trends from social media monitoring and aggregation with your existing and potential customers can be very compelling.
THREE CASE STUDIES
Here are some case studies that outline how research can be used for data driven content development.
Qualitative Research with Students to Create Content Targeting Educators
Educators nationwide are seeking to improve the student’s postsecondary experience with the goal of increasing retention and number of graduates. Students were interviewed using a digital methodology to understand their experience and identify ways to assist students in being successful during their journey as students. Students at varying points in their postsecondary education participated and the findings were compared by class. Overall the project revealed great points of communication for advisors and counselors to use when working with students. The findings were used to develop content to share with academics.
Quantitative Research with Consumers to Create Content Targeting Physicians
A company that manages medical practices for specialized physicians wanted to understand consumer opinions, attitudes, knowledge and behaviors associated with a specific category of physician that is often underutilized in favor of a class of physicians without specialized training. The client suspected that consumers did not really understand the difference between the two types of physicians. A nationwide Web Panel Survey was conducted with patients.
Results provided proof of confusion between the two categories and provided insight on how to overcome this confusion. With the research findings in hand, the client created content for conference presentations, a series of webinars, development of blogs and other content for over 12 months. The client is also preparing for additional qualitative research to delve deeper into some of the previously misunderstood confusion amongst patients.
Qualitative Research with Chefs to Create Content Targeting Consumers
This project entailed delivering data to build content for consumers about a freshly available food product that was being underutilized due to misinformation. (Due to a confidentiality agreement, the actual food product cannot be mentioned here. We will use “bananas” as a pseudonym.) A two-phased qualitative research project was implemented where gourmet chefs were sent a box of “bananas” and asked to prepare a meal with the product and to video or photograph dish preparation as well as the final dish. Then, In-Person Interviews were conducted with the chefs in New York, San Francisco and Chicago to understand experiences with and opinions of the product. The interview was also used to understand whether the source of the “bananas” influenced use and opinion of the product.
Output from the project was beyond client expectations. The client developed a cookbook with the delicious recipes provided by the chefs and shared recipes with consumers. Blogs, articles and presentations were also developed based on the findings of the qualitative research.
DATA-DRIVEN CONTENT DEVELOPMENT
Using research to feed content development takes the angst out of finding fresh, relevant and valuable content. Research findings can provide sufficient content to fuel the pipeline for long periods of time and can position the publisher as a thought leader in the content area.