Could Content Marketing Be Your First Line in Uncovering Strategic Insights?
By Kyle Harper on November 14, 2018
What do you really know about the inner workings of your brand?
Who in your office keeps tabs on competitors rolling out new products and deals? Who's your go-to for staying on top of industry trends? When audience perceptions and proclivities change on a whim, who on your team will raise the alarm?
Uncovering strategic insights has always been a priority for content and brand teams. Being aware of how your audience and competitors are moving is critical to success, and in many ways marketers are the ones with the greatest access to that information. Regular monitoring of on-site behavior, advertising metrics, and social media interactions can give fair warning for when your competitors are ramping up their efforts around a new campaign or a huge name in your industry releases a new product.
But what if content marketing teams could be more deliberate in uncovering those insights and sharing them with the larger organization?
Active and Passive Listening
Marketing teams often have data coming at them from a hundred and one different sources, and it can be head-spinning to try to pull meaningful patterns out of the deluge. This problem often arises when we regard market learnings as an afterthought-if you build out your content metrics and tracking to inform your specific performance, and then try to force it into a market research mold later, you're likely to be frustrated with the results.
Image attribution: Evan Kirby
However, content teams tend to have an implicit understanding of changing market pressures that they use to direct their content creation process. Topic choice, tone, and even format are all elements that are informed by what content creators believe they know about their audience.
By taking a similar approach to gathering industry insights, content marketers can serve as useful agents for conducting market research, without requiring an enormous amount of lift outside of the work they're already doing. There are a number of listening approaches where your team can use content to learn more about your current audience and collect valuable insights that will inform business initiatives going forward.
Generally, these tactics can be sorted into two styles:
Passive: Your team deploys content with the express purpose of testing a hypothesis about audience interests or attitudes.
Active: Your team deploys content that actively gathers response data from your audience.
Passive Content Intelligence
Before the launch of a major content campaign, there's a lot of data that your company should be aware of.
SEO keyword research reveals trends about what's on people's minds and what your competitors are betting their hard-earned budgets on. Social media and content marketing tools can include automated analytics for trending stories and behavioral information that might inform larger trends over time. Examine your marketing tech stack to identify areas where you could improve on how your team is gathering insights on an automated basis.
Once you've gathered the reports, a powerful way to put this information to work is to combine market research analysis with your other regular auditing efforts. When you take time to pause and review the performance of your overall content marketing, why not take stock of your market as well?
You can start building out easy insight reports for your larger team by focusing on three key areas:
Who are your audience members, and what do they want? Data like site visitor demographics, search behaviors, or referring websites can inform how your business understands the people they serve.
What are the ongoing conversations and trends that might impact your brand today and tomorrow? Elements like search behavior, conversations on social channels, or popular content pieces in a given time period can inform how your business understands its industry space.
What do your competitors consider to be important and how are they engaging with your audience? Changes in search competitiveness, alerts from PR and social listening, or even simply reading your competitors' content can help inform your understanding of what you're up against.
Active Content Intelligence
Many market research activities involve reaching out to your audiences. Surveys, focus groups, pilot programs, and a plethora of other tactics help reveal what's on our audiences' minds. These activities likely don't fall under your content teams' regular purview, but there are a number of tactics that your content team can deploy that fulfill similar purposes.
Placing high-value content behind a lead gate gives you a space to ask a couple of simple questions from your visitors. You may want to make these exploratory questions optional to reduce drop-off at your gate, but doing so will likely increase skew from response bias.
If social media quizzes have taught us anything about people, it's that they're more than willing to share information about themselves if it's part of an interactive content experience. If you can think of a creative way to ask your audience a question, wrapping it up in a content experience can make it more accessible-and shareable.
While product-oriented focus groups may fall outside the normal activities of your content team, user experience testing is a common practice that gives your team one-on-one time with your prospective visitors. Recording these sessions and sharing insights that naturally crop up over the course of the interaction often reveals findings well beyond the intended scope of your inquiry.
Image attribution: Thom Holmes
The core idea of content intelligence isn't to make your content team pull double-duty as market analysts. Rather, the goal is to recognize that much of the work content marketers do already brings us close to audience and industry insights that might be beneficial to our companies as a whole. A truly effective content marketing approach needs to both create exceptional content experiences and understand those experiences in the context of the larger, competitive landscape.
Gathering intelligence through your content isn't just about better information-it's about making your team key contributors in shaping the business strategy of your brand. Content marketers are uniquely positioned to inform the larger brand vision, but that can only happen if your team makes their voice heard and valuable to leadership.
Seek out ways to better understand your audience and marketplace through your work. Collect and report your findings in a welcoming way to your broader team. Show how the insights you've uncovered might influence what next steps your company should consider. This is a powerful formula for improving both the quality of your marketing and the long-term direction of your brand's strategy.
To learn more about Skyword360, the leading content marketing platform, can help you create quality content experiences and gain strategic insights, request a demo.
Featured image attribution: Samuel Dixon