Data and content: often these two seem to butt heads, mostly because at their core, they are very different. However, one can argue that one without the other would be entirely useless. Data without content makes the data not actionable and storytelling in content marketing without data makes it directionless.
Data, while not necessarily creative, is a crucial part in how your B2B marketing creates the content and stories that it decides to tell its target audience. Without data, you have no idea if the stories you are telling are coming across as impactful and worthwhile. Data not only gives us information on usage, behavior, and trends that we need to shape content initially, it also helps us track conversions to learn if we are moving the needle with the content we are creating.
Below are some of the ways that data can be used to tell better stories in B2B content marketing, which can make your content efforts more worth the time it takes to produce it.
Discover Trends of What People Like
There are essentially two types of data: internal (your own data) and external (cloud-sourced data that we as marketers have access to). Both of these are usually collected via a SaaS platform, whether it’s Google Analytics, MailChimp, or an SEO tool suite like ahrefs.
Note: the writer and KoMarketing have no paid affiliation with the tools mentioned throughout this article.
Internal data is your own data that you’ve collected from users that are using your website, app, or engaging with posts in your social media profiles or via email marketing. This data is collected through the platforms you’re using to complete the action. So, for example, you can see who has liked posts or clicked on links from your Facebook posts through Facebook Insights. You can also set up tracking pixels or code to see how a user behaves across your website or with your online ads. If data tracking is available, you should always set it up as soon as possible. It’s better to have the data and not use all of it than to not have data collection set up properly and need it.
External data is “cloud-sourced” data that pulls information from either their own gathering tools (like SEO tools such as ahrefs does with their own web crawler, which works much like search engine’s own internet crawlers) or tracked behaviors from a large sample group of people that they can then pull data from to give insights about demographics and behavior. This is useful to get a handle on your industry as a whole, to analyze competitors (though external tools are never as accurate– they only provide their best guess based on their technology), and to do research on new topics or products.
While external data can definitely be helpful (Google Trends is a good example of this), looking at your own internal data can usually give you the most accurate view of what your exact audience is looking for on your own platforms. After all, nothing is as specific as your own audience when it comes to what you should be catering your content toward.
Some of the most useful insights that can be used in B2B content marketing include:
- User interest: what topics are users clicking on or engaging with the most? What pieces of content do they read the longest or most of?
- User path: where do users go and what is their journey on your website or in your app? This provides a priceless look into how a customer engages with you online. If you notice lots of trips to the help page after a landing page about a service offering, then the content you have on the landing page likely isn’t providing the right information users are looking for.
- Medium: look at how users are accessing your platforms and how those differences can impact content. For example, if the majority of your audience reads your content on a mobile phone, you should optimize for mobile reading instead of desktop.
- User search terms: If you have a site search bar, make sure you can see the keywords users are entering. What someone searches for may be totally different than what you would call it.
- Customer support inquiries: what are people searching is a strong indicator of what they are wanting from you or your industry.
All of these data points (and more) can be used to draw conclusions about what type of content can be created for your target audience. They offer valuable information about what your actual audience is looking for from your company.
Look at Location
Another piece of the puzzle that plays a part for almost any B2B (no matter if they are local or not) is location-specific data. From where your users are most heavily located to who is spending the most, this geographic data can tell you a lot about what you should be doing in regards to content. Content should always be written with your target audience’s location in mind, even if you serve clients around the world. There will always be majorities that you should be catering to.
For instance, if I ran an e-commerce digital products store and found out from my analytics that 60% of my customers were actually in the United Kingdom (even though I’m based in the United States), it would make sense to start shaping my content toward my UK audience. According to the Pareto principle, 80 percent of a business’ revenue likely comes from just 20 percent of its customers. Instead of trying to cater to that remaining 80 percent of customers (who are only 20 percent of revenue), B2B content marketers should instead focus on content that its highest-value audience is going to enjoy. Creating too many siloed pieces of content that don’t read by a portion of the audience that wasn’t converting anyway isn’t useful to the marketers, the company, or the potential customers.
This concept applies to the differences in content that happen according to a demographic area. For instance, my UK audience uses different spelling and phrases than US-based writers likely use. While it’s not necessarily a priority to use the UK spelling on all content pages, it’s worth researching if there are any industry terms that are different in the UK than they are in the US and including them accordingly.
Users in different locations may also need different products or services than other areas. This will make a difference with producing content as well. For instance, a remote sensor provider will likely see more success in marketing their humidity sensors to a tropical climate than something used for colder climates. Hence, writing an ebook about tracking humidity for commercial businesses is going to generate more interest when the majority of a company’s users are based in a location where that is useful.
Location can also influence behavior. For instance, San Francisco and Denver are frequently recognized as some of the healthiest metropolitan areas with the lowest obesity rates. If you are an insurance company looking to promote your corporate wellness programs, it would make sense to make different guides based on location. Metropolitan areas that are the least healthy are going to need and want different content than those that are already relatively healthy, on average.
Look at Demographics
The other demographics of your users are important as well. Things like age, gender, and behavior all greatly influence what types of content a user is going to be interested in. Someone who is considered Generation Z is going to have different interests and reading apprehension style than an older millennial who is nearing 40.
Here are some other things to consider about demographics when you are creating content:
- Language: younger professionals usually speak more casually than older ones nearing retirement. However, don’t pander to them— it is still business and using more emojis in your content isn’t magically going to make someone like your business more.
- Hobbies and interests: this is similar to user interest mentioned above, but deals with what your target audience has in common as a group. For instance, CEOs of startups may be more likely to run marathons. This could be something that would be useful to shape content around if you are a health program provider to startups.
- Gender: We are living in an age of gender awareness, and it’s important to be respectful of that. Don’t always use male examples or pronouns in your content and be aware of the fact that women are staying in the workplace at the same rate as men.
- Race: Be sure to include photos in your content that accurately reflect our nation (and no, simply making sure your stock photos have diversity won’t cut it).
But a note on demographics: when it comes to differences like race or gender, make sure you are using language and strategy that is respectful and uplifts underrepresented groups instead of including them to seem relevant or politically correct.
Look at What Sticks Out
The final way to use data that not every content marketer is doing is to look at anomalies. Too many content marketers are stuck in the modicum of metrics that are important but aren’t enough to really make big moves. If you or the executive leadership is too focused on things like time on site, bounce rate, or website traffic, they may miss out on some of the finer details that can take a content strategy from okay to great.
When analyzing content, consider the outliers or trends that are out of the ordinary. We sometimes want to focus on always having steady performance, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but isn’t how companies that are viral in their industries usually grow. Good content marketers should always be looking for ways to capitalize on something new and interesting that is capturing their audience’s interest at the present time (of course, in all commerce, both online and offline, these interests continue to change and shift).
Here are some outliers or random data points that you should pay attention to, if they come up:
- Times of the year, week, or month that you get the most conversions or traffic. These should be the times that new big pieces of content should be released.
- A sudden spike in site searches or industry terms using a specific phrase
- Unique customer ideas or feedback left on social media posts or through customer service reps (good for product development and content angles)
- Blog questions that you get over and over that you just keep answering instead of writing content about it
- Questions asked in webinars or in-person events (often these are never recorded and saved)
- Questions asked by job candidates
Data doesn’t have to be concrete numbers when it comes to marketing. As shown in the examples above, it can also mean pieces of content data, such as phrases or topic areas. Data, in this sense, is basically any feedback or information that you are receiving from or about your audience.
A good rule of thumb is, if you see something that catches your eye, it stuck out for a reason. Consider and research it to see if it’s worth developing content on.
Writing great content for a B2B brand can be a challenge, but data can make it possible to have clearer insights about what your team should be covering. This helps you develop a content framework and strategy for every year, quarter, and month.
Data is meant to be helpful: take advantage of it!
Don’t solely rely on the same pieces of data that you always do each planning period. Of course, it’s great to always track your same base metrics (like conversion or click-through rate) to see how your content is performing, but consider poking around in other data sets and reports to find any other interesting information that can make your work more insightful and useful to your customers.
Let data guide you to go out on a limb– you will likely be amazed at the results!
featured photo via Pixabay.