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How Data Can Be a Competitive Weapon in Your Content Marketing

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes courtesy of Dennis Shiao, Director of Content Marketing at DNN. Dennis is a contributing author to the book “42 Rules of Product Marketing” and is Editor of the DNN blog. Follow Dennis on Twitter @dshiao.  

We’re competing for YOUR attention. Each day, you make a countless number of decisions related to content. Which song do you play on your iPhone? Which link do you click in your Twitter feed? Which article do you read at NYTimes.com?

The answers may be: Bruno Mars, a Buzzfeed article and a feature on abalone divers. Your decisions determine the outcome of numerous mini-competitions. With such strong competitive forces at play, how can we possibly get YOUR attention?

We can write about best practices, how to’s and market overviews, but all that hard work results in a “finished product” that’s not much different from other vendors in our space. To you, they all look the same. So what’s the answer? How can we create content that resonates with YOU?

The Answer is: Data, Data, and DATA
Whether it’s from surveys or customers, data that you collect, manage and analyze is unique and valuable. Data is a form of content that your competition cannot copy. It helps you gain awareness, drive conversations and garner trust.

Earlier this year, DNN authored a research report. The report was titled “Marketing Got Complicated: Challenges (and Opportunities) for Marketers at Mid-Sized Companies.”

This was a successful content marketing campaign for us: we created a wealth of content that generated awareness, inbound traffic, mentions on social media and earned media coverage. In the remainder of this post, I’ll share tips on how to do a similar campaign.

1. Ensure Relevancy to Your Target Audience
Our average customer is a marketer at a mid-sized company. We knew that providing useful, persona-based research would be relevant. It’s kind of like saying, “Want to reach mountain biking enthusiasts? Then perform research on mountain bikers.” We heard from a lot of mid-sized company marketers who told us how useful the report was.

2. Ensure You’re Not Duplicating Existing Research

For our next study, we considered doing research on how marketers use content across the stages of the sales cycle. Then we received an email invitation from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. They are doing similar research - it’s actually their fifth annual study.

Because our survey would be too similar to their’s, we decided to hold off. So search for existing (or upcoming) research that’s similar to yours. Pursue new and unique angles, because that helps you stand out from the crowd.

3. Consider Desired Outcomes Ahead of Time
While you’d never want to influence research outcomes, you ought to think about desired results. Surprising results can generate attention. In our research, 79% of marketing executives say it's a challenge to get (and hold) the attention of target customers.

The high percentage surprised some of us and it generated a lot of discussion online. In addition, results can identify contradictions that instruct readers on actions they should take (e.g. 80% of marketers rate measurement as highly important, yet only 40% have deployed web analytics: time to deploy web analytics).

4. Don’t Just Report. Recommend Solutions, Too
If all we did was present a series of charts to marketers at mid-sized companies, they’d probably read the report and yawn. Instead, we provided recommendations related to each of the findings. This made the content more useful and helped us build trust with our readers.

5. Create Many Varieties of Related Content
Your data provides the seeds. Plant those seeds to make a hundred flowers bloom. Using our research report as the seed, the additional content we generated included:

  • Blog posts on our website
  • Contributed blog posts on third party sites
  • LinkedIn posts
  • A live webinar featuring a panel of marketing experts
  • A SlideShare of the webinar
  • The on-demand recording of the webinar
  • A detailed blog summary of the webinar
  • An infographic highlighting some of the key data points
  • Blog posts featuring the expert panel from the webinar

As you can see, we used the unique insights provided by the research to create multiple flavors of content. If each piece of content reaches a different reader, then you’ve dramatically extended the reach of your campaign.

It’s fairly easy to write your next blog post or author your next eBook. Providing data-driven content is more challenging. However, it can create outsized returns. You should continue to publish blog posts and eBooks, but if that’s all that you do, your competition may be eating your lunch. Make data your secret weapon to win your competitors’ dinner and dessert.

For more best practice insight on using data to support your content, check out how the Oracle Marketing Cloud content team turned a research report into a complete integrated marketing program

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