How to take a data-driven approach to content marketing

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How can you take a truly data-driven approach to content marketing?

This is the big question we put to our director of data insights and implementation, Billy Maddocks, and Western Union’s global SEO manager, Stefan Zechner in our latest webinar.

Billy offered insight into the agency side of using data, while Stefan contributed his views from an in-house perspective on topics such as understanding customers, setting goals, social media and ROI.

Catch up on the full webinar or get the the answers to the key questions we asked below.

How do I use data to really understand my customers?

Billy: Many companies have some long-standing assumptions about their customers that are never questioned and taken as fact without any real data to back them up. You have to validate what you know about your customers - even if you think a particular belief is still true there’s no harm in testing it to be sure. You might be surprised!

Stefan: We are very customer-centric at Western Union. We do a lot of surveys and focus groups, and get a lot of feedback from social media and our customer care teams. We use that data not only to try to understand our customers, but to create content that really fits their needs.

In terms of tools, we have a variety at our disposal - we use a tool internally called Medalia for collating various feedback, we use a few tools for keywords such as Brightedge and of course Google Adwords. We also use some social listening tools such as Radian 6, but sometimes I or a colleague will have a look on the Western Union handle on Twitter or look around the web ourselves to read what people are saying about our brand and our products.

I also believe in the power of live feedback - everyone in our company, from a sales rep to the CEO, is encouraged to call our customers and really talk to them and get their feedback.

Billy: I definitely agree - you can use tools to get data but you should still get out there and talk to people. It can even be cheaper and much more insightful, and doesn’t require calling in a data expert. Plus sometimes the context of the data or how it was collected can be as interesting as the data itself.

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How do I set goals for my content marketing?

Billy: Everyone’s success will look different. We use both goals and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Goals refer to the broader aims and KPIs refer to specific indicators which can be measured. We use the SMART characteristics for setting goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. We use these for each client and for our website. For example, for Axonn, our current marketing goals are to improve leads through the Axonn website (through webinars, whitepapers, content etc.) and also improve the quality of the visits to our site. Then once we establish time frames, we ensure that everything the marketing team do is working towards these goals.

Stefan: Everyone who knows me knows that I live by my ROI calculations! Our marketing team are very performance-driven and we use factors such as revenue, new customers and retention to measure success. The type of goals we set and how we set goals varies from project to project. We work on a ROI-focused approach and have different calculations to assess how each factor contributes to ROI.

Billy: It can be hard to attribute ROI to certain things that might seem too “creative” and “fluffy”, but I think there is always a way to tie what you’re doing to revenue. It just might take you some time to work out the attribution process.

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What comes after implementation changes based on data insights?

Billy: There will always be a lot of things you don’t know and questions you don’t know how to find the answer to. After implementation it’s important to reflect on these unanswered questions and figure out how you can find out the answers.

What happens if a campaign doesn’t go as expected?

Stefan: Always test and experiment. We do lots of A/B tests on landing page copy, emails etc. and we even test different content types. As we are an  international company we can often find the perception of our brand varies from country to country so we have to be constantly testing. But I've lost count of the number of campaigns that haven't gone as expected!

Billy: If you’re not sure if you customer is interested in the campaign you want to produce, test the water. Write a blog post on the topic and see if anyone reads it. When we were planning our strategy ebook we wrote a series of blog posts on different strategy topics. I wrote a piece on strategic planning and not many people read it! So we didn’t make that a key focus in the book.

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How do you create a team that takes ownership for success? How do you get buy-in? What do you outsource?

Billy: The agency/client relationship should always be a partnership. We work with lots of clients in many different sectors, so when a client comes to us, we use the knowledge we have about their sector and they bring us their expertise on their business. There is constantly information going back and forth so there needs to be a strong relationship between both parties.

Stefan: You definitely need that strong partnership. We often find we have our own mindset on how to use our data, so agencies can give us a fresh perspective. We look for agencies who have knowledge into the particular audience segment we are targeting.

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How do you handle the number of social platforms available for marketers?

Billy: Although there are many social networks, there will only be a few that will be relevant to your personas and your brand message. Experiment to find the platforms that makes the most sense for your audience.

If you don’t hit your goals should you change them?

Billy: The first thing you need to ask is why didn’t you hit your goal? Was your goal not achievable? Did you set the bar too high? Learn from it. Keep the goal the same but make those fixes and keep working towards it.

Stefan: Set expectations lower than what you have seen. Always work with the worst-case scenario. Try to understand why things have gone wrong. And if you still aren’t hitting your goal? Move on and try the next thing.

Watch the entire webinar below:

Or check out the webinar slides:

 

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