Let's go ahead and reveal this "one data source" now so we can get to the really important stuff -- why the data is so valuable to your marketing content, how to collect the data and how to use the data to absolutely crush your inbound marketing goals.
The source of data I'm speaking of is your buyers (more specifically, your customers and prospects).
"Hey, that's two sources, genius" you exclaim! Okay...two sources...you got me. However, we can group your customers and prospects into one easy category: buyers.
Now, let's dive into why your buyers are the greatest source of data and the details of how to leverage this wonderful fountain of data goodness for killer content marketing results.
Why Buyer Data is Critical to Your Content Marketing Performance
All buyers possess any combination of these three attributes that make the whole world of commerce go 'round.
- They have questions.
- They have desires.
- They have pain.
If buyers didn't have questions, desires or pain, there would be no impetus to purchase anything in an effort to improve their condition. These things are intrinsic to a person's status as a "buyer," making their data indispensable to virtually all aspects of your business, not just your marketing.
The data we collect from our buyers grants us the opportunity to be the best answer to their questions, the solution that satisfies their desires (especially as it relates to status) or the cure to their financial or emotional pain.
Content marketing - by virtue of the medium itself - is perfectly suited to address all of the above...we just need to know the details of the buyers' current condition. Thus, our approach to gathering buyer data should focus on uncovering their specific questions, desires or pains so that highly-targeted content can be crafted to address them.
How to Gather Buyer Data
The most effective approach to gathering buyer data is so damn simple, it's easily overlooked: just ask.
With new marketing trends and technologies flooding our brains on a daily basis, it's easy to over-complicate our approach to gathering buyer data. While some of these best practices and marketing technologies are mandatory, most of them act as shiny objects that distract us (or numb us) from more obvious and direct paths toward success.
When we want to know something, anything, what's the simplest way to find out?
Ask. That's it. Really. Here's how you can do that.
2 Common Methods for "Just Asking"
The two most common methods used to ask buyers questions (gather buyer data) are:
- Online surveys (including quizzes & questionnaires)
- Good old-fashioned phone calls
Both are great options and have the capacity to deliver qualitative and quantitative data about your buyers. I personally use a mix of the two - about 80% survey (half of which are automated) and 20% phone call - primarily because there are only so many hours in the day and I like buyers to feel that they can engage using the medium that's easiest for them.
If you'd like some ideas on what types of surveys to use, these five survey types have proven to be successful for many types of companies and their buyers.
If you go the phone call route, I highly recommend creating a script or checklist for the caller to use to ensure the information gathered is uniform across all buyers and key topics are not forgotten about.
This will ensure you can gather large enough sample sizes for each metric to make reasonable, data-driven decisions (instead of opinions) when developing your content strategy.
3 Common Barriers to "Just Asking"
In my experience consulting with professional marketers, owners and sales professionals, many people fail to directly ask their buyers questions for any of these three reasons:
- They don't want to "bother" them.
- They're not sure what to ask.
- They're afraid of the results.
Let's talk about these real quick...
1. Not wanting to "bother" buyers.
Like any other type of survey or feedback mechanism, you must experiment with what frequency works best. But in order to test frequency, you must engage, because doing nothing gives you zero data. You MUST gather data. Most find that quarterly client surveys are reasonable in frequency, plus you can line this up with your quarterly business goals, quotas, etc. For prospects, many companies engage at strategic times within the buying cycle. Either way, you must "bother" your buyers if you are to gain any real insight and I think you'll find them more willing to voice their opinion than you think.
2. Not sure what to ask.
Think about what you want to learn from your buyers beyond just the general (and often worthless) satisfaction questions. You have to get a bit more granular so that you can determine exactly which aspect of your product or service is weak. This will help you determine what content topics to address. Focus on specific items like service, expertise, value, etc. Just remember to keep the questions to a minimum, asking only what's needed.
* Bonus: Don't forget to include a well placed question asking them if they have any business needs outside of your expertise. This is a great source of referrals you can deliver to your partners while increasing your value to the buyer.
3. Afraid of the results.
I love this excuse because it's just so damn silly. It's like someone never traveling for fear of getting lost. Get in there and get that buyer data! Train yourself to revel in the negative feedback because that's the data that most valuable. Aside from doing nothing at all, the worst thing that can happen is getting unanimously positive feedback. It's absolutely worthless.
How to Use Buyer Data in Your Content Marketing Strategy
If you've gathered this data correctly and consistently, your content marketing strategy is practically laid out for you. Win!
But how is that?
The data exposes where you're weak, what potential differentiators may exist and what's missing overall. Most importantly, your buyer data helps you understand their priorities and current status - beautifully paralleling the three attributes all buyers possess (mentioned above): questions, desires and pain.
All of which can be directly addressed with personalized, well-timed content.
You'll find your content topics will be easy to identify, so all that will be left is choosing the proper format, promotional methods and aligning them with your SEO, inbound marketing and/or growth strategies. Your growth goals, in particular, will help you to prioritize the procurement or curation of the content.
Now go - gather that glorious data and produce the most epic content your buyers have ever seen!
Still not sure who your buyers actually are?
Our handy guide to creating buyer personas can help.