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Data’s vital role in shaping content

At B2B Marketing’s recent Content Avalanche conference, data was a recurring theme. Its importance was highlighted by speakers including Gareth Case from Xchanging with his 4D Methodology and Laila Lotfi when discussing Redgate Software’s Ricky Leeks campaign.

Content planning, creation, execution and measurement all featured in the sessions – with references to data peppered throughout. As a self-confessed enthusiast, I’m naturally drawn to inspiring applications of data. But I’m the first to admit that not everybody is that way inclined. So I’ve collated some key conference takeaways surrounding the role of data. Achieving stand-out from the content avalanche is no mean feat. But smarter use of data can give you a head-start.   

Buyer personas

Personas were mentioned by almost every speaker. Naturally a persona-led strategy begins with researching, understanding and segmenting your audience. But speaker Frederic Baffou from Reed Elsevier suggested taking this to another level. He says personas can be defined not just by job function or industry, but by their current position in the buying funnel. This is where CRM or automation data can add a valuable, if complex, dimension to persona development.

Media choice

Different users have different preferences in their consumption of content. It follows that marketers need to reproduce content in multiple formats to facilitate choice and maximise visibility. You can go a step further though. A truly effective programme will analyse a particular user’s media preference then drill down into details surrounding the time of day and context in which they consume content, as well as the type of device they are using. This marks the difference between offering all choices versus predicting actual preference: i.e. serving the right content to the right person in the right format at the right time – which maximises engagement and conversion.

Single Customer View (SCV)

An inherent problem with social and content marketing can be the potential for data gaps. A prospect may engage deeply with a brand online without them being able to capture certain contact information. This can result in an inbound lead being nurtured and passed on to sales with a disconnect between what’s happening online and any existing outbound sales or marketing.

However, a sophisticated database solution can provide linkage between incomplete data coming from marketing qualified leads and other partial information already held in the CRM system. This creates the ideal single customer view, giving sales all the information they need about the contact and the best topics of conversation, without the risk of overlap or confusion.

Achieving this level of insight can facilitate better lead conversion rates, and the SCV can also drive future persona development and content targeting. 

Creative decisions

Measuring page views, clicks, shares, downloads etc. is vital to understand which metrics are driving your marketing KPIs. That’s nothing new. But are you using these metrics to make decisions about retiring poor-performing content? To create more of the type of content that resonates with your audience? Or to help decide which pieces to repackage? Simplicity is key. Use content performance stats to make sure you are not over-complicating things or creating more work for no gain.

Content lifetime

Don’t be too hasty to retire content that isn’t performing well. Sometimes it just needs a little more attention to help it shine. B2B marketers are under a lot of pressure to respond to industry developments in real-time. Fortunately we have the technology and data to facilitate this. But the companies achieving stand-out results are those which implement regular checkpoints and content improvement so that activity is responsive, relevant and engaging. Analysis and fine-tuning can keep content well-optimised and extend its life.


While good content generally avoids a hard sell, it needs to prove that it is earning its keep and playing a role in new business generation. This is not easy. Even with sophisticated journey tracking, we are all familiar with the inaccuracies of last-touch sales attribution. Dr Dave Chaffey has some useful tools for overcoming these challenges on the SmartInsights website, including how to use Google Analytics’ Multi-Channel funnel reports and assigning a value to content goals. Regardless of the metrics used to track effectiveness, introducing tangible benchmarks can enable you to calculate a return that resonates at board level.

Tomorrow’s marketers

Gareth Case summed up the role of content by saying it will be the cornerstone of all future marketing. He went as far as saying that if you don’t agree with (or like!) this, then you need to find another career. He did mention another discipline though; one that will carry equal importance to content. That’s right. Data.