It’s easy to look at the year ahead with competition goggles, putting dollars and focus on what’s next to stay ahead of trends, be first to market, or maintain influencer status.

What brands may not realize is the powerful tool already in hand—historical data.

Between collected raw numbers, wise insights from team members, and year-end sales numbers that don’t lie, data reflects the truth of where you’ve been and not yet reached.

In other words, it’s key to the interplay between business processes and customer connection.

Data analytics paints a clear picture of how efficiently your brand works as a content operation, leveraging the three key content operation necessities: people, process, and technology. When all three aspects work in tandem, teams build a content operation that’s a smooth loop between data management and marketing, tracking useful data to inform and support research, strategic marketing planning, and sales goals in an ongoing flow.

It’s also why clarifying and fine-tuning internal processes across the board is always a win.

When brands dial into what they’re doing and why, while deepening the understanding and value of content operation performance on customer behaviors, marketing becomes a true strategy, not just guessing and trend following.

Sharpen Content Operations with a Process Review

Similar to any new year’s resolutions or goals setting, brands need to be taking a quarterly review of content operations.

What are you already doing that works? What needs refinement? What disconnects can be eliminated or reduced?

Do you need a little help understanding the nuances of how to act like a true content operation that appeals to customers and tools to make it happen?

The effectiveness of the content you create is always guided by the answers to these types of questions. Collecting data just because, or never taking it a step further to find patterns, or using it to guide content development is a waste of everyone’s time and effort, even if the data is collected automatically.

Here are some things to think about as your brand opens up some fresh eyes to what can be done with content, raw data, and the teams who create content for a specific purpose in the buyer’s journey.

1. Clarify Purpose for Each Content Piece

At this point in the game, content marketing and marketing are the same. If you’re creating content, it’s for the purpose of marketing and creating a personalized edge to attract customers and open a two-way conversation.

For each piece of content, ask a few standard questions:

  • How is this opening a two-way conversation between you and the target market?
  • Does this generate trust, educate, or is it just click-bait to build traffic?
  • Are there stats that prove customers want/search for this type and style of content?

Make it a point to ensure you have the customer in mind when writing the content itself, but also be mindful where you place or distribute the content to reach the purpose of the piece.

2. Build on Long-Term Customer Success

When you look at the people or businesses who have purchased from your brand, is there a way for them to get more value or build community with each other? Is there good customer support in place to field questions and issues? More importantly, do customers provide testimonials and feedback, as well as actively act as ambassadors for your brand in their own circles?

The more you can build on customer success “credit” and create a clear process to reward current customers, you can collect some very insightful data. It helps to uncover new markets, reveal new ways to solve problems, or even gather more data about a specific target market and what they like about your brand.

If nothing else, having a customer appreciation club or rewards program can go a long way in building an ongoing customer connection.

3. Review Sales Funnel Shape for Cyclical Engagement

Trends in personalization, tech tools, and the increased savvy of customers all impact the flow of a buyer’s journey. What needed to be a set process that draws people in for a big ticket item has transitioned into creating a partnership type of relationship with customers. Small, useful engagements from the first touch through the first sale and beyond can make this type of connection more meaningful, while both parties get something they want or need as partners.

Data collection and interpretation can help a lot with this process, creating a clear picture of how customers find and engage with you and measuring the success of subsequent connection points.

4. Rethink Content Distribution

Are current content distribution models working? Do teams create marketing content pieces for a specific purpose (see #1), and actively share or distribute them to key target audiences through a social channel that makes sense? What kind of stats are you measuring for content: clicks, time on the page, shares, sign-ups?

The more deeply you look into historical data from the previous year with these questions in mind, the easier it is to see which channels are a good bet now. It’s also an opportunity to explore new social channels or revamp what types of content make sense to create based on the performance of desirable key elements. Also, keep in mind what types of services and methods customers use to research and purchase products, and concentrate more content around those part of the sales funnel.

5. Experiment

Yes, it’s great to concentrate time and effort on what’s working, but at some point, even the most effective channels were an experiment. Marketing teams need an opportunity to play with their hunches and have a chance to expand into the new with a cautionary toe, before being forced to pivot or make a sweeping change under pressure.

Take time to encourage creative ideas and suggestions or to follow the direction of an interesting data trail every once and awhile. It doesn’t have to be a big budget investment, but a little time, energy, and inspiration can open up new opportunities and strategies that don’t come up when sticking to the tried and true.

One of the biggest things to consider in the year ahead is the perspective within which content is being written.

At this point, customers are of two camps: aimlessly shopping as they click on what’s interesting or searching for a very specific product, service, and price. Why is this important? Well, it shows that content is first and foremost utilitarian and must be written in a way that enhances the customer experience.

As you move into 2019, find a way to create content that helps customers move through a website, app, or product in a clear, pleasant way. Nothing beats clarity for a customer, and the smoother the process, the more positive customer success love will spread like syrup on a hot pancake.

Katrina Pfannkuch

About Katrina Pfannkuch

Katrina Pfannkuch is a creativity consultant specializing in writing, editing, strategy & coaching. She's a bit of a data nerd & loves seeing how pieces of the informational puzzle come together to paint a creative picture. Catch Katrina & her insights on kick-starting creativity at @creativekatrina on Twitter.