There’s no question that data-driven marketing is a dominant force in the B2B world. But does it have a clear purpose in your content strategy? More importantly, do you use it to clarify where you stand compared to the competition? Do you leverage it to measure and fine tune the impact of current marketing efforts?

Of course, data is a major player in proving ROI, but there’s a bigger benefit at play in the background. Data puts marketers in a position of power when it’s measured and used effectively. And as statistics and their role in marketing continue to unfold, it’s important to understand how to find—and make the most of—opportunities hiding within customer-specific data.

All these little pieces of digital insight reveal where a brand is strong or weak in their data game. And the data will illuminate new ways to build a more robust content strategy to complete with leaders in the marketplace.

Before jumping into strategies to tackle and work with data you collect, start with a simple way to look at how your organization handles data from a big picture perspective:

  • What kind of data are you tracking—clicks, social shares, sales leads, etc.?
  • How is data collected, how often, where is it stored, and who’s reviewing it?
  • Are there clear company-wide rules about the value of the data collected, especially the value of conversion rates?
  • How are insights used to inform content strategy as a whole or shape a marketing campaign targeted at specific buyer personas?
  • Is there a way to simplify any processes related to data-driven marketing management?

When it comes down to it, certain data sets may be meaningful to the brand and its goals. But the most important question for the brand should be, “Is the tracked data practical in helping create meaning and influence with the right customers?”

If the answer is “no,” or “not sure,” then it’s time to dig into what data actually is driving your marketing.

Get Data Ready for Prime Time to Build a Content-Worthy Strategy

To create a streamlined, focused content strategy that makes the most of what you already know about customers is a good first step. But can you add to it on the fly? Is it flexible enough to incorporate data insights as needed without breaking the whole system?

Well, it should be. In the era of data-driven marketing, a strong content strategy must be clear and consistent but also flexible. Instead of waiting a few weeks or a month to see how things impact returns, switch things up to navigate a pitfall. Or spend more time and money in an area that’s producing better returns than expected.

To get to a place of “informed flexibility,” marketers need to focus on the how-to’s of their data: How is it collected, analyzed, and implemented into a workable content strategy?

Here’s a quick cheat sheet to check if your brand hits the sweet spots of data management and how capable you are at rolling data into a stronger content strategy with a significant impact.

Data-driven marketing starts with numbers but doesn't end there.

1. Define the Value of Collected Data

You’re probably already collecting data on social metrics, conversions, content clicks, and ad dollars. But many organizations neglect to create a set of best practices to guide the collection and use process.

Data is only reliable if the methods used to collect it are consistent and repeatable, so connect with key teams to create rules and goals in an internal asset for communal use. In addition to consulting internal teams, factor in guidance from executives to inform what’s essential data from a big picture perspective to hit sales milestones.

As part of best practices, designate who’s in charge of collecting, processing, and sharing data. That point person will match specific details with the meaning behind them. For example, you have 1000 hits on a blog post in one day but only two conversions. Is that a good performance or a mediocre one? Does that mean the topic is on the nose or not hitting it off with the key audience?

The more you can align data with meaning from the start, the easier it is to switch things up as needed or create more of what’s already successful on a larger scale using data-driven marketing insights.

2. Analyze the Old and Test Something New

When it comes to freshening up a content strategy, you have to review what you’ve already got in play. Do a content audit of published pieces to see if they’re supporting key goals or if they need a bit of updating to address customer questions and pain points. Also, conduct keyword research to clarify top keywords for your industry and brand. Be sure to include these keywords in your current content catalog.

Next, establish fresh content goals based on the data you’ve defined as valuable, including those top keywords. Set goals around content creation and development using input from key teams that are involved in the buyer’s journey. Be sure to build a variety of assets that share the same key messages in a format customers prefer, such as blogs, emails, Q&A forums, social media, etc.

This stage is a good time to conduct content asset data testing, such as A/B testing with email or landing pages. Testing will get you more refined insights on how customers are responding to potential data-driven marketing strategies. Remember, the more customer-centric you can get, the easier it will be to avoid “missile-marketing.” That way, you’re not just crossing your fingers and hoping you guessed customer needs correctly as you shove things out the door.

3. Implement Data Insights Into Content Strategy

Content strategy is a clarity thing, but also a timing thing. With new marketing data in-hand and knowledge on how best to leverage it, focus on the roll-out timing for each content channel.

For example, a social media strategy is a balance of sharing your news and the insights from objective third parties. How can you manage both when promoting a new product, service, or feature? At the same time, how will the timing and delivery be different for an email campaign, on the website, or via ads? While independent in their focus and targets, each content channel should always be intertwined by keywords and overall goals.

As an ongoing practice in the implementation phase, it’s also important to constantly monitor results to see if you’re hitting the targets set out at the “define data value phase.” Keep in mind that making small shifts to improve results is not only common, it’s essential. These small changes are why clarity on the meaning of results is so important.

Final Thoughts

Once you have some data-driven results under your belt, apply those insights to optimize paid search. If needed, change things up every few weeks based on overall search results or explore what new keywords may emerge through search analytics.

In addition to all of the valuable how-to’s of applying data to content strategy, there’s something even more important at play: using data as a leading strategy.

When done right, data-driven marketing leads the way, rather than just retroactively proving the value of the marketing efforts already completed. And with so many other B2B companies tapping into the power of data-driven marketing, don’t waste any more time wondering if it’s worth it—just do it!

Your play-by-play guide to B2B marketing strategy.

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.