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Content marketing research – a crucial step in your strategy

When it comes to content, the Internet is getting a bit crowded. For almost any topic you can think of, a search will return millions of content options. So it’s important to remember that there is good content and there is bad content, and “quantity over quality” is never the best choice for your business.

According to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ fourth annual B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, 58 percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months, up from 54 percent last year.

The report also finds that a documented strategy makes the difference in content marketing, with 84 percent of marketers who define themselves as ineffective at content marketing not having a documented strategy. On the other hand, B2B marketers who have a content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. 11 percent).

Research makes your content sing
In the age when content marketing is no longer an option, but a necessity, we need to make sure that what we produce stands out to our target audiences amidst the clutter. To ensure content falls into the “good” category, you MUST begin with good research. Here are some tips to help you master the art of content research:
1. Understand your objectives.

Before starting your research you need to be very clear about your objectives. Keep in mind the purpose of the research, why you are writing the content, and what you want to accomplish. For example, do you aim to help your clients solve a certain problem or just want to send out a message? Be very specific and honest with yourself. Your research process will be a lot easier and more rewarding if you remain focused on your true motivators.

2. Research your target market’s views. Use keyword research.

Getting the inside track on how your audience thinks not only allows you to create perfectly targeted content; it also helps to inform new products and services that solve very specific problems. The first thing you need to determine is your audience’s view of the world. What’s important to them? What types of people do they admire? What are their values?
You can do keyword research to discover more about your audience. Tools like Wordtracker and Google Adwords help you learn more about the topics your audience is interested in. We already know keyword research is important for search engine optimization, but keep in mind it’s also one of the best market research tools around.

3. Join the community you’re researching to better understand who you’re writing for.

The best way to do proper research is to be an active member of your own market. Be a part of the community you are researching by participating on websites and blogs that attract the audience you’re trying to connect with. Share your opinions, ask questions, track complaints, contribute to discussions and conversations, and ask the community for their opinions on topics you wish to test. In addition to the learning opportunity this presents, this is also a fabulous way to promote your thought leadership and increase the number of people seeking your content!

4. Help your audience with problem solving.

Identifying your audience’s unsolved problems gives you the opportunity to satisfy needs others have yet to notice or sufficiently address. Use social media and search tools to discover people’s issues and then apply your expertise, and that of third-party experts, to providing actionable solutions in your content.

5. Find out what your competitors are writing.

Competitive research will help you understand where others in your industry are thriving and where they’re failing, which is vital to getting better at your own content development. There’s nothing like knowing what your competitors are doing well to help you brainstorm your own effective content strategy.

6. Focus on real-time facts: statistics, trends, and interests.

Good content needs to engage your audience and convert them into “followers.” People want to be up-to-date and “in-the-know” and current facts, trends, interests and phrases help to achieve this. There’s an abundance of studies, reports and surveys being released every day. Sort through them since some are more credible than others and incorporate compelling new data into your content.

7. Keep an eye on where you wish to market the content.

Identify relevant targets for your content based on topics covered and audience types.  There are media databases providing this information for larger outlets and blogs, but for niche and hyper-local sites, as well as social media, you’ll need to do a lot of poking around on the Internet!  You can also ask your audience which sites they visit most often and why.  Once you do so, study other articles or videos in the targeted media to ensure you adapt your “voice” and approach to fit the desired channel(s).

8. Focus on delivering ORIGINAL content.

Content research can be time consuming because there’s an abundance of good and bad resources to sort through. Once you’ve pinpointed great information, you need to “package” it in a unique and compelling way in order to standout. Your audience wants an articulate voice that offers real value and is also an “easy read” (or view) that enables them to quickly absorb the information you are sharing.

Doing research might not be as enjoyable as creating awesome headlines, writing the first draft of a great blog post, or crafting the next irresistible offer. But solid research is essential if we truly want to be successful in content marketing. What are some of your tips for creating smart content?