Last month, I attended an industry conference on programmatic buying. Amidst all the discussion, there was one specific anecdote that had seemingly nothing to do with advertising that really stuck with me.
A panelist shared a story about her husband’s recent weight loss. Despite her husband’s belief that his time at the gym was paying off, the couple soon discovered the actual source of his new trim figure was because he had cut burritos out of his diet. The moral of her story was that advertisers must be wary of making assumptions and understand if they are asking the right questions.
This lesson can really translate to all aspects of marketing. As a content marketer, I find that it’s very easy to just assume that if I’m hitting a primary goal - such as generating marketing qualified leads, growing our return on investment (ROI), or influencing sales and wins - at an aggregate level, then I’m doing my job and my content is working!
Overall, your content marketing program may be successful but what are the pieces that are really driving the actions you want and what is it about those pieces that is making them truly perform?
Ultimately, in order for content teams to justify more budget and resources, marketers must be able to demonstrate the value of their outputs. Therefore, it’s important to set specific goals and understand the metrics that correlate to these goals. This data tangibly quantifies the actions your customers and potential customers have taken - downloaded a report, shared a social post, watched a video - and can steer your decision making, but it can’t tell you everything.
One of the more underutilized methods to gain additional insight, both internally and externally, about how your content is resonating, is by soliciting feedback through surveys.
Your team may be satisfied with your content outputs, but how are people in the field actually utilizing the assets you are providing? To illustrate, let’s look at an example.
Case studies are a very useful piece of content leveraged in the B2B sales process. Without the context of being directly involved in the sales cycle, I assumed a longer-format case study would be the most valuable to team members. In my mind, this format afforded more elaboration and specific details that could help get across the benefits and story. What I discovered, however, was that what my sales team was in need of were short compelling proof points and more digestible slide formats. Now, instead of sales folks trying to adapt long case studies into bullets, our content output is focused on this out of the gate. This means I can better control the message, ensure the brand is properly represented, and cut back on duplicating efforts across departments.
Oftentimes, you must solicit this feedback, rather than expecting it will fall into your lap. Develop a short survey that you can distribute across internals teams about how they are leveraging the content you’re producing, what’s been most effective, and where they see gaps. The results could be used to help refine current practices or generate a pipeline of new ideas.
With customers and prospects, surveys can help provide texture on your audiences and buyer personas by surfacing details on demographics, preferences, and behaviors. Additionally, surveys enable marketers to understand a bit more about attitudes, sentiments, and motivations of their audiences.
Ultimately, you can answer questions that your standard content metrics can’t tell you, such as: Am I reaching desirable prospects (decision makers, key targets)? How is my audience perceiving my brand? Is my content influencing offline actions? Would my audience recommend us? What motivates more consumption and what turns off my audience?
Surveys provide a relatively easy way to poll varying audiences in a scalable way, producing actionable insights that complement your other metrics, but there are some standard dos and don’ts:
- Do be conscious of the number of questions you ask as to not exhaust your audience.
- Don’t overcomplicate the questions. Ask them in a direct way and avoid a bias or leading wording.
- Do run a small test to ensure your questions are being interpreted correctly.
- Do offer an incentive when appropriate. Remember, incentives don’t have to be monetary. Offer respondents exclusive content or events or sneak previews.
- Don’t overdo it with open-ended questions. Open field responses can get you specific, unique feedback but are difficult to scale, replicate, and analyze.
- Do find ways to add shorter polls or "temperature checks" within content pieces - these could be ratings for whitepaper or reports, comment sections within blogs, or questions on event forms such as, "How did you hear about this?"
- For more in-depth qualitative research, do consider more intimate 1:1 settings such as focus groups or interviews but understand the increased time and resource investment required to execute these.
Content marketing is a long-term strategy that should be constantly measured and analyzed and, in the end, it’s about cultivating relationships. To really understand what’s working and what’s not, marketers need to dig in, get their hands dirty, and ask the right questions.