Coming up with a steady stream of ideas is par for the course for content and demand gen marketers.

Not every idea is necessarily perfectly aligned, or can be followed up on, however, what makes a strong piece of content stand out from the others is almost always the research behind it.

Smart marketers gotta do research. And there are a lot of different methods and starting points to conduct the research.

To help, I’ve compiled some great resources for you right here to make the beginning of getting the content train moving a little easier.

Read on for 9 tips with sources to research your upcoming content campaigns.

1. Scope Out Successful Campaigns

Before you embark on your next content campaign, get a handle on what’s working well right now.

Since Moz pulled the plug on their Moz Content tool in November this year, BuzzSumo is arguably the best content research tool in town – and the best tool to use to scope out successful campaigns.

Use BuzzSumo to find out what content is performing best for key influencers in your market. You can also see what topics and keywords are getting the most attention.

The BuzzSumo report will tell you how many shares each piece of content got across the various social media channels, how long the content is, and the number and quality of backlinks.

2. Research Your Competition

Use a tool like Twitonomy or Followerwonk to analyze your competition’s Twitter audience. You’ll learn things like …

  • The demographics of your competition’s audience
  • When they are most active on Twitter
  • What kind of content they’re interested in
  • What hashtags they’re using
  • Where they’re located around the globe
  • How many Twitter followers they have

3. Understand Your Audience

The best way to understand your audience is to talk to them.

Consider interviewing some of your customers to find out more about who they are, why they bought your solution, and how they use it.

If that’s not feasible, send customer surveys to people who have bought your products. Or add popup or sidebar surveys to your online content to allow visitors to give their feedback on a particular subject’s relevancy or point of view.

Customer feedback will help you create content that is meaningful to your target audience – and more engaging.

What makes a strong piece of content stand out from the others is almost always the research behind it.

4. Look at Your Own Content Performance

Look at your own past content performance to see what campaigns performed well – and which didn’t.

Use your website analytics tool (most of us use Google Analytics for this, but your company may use something else) to analyze traffic and user activity.

Pull reports from your social media platforms to determine how your promotional efforts went over for each campaign.

Gather metrics from your mailing list service provider to see what content garnered the most opens and clicks.

5. Investigate Effective Design

Don’t neglect user experience when coming up with your next content campaign! Though the written content is the most important thing, the design of your content will impact how (and if) it gets read or otherwise consumed.

If you’d like to dive deeper into design and user experience, InVision’s blog is chock-full of great resources.


I recommend, however, that you actually have conversations with your designer, too. Their knowledge and experience will give you real-world perspective.

6. Come up With a Theme

Coming up with a theme for your content campaign helps you get more audience attention and makes your job easier. More on that (plus examples) here.

How does this help you with your research? It actually helps you in 2 ways.

  1. You can research how others are implementing the same (or a similar) theme, and see what’s working – and even better, what you can improve upon.
  2. Researching the elements for the campaign itself – copy/content, design, format – is much easier because your choices are more limited. If, for example, you are going with a Halloween theme, like I did in one of my 2016 posts, your design choices are narrower – which makes it so much easier for you to make quick, smart decisions.

7. Reflect on the Season

Consider the holidays, celebrations, and national events are coming up. It might make sense to create a content campaign around one of those occasions.

Here is a holiday calendar for the U.S. that I refer to frequently. (Just change countries if you serve an audience outside the U.S.)

Think With Google Marketer’s Almanac is another fantastic source of insights on seasonal trends and events.

If you really want to get creative, add this holidays and observances calendar to your Google Calendar. You’ll get a laugh out of it, if anything! Did you know that Dec 28 is National Chocolate Day?


8. See What’s Working on Facebook

Use Facebook Graph Search to find out what your target audience is excited about and what’s working for your competitors on Facebook.

This is as simple as using Facebook’s search bar on Facebook. Type in competitor names, product names, target audience interests, or even hashtags. This semantic search engine will give you relevant results related to the context of your search term.

Need more details about how to use Facebook Graph Search? Social Media Examiner has a great article on the subject.

9. Pull up the Latest Research Reports

Mining research reports for data to lend credibility to your content is always a great idea. But you can also start with the research report to get inspiration for upcoming content campaigns.

Some good sources for research reports that will inspire your content campaigns are:

Looking for even more sources? This HubSpot article lists 19 more beyond the ones I mention here.

Now – Go Research That Killer Campaign Idea!

These 9 tips and accompanying resources should be more than enough to validate your content campaign ideas, or drum up brand new ideas.

Did I miss any resources? Comment here and share the knowledge wealth!

Seasonal inspriation from our Reason for Every Season Marketing Guide