Driving search traffic and qualified leads using digital content is easy, as long as your methodology starts with proper research. Knowing where to start and what to ask is half the battle. Email List

Great digital content drives the success of all inbound channels—it’s at the heart of inbound marketing. But too many organizations make the mistake of thinking they can creatively manifest the next viral media post, Twitter sensation or industry influencer-shared content. Creating great content doesn’t start with an idea—it starts with research.

Laying the right foundation with research

Research can be a challenge to many enterprise organizations. Everyone in marketing, from the CMO on down, struggles with where to find the data, how to mine it and how much time and money it takes to get it—all while trying to balance budgets and prove a return on investment.

Having clearly defined digital marketing campaign goals and KPIs is essential to running successful campaigns, proving ROI, and keeping the corner office with the great view. But if you’re going to meet those goals with content, you need to understand the digital landscape you’re operating in. Everyone knows that the best decisions are made with real-time data and analysis, but where and how do you look for that data, and how do you prove its value?

You prove value by using a content methodology that begins with research—and, subsequently, ends with analytics and measurement of how research-driven decisions generated results and affected the bottom line. Your content methodology—be it for a measurable search traffic goal, lead generation, social engagement, and/or more—starts with these specific research goals:

  1. Defining a Target Audience
  2. Assessing Your and Your Competition’s Current Content
  3. Assessing Digital Content Trends

Defining a target audience

By now, we’ve all heard about how important it is to know who your audience is, where they are and what they want. But your research needs to uncover more than customer (and prospect) demographics and persona development. You need to find out why your customer or prospect chooses you, and what problem you solve for them. By understanding the problem, you can start to “think outside the keyword” and develop a content strategy focused on topic—not keyword.

Assessing current content

Once you have your topic focus, and you know what problem you are solving with your specific solution, you can do effective, focused research. With this focus in mind, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What content is being consumed by prospects and customers?
  • What content are prospects getting from competitors?
  • What content is being delivered by search engines that solves my prospects’ problems?
  • What parts of my prospects’ decision process is not being addressed with content on my or my competitors’ websites?
  • Where do my customers look to find their answers for content that I don’t provide?
  • What content topics most resonate with my target audience?

Assessing digital trends

Now that you know who you’re targeting and what they’re looking for, you can begin to research how your prospects find the information to solve their problems. Again, our audience research and campaign goals and KPIs provide scope for this stage of gathering information.

Your research should uncover the following:

  • What sites and online communities are providing relevant content to my prospects?
  • What type of content is being shared by my prospects and their social influencers?
  • Who are my prospects’ social influencers?
  • Where are my prospects going for their morning cup of coffee read?
  • What specific content has been successful in the recent past at engaging my prospects?

If you execute research properly before your next inbound marketing campaign, you greatly increase the likelihood of exceeding goals and delivering an ROI. Or, think of it this way: Research is the tool that will allow you to walk into your CMO’s office and say, “I know this next content marketing campaign is going to drive a successful return and meet our goals.”

AND, you won’t lose sleep over it, because you’ll have the research to prove:

  1. Who your prospects are,
  2. What problems they’re trying to solve,
  3. Where they hang out online,
  4. What content resonates within those communities, and
  5. Who influences those communities and what they talk about.

To find out more about DigitalRelevance’s own inbound marketing methodology, check out our Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Earned Media and find out how we use research to drive content creation, promotion and conversion for enterprise customers.