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I was recently leading a client workshop where I get a question that I had never heard before, “Why are you emphasizing such an aggressive use of analytics if content marketing should be a soft sell?”

Let me unpack the context of the question, so that it is clearer. When I counsel clients on content marketing, I don’t take an idea-led, “come up with some catchy headlines” sort of approach. Sure, good ideas and click-worthy headlines are important, but it isn’t where you start.

You start with the numbers.

You start with understanding what your customers want, yes, but also with what you know will move them. So you spend a lot of time researching topics that are popular, but more than that, you figure out which topics will attract the prospects who will likely buy from you. And how do you do that?

You focus on your differentiation.

If you have a product that solves ten problems, but three of them you solve better than anyone else in the market, why spread your content marketing budget thin by writing about all ten problems? If you aren’t differentiated for seven of them, then won’t many of your readers choose the competition when they start comparing?

Instead, focus all (or at least most) of your budget on your differentiation–on those three problems where you are so good that prospects would be idiots not to buy from you. That way, you are more likely to sell to the prospects who discover your content marketing, because when they compare, you win.

When I kept hammering away at focusing your marketing on attracting people who will actually buy, I was asked the above question. To some, it might seem like these analytics are leading to a hard sell instead of the soft sell that content marketing actually requires.

But that’s not the case at all.

What’s really true is that you need to do both. You need to do a soft sell in content marketing (especially higher in the funnel) but you can use hard-nosed analytics to focus your marketing on the people most likely to buy from you. They don’t conflict–it is just a good way to use your scarce resources.

Hard on the numbers and soft on the sell–that is the formula that will take your content marketing to the next level.