Effective content marketing is an art, but thanks to data, it’s also a science. If you’re a content marketer at all, you’re already using data to guide your strategy and content creation. That’s what makes content into content marketing. But industry leaders don’t stop there.

It’s time to go a step further with data-driven content marketing. You can use your customer service, sales and marketing data to identify your Most Valuable Audience (MVA)—that is, the group of customers who are most likely to convert, come back for more, and advocate for the brand. By targeting this one market segment, you make your content marketing efforts more effective and increase your ROI.

Here’s how to Identify your MVA, gather information on how they find and consume content, and analyze what kind of content will help them convert.

Identify Data on Your Most Valuable Audience

For all of your customers, you should be gathering information on their:

  • Demographics (age, gender, marital status, job, income, etc.)
  • Geographic location
  • Psychographics (values, lifestyle, hobbies and interests, etc.)
  • Behaviors (purchasing history, spending habits, social media use, etc.)

To enrich this data, you can identify your most engaged and most frequent visitors and customers. Data analytics can identify those who spend a lot of time on your site, return to your site over and over again, or who have made repeat purchases. They’re likely to be a fairly small percentage of your overall audience.

Once you’ve isolated your most engaged users, look for patterns and commonalities in their characteristics. Are they within a certain age range or geographic location? Do they spend a lot of time on specific social media sites? Are they members of any online communities? Do they look at websites associated with certain interests? The answers to these questions will help you fill in the picture of who your MVA is by telling you where they hang out, what they like to do, and what they want to know from you.

Explore Your MVA’s Content Consumption Data

Analyzing how your audience engages with your content on all of your channels gives you insights into that content’s performance: Typical metrics for determining content performance include:

  • Pageviews, time on page, new versus returning users, referral traffic, and bounce rate.
  • Open rates and click-throughs on emails and newsletters
  • Shares, likes, and comments on social media

To make sure you’re accurately identifying what content is actually driving conversion, you’ll want to cross-reference your web browsing and email data with your MVA customer data via your CRM and customer data platform (CDP). Pixels, heatmaps, navigation paths, and other tracking tools can provide insights into your MVA’s journey on your website, while content attribution models can provide a more holistic view of multitouch content conversion.

Now you can get more granular and look into which pieces of content are inspiring them to take action most often. Which content gets the most clicks from your MVA? What topics or channels are driving the most purchases? What motivated your MVA to sign up for a newsletter or request more information?

Map Your Customer Journey

You can’t truly know the kind of content your audience needs without understanding their entire customer journey experience. Creating a map of this journey is a key step toward developing a detailed overview of your customer’s ecosystem. A customer journey map identifies key touchpoints where customers encounter your brand, product, or service.

Creating a customer journey map specific to your MVA can help you understand their unique mindset and actions at each step by illustrating each point where they encounter your content—newsletters, emails, blog posts, articles, social media channels, and so on.

Then, look at your data to see the touchpoints at which you’re losing your MVA. That can often be a clue that the content at that point isn’t hitting the mark for this particular audience—or you need more content to fill a need or answer a question.

Planning Content for Your MVA

Customer journey maps help you understand where you need content. Once you do that, you need to do some research into the type of content that your audience will find valuable. Keyword search terms can provide helpful clues into customer mindsets, while social media comments, surveys, focus groups, and customer service feedback can be really useful sources of information about what your audience wants to know.

For your MVA, you’ll want to fine-tune your content topics based on their preferences and interests. Go back to your data showing which content is most successful at engaging your MVA, then use it as a guide to brainstorm about how to fill the gaps you identified on your customer journey map. For example, do you need more explainers or how-tos on how your product or service works? Or perhaps you are telling them what they already know and you need to focus on newer products or in-depth case studies.

Don’t forget to consider the channel and format as well. Maybe you’re offering the right information but in the wrong way for your MVA—perhaps they tend to prefer short, snackable content to long blog posts or videos.

Industry research and trends can also be good sources for content ideas. Are there developments or news in your field that your data indicates your MVA might want to know more about? Are any industry leaders or experts getting attention for their opinions or findings that you could comment on or provide more context?

Don’t forget about reusing old content! Past topics your MVA has responded to might suddenly be newly relevant when pegged to current events. Older articles could be revisited to explore how events or predictions did or didn’t go as expected, or rewritten with a new, timely angle. Zero in on specific areas of a broad topic to create content that speaks more directly to your MVA’s concerns and preferences.

Keep ‘Em Coming Back: Analyze Your Nurturing Data

Of course, your work isn’t done after you publish—you want to investigate which calls to action and next steps are resulting in the highest response rates. After you’ve put your content out there, continue to collect and analyze data on the resulting clicks, opens, downloads, and subscribes, which you can use to further your understanding of your MVA (potentially drilling down further into profiles and personas of subsets within this group) and continue to optimize your content planning for greater customer lifetime value.

Applying machine learning and artificial intelligence can provide insights that may be difficult to identify manually. By identifying patterns and trends in your data related to your MVA, machine learning logic can provide increasing levels of specificity as to:

  • Which mix of content and what types lead to increased engagement and purchases
  • What days and what times your MVA is more likely to engage with your content
  • Which subsets of your MVA prefer which type of content
  • What kinds of follow-ups are more likely to resonate with your MVA

This data indicates how and where you can most effectively implement actions and triggers to follow up–such as sending an email offering a discount after a member of your MVA watches a video, or creating a special offer for this group. Marketing automation platforms are a great solution for handling this kind of follow up at scale by enabling you to set up customized content flows for specific segments that are triggered based on the times or events you’ve identified.

Effective Content Marketing Is More Than Just Creative

Content marketing is a far more data-driven practice than some would think. While having amazing content is important, without research and data guiding and measuring that work, your efforts could miss the mark. Like all marketing, content marketing needs to target a specific audience at just the right time.

In this case, you’re identifying and targeting your MVA, a group that can potentially result in a significant return on your content investment. By collecting and analyzing data on how, where, and why these customers digest content, you’ll have a better understanding of how to create more content that supports an ongoing relationship and pays off big time—and metrics that prove that it does.

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