Content marketing strategies demand a lot of time and effort. It takes time to craft the ideal post, edits it to perfection, syndicates it across all your distribution channels, and follow up with it over the course of the following weeks and months to earn more links and visibility. However, the real power of a content strategy comes into play long before you ever open up that word processor—the real power starts with the research you do.
Why Research Matters
Research is your way of gathering more information. Without that information, you’ll have no course for creation or refinement in your content strategy. Think of your content strategy as shooting an arrow at a target; your research is what tells you where the target is, what it looks like, how far away it is, where the wind is blowing, what type of bow you’re using, and who else is competing with you. Imagine trying to hit that same target in the dark, with no information about your surrounding environment.
Types of Research for Every Content Campaign
These are the types of research that every content marketing campaign demands:
- Market research. First, you need to get to some more detailed information about the people you’re writing for. It’s tempting to target “everyone” as your content audience—after all, that would lead you to the largest possible number of people. However, as your target audience increases in breadth, you sacrifice specificity and relevance. It’s far more effective to drill into a target niche, with specific demographics and buying cycle phases in mind. For this, you’ll need to rely on secondary sources like Census.gov to inform you of demographic trends, as well as primary sources like surveys and other forms of original research. Get to know your audience on a deep level before you try to generate topics that are important to them.
- Competitive research. Then, you’ll want to dig deeper into your current competition. Chances are, there are at least a few dozen companies similar to yours already running content marketing strategies. Even if your business model is truly unique, there are at least other businesses in your industry or ones that target the same audience that you can examine. Do some quick searches in Google and on major social media platforms for keywords related to your business, and see what types of content your competitors are producing. What types of content are seeing the highest engagement rates? What types of content are they neglecting? Are they covering their topics in sufficient detail? These questions can help you find competitive opportunities for your own brand (and help you learn more about your audience at the same time).
- Content industry research. Next up, you’ll need to probe into the actual world of content marketing by taking a look at the latest trends and developments in the content sector. The Content Marketing Institute usually has the latest statistics on things like how people are spending money on content marketing, and what mediums are growing in popularity. Beyond that, you’ll need to look at how other brands (outside your industry) are currently reaching their customers. With this information, you’ll be able to make adjustments to the types of content you produce and stay ahead of the curve of the overall market.
- Tech and app research. At this point, you have almost everything you need to start producing the actual content. But what about the production process? And what about how to manage your content after it’s developed? For these functions, you’ll need to conduct some tech and app research. Start discovering what kind of automation tools, organization and productivity tools, and syndication tools you can use to complement and enhance your work. TechCrunch and other tech blogs are great for this—you’ll always find the latest in business software and social media platforms.
- Topic research. Finally, you’ll need to research the individual topics you produce for your campaign. It’s not enough to speak solely from experience or intuition—even if you’re conducting original research, you need to provide the background, and even if you’re writing up an opinion piece, you need to cite the other sides of the argument. Back up your claims with research and referenceable data points. It’s going to make your content stronger and more trustworthy.
If you can learn how to implement these five forms of research, and use the data you gather with them effectively, your content will become more targeted, more effective, and more supportive of your overall marketing strategies. Bear in mind that these aren’t one-time efforts, either. Things change quickly in the marketing world, from new competitors emerging to your target audience drifting in preferences. You’ll need to reiterate your research in all these areas regularly if you want to stay competitive in the long term.