At this point, you're probably sold on the benefits of content marketing. I agree with the Content Marketing Institute's definition of this modern, often low-cost, and critical marketing practice:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.

Customers need helpful content, but to stand out from the crowd, it can be helpful to introduce data to your story. This way, you're not just opining and sharing employee thoughts; you're adding proof to the pudding.

Not all companies have a research team at the ready to provide data, though. So we turned to an expert to see how marketers can better use data as part of their content marketing plan. Scott Wentworth is founder and head financial writer of Wentworth Financial Communications. He’s an expert in all things content marketing, especially for B2B, financial services, and professional services firms. Scott's focus is on helping companies reach a large audience and distribute their thought leadership more effectively.

So in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast, we take an in-depth look at what makes a data-driven content strategy successful and what we can be doing as content marketers to be more effective.

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You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Scott — complete with GIFs to help these lessons stick in your memory even better!


Leverage data as your steering wheel.

There’s a big question in marketing today about how to use data and what role it should play in our day-to-day blog posts, e-books, and more. In the early days of content marketing, most companies relied on employee opinions and internal messaging to comprise their content. But as Scott observes, “Now we’re at a point where data is driving the ship.”

Almost all of your content in 2017 should involve a data component — to prove that these aren't just your company's opinions, these are facts. And data always beats opinions.


Realize the numbers alone aren't as compelling as the story behind the numbers.

Scott urges us to think more critically than just throwing data points at everything (the content marketing equivalent of "put a bird on it").

Adding random data points from an old research report won't help. Neither will referencing statistics that aren't properly cited. Instead, “how do we use data to support the bigger story that we’re trying to tell?” Scott asks. The bottom line is that “the numbers alone are never going to be as compelling as the story that’s behind those numbers.”

When people talk about brand stories, they’re really talking about understanding the why behind their brand. That’s where thought leaders and marketers add value. As Scott puts it, “The data will tell you what’s changed, but it won’t tell you why it’s changed.”


Show experience, not just expertise. Because everybody's got expertise.

“A lot of people think that the whole purpose of content or thought leadership is to show how smart you are and to articulate your expertise. But, in any professional services field, there’s no shortage of smart people. Everyone’s smart. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be managing a mutual fund," Scott wisely advises.

Instead of demonstrating your expertise, Scott suggests that you need to need to show that you have experience working with customers just like your target audience.

Scott shared a story explaining when his father, a corn and soybean farmer in central Illinois, began researching estate attorneys to plan his retirement. The one he chose had been publishing guest articles in a farming trade publication for years. His dad saw that not only does this attorney specialize in estate planning, but specifically for farmers.

In other words, industry-specific marketing is key.


Use case study data to bring your clients’ stories to life.

The Demand Gen 2016 Content Preferences Survey for B2B Buyers has shown us that most decision-makers are starved for time. Competing for attention is hard, and the key is to follow Jay Baer’s advice in Youtility: “The most effective marketing is that which is useful."

For Scott, that means using data from customer case studies and real-life projects to demonstrate, “We’re not going to just tell you that we work with clients like you; we’re going to show you.” This is the difference between your content staying on the virtual page and (preferably) coming to life.

With this type of content, it helps to think creatively. It can be a PDF or a blog post, sure, but there’s a lot of other channels you can use, like videos, podcasts, and events.


Instead of focusing on new data, focus on what it means for your customers.

A lot of brands are guilty of thinking that the hook in their content is the fact that they have new data. But Scott points out, “The audience doesn’t care that you have new research, and they don’t even care what that research says. What they care about is what the research means for them and how those findings are going to help them make better decisions.” So don't bury the lede — and don't focus on new data just for the sake of it.

Ultimately, while it’s important to use data to quantify and validate the points that you’re making, Scott emphasizes that “you shouldn’t use data as a crutch.” A lot of companies will “turn on the data firehose” and send out all of the data they’ve collected without thinking about what’s interesting and compelling to actual customers. Often, less is more when it comes to data.

And that’s just scratching the surface of our conversation with Scott (@ScottWentworth). Get the complete scoop on data for content marketing in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.

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