Want better content marketing? Just ask

At a time when marketers everywhere are talking about gathering data on consumer behaviour, it seems almost counter-intuitive to do something as simple as just asking consumers what they want. Don’t marketers already know what their customers want, judging by their buying preferences or reading habits?

Not so fast, writes Colleen Jones for the Content Marketing Institute. The power of the ask is a beautiful thing, and it works really well when marketers take the trouble to survey their customers and find out what they’re really thinking.

What behavioural data can’t do for you
Behavioural data can be very insightful for figuring out the numbers – how many people watched your video, how many people opened your email, etc. But what it can’t do is tell you the “who”s “how”s and the “why”s.
For example, who is watching your videos? Why are they watching them? Why is this article getting more page views than that other one? Why did people come to look at your content anyway? What did they decide after viewing it?

And although many marketers might say survey data is all qualitative, without the benefit of numbers to back up its findings, Jones says she feels surveys can also have strong quantitative methodology when done right. Others might say survey data can’t be trusted because people aren’t always honest when they say they engage in certain behaviours. She responds by saying no one should try to predict the future based on survey data – instead, they should try to understand why something happened, users’ roles, demographics, preferences, expectations, and the impact of your marketing on them, if any.

They also work well when used with blogs, digital magazines, on white papers, demos, and within email newsletters, she adds.

She shares three tips for pulling together handy, informative surveys:

1. Don’t ask people about their future choices.
Too many surveys ask, “what will you do if X” or “what would you do if X.” Unfortunately, people may say they would buy a product, but for whatever reason, just not bother to pick it up. That’s why it’s better to focus on questions about past behaviour, Jones writes. For example, “Did you recommend this product?” is always a better question than, “Would you recommend this product?”

2. Stick to closed questions, rather than open-ended ones.
As nice as it is to be able to ask open-ended questions, if you want your survey to deliver quantitative data, you need to ask closed ones, Jones says. “What do you think of our digital magazine?” is not ideal, as it might provide too many wide-ranging answers. The better question to ask would be, “Which statement most closely matches your impression of our digital magazine?”

Beyond netting more quantitative data, you’ll also get more structured results, making it much faster to analyze what you’ve got in front of you.

3. Make sure the timing of your survey is right.
The most effective time to ask people to complete surveys is when they’ve had time to consume content on your site. It’s also helpful to ask people who’ve actually opened your emails, Jones says. And as an added bonus, consumers will take note if you ask them their opinions of your content – showing you care about what you’ve generated and that you want to be a handy resource for them.

Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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