We all know how to use data to show value in our efforts. But being a data-driven marketer goes beyond the metrics you use to measure your website visits and click-through rates—it can also be used from the very beginning of your marketing strategy to create unique content that engages your target audience. 

Custom research is an underutilized way for content marketers to build content that stands out, and it can be sourced from three groups that they already have access to: current customers, prospective targets, and competitive audiences. Using different tools and methods, any of these can yield insights that can be spun into original content pieces. 

So what are some creative ideas for marketers looking to integrate their data? Below are 10 ways to make your content stand out using custom research.

10 content types that stand out with custom research

1. Topic Ideation (Validation)

If your regular blog content is a little stale or your idea pipeline is running low, simple survey research is the perfect way to learn what your audience wants to read about, or where you can provide more value. Whether you need to generate new ideas, further flesh some you’ve already kicked around, or validate old blog posts with fresh data, taking a quick temperature from your current customers and surveying your wider prospective audience can help you choose the topics to focus on.

2. Original reports

Perhaps the easiest way to use custom data is in custom reports. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, having your own data puts you in a position to add something new to the conversation for your industry or your target audience. Custom reports can include anything from a comparison of broad perceptions against actual use of your product, to building an industry-leading annual report, such as Hubspot’s State of Inbound . Using a mix of external questionnaires and internal data, there are endless possibilities to source and share valuable information for your target market.

3. Fill competitive content gaps

Some survey tools (like Pollfish) will let you use screening questions to connect with your competitor’s audience. Ask your competitor’s customers what some of their pain points are to identify where you stand out, or how you can solve their problems using your product instead. These findings can be critical to shaping a content strategy that wins over a hard-to-reach segment by narrowing in on gaps that your content can fill through your website, newsletter, help articles, or sales collateral.

4. Use Infographics

Raw data can be hard to turn into something easily digestible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. Infographics are a beautiful, shareable, and informative way to tell a compelling data-driven story about almost any topic.  According to Hubspot’s guide to visual marketing tactics in 2019, readers pay even more attention to information-carrying images than text, showing that data and visual storytelling combined can be one of the best ways to highlight all of your custom research findings. 

5. Build better back-links

Increase your domain authority with a strong digital content strategy. Using original insights alongside your SEO best practices can be helpful in creating clickable, searchable content that drives more traffic to your site and increases your ranking.

Consider using surveys to help answer questions in your industry, address common pain points, or even add an interesting take (4 out of 5 consumers say this…) to develop an easily discoverable, and helpful, blog or landing page. 

 

Custom research is an underutilized way for content marketers to build content that stands out. Click To Tweet

 

6. Data-driven PR 

You likely have some top-of-funnel goals that could always use a boost from PR. However, journalists receive dozens of pitches and say that 75% of those pitches are irrelevant, according to Cision’s 2019 State of the Media report. Needless to say, it’s not always easy to get their attention. This is where data can help you break through with some thoughtful, relevant new information. A quick survey can help you define what topics would be interesting for their readers, or help you add legitimacy to an interesting angle you’ve already defined. For example, if you find that 80% their core reader demographic would like to attend the type of event you’re planning to host, they’re likely going to be more excited to cover that topic. 

7. Create actionable guides

Asking your current customers what they thought of your product or where they got stuck in their purchase journey is the perfect way to develop impactful mid-funnel content. Contacting existing clients directly through a simple email, form, or phone call, you can gather valuable qualitative insights into where they had purchase hang-ups and create helpful guides to overcome those obstacles. Further verify that these guides are working by checking in with new customers, and use the new feedback to streamline your conversions. 

8. Make your social content more shareable

Social networks are a constant struggle for marketers trying to get more shares or likes. This is often because something about the content isn’t relatable to the audience which can be remedied by—you guessed it— custom research. By gathering information from your target audience, you can identify the topics that elicit emotional responses and learn which content formats they prefer to consume or engage with. The content you create for social is another way to repurpose your research. According to Buffer, “List” and “ranking” style posts have consistently shown to be some of the most shareable content types.

 

Asking your current customers what they thought of your product or where they got stuck in their purchase journey is the perfect way to develop impactful mid-funnel content. Click To Tweet

 

9. Support your thought leadership 

Give your thought leadership efforts a boost by proving out ideas with insights from your existing clients or broader industry. This adds a layer of credibility as you’ve identified a problem in the market and a creative way to solve it, and offers a great hook for presentations and speaking engagements when you can point to hard numbers. Research can also be a great way to dive into thought leadership for the first time and test out concepts that haven’t got off the ground. If the research suggests that your messaging doesn’t resonate with your target audience, use those insights to pivot your strategy or strengthen your idea.

10. Pump up your sales collateral

Nothing helps your sales team like collateral that eases customers through their concerns, and impressive statistics will do just that. Broad consumer research, competitive insights, and direct behavioral data from existing customers can all play a role in developing the right messaging and building credibility to help win new business. Showing prospects how your current customers use your product or blowing them away with trends are great ways to show value and take the pressure off of your sales team. 

Original quantitative and qualitative insights are the best way to understand the specific needs of your target market, beyond their demographic data that can be gleaned from existing reports and assumptions. Sometimes getting the information is as easy as asking your current customers a few questions! Third-party survey tools are a great way to round out internal data from existing databases and conversations and are often quicker and more affordable than marketers expect. With a healthy mix of both, you can create a complete content strategy for a target audience you really know and design impactful, engaging content experiences through every touch point.