What’s Trending: Embracing Data

May 4, 2020

Mother talking on phone and in front laptop on the kitchen island and son on tablet

It seems like every day we see something new that reminds us that the world has changed. But the most effective marketers aren't relying on just what they observe; they're relying on what the data tells them about this new world.  

This week’s roundup examines what the data is showing us and features tips on knowing your audience, adjusting your metrics, and staying relevant with content.

1. What Readers Want During COVID-19: B2B Edition

A few weeks ago, our roundup covered the B2C version of this report from Amanda Milligan. She’s back with another round of heavily-researched, data-driven conclusions, and this time she’s focusing on what matters most to B2B buyers. 

Rather than focusing on specific keywords, Amanda digs into broader topical trends. She looks at topics that are currently surging in interest, but haven’t peaked enough yet to spark a content gold rush. In other words, these topics are ripe for content marketers looking to provide extra value that meets specific search needs. 

What are B2B buyers searching for? Some of the answers aren’t surprising. Remote work is a major topic of interest, with terms like “working remotely,” “remote teams,” and “multicloud environment” seeing increased interest. 

Some of the topics Amanda uncovers are less immediately obvious, however. For example, more B2B buyers are searching for design tools such as Venngage, Airtable, Figma and Canva. Whether companies are looking for cheaper design solutions, or trying to make do with reduced staff, people are looking for guidance on design.

In addition to the pure research, Amanda shows how each of these topic clusters can relate to brand content. She stresses, however, that her purpose is more to inspire than prescribe: “What matters most is what your target audience needs and wants,” she says. “Put yourself in their shoes to be able to best address their challenges and concerns.” 

2. Metrics Matter More During COVID-19 Than They Ever Did

Marketers are inherent measurers. It’s just part of our DNA. But it’s easy to set benchmarks, set up metrics and KPIs, and leave them on autopilot. And for the most part, that’s fine — unless you’re flying over strange new territory, and your autopilot is giving you bad information.

It’s likely that your benchmarks are changing right now, from average web traffic to click-through rates to purchases. But your underlying metrics might not be the most useful for determining effectiveness during the current crisis.

“Right now, all content marketers have a huge factor they can’t control that affects their success - a global pandemic,” says Ann Gynn. “So if you analyze your metrics like you usually do… you’re setting up your content marketing program for failure.”

To start with, Ann recommends increasing the frequency of your analysis. Rather than reviewing once a month or once a quarter, go weekly to keep up with the quickly-changing environment. During this analysis, Ann says, look for data to answer these two simple questions:

  1. What is your audience doing (or not doing)?
  2. What content is your audience consuming?

This may seem like entry-level stuff for marketers, but we can’t take the answers to these questions for granted right now. Ann dives deep into the ramifications of these seemingly simple questions, illustrating how they can be a jumping-off point into more sophisticated analysis.

3. 4 Takeaways for Content Marketers in the Time of COVID-19

Ultimately, the question to ask during the current crisis is, “How can we best serve and engage our audiences right now?” Our other two articles looked at that question from an analytical lens, with research and measurement. This last video and article comes from a more boots-on-the-ground perspective.

George Nguyen hosts a (socially distanced) panel of accomplished content marketers:

Together, they offer insights from their practical experience on measurement, messaging, empathy and tone, and more. 

Meghan points out one aspect of marketing during a crisis that we tend to overlook — or perhaps prefer not to think about. “You’re going to make a mistake in this — we’re all going to make a mistake in this,” she says. “And I think part of having that humanity is if you do say something that is accidentally out of tone or gets a bad reaction, to just listen and own that, apologize for it, move forward and not let it keep you out of the arena.” 

As we fill in the blank parts of our new map, we’re bound to encounter unknown obstacles. What matters most is how we handle those missteps — whether we double down on a gaffe or treat it as an opportunity to learn and practice empathy.

Sail to the Edge of the Map — and Beyond

Unlike the explorers that came before us, none of us chose to go on this expedition. We didn’t volunteer for it as an opportunity for learning and growth. Given the option, I can’t imagine who would hesitate to go back to the safety of the known.

But since we’re here, let’s take advantage of the opportunities within the crisis. We can explore, measure, adjust, adapt, and continue to reach our audiences in meaningful ways.

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