How to Make First-Party Data and Content Development Work Together to Improve ROI

HIMSS Media

How do you know what kinds of content you should create? Whom should you be creating that content for? What tells you if your content is working or not?

If you've been asking yourself questions like these lately, you're not alone!

Ensuring you are making the most of your content strategy can often seem like guesswork. Have you considered how you're using first-party data? First-party data is the key to making your content marketing efforts more engaging, informative and effective. However, there are varying levels of first-party data out there, and not all are equally impactful. With the use of quality first-party data and a persona-focused strategy, there is great potential for you to improve your ROI through content. Here we've outlined how you can make first-party data work harder and smarter for you to improve content marketing ROI.

  1. Consider the Limits of Your Data
  2. Use Empirical Evidence
  3. Create a Content Playlist

Let's dive in:

1. Consider the Limits of Your Data

Start by considering what first-party data means to you and your marketing efforts. How are you using it? The likelihood is that the insights your first-party data provides you today are less deep than they could be. Perhaps they're lacking context and interconnective details, or they don't accurately represent emotional motivations. Often, it is possible that your scope is too limited or even your perspective is biased in the data your're collecting.

The type of first-party data that will radically transform your efforts to improve content marketing ROI will go deeper than surface-level information such as company name, email address and job title. Actionable first-party data will give you evidence that indicates emotional motivations behind interacting with your content or making a purchasing decision. What content is your audience interacting with and what do those interactions say about the issues, pain points and themes each persona truly cares about? Use those deeper insights to navigate your marketing strategy and change your content marketing strategy into one that emotionally engages with your audience.

2. Use Empirical Evidence

So, how do you do that? Use the documented evidence from persona interviews and real first-party data to switch the way you approach content development.

Often, content strategists start planning content development with the format of a piece in mind: we need three white papers, a webinar and a blog to go out this month. This approach might feel organized, but it sets you up to commit random acts of content. Even when you have strong intuition about which topics and themes fit snugly into these formats, you're limited by their bounds. Rather than planning with an eye on the idea, plan with an eye on the first-party data you've collected or are collecting, and the insights it produces.

To gather the evidence that fuels your content production decisions, conduct persona research. Start to gain deep insight on whom you should be speaking to, and what ailments are the main focus for these buyers, champions and end users. Do quantitative research and qualitative interviews to compile a thorough understanding of who your key personas are, and how they interact with your content and your company.

Want an insider tip?

Start with the theme of your content first, and use the empirical evidence you've compiled from real first-party data and persona interviews to inform your decisions. Relying on the data that shows who is interested in which themes and topics will enable you to continue producing content that will educate and nurture buyers, champions and influencers. Once you've used the evidence to define these topics, then decide on which format would be best, and for which personas. This is critical because information on the same topic should likely be presented differently to a CFO than to a clinical end user or IT manager. Bottom line: Format counts, but it can also be limiting. Use it to your advantage by adjusting its place in the content planning process, and using data to carry the decision. 

3. Create a Content Playlist

The whole goal of deepening first-party data and using the evidence to inform important themes is to create a prescriptive form of content development that speaks to and answers pain points and concerns for personas– across an organization. So, think of your evidence-based content plan as building a playlist for your personas. When you build a playlist for a road trip, the likelihood is the core songs will be your favorites — falling under a similar genre. However, there needs to be genre diversity to break up the monotony and fill your complex, musical needs. You need songs to warm up and cool down to, or you'll get bored quickly.

Your content strategy should work the same way. Identify the core topics a persona requires answers about, and then work to answer the outlying ailments of those topics. Appealing to the pathos and the ethos of your personas in this way can only be accomplished through the use of quality first-party data.

This diversity in content will enable you to go deeper than just speaking to each persona per post. It will allow you to get the best possible leads, and anticipate the interconnectivity of information sharing within an organization, and how your content will be useful to different personas with unique focuses.

In order to reach each persona, you need to deliver valuable information that meets the way they engage with content and the level of specificity on a topic they demand. For example, a CFO will care about the financial implications of technology, rather than the individual use cases that impact nurses, physicians and patients. Acknowledging that you may need to approach topics differently in order to convert different personas, and that you will need to appeal to some personas strictly through other personas' participation (the technical champion passing info to the CFO, for example) will enrich your content strategy.

Real first-party data will fuel your content marketing strategy with the premium ammunition you need to engage more deeply with your audience. Let it inform how you speak to their emotional motivations, their pain points and the themes that are important to each persona and their peers. The more engaging and valuable your content is, the more conversions you will see, and the greater your content marketing ROI will be because of it.