The scientific method of reasoning dates back millennia and has proven to be a trusted strategy for understanding our world. And believe it or not, this process can also work to produce better content. In fact, I would argue the scientific method is the way we should implement content marketing strategy.
Maybe you remember the scientific method from a high school or college science class, but here’s the basic breakdown of each step, including how it applies to successful B2B content efforts:
The most important step for content marketing is also the first step: observation. Observation is the act of noticing, of watching, of describing some phenomena occurring in the world.
For marketing, observing corresponds to knowing your target audience and recognizing their pain points. Where is there a problem that you can address with your product? What is the solution your personas are looking for when they open a browser and begin researching a topic or issue?
Recognizing where your audience needs help is vital to providing content that will resonate with them. The digital age is overrun with content, so the best way to resist random acts of content is to develop the right content at the right time for the right people. Observe who you want to talk to and what they might need from you
A common misconception of the word, “hypothesis” is that it’s synonymous with guessing—but it’s not! A hypothesis builds off of the work you did in the first step of observing your target audience.
Making a hypothesis in content marketing might look like:
Hey! I believe my [insert solution here] will alleviate that [insert pain point here] you have there. Let me tell you about it.
Hey! I’ve talked to a bunch of [insert persona here], and they all want to hear more [insert content here]. Here’s my take on it.
In either case, the writer has identified something they’ve observed to be a pain point or an avenue of interest and are putting forth an idea they think will address that specific observation. Rather than grasping at straws, you’re showing how informed you are about what’s needed in your world, and then making an educated guess at a possible solution.
The basis of your strategy may be quantitative (for example, we see a higher open rate with this type of subject line) or qualitative (for example, our customers have told us they loved this particular type of eBook). Either way, hypotheses involve making some initial observations, turning that information into testable insights, and driving your strategy in a thoughtful, data-driven manner. Yay science!
For a hypothesis to be considered scientific, it must be testable and falsifiable. We must be able to say whether or not we can create an experiment that will support or disprove our hypothesis. So, we need to predict what it will do. If our prediction is met, we know the hypothesis is plausible. If not, then we are aware we missed the mark. And we have to adjust.
In content marketing, we can’t know exactly how helpful a single piece of content is, but we can see how popular it is. Tracking data and SEO demonstrate how particular items of content are reaching more people. The more people want to read your content, the more likely your asset is filling a niche in the market.
And this is just one way to make a prediction based on research. A few other options for establishing benchmarks or goals for success are:
- Email open rates
- Internal shares
It might seem difficult to see how content feeds directly into ROI, but if you have any doubts that it does, check out this article.
So, you’ve noticed some issue in your target audience, come up with what you think is a fabulous and ingenious solution for that problem, and established specific metrics to determine success. Now it’s time to do something about it: create the content, put it out into the void, and see if anyone listens.
But the experiment phase of content marketing is not just writing one piece of content. Marketing this way functions best when performed using the content pillar approach, where there are are many types of content that help to promote and expand on a central asset. Your social content alerts people to your brand; your webinar invites people to participate in a demo. All lead back to the eBook you worked so hard to write.
With all your content in place, just sit back and see what happens…
*slash* start working on the next project.
Dun. Dun. Dunnnn.
How’d you do? This might be a bit challenging, but having a program that allows you to review the analytics of your content is a must-have at this point. Here are some helpful tools to assess how your content performed:
- Google Analytics
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Buffer (for social media)
You might find that a certain piece of content you thought would be a hit, failed–like our Star Wars vs. Star Trek infographic that got everyone in our office really excited, but just didn’t go where we thought it would. Or you might find that the piece of content you created went through the roof in downloads, like our Simplified Guide to Content Marketing eBook.
Whatever the results, you’ve learned something. You now have a better understanding of the market. And you can build off of what you observed to repeat the process all over again. Come up with some new strategy for a failed idea, or expand on a successful idea by producing other kinds of content.
Drawing on the successful reasoning of the scientific method is sure to bring your content marketing to the next level. I mean, don’t take my word for it. Just ask Buzz Aldrin how far the scientific method can take you.
Comics inspired by xkcd—but his are much better. No, really. Check them out.