What is data-informed content marketing?

The tension between experience and data trends can make for better marketing

Think about the last major decision you made for your business. Did you use your gut, or did you use your data?

Marketing leaders often opt for somewhere between the two ends of this spectrum for most of their decisions: On one end, you make decisions based purely on your anecdotal experience, without meaningful external input. On the other hand, you only make decisions with data, unbiased (and unaided) by your own experience. So which approach is better?

The data-less approach to marketing

This kind of marketer relies on anecdotes and personal experiences over data, and it won’t shock you to learn that we don’t subscribe to this point-of-view. 

Gut reactions without evidence are ill-advised — for every Masayoshi Son who successfully invests $20M in Alibaba because of Jack Ma’s “animal smell” (yes, that’s a verbatim description), you have a dozen other endeavors (at least) that fall flat. That’s why data-less marketers tend to have such a hard time getting stakeholders and colleagues on board with their programs. Data doesn’t just direct or define strategy — it can be an effective tool for winning buy-in, which is critical for any integrated marketing organization.

It’s hard to argue that data doesn’t help you make decisions somehow, and if you’re reading this article, you probably agree with us. Don’t let healthy data skepticism turn into data abstention — let’s leave this approach to Don Draper.

The data-only approach to marketing

This kind of marketer relies on data analysis above all else — likely assuming that their own biases are too flawed to be useful in making business decisions. 

So if gut reactions are bad, then is this data-driven approach is the right path? Not necessarily! We’ve seen our fair share of scenarios where a blind devotion to data trends actually puts companies in a worse position than if they’d leaned into their experience and intuition. This took the form of:

  • Ignoring useful, qualitative input: It’s impressive how bad ideas can thrive with a veneer of quantitative support even in the face of strong, anecdotal pushback, whether from colleagues or external sources.
  • Missing red flags on data quality: It’s the principle of “garbage in, garbage out.” If your customer data is bad, then the analysis will be faulty or biased toward a particular outcome
  • Decision paralysis: “Too much” data can lead a team to believe that they can’t make any decision without a significant trend to back it up.

And now the MarTech space is full of dime-a-dozen platforms that can deliver “insights” that act more like a firehose, enabling all three of these issues. That’s why we embrace data-informed methodology: a middle-ground between uninformed guesswork and inflexible dogma.

The data-informed approach to marketing

Some intangibles are impossible to measure today. We do not live in a world with scientists practicing psychohistory — the ability to (almost!) perfectly predict societal behavior and civilizational trajectories as imagined by sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov. Real life — and our organizational imperatives — is messy. So a hybrid approach using both data and experience in content marketing is essential.

Revmade uses data to inform our thinking on any particular topic or project, but we don’t handcuff ourselves to it. Analyst-led curation is essential for avoiding false positives. While working with a healthcare brand, we saw search data for its home state suggesting queries about eating disorders doubled week-over-week — a pretty radical shift. We decided that absent of any meaningful news cycle or seasonal trends that might have spurred this, it was unlikely to be real or actionable. And we were right to see a red flag –it turned out that the dataset was missing data in the prior period due to sampling issues.

We also don’t ignore our own strategic, editorial and ethical instincts about what is relevant and actionable. Data insights are essential for identifying audience behaviors, but they need to be mapped to organizational strategy and goals to create a truly robust content marketing strategy. For the government contractors we work with, news trends that dive too deep into divisive political issues don’t make sense for the goals they’re working toward — no matter how much of an opportunity for engagement there is. You can imagine what kinds of government-related topics received the most engagement in 2020, and the onus was on us to find and stay within the overlap between audience relevance and client expertise.

Our experience informs our insights (as we recognize our potential biases). We’ve been around the block a time or two, and we infuse our continually growing base of knowledge of what works across our client projects. Our philosophy, processes and product suite are anchored in these principles, and we can’t imagine doing it any other way. R

If you’re interested in how a data-informed content planning process can benefit your organization, reach out to us for a consultation today.


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