How to use data in your content strategy

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How to use data in your content strategy


Hello, everybody. My name’s Jon. I’m the Head of Content here at RocketMill, and today, I’m going to talk to you a little bit about how you can use data in your content strategy, but also, when you should ignore it.

How important is data with your content?

Data’s brilliant. We all love data, but sometimes, it’s best to throw the data out the window, and just have a bit of fun. So, I’ll start by posing a question: who knows who this man is?

Difficult to pronounce surname, but, Felix Baumgartner. And what is he most known for? Jumping out of a balloon from space, as part of the Red Bull Stratos stunt, which was actually five years ago now, if you can believe that.

I visited the website that they set up for it, and it’s completely knackered, but that’s another presentation about why you shouldn’t build microsites.

At the time, this was a bit groundbreaking. It had 9.5 million concurrent viewers on YouTube, when it was streamed live, which was a record at the time, through all of their syndication partners, and it had 52 million live concurrent viewers, which was actually more than the finale of Friends had, and is kind of, almost in Super Bowl territory, in terms of live viewers.

It was really a bit groundbreaking, both in terms of a live streamed event, and in terms of a branded marketing event. They pitched as a scientific experiment, but I think we can all, in hindsight, agree that it was a marketing stunt.

So, when we’re talking about data, and how we plan our content strategy, there’s some very smart people in this room today, and I would just like any of you to please suggest the marketing data that gets you to the point where you think an effective way to market your product is to throw an Austrian bloke out of a balloon?

So if you think about the data sources that we use on a day to day basis, Google Ads, Google Analytics, HitWise, and all that sort of stuff, all of this data is great for planning, but it’s all retrospective. It’s all backwards looking. There aren’t any data sources that allow us to peer into the future, and see that in six months’ time, someone’s going to throw a guy out of a balloon, and it’s going to be a massive marketing event.

Using more than just data

In place of that data, we need experience, and we need creativity, and we need bravery. So, if you think about some of the best creative executions that have ever been done in the advertising world, I’m sure you’ll be a lot of these adverts: the Ambassadors’ reception, I can see Shep lighting up, looking at that one.

But also, not just in the world of advertising. Things like the Plastic Or Planet? National Geographic cover. These are all fantastic creative executions, and yes, there was data that led up to their creativity, but the essence of the idea, and what makes it impactful, is based on no data whatsoever, is based on people’s creativity, and their nous, and their experience, and all that sort of exciting stuff.

Nobody looks at the Guinness Surfer ad and says, “You know what I really love about that Guinness ad? The data that sat behind it.” No, of course not. Everybody loves the creativity and the emotion.

You could give me a crazy idea from a smart person, any day of the week, and I’ll take it over a mundane idea that lines up with all the data. Anyway, how does that fit into content marketing?

The user life cycle

When we’re thinking about content marketing, more and more, we’re thinking about it in terms of a user or customer’s life cycle, so it’s not just driving somebody from going to a website to buying something, it’s thinking about all of the interactions that they have with a brand, over potentially multiple purchases.

We deal with a lot of subscription-based businesses, so that’s especially important for them. And, of course, you need to have data here, because you need to measure how effectively you are driving people around that cycle.

So if we look at some measures that we might use to measure, whether we’re progressing people through this cycle, you know, you’ve got stuff that you probably use in your day to day, all the time: organic traffic, conversion rate, trial conversions, average revenue per user up at the top.

This is kind of Stage One of the content marketing. You need to define your metrics at every stage, and then, you need to measure against them, to see if you’re effectively driving people around that cycle. And content strategy is lots of different things to lots of different people.

You could probably speak to 50 different agencies, and they would all define content strategy slightly differently, but fundamentally, it’s about exactly that. It’s about content that has a strategy behind it. You know you want to achieve something, and you’ve decided that some online content is the best way to go about that.

So there are lots of tactics that you might employ, when you’re trying to drive people around this cycle.

Editorial strategy

Editorial strategy is probably the most common one. Putting up interesting blog posts. Building resources on your website that people want to read, to attract new users. That’s great at getting people aware of your business, and maybe start to get them to consider a purchase with you.

Influencer marketing

You also might look at influencer marketing. So, in terms of, if you’ve got some people that are particularly great advocates of your business, turning them from just being a customer, into actually promoting your business, and kind of bringing that, bringing all of their followers into the marketing cycle.

Community management

You might also look at something like community management, to turn people from just customers, into really big fans. Does anybody here use Monzo? Yeah, yeah? A whole bunch of people. They’re doing such a fantastic job of this at the moment. I don’t know of anybody who uses Monzo, who doesn’t actively recommend them to their friends, all the time, and it’s because they’ve nailed this section right here.

They’re not just creating customers, they’re creating really, really powerful advocates, and of course, you’ve got to have your brand identity and tone that helps define you, and helps differentiate you in the market.

Example of the user life cycle

I just wanted to give you an example of what this looks like in real life, for a financial services client that we work for. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you who they are, but I guarantee you, they’re real, and all of their problems were around, kind of, this portion of the cycle.

So they’re incredibly fast growing. They’re one of the biggest brands in their sector. They’ve got around about 15 million users, and they go through periods where they take on tens of thousands of users a day. They’re really, really incredibly fast growing, and what this meant, basically, was that their business was growing faster than they could scale their support team, to manage that business?

This was creating a really big backlog of support tickets. It was creating users that didn’t quite know what they were doing, and they couldn’t get the help they needed. And so, as a result, naturally, they didn’t even get to the enjoy phase. Instead, they got quite frustrated, leading to a really churn rate, dropping net promoter’s goal, all that stuff.

They couldn’t stop onboarding new users. Where their roadblock was, was around turning those users from just users into really passionate advocates. We got in a room with a lot of their current users, and a lot of their prospective users. Some of you were involved in those workshops.

You probably remember them, and we talked through the onboarding process, how the business serviced those customers, what sort of error messages they were served, how they felt at different stages of the journey, and this helped us draw some conclusions about where they were falling down.

We got in touch with them, and we said, “It’d be really great to speak to your customer experience team, or the copywriters that are working on your website, just to take a look at what they’re doing, and see if there’s a way we can re-focus it a little bit.”

They actually turned around to us, and they said, “We don’t have any of those people,” and we said, “Oh, okay. That makes a lot of sense.” It turns out, what happened, because they’re really fast growing, they just haven’t grown out that bit, that part of their business yet.

So all of the engineers that were building that product were also doing all of the copy, and all of the error messaging, and all that sort of stuff. Not to say that engineers can’t write, but if you’re trying to scale a technology platform to onboard tens of thousands of new users every day, creating some sort of eloquent error messaging is probably not going to be top of your priority list.

Just to give you an idea of what that looked like, this was the error message that generated the most support tickets, out of any that they had. So you had a problem in their system? This would land in your e-mail inbox. As you can see, hilariously frustrating. It contains absolutely no useful information, other than something went wrong.

This was where they were really, really falling down, so what we did was, we helped them put together a communications framework, based on the output of the workshops that we’d had, with some of their current customers and prospective customers, and we came up with four tenets for this communication framework.


One was that you have to empathise with people. This is a bit that the financial service brands often miss. People want to deal with people. If something goes wrong, they want to hear the word, “Sorry.” They want to feel empathy from you towards them, because, fundamentally, you’ve caused them a problem.


Reassurance. Any online platform, any new technology business, there’s always a danger that they’re just going to go bust, and disappear, and take your money with them. So we really wanted to get their users’ reassurance that their money is safe. Nothing has gone wrong. Don’t worry about it.


Explain what’s happening. Fundamentally, an educated user is a happier user. So we actually wanted to tell people what had gone wrong. And, if necessary, take action. A lot of their error messaging didn’t give a clear next step to the user, it just told them that something had gone wrong.


Naturally, their next step was to get on the phone to Support, and raise the ticket. We wanted to help people solve their own problems, or get in touch with Customer Support, if it was necessary. The frustratingly bad error message that I showed you a minute ago then became something that looks like this, or it was exactly this.

You can see, we’ve got all four of those elements within there. So we’re reassuring, right upfront there, your money is safe. You don’t need to do anything. It’s fine. We’re empathising, we’re apologising, we’re saying, “We’re really sorry for this.” We’re explaining why this error happened, and then, we’re providing a clear next step at the bottom.

So, in the case of this specific error message, there wasn’t actually a next step, when we pulled that out of there in bold. It’s also really little subtle things, like, moving towards talking about the company in the first place, and so, saying “we,” rather than the company name. It just helps humanise the brand a little bit, and gives people a little bit more empathy towards them.

The results of this project were really, really fantastic. We saw a massive decrease in the customer support tickets were being raised, and then, a corresponding rise in net promoter score. It was actually, shortly after we delivered this project, this approach was rolled out across their entire business.


The example I gave you, at the very beginning of this, was a company paying tens of millions of dollars to throw a man out of a balloon, and here, we just rewrote some e-mails. So it’s a completely scalable approach. You don’t have to have a balloon. You don’t

We tend to see this approach as a bit of a data sandwich. So you do all of your planning at the beginning. You get your audience data, you do your channel reach, all the normal stuff that we do day to day.

Then it’s time to execute, with a bit of creativity, and a bit of bravery, and then afterwards comes the measurement, so that’s where you need your robust data collection, and a bit of multi-touch attribution.

But, without the bit in the middle, the planning and the measurement are completely useless. Thank you.