Poorly informed writing is like a car held together with duct tape--you can push it until you get tired, but you're not going anywhere.
Knowing what you're writing about is an essential tool to writing well for any type of writing; even for a professional writer, writing without knowledge about your topic isn't writing--it's typing. Especially important when writing for the web, it's critical to allow a reasonable amount of time for research. You wouldn't start a speech in front of thousands of potential clients without knowing well what you intend to say--and you shouldn't approach content marketing (or any writing, really) any other way.
But effective content marketing--the kind that's worth your time, effort and investment--requires much more than basic knowledge of your topic. I'm talking research--lean, mean, sleeves-rolled-up research. Here's why it's worth the time and investment.
Research gives content marketing the ability to do its job: the what
Even if your article is highly informative, full of valuable content that many users would prize, if no one reads it it isn't worth much, is it? Content marketing research isn't just about your fundamental knowledge; after all, this isn't a senior thesis.This is the key distinguishing difference between writing a letter to your aunt and content marketing: you need to get read.
To do this, content marketing relies on facts: facts about your topic, about trends, interests, actual phrases that are more effective. At its most basic, content marketing research is market research. You need to find out what your target market is interested in; what their needs are; how, when, why they search for what they do. This information tells what to develop in the first place. Even if you're highly familiar with your field, you might not know how to pull in peripheral readers or specific (and highly useful) marketing insights, such as which terms your readers are using in their searches. Without content marketing research, there is only content, unread.
Research tells you how to do content marketing better: the how
Researching your market helps you find a good niche and understand your audience better. You've gone through the stats and you have a good feel for what you can achieve on your topic, but research allows you to take that further. As with any kind of marketing, the specifics are very important. By taking the time to look up the data, you're able to find out which variables (terms, placement, etc) might allow you to take your content further. Your approach can make all the difference between a failed initiative and one with a high ROI.
Research tells you where to market it: the where
Do you know which websites would be interested in linking to your article? What about where your readers are? Do they hang out on Reddit, G+, or Twitter? This is the research that lets you get your content off the shelf and into the hands of your readers. Without spending the time to look into this, you're travelling without a map. Even though the research might take time and effort, it's well worth the investment.
Although content marketing is a popular buzzword for many B2Bs, research is often the overlooked factor that would have made a huge difference in terms of ROI. Plan for it, allow time for it, don't skimp on it. But be sure that when your research is done, you apply it and get that content out the door and to your readers. It'll be worth it.
Tell us, how do you do your content marketing research? What tools have you found worthy investments?