For some Canadian small and medium-sized businesses, the leap from traditional forms of demand generation to “content marketing” may already seem hard enough, but don’t let Jessie Coan’s concept of a content scientist intimidate you.

An analyst with Boston-based research firm Aberdeen Group, Coan recently spoke in a webinar produced by the marketing publication DemandGen Report which looked at how mining more data about the use of content in marketing can drive better results.

For novices, content marketing generally refers to using content that doesn’t use a hard sales pitch but demonstrates an understanding of customer interests and pain points to drive “top of the funnel” activities.

Content Science By The Numbers

In particular, Coan shared some stats based on an Aberdeen study of more than 300 firms that reveal the differences between high-performing or “best-in-class” (BIC) firms, average-performing companies and industry laggards:

  • 45 per cent of revenue is generated at BIC firms via content marketing, but only 12 per cent at average-performing firms and 5 per cent within laggard organizations.
  • BIC firms attributed 63 per cent of their marketing qualified leads to content marketing, while average firms attributed 22 per cent and laggards per cent.
  • Year-over-year change in marketing’s contribution to company revenue was 23 per cent for BICs, 8 per cent for average firms and -2 per cent for laggard firms.

A Simple Equation: Right Content + Right Audience + Right Time = Engagement

Although content scientist roles exist today, Coan isn’t suggesting SMBs in Canada or elsewhere go out and hire one. Instead, she suggests that firms which simply start thinking and acting like content scientists can start moving from average or laggard to best-in-class company.

“People are feeling the pressure to engage with their audiences and having the right data and insights to do so,” she said. “It’s really about taking a lot of data and insights and using marketing know-how to tell a unique story.”

Getting Started As A Content Scientist

Coan offered a number of tips based on trends gleaned from her research that almost anyone could apply, even if they are still relatively new to the idea of content marketing.

Worry About What’s Really Important: BIC firms typically focus on how they can engage with buyers more effectively, “but all others were more worried about keeping up with the latest marketing channels,” she said. You’ll get more value by studying customer needs, their persona and buyer journey first, then choose the right channels.

“This is done through marketing automation -- you could use your CRM tool and tie all that together,” she suggested.

Put Your Eggs In Multiple Baskets: Coan said she’s encountered marketers who are only using social media for content marketing. Also keep in mind your own company’s blog, third-party sites, video channels and other areas your customers are likely to visit.

“Everyone’s using their company web site, but where you really see the difference is in the other channels,” she said.

Remember That Science Is A Process: Put out a hypothesis once a month -- perhaps that a certain kind of language will resonate with customers and prospects. Try it out multiple times over a few weeks and see what your numbers look like in terms of traffic, downloads or calls to your reps.

“You may have a gut feel, the data science can prove or disprove that,” Coan says.

Perhaps most importantly, Aberdeen’s research showed that BIC firms are 81 per cent more likely than all others to have a strategy to align content to every step of the buyer’s journey. That’s good news for CRM and marketing automation users too, because it means that if more SMBs can develop themselves into content scientists, growing the customer base will become much a little bit less of an art.

Find out how to create a killer content marketing strategy with Salesforce’s free eBook:

Content marketing. According to industry thought leaders. How to create a killer content strategy.