11 Smart Data Sources to Strengthen Your Content Creation

Trusted data sources and real-world examples bring stories to life—which is critical for strengthening trust in your brand and building your brand relationships.

Thoughtfully selected data fulfills the “show don’t tell” mantra, demonstrating impact and backing up your claims with reputable sources. In addition, the best data will tap into your readers’ emotions and humanize your brand.

My friend and former colleague Caroline “Cazi” James, a principal at the technology public relations agency Aircover Communications, shared that she uses quantitative data to build better stories and identify topical trends for her clients. “Data matters. Bringing hard statistics to the table can mean the difference between presenting a story that reads like ad copy and developing a credible hard news story that moves the needle for your company.”

But as any writer has learned, a Google search won’t always provide the relevant or punchy stats you’re looking for.

Don’t fret! Read on for my favorite ways to find authoritative data to enrich your marketing content.

11 Ways to Find Data for Your Marketing Content

These data sources are perfect for your content marketing needs—just be sure to use data from the last three years when possible, to ensure the findings are still relevant.

These sources can also help you refine your content strategy and uncover the best stories to tell next.

Audience Surveys

Using free survey tools like Google Forms, JotForm, Typeform, or SurveyMonkey allows you to quickly gather insights from a select audience. Simply share surveys across your existing communication channels, including email, online communities, and social media. For example, a marketing automation platform provider could survey its marketing audience to find statistics like “75% of marketers spend more than 3 hours a day on manual data entry.” Just be clear about how you gathered the data and who the sample represents.

Andy Crestodina and his Orbit Media Studios team survey bloggers annually to gauge the evolution of their content strategies. Similarly, when I worked at Achievers, I surveyed more than 800 of its community members to create this widely-viewed SlideShare presentation and an e-book while crafting my content strategy.

Customer Data

Anonymized and aggregated insights from your customers, the challenges they face, how they use your product, and their results from using your product can all make your claims feel more tangible. So don’t neglect this often-overlooked data source to enrich your content.

Mailchimp’s email marketing campaign benchmarks article is an excellent example of how to turn customer data into useful content, as is this SEO benchmarks by industry post based on First Page Sage’s proprietary data.

Customer Case Studies

When customers drive significant results using your product, put them on a pedestal. Showcase their results for prospective buyers hoping to accomplish similar goals. When crafting your customer case studies, ask questions like:

  • “How long did it previously take your team to complete [specific task]?”
  • “What were your main challenges when completing [specific task]?”
  • “What results did you achieve after adopting our solution?”

The answers to these questions can provide helpful anecdotes and data that will add color to your content and directly appeal to your customers’ challenges.

Take a page from customer case studies from Slack (like these I wrote about Autodesk and FOX Sports) and lead with attention-grabbing stats and relatable quotes that can add value to other content (like its customer support articles). See how Salesforce approaches customer case studies and includes key customer stats and accomplishments in other Salesforce content for more inspiration.

Government Data Sources

The U.S. and world governments provide access to regional data that is perfect for most types of marketing content. Check out the U.S. Census BureauData.govUN Data, and World Bank Open Data to access a range of open data, tools, and resources.

Industry and Nongovernmental Research Groups

Brands like CB Insights have become wildly popular by aggregating and analyzing public data for specific industries. CB Insights, for example, focuses on business technology and has become known for its research on the state of venture capital and industry-specific breakdowns. Many marketers rely on ChiefMartec for trusted data, while Pew Research provides a wealth of data on hundreds of timely topics and publishes ongoing social media usage research.

Team Up With a Partner

Can’t find the data you’re looking for? Ask your business partners. They may have commissioned research or be willing to share data as long as you attribute it to them. Not only will they appreciate you sharing their data, but they may even return the favor if you eventually commission your own research (something we discuss below).

Another option is to field a proprietary survey with a complementary partner, like Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs do with their annual B2B Content Marketing research report.

Research Portals and Databases

Like industry and nongovernmental research groups, privately-owned research portals and databases are a reliable resource for data points across myriad topics, sectors, and regions. Notable sites include StatistaNetlineEbscoPubmed, and Kaggle.

Social Media Polls

Many social media sites, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, have built-in polling features. Use these capabilities to gather quick insights from your social media communities.

We often share polls during our #ContentChat Twitter chat to gauge our community thoughts, and brands like Indeed have successfully driven engagement through polls on LinkedIn.

Consider creating ongoing polls to spark consistent engagement and enable you to compare data across your polls.

Partner with a Research Firm

Custom research is costly, but it can be an extremely effective way to raise your brand awareness and position you as a leader in your space. Research firms like IpsosMantisResearchscapeVanson Bourne and countless others can help you create, commission, and analyze custom survey and research projects. This data can bolster your thought leadership and address a range of your content marketing and public relations goals.

Cazi reinforced the value of survey partners in a recent conversation with us. “Many executives do not want to share their data for marketing purposes,” she said. “There can be privacy concerns, and sometimes it requires a huge expenditure of internal resources to acquire and analyze the data. This is where outsourcing to third parties can help. Aircover Communications regularly partners with The Harris Poll to conduct surveys on our clients’ behalf. We’ve found this tactic effective for collecting data efficiently and adding an element of newsworthiness and credibility to our clients’ stories.”

Reddit

Several subreddits focus on data, data visualization, or data analysis. Check out r/datasetsr/analytics, and r/dataisbeautiful as starting points.

Website Analytics

Your company website can show you what information your visitors best respond to, how they’re getting to your site, and where they’re going within and from your site. Google Analytics is beneficial for getting valuable website data, including its Tag Manager and Data Studio (which can visualize the same data from your Analytics page).

Consistently Create Data-Backed Content to Increase Your Reach

Savvy marketers know how to turn disparate data points into rich narratives that appeal to their community’s needs. As you continue working data into your content, you will have an easier time connecting the dots and knowing how to reinforce your points. To make this as easy as copy+paste, create an information repository working document to save all the best stats for ongoing reference.

Once you’ve created content with a rich blend of data and insights, nominate the piece or your entire content marketing program for a Content Marketing Award. The annual award program recognizes content marketing excellence across various categories, including the best use of original research in content marketing. The 2022 submission cycle closes in May, so you’ve got plenty of time to get your winning submission together. And if you do, I hope it ends up in one of the categories I’m judging this year!

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