Listen to Your Users: Use Data to Create Content That Resonates

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Let’s say your child comes home from school and tells you they had a bad day. Do you just pull out the bandages and immediately start dressing invisible wounds? No. First, you try to get some key data.

“Why did you have a bad day?”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Are you hurt?”
“What can I do?”
“How are you feeling now?”
You keep checking in regularly and base changes in your approach on whether you see improvement. Seems obvious, right?

Now imagine being at work and attending a kickoff meeting for a new project. You’re given some basic information, like the objective, intended audience and due dates. You get right to work on writing copy, right? Not exactly. Time to dig for more information.

“Why are we creating (or recreating) this particular tool?”

“What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?”

“What are users currently doing?”

“How do we want their behavior to change?”

“How will we measure success?”

Asking questions like those seems obvious. But surprisingly often, getting that information at the beginning isn’t always the norm. As in any relationship dynamic that needs attention, we have a much better chance of communicating effectively if we have background information about the user and their behavior. That’s where an intentional data and analytics practice can play a crucial role in successful content development. Decoded data is the proof of what the user behavior currently is, and where potential road blocks lie. It gives us an informed starting point for writing copy that produces more desirable outcomes for both user and brand.

In several instances throughout the years, I’ve had to start developing content based on a hunch. I usually try to put myself in the position of the user, but I’m only an N of 1. The more information we have about a user, the better the chances we have to entice them to stay engaged. To me, writing without any user insight feels like being dropped into a dark forest without a flashlight. Sure, I can come up with some great ideas—but if I don’t have a solid place from which to start, how do I know if what I’m creating has the possibility of moving the needle?

Not everyone sees data as a sexy part of the creative process. It’s science. But ignoring it is basically choosing not to hear someone out, and that hinders our chance to improve communication. Decoded data might also tell a very different story about what the user might want or need vs. what we or our clients assume a new experience will provide for them, which will likely affect creating a successful end product.

“Creative work and data have five things in common: 1. There’s a lot of it. 2. It is being created more quickly now than ever before. 3. There are endless types of it. 4. People trust it to be accurate. 5. It has the potential to significantly transform your business. In other words, volume, velocity, variety, veracity and valuethe “Five Vs” of data—also apply to creative! Using the Five Vs as common ground will open up new ways for creative and data teams to partner and increase customer confidence and conversions for almost any organization.” says Karen Bellin, VP of Data and Analytics at Mirum.

Here are a few ways Bellin suggests for creatives to engage their data and analytics team to help ensure the work we deliver gives clients—and ultimately their users—the experiences that serve their needs.

  1. Pretend you’re a crime scene investigator! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and examine the evidence (problem) from all angles. To get started, try restating your creative brief as a question being asked or a problem to be solved.
  2. Engage your data team in a conversation about what data exists or what can be sourced to help answer the question or explore the problem.
  3. Get clear on past, present and future key performance indicators (KPIs). How will the success of the content you are creating be judged? Be willing to adjust and iterate to help improve the journey and the message.
  4. Give your data team the room to explore the data you’ve identified together to get a deeper understanding of what insights it might help reveal. Ask them to build out reports or reproducible models that answer key questions you may have as you approach the creative assignment.
  5. And most importantly, action the data through your creative, and work with your data team to measure and monitor the outcome of the action you took—whether or not it had the impact you expected. Either way, based on the outcome (positive or negative), plan what action you’ll take next.

Data science and analytics experts play a crucial role in decoding and relaying the data that helps us truly understand user behavior. Combining that with the goals of the requested tool and brand in question is what will help us develop the best possible solutions. That’s why we have to create content with user behavior (#science) at the forefront. Our clients want to earn more business, and so do we. To that end, data should inform everything about how we approach creative work—it’s what drives success.

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