Where did “content is king” come from? If you guessed the marketing industry, you’ll be surprised to learn that the phrase was actually coined by Bill Gates in a 1996 essay about the Internet as a marketplace of ideas. It’s a common misattribution that reminds us to think critically about what this phrase actually means for marketing strategy and business results.
Data vs. Concept in content marketing
In reality, data is king. That’s at least how Jay Maldonado, Senior Marketing Manager at MailChimp, sees it. He recently explained his data-centric philosophy while speaking about social listening techniques at Digital Summit Atlanta.
For Maldonado, data should inform the marketing tactics your business chooses. He explained how MailChimp harnessed the power of social listening to develop marketing strategy around their growing marketing automation platform. Instead of breaking up strategy into the typical content/ ads/ traditional/ social buckets, he and his team invested time into listening to what customers were saying. Doing so allowed them to be more strategic with which channels they deployed, and inspired them to change things up with creative outlets like a homemade GIF library.
Not everyone agrees with data is king, however. In his speaking session, Brad Perry, Director of Strategy at Authentic, argued that concept is king — and content is just content. When it comes down to it, content is simply a vehicle for executing strategy, along with digital advertising, social media, traditional marketing, and whatever other channels your business uses. This concept-centric approach allows his clients to think beyond numbers and tactical channels and focus on speaking to audiences in a deep way.
But are “data is king” and “concept is king” really odds with each other? Not necessarily. In reality, they are quantitative and qualitative approaches to the same strategy: using consumer insights as the basis for tactical decisions. Whether it’s compiling loads of social listening data or conducting digital ethnographies, both speakers made the consumer the fundamental influencer of which marketing tactics they chose — including content.
Deviating from “content is king” drove serious results for both of their companies. For Maldonado, it was a successful redirect of MailChimp’s promotional strategy for their new marketing tools. For Perry, it was campaigns for Chipotle and a plumbing supply retailer that earned a massive amount of social media engagement.
The moral of the story is this: consider focusing less on checking the “content” box and more on getting to know your audience. Once you have thorough audience insights, you can be more strategic about your content choices and overall marketing strategy, resulting in better customer experience and ROI.
How to (literally) listen to your customers for better content
Call tracking provides marketers with the unique ability to actually hear what customers are saying. You can use this data to track key trends and pain points to create the right content — not just content for content’s sake.
CallRail, in particular, offers Automation Rules, a feature that pinpoints key terms mentioned in any given phone call. As a real-life example, our UX team uses Automation Rules to optimize support documentation. They scan phone call data for specific keywords and then use those findings to update copy or redesign support documentation for the best user experience possible. As a result, we’ve seen a decrease in the amount of time spent in our Help Center, in addition to decreased bounce rates for specific articles.
But the usefulness of customer data doesn’t just stop at content—it can be applied to other marketing channels or even other departments entirely. For example, your phone call data may show a significant amount of interest in a specific software integration. You can then take these findings back to your product team to discuss adding to the pipeline. By prioritizing getting to know the customer, you set yourself up not just for better content, but for better business overall.
So is content king?
Trick question — there’s no right answer. But by taking the time to gather deep consumer insights, you can better determine what kind of throne content should get in your marketing strategy.