Ostensibly, content marketing—and marketing and advertising in general—is a creative pursuit. Content marketing teams are, in part, made up of creative professionals such as writers, designers and photographers. Their goal? To create quality, engaging content for their audiences.
However, one could be forgiven for forgetting this occasionally. You could read scores of articles on the subject and seek advice day and night and only hear about quantitative data. Yes, it’s the core of content marketing. You need to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge the effectiveness of your program and to track your return on investment (ROI). Those data-driven reports and Google Analytics dashboards are important.
There are just some things that a chart or report can’t tell you, though. That’s where qualitative data fills the holes in quantitative approaches to measuring content. Sometimes you just have to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. You know, not that your customers are horses.
Here’s how you can strengthen your content by adding qualitative metrics to support your existing quantitative measures.
Quantitative vs. Qualitative Metrics
A solid understanding of foundational elements is key to success in any venture. These terms were likely learned in a high school or college course, but revisiting the basics is essential to understanding where your measurements are falling flat.
In short, quantitative marketing measures are all about the numbers. There are a variety of numbers you can track this way. They include anything from consumption metrics like traffic and page views to social metrics like shares and followers to lead generation metrics like form completion and subscriptions.
Basically, they encompass anything you can add up or tally. You can then use mathematical analysis and data models to track the stats on your content marketing program. The primary benefit here is that the mathematical basis makes these findings statistically viable. They give you a snapshot of success or failure—numerically speaking. You can then make a reasonable forecast regarding your business.
Qualitative marketing doesn’t rely on numbers. Instead, you’re relying on opinions and sentiment. Your goal is to find out what people are saying and thinking about your business. As PowerPost’s eBook, the Brand Publishing Roadmap notes, “Add ‘listening’ to the mix. Brands are smart to monitor consumer conversations, community engagement, brand sentiment, customer feedback and more.”
These things convey what numbers or a chart cannot. That’s why you need to be using qualitative metrics in addition to your quantitative reporting. They can give context to those numbers and give you even better insights.
Let’s look a little closer at why you should pay attention to them.
Why use qualitative marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute sums up why a qualitative approach is needed in addition to traditional quantitative metrics:
“Imagine that you recently redesigned your company website and are looking at your site analytics. You notice visitors are spending much more time on one of your revamped pages. A small, satisfied smile crosses your face and you feel a sense of relief. Thanks to your efforts, people must be more engaged and are happily spending more time on your site.
You actually don’t know what’s going on with that page. The metric without context isn’t informative.”
The numbers can tell you the what, but they don’t necessarily tell you the why. As CMI notes, people could be happy with the site, but they could just as easily be having trouble navigating it. And you need to figure out which it is.
Qualitative research into your audience will reveal their opinions, motivations and feelings toward your brand and your content. Essentially, you get a better idea of how your customers—and potential customers—operate.
You can answer questions such as:
- Why are people stopping short and not converting?
- What reservations do potential customers have?
- What part of the buyer’s journey do people like?
- How do customers describe my product and content?
- What kind of language and imagery do customers respond to?
You start to understand what makes people tick and what sort of factors are influencing their decisions. This way, you can view your content more objectively—from the viewpoint of the consumer. With that perspective, you can start to create even better content.
“From my perspective, especially talking to marketers, I think focusing on one metric only to understand the impact of their overall media spend is the biggest mistake. So when I think about underrated, I always think about: You have to understand sentiment, you have to understand how people react to you, but also who they are and how they consume your content to make the best decision. So I would flip it back to you and say it’s not just one thing. You really have to look across the entire combination of KPIs.”
You can watch the full interview for further insight from Griffin.
Now that we know why a qualitative approach is worthwhile, let’s address how to conduct that approach.
How to Use Qualitative Marketing
So how do you go about collecting qualitative metrics? Well, there are several options for gathering information on brand sentiment.
One that you’re probably already engaging in is community management and social listening. Social media has provided prime channels for delivering content to your audience. But it has also given your audience another channel for direct feedback and customer support.
“Never read the comments” is a common internet adage, but in this case, you should really read what your followers and fans are saying. You can gain insight into what they think about your content and their pain points. However, as in life, not everyone will say what they think to your face.
That’s where social listening tools come in. With certain tools, you can see any time your brand is mentioned—even if you’re not tagged in the post. Neil Patel recommends his top four tools for this purpose here.
That’s not the only way to get direct feedback, though. A contact form that’s not intimidating and easy to navigate can also be a boon to direct feedback. Additionally, you can use simple feedback forms at the end of your content. Something as simple as, “Was this helpful?” with an option for “yes” or “no” can give you real-time qualitative feedback on your content.
This allows people to express their problems or note satisfaction or frustration, but it also gives you an opportunity to address these issues expediently.
One of the most common, and useful, ways to gather qualitative data is user tests. These tests show you exactly what your customers’ journeys are like. This is especially useful for websites, apps and other software.
Every move of the mouse is recorded—sometimes this is done with heat mapping—so you can get a sense of your audience’s experience and preferences. But you also get to hear what they think of your imagery and messaging, and you get to see how they deal with onsite/in-app notifications, messages and ads.
You can set specific prompts or leave the exercise completely open. Either way, you gain valuable information. With this feedback, you can identify points of frustration or confusion related to the user experience. You also get a general sense of how satisfied your audience is. After all, once someone is reading your content, you want them to keep reading it and stay on your site.
Customer surveys are another easy way to measure brand sentiment. They’re a common resource for content marketers—for good reason. Today, surveys can be highly customized, and you can use them for just about any subject you want feedback on. They let you quantify qualitative metrics with close-ended and multiple-choice questions. However, you’ll see the most value from open-ended questions.
Related to surveys, customer interviews are another great way to fill in the holes in your quantitative data. Interviews are an excellent way to get the specifics on customer motivations and language. Those insights are useful when you’re writing copy, creating narratives and trying to set up ad campaigns.
Additionally, if you do in-the-field (or man-on-the-street) interviews you can talk to people in their own world. It’s where they’re more comfortable, so it’s possible you’ll get more candid answers. You can also see the everyday challenges and the world in which they live.
No matter how you do it, interviews are essential in identifying audience preferences and needs that might be difficult to articulate on a survey or glean from numerical data.
It’s worth noting that there are less tangible ways in which your content can impact your brand. Your content is the primary way to establish thought leadership, but that’s hard to measure quantitatively. Furthermore, your content nurtures leads, provides educational resources and increases consumers’ general familiarity with your brand. Those are all important things that a graph is hard pressed to communicate.
So, remember, in content marketing, data is almost everything. If you want the complete picture, you also need to fill the holes in your quantitative data with qualitative data.
Do you track qualitative data? Let us know in the comments, and contact us to let us know how we’re doing…or for a free consultation.