The trend of B2B buyers preferring to independently research rather than engaging with sales is here to stay. In the era of buyer self-education, companies must provide value at every stage of the sales cycle—through blogs, eBooks, and other educational tools. Today’s B2B buyer values a superior purchase experience above all, and 53% of customer loyalty is now attributed to a great buying experience. With this shift in preference towards self-education, content marketing will be more important than ever in the coming year.

Content marketing success hinges heavily on marketing’s ability to deliver the right message, to the right buyer, at the right time. Yet, with so much on the line, too many marketers still gamble on hunches when it comes to developing messaging. Most don’t realize that they’ve got the content marketing playbook right under their noses—within their data. With data-driven messaging, B2B marketers can make more informed content marketing bets, adding more value to buyers along the purchase path and, in turn, more to the bottom line.

The Crappy Content Conundrum

There’s a lot of bad content out there. But why? There are a couple reasons. The first is that it’s easy for marketers to fall into the trap of creating content for the sake of content—building it with the goal of satisfying demand gen goals instead of being thoughtful about how said content will ultimately benefit the end user. While an eBook developed around a hot button topic may initially spur some top-of-funnel activity, if it’s not a message that maps to your audience and accelerates funnel progression, it’s probably not worth your time.

More importantly, many organizations develop messaging in a silo. Conversations occur daily—with prospects and existing customers—that can provide valuable insight into the real-life problems that targets are looking to solve. When these insights are recorded, it’s product marketing’s job to use them to appropriately position offerings and guide the rest of sales and marketing. Sales, marketing ops, demand gen, and content creators all look to product marketing for guidance on the messaging and thought leadership themes that will connect with target buyers. After identifying these themes, a product marketer will prescribe topics, content is developed, and then promoted via the standard channels. Unfortunately, that’s generally where the story ends. Outside of the occasional qualitative observation, messaging is too often sent into the ether without further observation of how a distinct story is resonating in the market.

Closing The Loop: Data-Driven Messaging

While sales may occasionally be able to report on how a theme is going over based on head nods, marketers need a quantitative method of identifying which themes are resonating, with whom, at what point in the buyers’ journey. The insights gained can then be socialized throughout the organization in order to better understand the target customer, and make smarter decisions across functions. Most marketers lack the resources and/or ability to analyze performance at a precise enough level to identify these types of patterns and, as a result, the feedback loop isn’t closing.

Predictive analytics has empowered marketers to track progress across the buyers’ journey stages, identify which channels and campaigns are performing, prove ROI, and make smarter investments. But why stop there?  Everyday demand generation activity captured in CRM and marketing automation software contains rich, strategic insights that marketers can apply to the more granular elements of content marketing—ideal theme, audience, product, region, and which cohorts work most effectively together. Such insights can only come from drilling down into revenue outcomes, and connecting marketing—including themes and audiences—directly to revenue.

Data-driven messaging is introducing us to a new age of content marketing. An age where marketers can go beyond simply A/B testing subject lines and website UI, and start conducting controlled, measured experiments across all marketing activities. Today, supported by marketing analytics, marketers can run powerful, multivariate tests that span segments, then use the findings to continually improve messaging based on hard data—as opposed to just premonition. Which themes are most likely to appeal to a CEO prospect at the top of the funnel? What’s the best sequencing of themes to advance a CTO that needs nurturing? How do these patterns differ in EMEA? Which marketing themes should we bet the company on?

For the first time, marketers can leave the guesswork behind and automatically identify the key messages that resonate most with target buyers. Predictive analytics is making data-driven marketing a reality—helping B2B marketing leaders finally close the feedback loop, provide more value to prospects, and drive predictable revenue and growth. Everybody wins.