After nine months spent writing a book about content, content marketing and content strategy, I felt brain dead. My husband lovingly suggested we take our family away to the beach so I could “recover” for a few days.

While buying the usual sunscreen and other beach necessities, I noticed the DVD of the movie Pitch Perfect. I had watched the movie on a girls’ movie night, and thought it was super cute. Having two girls, ages 10 and 7, I thought it would be the perfect movie to while away the time we spent driving to the beach.

Make Good Choices 

Have you seen Pitch Perfect? It’s rated PG-13 -- just squeaking by, maybe. About an hour into the movie, my husband whipped his head around to the back of our minivan and said to me -- quite accusingly I might add -- “What is this movie rated?” A tale of a young woman making her way through college her freshman year, as she joins an acapella club, the movie was not the sort of narrative appropriate for my daughters. So of course, we proceeded to watch it almost every day after that for about four months.

There’s a scene in the movie where the main character tells her friend at a frat party to “Make good choices” -- meaning don’t get drunk and go home with a guy you don’t know. This past Content Marketing World, I gave a workshop with Amanda Todorovich who heads up the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub, the country’s most popular hospital health and wellness blog. Todorovich talked about using your data to make good choices.

Getting Smart with Your Data

If you’re going to involve yourself in content strategy and content marketing, then you need to pay attention to analysis and data. So here’s a list of some things you can do to make good choices with your data:

  1. Create better personas: Starbucks uses the billions of piles of data it has about its customers --how, when and where they buy coffee -- and then uses that data to create more accurate personas. Using this data, it can really thin slice their personas, and create targeted composite characters it can sell more coffee and other assorted accessories.
  2. Create better technologies: When Walgreens learned that people coming into its stores to get a prescription refill bought more products, it decided to make refilling a prescription as easy as possible. When you download its app, you can easily scan the bar code from the bottle and send it in to your local Walgreens. You will receive a text when the prescription is ready, so you can go to the store at your own convenience. That’s using data to make good choices and increase revenue.
  3. Create better products: Seth Godin says that instead of creating products and then finding customers to sell them to, you should talk to your customers and find out what products they need. Use your data to create this information. It may mean looking at call center information, talking to customer care or customer service centers or spending time with sales reps in the field. No matter what, that important information is on the front line, so spend the time to get it and analyze it.
  4. Make better usability decisions: This one is obvious but so few of us are really spending the time mining our data, looking for the leaky buckets on our pages. Why do certain pages do well and other not? The answer may not lie in your data, but the questions do. Spend time A/B testing, usability testing or field testing. You never know what you may find.
  5. Layer your data: Data comes from lots of places and it isn't just in numbers. According to Brene Brown, “stories are data with a soul.” So start finding the stories that tell you what you need to know about how your content and digital properties are performing in the real world. Maybe your Facebook page doesn’t have a lot of likes, but you have an active, loyal community. Maybe you have tons of Twitter followers but little to no interaction. Look for stories to inform your decisions -- your good ones, of course.

Let’s be honest (that’s another Pitch Perfect phrase) -- none of us spend enough time with our data. But if we start, we’ll begin to make better choices. And that’s something we can all clap to. (OK, I think I've exhausted the metaphors).