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Moneyball Principles for Content Marketing

Authors: Chris Sietsema Chris Sietsema
Posted Under: Content Marketing
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ChrisChris Sietsema is Social & Digital Operations Lead at badge tools tacticsConvince & Convert. He also runs a digital agency called Teach to Fish Digital where he provides insights on search, social media, email marketing, and analytics.


oakland athleticsBy now you have likely seen, read or heard about the story of the Oakland A’s baseball teams of the early 2000s. Led by General Manager, Billy Beane, the club had limited resources with which to build a winning team, especially when compared to big budget competitors like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, etc. As opposed to relying on old school player evaluation tactics, they hired analysts who used statistical models to identify batters who could score more runs and find pitchers who could get more outs. While the Moneyball story is framed within the game of baseball, it’s really about math. It showed that we can depend on numbers to help predict success. And while it was not perfect, this particular “numbers first” approach proved better than an expert’s best guess.

Marketers can use a similar method to hand pick content marketing programs that stand a chance to win. If you have previously relied on intuition, gut feel or a hunch when filling up your editorial calendar, but here is a method to find hidden content marketing gems that will actually perform and not just look good in shorts.

Moneyball for Content Marketing

In the book, Moneyball author Michael Lewis showed that there were a few statistics that answered key questions about an offensive player’s potential:

  • On-base percentage: Can the batter get on base?
  • Slugging percentage: Can the batter hit for power?

In our game, there are three primary numbers we care about. Below I’ll refer to “content elements” which can translate to concepts, ideas, keywords or a simple premise for your content marketing endeavors. This will help you focus and improve your content efforts, because every piece of content you create has an opportunity cost associated with it.

  • Revenue: Does the content element speak to a service or product line that produces revenue?
  • Search Volume: Is the audience actively searching for the content element?
  • Social Chatter: Is the audience actively talking about the content element?

1. Revenue Potential

The first step is to determine what concepts actually relate to products and services that make your organization money. Take note of the common questions potential customers and influencers have about your offering(s). Establish a healthy number of questions as you will likely make some eliminations later in your analysis. Essentially, you are creating a list of inquiry prospects to run numbers against.

2. Search Potential

Once you have some concepts in mind based on the service/product lines that drive revenue and the common questions people have about each, you can begin to explore the search database. Tools like the Google Keyword Tool, Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery can help vet and validate content elements. Additionally, these tools may shed light on terms and concepts with a wealth of search activity that you had not previously considered. The metric to be considered here is search volume (daily, weekly or monthly).

3. Social Potential

The final step is to determine the level of social chatter about each concept. Social monitoring and listening tools will unveil what content elements are prevalent in consumer dialogue and those that are largely invisible in social media. As for metrics, you may choose to collect number of mentions within blog posts, tweets, video hits and forum postings that include your content element or keyword. Using those specific measurements for a client, we combined totals for each source (blogs, twitter, video, forums) and created a “Social Sum” for each content element on our prospect list.

After you have collected your data, you can begin your analysis. Consider adding a scale to the varying degrees of revenue/profitability, search volume and social amplification (e.g. 1=low, 5=high). Carefully uncover those topics that meet the following requirements:

  • This concept speaks to a service/product that makes us money
  • This concept is highly searched
  • This concept is discussed often

As your analysis highlights those content elements that are ready for the big show, work with your team to discuss what content channels (i.e. video, ebook, infographic, podcast, event, game, mobile app, etc, etc) are most appropriate for your selections.

Have you tried this or a similar approach? How do you decide what to create content about in your company?

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