Today’s startup world is extremely noisy. No matter what industry you’re in, or great idea you’ve come up with, everywhere you turn another company is shouting a similar story. In an environment where being the first, newest or best startup hardly gives you a leg to stand on, data has become a powerful amplifier, that when used right, can almost certainly allow your startup to be heard.
There are many different ways to use data, and many kinds of data to use to help us reach our growth objectives. In this piece, we’ll look at proprietary data — often the most powerful form for its ability to put your startup at the center of the story.
Here are four steps to take in order to best leverage your startup’s data.
Like most things, results are infinitely greater when you’ve taken the time to put a strategy in place. When it comes to using data, strategizing starts with what you hope to accomplish.
To name just a few, data can be used to:
- Create owned content (blogs, social, etc.)
- Goals: Increase traffic, improve SEO, establish thought leadership platforms
- Drive media coverage
- Goals: Scale media efforts in between major milestone announcements
- Equip your sales team
- Goals: Give data to your sales team that can help them illustrate the value of your company to prospects, and ultimately help them close deals
- Improve products and services
- Identify trends and patterns in your data to allow you to identify strengths and weakness and hone your offerings accordingly
For this example, we are going to take an “owned to earned approach” (1 & 2) whereby we use our proprietary data to create interesting content for our owned content and also merchandise it with the media to drive press coverage.
In order to create maximum value we must first assess the audience we hope to reach. In this case, there are two main audiences. When it comes to marketing, no matter what we’re doing we always want to have our customers as our primary audience. This may seem like a no brainer, but with so many stakeholders vital to a startup’s growth, it’s easy to lose sigh of the people who matter most: our customers.
The second audience we want to create for is the news media. What kind of data would be interesting enough for them to write a story about? When you talk about PR and media relations, everything begins with understanding the reporters and outlets you want to get in front of. What they cover, who their readers are, what drives the most engagement, etc.
Let’s assume that you are a real estate startup that caters to millennial home buyers. You’d want to build an understanding of the reporters who cover topics and beats most relevant to your company. In this case, this might be as broad as reporters that look at real estate and economic news more broadly (think: mainstream digital and broadcast publications), or even include more more niche beats like millennial personal finances (think: personal finance blogs).
When engaging with reporters you want to do so in a way that helps them do their jobs. Fail to do this and you’re story will fall flat every time. This is where data gives you a leg up — it is inherently valuable for its ability to help journalist tell stories in more compelling and credible ways. Stories that can only be told with your data.
Gathering and analyzing data can be a complicated and time consuming task. It’s best to include those who are closest to the data from the very beginning. It’s more likely that they will know what to look for and the best ways to pull it.
Once you pull the data, the next thing is to start to shape the story. It’s important to note that the story you think you want to tell will often change based on the actual data. You may go into this process thinking that you’re going to tell one story, but the numbers might indicate an entirely different one.
And this is completely fine. Starting with a broad story in mind is helpful in that it gives you a rough roadmap to work from. Once you start analyzing the data new roads may start to appear on the map, but as with anything in life, there’s always multiple ways to reach your destination.
With your data now in hand, you’ll want to figure out the best way to package and tell your story. Whether you choose to use visuals, text, or a combination of both, make sure to keep your audience in mind every step of the way. What’s interesting or important to us, may not matter to those who we are trying to reach. Keeping the mantra always providing value front and center will ensure you don’t miss your mark.
When it comes to an owned to earned approach, cadence is extremely important. Let’s say you decide to create a blog post and an infographic for your company’s blog. In order to get the media interested, you’ll want to ensure that the story is fresh by the time it reaches them.
To do this, you’ll want to develop your media outreach strategy (media list, pitch angles, etc.) before you post the content your blog. That way, by the time your story reaches your media targets, they have time to tell it to their readers through their own lens before it becomes dated. And in today’s environment, stories become dated with the blink of an eye. Keep in mind, some, but certainly not all, data stories may warrant an exclusive where you give a specific reporter/outlet the chance to cover it before anyone else does.
By following the above steps, you’ll end up with a killer blog post and share-worthy press coverage. With Facebook and other companies abusing the responsibility they’ve been given with our information, it’s easy to think of data in a negative context. However, in today’s highly saturated markets, data can prove to be one of your most positive and powerful assets.