If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
— Albert Einstein

The first step to creating any strategy - and especially a content strategy - is to understand your goals, audience, and competition. 

Ideas without insights - especially coming from a group of people who usually are very far removed from the audience - are akin to throwing darts in the dark. Even the best ideas, without direction, won’t hit their mark. 

There are three general insight categories that you’ll want to cover in order to give you the fodder for great ideas that hit their mark:

  1. Audience Insights
  2. Competitive Insights
  3. Cultural Insights

Audience Insights

There are multiple dimensions to understanding your audience. Many companies stop at demographics (ie. “Millennials”), but what is more interesting are their psychographics. 

While demographics will tell you age, gender, location, income, and other observable characteristics, psychographics dive deeper into behaviors, attitudes, desires, and interests. Psychographics cut across demographic lines and really help uncover the communities where your content will play a role.

Competitive Insights

Depending on what you are wanting to accomplish, you will be competing for the attention of your audience with much more than your category competitors. 

When it comes to competitors, you’re looking at what they are doing: right and wrong. What people are responding to, what they are not. But you aren’t looking to become a carbon copy. You should learn from the competitors, but you should also use this research to figure out your unique angle. What is the competition missing? Use a gap analysis as well as a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to bring the data together and get a good snapshot of where you should play.

Cultural Insights

The culture surrounding your audience and competitors can also be incredibly insightful. You’ll get leads to the culture through your audience insights, but the key things you are looking for here are: who are the ‘celebrities’ or influencers in this culture, what is the language (insider, slang, etc) used, what is the history, what are the emerging trends and behaviours?


Tara has developed her 'snorkle-scuba' method of research over the 16 years she's been combining her quantitative and qualitative analysis skills. Snorkle-scuba goes like this:

Step 1. Take in large swaths of data from multiple sources, both structured and unstructured.

Step 2. Pour over them in a shallow (or Snorkling) manner, looking for interesting anomalies or threads that look interesting.

Step 3. When there is a anomaly, take a deep dive into that data (or Scuba) to see if it leads anywhere surprising.

This is the most important part of any strategy. With the right kind of insights, your strategy falls into place naturally. 


Quantitative + Qualitative Data
Structured + Unstructured Data
Social Intelligence
Market Research + Insights
Audience Segmentation
Surveys + Questionnaires
Structured + Unstructured Interviews
Content Analysis
Focus Groups
Sentiment Analysis
Lookalike Modeling
Data Management


Digital, Mobile + Social Strategy
Consumer Engagement Strategy
Business Strategy
Omni-channel Strategy
Paid Strategy
Content Strategy

 The marketing process...it always starts and ends with insights that are fed back into the strategy and creative.

The marketing process...it always starts and ends with insights that are fed back into the strategy and creative.

[photo + art credit: Jessica Esch on Flickr]