I was talking to someone recently about our research blog and he said he loved what we do and described it as “OkCupid for venture capitalists”.
My first reaction was to smile. I then said “Thanks. You don’t know how much you just made my day.”
In my head, I was thinking “You just compared us to the Michael Jordan of data-driven content. Holy shit.”
The reason for our excitement was that a lot of our initial inspiration for the CB Insights research blog came from what Christian Rudder and his team had done at OkCupid. So being compared to them was very high praise. For a time, they were the Michael Jordan of the data-driven content game.
While we were initially inspired by OkCupid, over time, others have come to be influential not just in our data-driven content but in our general content strategy and voice. And so I wanted to highlight our content marketing idols in case others out there might benefit from some of these folks. And of course, if there are others who are awesome at this, please let us know in the comments.
One note: There are, of course, many others out there who have written great content, but we’ve found these folks do it consistently and hence they are in our hall of fame. For those of you who do content or data-driven marketing, who else should I have included? Let me know in the comments.
Without further ado, here are our content marketing idols.
#1 – OKCupid
This is a dating site that had a famous blog aptly named Ok Trends which was led by Christian Rudder that would churn out data-driven gems like:
So what did we learn from a dating site? They took all their proprietary data from people’s profiles and offered insights in a smart and intelligent way into burning questions like sexual activity by smart phone brand.
This. Stuff. Is. Gold.
The blog helped OkCupid stand out from the crowd, lowered its cost of customer acquisition and eventually sell to Match.com for $50 million.
Unfortunately, the site’s content has not been updated in a long time, but the historical stuff is on the Ok Trends site and is worth a review. Even if aren’t into data-driven content marketing, their mix of data and content is entertaining.
What we learned from OKCupid?
- How to take data and turn it into interesting content
- Present data with a bit of personality & edge (don’t be boring)
- Always be rigorous; don’t take shortcuts – The OkC guys spent tens of hours on each post and it showed. It wasn’t crap link-bait.
#2 – FiveThirtyEight
So the FiveThirtyEight team would probably not think of what they do as content or data-driven marketing, but what the heck, we’re going to include them. Nate Silver and now his team have an awesome ability to take data and save us from pundits and talking heads who are all too common in most fields these days.
The sheer volume of data-driven content these guys generate is awe-inspiring. Some recent awesomeness includes:
What we’ve learned from FiveThirtyEight
- Punditry is usually wrong. FiveThirtyEight’s founder Nate Silver made his name debunking political blowhards who opine on trends and elections with little more than eloquent sounding narratives. We believe we can do the same.
- Be prodigious but always be rigorous. FiveThirtyEight puts out an immense amount of data-driven content but it is almost always rigorous, well-articulated and well-presented.
- They’re willing to admit when wrong. I say almost in the above bullet as FiveThirtyEight has been caught cutting corners from time-to-time or being sloppy and when called out, they quickly adjust and make it right.
- Models work to forecast the world. Silver and team use them to forecast political campaigns and other things. We use models to understand company and investor health.
- We were introduced to The Hedgehog and the Fox – a famous Isaiah Berlin essay – by Nate Silver’s writing on the topic. It has greatly influenced our thinking
#3 – Noah Kagan
Of all the people on this list, Noah sparks the most debate on our team. Some folks find his content and schtick “used car salesman-like”, but IMO and at least a few others, his stuff is pretty tremendous.
Some of Noah’s gems include:
What we learned from Noah Kagan
- Focus on what’s in it for the customer and their pain points. If you make it about yourself, you fail cuz nobody gives a shit.
- Speak like a real person. Jargon kills.
- It’s ok to be cocky from time-to-time if you can back it up
- Invest in producing valuable content that is well researched and helpful/useful. See point 1.
- Comment and engage with the community. If someone invests the time to comment or write to you, you should appreciate their effort and respond to them like a human.
#4 – Hubspot
Hubspot sort of wrote the book on content marketing. They leverage a wide variety of channels to get the word out about their services (blog, webinars, twitter, email etc) so content marketing might be too tight of a description for what they do. But irrespecitve of whether you call it inbound marketing or content marketing, their preferred method is to offer immense amounts of value to prospective users instead of shouting from the rooftops how awesome they are.
And their techniques seems to be working. CEO Mike Volpe reported in August 2012 that 70-80% of their leads—with a volume of 40 to 50,000 per month—come from their Inbound Marketing efforts.
They’ve also built a host of great tools which are insane lead generation vehicles for the firm including Marketing Grader.
What we’ve learned from HubSpot
- Use content marketing to generate leads and build thought leadership
- Focus on solving customer pain points
- Distribute content via multiple channels
- Tools that help people and organizations self-assess can be powerful for your business
#5 – KissMetrics
KissMetrics is a web analytics & customer intelligence offering. They run a very well-oiled content marketing engine under the guidance of Neil Patel and Hiten Shah.
The KissMetrics team does lots of very detailed long-form, well-researched content and complements them often with infographics or tools. They also do great downloadable content in the form of marketing guides which must be great lead generation vehicles for the compay.
Some great examples include:
- 6 Ways to Make Customers Fall in Love With Your Brand
- How to Measure and Fix Your Leaky Marketing Funnel
What we’ve learned from KissMetrics
- Be really f’n thorough. These guys research the hell out of topics to provide some pretty awesome and valuable content. We’ve learned stuff from their content which has been very helpful.
- They are masters at repurposing their content into different “form factors” to maximize usage of content
- Ridiculously good at infographics
We know there are lots of great folks doing great content and data-driven content.
So who else should be on the list?